Archive for October, 2010

GHOTCZ#12: pošta noční přepážky

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

This weekend’s big discovery? That Prague’s main post office on Jindřišská is open from 2 am to midnight, 7 days a week. This is the greatest thing I think I’ve discovered yet in Prague (you know, besides hot dogs and the žižkov tv tower).

I had an application for a program that had a postmark deadline of Oct 31, which we all know was a Sunday, and therefore impossible. And in most of the Czech Republic as with the U.S., most post offices keep limited Saturday hours, and I had to work on Saturday, to boot (I’ve had a part-time gig here for a few months now). Rumors had drifted my way that there was a magical late-night post office in Prague, but it seemed too good to be true. I made some inquiries with friends here, and Jana, of course, sent me a link to the PDF that changed my life, with lists of ALL the post offices in the Czech Republic that keep late/Sunday hours.

Every artist I know has to periodically mail off an application to some program or grant or another, and will invariably do this at the last possible minute. For me, my saving grace was often the West Oakland main post office, which kept slightly later hours, and was particularly fun on Tax Day: I’ve always liked being out doing things at odd hours (hence my longstanding obsession with wandering the aisles of Longs Drugs in the middle of the night), so there was always some little thrill at the prospect of getting to do something at a time one isn’t supposed to.

Unfortunately, even West Oakland failed me on occasion, as they reduced their late hours a bit, taking some of the fun out of things. Plus, they caught on fire once, a few years back. Sigh.

Anyway, Prague’s post office is truly amazing, even by day: it’s like everything the DMV wishes it was, but will never be, in terms of efficiency, organized waits, and, oh, fin de siècle loveliness. Plus there’s a great Turkish restaurant near by. Also, the Mucha Museum. The train station. And the theater where Mozart debuted “Don Giovanni”. Take that, DMV.

The night office is a small room off to the side of this main hall, however. After my drop-off, I was so excited about it that I took this picture of the sign on the door (which, as it turns out, is the quickest way to get a septuagenarian security guard to freak the hell out on you: whoops, honestly didn’t see the “no photos” sign):

Not a particularly riveting image, but for me, it’s like a Sasquatch sighting, so the blur is apropos.
And anyway, Henri Cartier-Bresson stated, “Focus is a bourgeois concept.”

I think I’m going to organize a small holiday studio sale this year after all, now that I’ve got a whole new  post office fetish.
More on that soon!

P B & W

Monday, October 4th, 2010

One of the other nice things about living in Prague is its proximity to lots of other wonderful places, like Berlin. This whole “being in another country in one quick train ride” thing is pretty incredible.

train roll on

I put off going to Berlin for over 9 months for no apparent reason (ok, time and money): despite everyone and their uncle telling me to go, I couldn’t quite justify it, somehow. Once the P and I finally got there this past spring, however, it was like my whole world made sense again. I felt more energized and inspired and excited than I’d felt in quite a while.

hello: portapotty by the Brandenburg Gate, for starters

Much as I enjoy Prague, I’ve come to the fundamental conclusion that there’s not much magnetism here for me, creatively speaking. It’s not that Prague is inherently bad for this: hell, there are hordes of creatives here who find it utterly inspiring. It’s just not working for me. (Yet.) Over the past year, I’ve had crisis after crisis about why I can’t make things here, and it just seems to come down to an energy mismatch. I don’t blame Prague, but I also don’t blame myself (anymore) for not feeling energized creatively here, despite the ample time and space I’ve had here to Make Important Things.

At first, I just thought I was a failure, and something must be deeply wrong with me, for months. I didn’t realize that maybe it wasn’t quite as simple/harsh as this until I got out, and started spending more time elsewhere where I was energized and inspired. Certainly the residency in Italy was great: gorgeous surroundings, great company, a directive to make things. A little conservative, to be sure (Italy, not the residency), but creative and vibrant, indubitably. But then I got back from Italy, and fell apart all over again in Prague. No creative mojo, no nothing. Enter: Berlin.

I’ll try not to rhapsodize about the same things that everyone likes about Berlin: mostly, I’ll just say that it’s a deep feeling of recognition. I feel more myself when I’m there than anywhere else I’ve been in Europe. Which is kind of a strange, quasi-narcissistic reason to like a place, actually, but lemme tell you, when you’ve been a fish out of water for an extended period of time, it feels unbelievably great to be able to swim again.

I was rambling on and on to some folks here about how great Berlin is recently, when I saw a familiar, pained expression come across my German friend’s  face. She said wistfully and diplomatically, “Everyone loves Berlin.” In that dot-dot-dot way which made me wonder. I kept thinking about that moment, because I recognized in it a similar (if far grouchier) sentiment I express whenever someone is going on and on about how cool New York is. It’s not that New York isn’t cool. I just get super-tired of hearing people ramble on about how great it is, ad nauseam, when it’s not the only great city in the US.

But I have to concede that the things that to me are genuinely appealing about places like Berlin (or New York, I guess) are also the same things I love about the urban Bay Area, and certainly other cities, as well: Diversity. A kind of no-nonsense cosmopolitanism. Insane creative energy. Feminist/ queer/ people of color with recognized strength and voice. Anarchic decadence. World-class cultural institutions. An mouth-watering variety of ethnic food options. Dirty old vintage stuff for sale. Freak flags flying proudly. An insistent, energetic hum in the air.

Like attracts like, so I suppose it’s no big shocker that I’m attracted to the things that feel familiar to me, being such a product of Bay Area culture, myself. What’s so thrilling about Berlin, however, is seeing these things as unfamiliar variations, with completely different historical and political underpinnings. And so, after many months of feeling a constant, quiet isolation in Prague, I’ve loved that I feel like I’m able to relax, unfold and expand myself when I’m in Berlin. I get bigger. My energy gets bigger. I want to feel, do, make things again. It’s that good.


Thank you, Turkish people of Berlin, for this sublime greatness you have bestowed upon us

Rockin my J outside the KW Institute for Contemporary Art

a delightfully nutty project curated by John Bock at Temporary Kunsthalle

Yinka Shonibare at Friedrichswerdersche Kirche

The A. Wah and the J.Wah at the Filmmuseum

Heaven is a museum for East German motorcycles


After that initial spring revelation, I made 2 more Berlin trips over the summer with visiting friends, and each trip only reinforced its spell over me.
I’m going back up in a couple of weeks, as a bunch of my Manila friends are going to be there for a show. It doesn’t take much of an arm-twist to get me there, but that’s about as once-in-a-blue-moon, damn-fine a reason as any.

Game on

Monday, October 4th, 2010

M.O.B. hard at work from 3 different locales this past weekend.

One of us looks suspiciously like Mikhail Gorbachev was thrown in a blender with Imelda Marcos and Raggedy Ann.

Maybe that’s all of us, actually.