THE GREENS OF HANNAH HÖCH

The annual Day of Open Monuments offered the unique opportunity to visit the house and rural premises of Hannah Höch (1889-1978), great artist, co-founder and also the only female promoter of Dadaism. Her former green refuge and home is located in Berlin-Heiligensee, a more village-like district in the North of the German capital. Here she worked and lived from 1939 till her decease in 1978.

Hannah Höch’s house and garden (street-view)

Hannah Höch, Mechanical Garden, 1920

In 1918 she proclaimed the photo montage as a new form of artistic expression and thus wrote art history. The gift of observing was essential for her in order to discover new pictures in existing ones. With the help of scissors and glue Hannah Höch strove for such new creations, which according to her own estimation were achieved when the alienation of found illustrations was so fundamental that one could no longer recognize where the pictures originally came from.

Hannah Höch working in her garden, late 1960s

Nature and landscape played a special role in the ouevre of Hannah Höch through her entire life. She liked to show the numerous facets of nature far from a naive idyll by using also combative and humorous angle of views, sometimes full of dark melancholy.

Hannah Höch, Bouquet, 1929

” A great deal of strength gave me my strong touch with nature. In the wild whirl (in which) our life took place in this time, I always had this one thing at hand.”  

 (Hannah Höch in a letter to Kurt Heinz Matthies, 1943)

Back yard of Hannah Höch’s home

Every day she spent many hours in her garden, raising flowers, vegetables and fruits. So the garden was also important for her surviving because she never got rich with her varied art. Not all of her works are known till today because they are spread somewhere while she was also forced sometimes to pay the butcher or things like that with small artworks and creations. 

Hannah Höch, Tempest, 1935

During the Third Reich she was defamed by the Nazis as a Culture-Bolshevist and was no longer allowed to work and exhibit. In the autumn of 1939 she bought a former flight attendant’s house in Berlin-Heiligensee far away from the busy city centre. The house offered an ideal hideout for the artist, and in this pastoral environment Höch could feel safe from spying and denunciation, because none of her neighbours suspected anything of her Dada past.

Hannah Höch, Der Unzufriedel, 1945

Due to this seclusion of her new domicile she succeeded in rescuing her own works as well as the objects of her artist friends which were declared by the Nazis as the leading representatives of socalled degenerate art. However, the decision to stay in Nazi-Germany resulted in a real difficult economical situation. To make a living  she had to sell flowers and fruits from her nice garden which she arranged after WW II to a thriving total work of art.

Hannah Höch, Garden, 1948

 

ARTBASE FESTIVAL 2019 – MURALS IN RURAL RUINS

Artbase is a festival of urban art moving in a vivid kaleidoscope between painting and party on deserted grounds. The first issue took place in 2011 at the former pulmonary hospital Grabowsee. During the last weekend of August 2019 it was realized again in the former and now abandoned lunatic asylum Domjüch close to Neustrelitz (80 kms north of Berlin). Nearly 150 international urban artists transformed these ruins into a wild, romantic and very alive place.

 

A smooth wind blows through the long abandoned houses‘ empty corridors, while a warm and friendly summer sun gleams through the ailing cracks. Inside the ruins, a conglomeration of fading colors and amazing street art works decorate the walls.

A place where nature has slowly recaptured the old walls. Deserted, long hallways, abandoned rooms with only faint memories.

 

But suddenly a soft hissing of a spray can sounds. Someone presses a button. Suddenly sounds are coming through the empty rooms. Loud voices echo through the old walls and the place awakens.

After WW II the buildings were used for military purposes by the Soviet Red Army which left the site in 1993, the start of a long and deep slumber which was interrupted abruptly now by all kinds of colors, visions and phantastic dreams painted on the crumbling walls of this remote place.

And last but not least on the premises you will find also the namegiver of the site, a beautiful forest lake called Domjüchsee.

Jo’s Monday walk : Alvor & the Estuary

 

MY NEAREST MOUNTAIN – CRAZY TEUFELSBERG IN BERLIN

Today, I would like to introduce you to the mountainous aspects of Berlin. Downtown there are of course some quite higher tops like Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg which make me thinking of the funny film dealing about an English man who climbed on a hill and came down a mountain (that’s also the film’s title).

Postcard with view from Kreuzberg in 1866

But the nearest and more well-known and highest elevation of Berlin is Teufelsberg / Devil’s Mountain in the huge municipal forest Grunewald and just 2 km distant from my home – even with rising sea levels a safe place due to an actual height of unbelievable 120.1 m, a location which also offers an interesting and surprising history.

Deceptive idyll on Teufelsberg in June 2018

Being geologically one of the youngest mountains worldwide, the 50th birthday of the location has just passed by, a critical age where a lot may change usually in the course of times as the following pictures of the site do clearly suggest.

Today Teufelsberg a center of urban art, the very last mutation of a bizarre place.

But let’s see what happened before here. At the end of WW II you would simply find a flat forest and the bombed rests of a big building formerly used by the German Wehrmacht as a military academy. This place was lying in the British sector of (West)-Berlin where no German army was allowed till the early 1990s when the special status of the city ended with the German unification. So nobody had any use for these military ruins left by the Nazis.

Ruins of Wehrtechnische Fakultät at Teufelsseechaussee

Vast areas of the town were also destroyed as a result of WW II, so this was declared as a place where all the debris and rubble of smashed houses would be brought till the late 1960s, in total 26 million cubic meters of waste material piled up to a new mountain getting the name Teufelsberg  because the site is lying at the road Teufelsseechausee leading finally to natural lake Teufelssee.

A truck transporting rubble to Teufelsberg, December 1951

Nature took quickly control of this dump, so today the mountain is covered by a wild nature and secondary forest. And the people of West-Berlin used the new mountain also for leisure like  snow sports as it was difficult to go elsewhere for quite long time due to the Wall of Berlin surrounding them till 1989.

Ski lift on Teufelsberg (120.1 m), Winter 1961

Down the mountain’s not too long slope, December 1981

But the mountain has also been the last listening post of the Cold War. In the years 1968 the American army seized the complete top area of the mountain and erected till 1969 a radar and monitoring station for intelligence purposes such as controlling telephone conversations in the former German Democratic Republic. The secret name of these constructing and supervising ambitions was Project Filman. The last and fifth tower was built and finalized in 1989 shortly before the political transitions and opening of the Wall of Berlin. With the unificiation of Germany this complex was no longer required, the American army left the place in 1991 changing the area to a mere ghost town.

Teufelsberg radar and monitoring station by US-army in the 1980s

Path around the complex through the secondary forest, June 2018

Pioneer plants conquered the place in the time being which grew in the cracks of the asphalt and even settled on roofs. Undemanding plants such as the evening primrose, the stonecrop or the elder have laid the groundwork that it is today very green on top of the Teufelsberg. The complex was sold to an investor who planned a hotel and luxury appartments on the mountain. But after getting many millions of loan for the project from the banks, he was never seen again in the city. Some years ago this area has also been declared as forestrial land making impossible such luxury projects in the future. 

One of the decaying radiation domes, August 2019

Colorful wildness of the ruins, August 2019

The abandoned and still militarywise fenced place attracted of course the urban art and graffiti community. So in the ruins you find today a vast diversity of amazing colorant works of any kind. The domes can no longer be visited due to their bad conditions, but the unique complex is huge and can be visited against payment of an entrance fee. Meanwhile another change, the city awarded this wild site the relevant status of a real protected monument. So history can be just fabulous sometimes!

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Linked to:

Tuesday Photo Challenge – City

 

HISTORICAL MURALS OF BERLIN, 1965-1989

In the 1970s, the graffiti scene, inspired by the burgeoning hip-hop movement, finally developed in the New York underground. Within a few months it became a gigantic wave that spilled over to Europe. The punks and hip-hop took streetart to their strongholds of London and Amsterdam, from where they arrived in West-Berlin.

View on newly erected houses at Stalinallee, Berlin-Friedrichshain, 1963

Wall frieze by Walter Womacka
House of the Teacher, Berlin-Mitte, 1965

Also in East-Berlin there were forms of street art, however, the artists were severely restricted in their freedom and had to be in strict compliance with mandated socialist realism as to be seen here on the wall frieze by Walter Womacka from the 1960s. Political slogans were also painted on houses and walls of East-Berlin but usually immediately removed by state security. The Berlin Wall initially only presents itself as a huge screen in West-Berlin, onto which political slogans, murals and later graffiti are painted and sprayed from the 1970s.


The dividing Wall of Berlin, 1961-1989

Wall frieze by Walter Womacka
House of the Teacher, Berlin-Mitte, 1965

In its beginnings streetart found many advocates. The Second World War had left many traces in Berlin in the form of firewalls and bomb blanks, which could be concealed by the murals. The politicians promoted the street art projects in West-Berlin with design programs and competitions like Kunst am Bau. Numerous artists brought different styles and techniques with them, the goal was an active intervention in the cityscape.

Ben Wagin, “World Tree”
Berlin-Tiergarten, 1977/2018

It all started with a moaning tree being surrounded by violent car exhausts. The environmental work Weltbaum (World Tree) by Ben Wagin was the first big mural realized at the Western part of Berlin in 1977. Due to construction works it can no longer be seen at its original place. Therefore, it was painted and reconstructed again in May 2018 at a suitable building in Lehrter Str.

Gert Neuhaus, “Zipper”
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1979

Marilyn Green, Rainer Warzecha and Christoph Böhm
“Model Germany”, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1981

Political slogans painted or sprayed on house walls have always been part of political movements, not only since the West-German squatter movement of the 1970s and 1980s, which makes intensive use of this means of expression. The squatter movement was especially strong and active in West-Berlin where many houses were unused, empty or in very bad condition.

House ruin at Winterfeldplatz
Berlin-Schöneberg, 1981

Mural on a squatted house
KuKuck, Berlin-Kreuzberg, 1982

The works created in West-Berlin in the 1970s and lateron by the squatter movement of the 1980s often had a political message – such as the “World Tree” by Ben Wagin or the now-defunct Mural “Model Germany” by Marilyn Green, Rainer Warzecha and Christoph Böhm. Illusion painting was also very popular. One example is the still existing gable “Zipper” by the artist Gert Neuhaus.

Sigurd Wendland, “Potsdamer Str. 1945”
WW II bunker, Berlin-Schöneberg, 1983

Harald Juch, “Chernobyl Disaster”
Berlin-Schöneberg, 1986

View on Kurfürstendamm
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1987

Gert Neuhaus, “Phoenix”
Berlin-Charlottenburg, 1989

Illegal underground art existed by mutual agreement in addition to commissioned works, which were mostly awarded by housing associations. Sometimes the works also overlapped, often disappearing again. With the big political transitions starting in late 1989 a lot has changed in Berlin also in regard of urban art, but that’s still like that till today!

 

 

 

URBAN ART HALL, BERLIN (2)

Unfortunately the project URBAN ART HALL does exist no longer here in Berlin, the former postal distribution hall will now be demolished and some new building erected soon. These here are some of the last impressions inside and outside the crazy and creative hall captured by mid of July 2019. Again it was very difficult to make a photo selection due to the many stunning works and mindful creations.

Additional information in German language here:

https://www.urbanarthall.de/about

 

ON THE TRACKS OF HEMINGWAY IN WEST-AUSTRIA, 1925-1926

“The world is so full of many things that I am sure we shall be all happy as kings. How happy are kings?” (1)

Mountain path to Kreuzjoch (2,450 m) near Schruns

This summer we have visited again the Montafon Valley for nice and real summerfreshness, this place to be found in the utmost Western part of Austria right to the border of Switzerland. In 1925 and 1926 the still unknown author Ernest Hemingway spent also quite some time here and in fact left lasting personal impressions with the local people.

Hotel Taube at Schruns around 1920 (2)

The budding writer had come to Montafon Valley with his wife and son from Paris, because he had little money and good friends had told him that in Schruns there would be the nice Hotel Taube, that the Montafon was cheap and the mountains just ravishing. Hemingway liked it so much that he spent two winters here in 1924/25 and 1925/26, six months amidst the dazzling white snow world and surrounded by the tranquility he needed to rewrite his first novel “The Sun also rises”. The local people called him the “black Kirsch drinking Christ”, because he liked to stay in the diverse taverns of the valley. 

Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Gerald Murphy at Silvretta, 1925 (3)

The young author with his wife Hudley and son at Schruns, 1926 (3)

Wiesbadener Hütte at Silvretta in the 1920s, here Hemingway stayed for ski tours (3)

Hemingway, then in his mid-20s, was very fine, on wooden skis and sealskins he climbed up into the Ochsental, climbed the glaciers on the Piz Buin at Silvretta, he loved the mountains, and in Schruns he sipped the homemade schnapps of the peasants, plus lots of Fohrenburger beer, and he beat them all down in the bar of Hotel Taube: the host, his ski instructor Walter Lent, even the local gendarmerie captain participated in the evening poker rounds. Quite how influential those visits to Montafon were for Hemingway gets clear in his last book “A Moveable Feast” because therein he left a memorial to Montafon. So the very last chapter of this book is devoted to this Austrian region, his private paradise, he describes the valley enthusiastically as a real romance.

Löwen Tavern founded 1500 at Tschagguns where Hemingway often accompanied hunters and woodcutters

Portrait of Hemingway to be found at Kreuzkeller-Bar in Schruns
And Ernest Hemingway was here in fact a welcomed guest, the people of Montafon really liked him. On the wall of the dining room at Hotel Taube hang today some small black and white photos, Hemingway with beard, Hemingway on skis. John, the writer’s first son, sent it to the hotel himself after visiting the place in his father’s footsteps. Otherwise Hotel Taube makes no fuss over the legendary Nobel laureate, who once resided in this house. A small brass board next to the entrance, which tourism wanted so, and a casual note in the hotel brochure. Not more. No logos, no fussed bar, no Hemingway fuss as to be found elsewhere.
Above the clouds at Innerberg
But Hemingway has become a real myth here, and now his name hangs over the region like the wet-gray clouds moving over the valleys. Even today, the Hotel Taube stands at the church square in Schruns, tidy and neatly the little streets of the small city, and in the background you can still admire today the stunning peaks of seemingly eternal Rätikon waiting for our final discovery.
Wiegensee in the mountains of Partenen
Old smuggler trail near the Swiss border
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  1. Ernest Hemingway in a letter to his colleague F. Scott Fitzgerald, September 1926
  2. photo from an old marketing flyer of ‘Hotel Taube’
  3. photos from the archive of ‘Montafon Tourismus’