A.Muse Berlin

Inside Berlin's Creative World

The melancholy that haunts the artist’s work

Viewing the mixed-media works of Mike Weber, one cannot help but feel immersed in a world long forgotten – now reborn – as the essence of his artwork is centered around heritage, spirituality and the paranormal. Making use of abandoned photographs and portraits from the 19th and 20th centuries, Weber constructs works with various media layered on top of each other so that hints of disparate typography, paint and photographs mesh together into whole and seamless compositions. A heavy sense of transience and melancholy from the figures depicted pierce through Weber’s canvases – moving the viewer and fostering a well of curiosity.

Weber, who is based in California, is now bringing his artwork to Berlin, as he will be a part of a group exhibition “The Cool, the Classy and the Haunted” at Mila Kunstgalerie. a.muse berlin interviewed the artist ahead of the exhibition to learn more about his “haunted” artworks, how he got started working with older photographs, and one of his favorite DIY tips for making use of photographs.

a.muse: A rather general question to begin with – what inspires you?
Mike Weber: I draw inspiration from many personal places. Although I’ve been referenced by the press as being an entirely contemporary Jasper Johns, my work is much less than about the referencing of other artists. There are a lot of artists that are influenced by other artists and it affects the outcome of their work. I create works that combine history and art, which are two very different things. I’m not a formally trained artist. I’m still learning about the many artists and works that roam the earth. Since I was a child, I’ve had a profound interest in the passage of time. This was due to my grandmother’s determination to teach me the names of my past relatives and the stories of our family’s legacy through our old family photographs. To date, I remain inspired by the visual associations I harbor from these photographs.

a.m: Your artworks make use of various mixed media layered on top of each other and yet each piece is neatly composed with a prominent sense of order and precision. Can you describe the interplay between order (or precision) and disorder in your artworks?
MW: The order and disorder are complete opposites within my work, yet when combined I create a combination of things that look perfect and ruined at the same time, juxtaposed to create rhythm, harmony and coherence. The artworks’ subjects are old photographs or altered segments from photographs. Subsequently, my compositions must be preconceived through the use of a scanner and Photoshop. This satisfies my obsessive-compulsive nature.

The intuitive application of colors, enriched materials, surfaces, textures and patterns is where the fun begins. I play with very common everyday materials and push them to see what I can make them do that is natural and uncommon. My work is not about the application of paint, it’s about the removal of these materials and what’s revealed or left behind in the many layers of paint, typography and photographs. The pieces are heavily coated with a glossy layer of resin, giving them a meticulously composed finish.

a.m: Hints of history and legacy appear again and again throughout your work, most apparent through your use of older photographs that portray people from what appears to be the early to mid 1900s. When did you begin using photographs of people in your artwork, where do you find these photographs and what do they mean to you and your work?
MW: About six years ago I discovered how thousands of family photos are thrown away when a bloodline ends and no one purchases the photo albums at the family’s estate sale. It seemed sad that lifetimes of photographs were discarded into the trash, never to be seen again. I’d never want this to happen to our historic photo collection, so I began my quest for meaning and celebration for something so divine – the centuries of experiences, emotions, hardships and generations of ended bloodlines that spoke to my heart and soul. This inspiration allows me to give these forgotten souls new meaning. They’ve become symbols of our past that hold connectivity to a time we’ll never experience.

5 Steps for Surviving the Berlin Winter

With a fifth round of snow (or sixth? It’s easy to lose count) this winter and an ever-elusive spring being a particularly awful tease this year, Berliners are getting grumpier by the second. The dose of vitamin D received a couple weeks back has definitely run its course. So what’s a Berliner to do? Here’s a list of 5 steps to ensure you survive the winter (emotionally and mentally, that is)…

5. Turn back your calendar to last year. December 2012 would work just fine. Not that you should entirely give up on spring ever coming, you’ll just forget to expect it. Hit up the discount stores for leftover Glühwein and start a Weihnachtsmarkt stand with some pals (you’re bound to at least get some smiles or funny stares – the difference is not always clear with the Germans, especially in winter time). Don’t forget the adage: red wine does indeed get better with age.

4. Stock up on discounted winter gear. The good thing about a long winter (or a winter re-awakened after a short spell of springtime weather) is that a ton of winter gear has been put on sale. Think those idyllic and super cute wooden sleds are just for German kids? Ditch the cardboard, grab one of those super sturdy sleds and climb Teufelsberg. The exercise and adrenaline are sure to counteract the winter blues.

Peter Pink strikes again!
3. Paint the streets. The streets are now a blank canvas! It’s time to add some much-need (legal) color. (See Peter Pink street art above.)

2. Stay indoors. Easy enough. Get some first-hand experience on the benefits of an extended Winterschlaf!

1. Fuck it. Get outdoors and start a BBQ anyway. La Pizzeria, a trio of Italian artists living it up in Weissensee, are right on the money with their “White Springtime” BBQ this Friday, March 22nd 2013. Take note.

How To Upset Street Artists in Berlin

Looking for a sure-fire way to anger street artists around the world and make a bit of cash on the side? Then look no further… [Warning: Kids, don’t try this at home… err… on the streets]

Revered for it’s colorful graffitied corridors, clever ad-busting, stencils and pastings galore, it’s not news that Berlin is one of the top street art capitals of the world. A relatively cheap city with lower living costs than other major European cities, Berlin lures artists and creatives from all over the world to reside and work indoors, outdoors, everywhere. More often than not, however, the work/money-making situation is the toughest detail to iron out.

Have you found yourself strapped for cash? Looking to get on a few hit/shit-lists? Well then, a.muse berlin has got quite a sweet & delicious job tip for you! You can work at night, the hours are flexible, and the pay may be enough to make you forget you ever had a conscience. Credit must be given where it due, however: this article is 100% inspired by the brilliant crimi-money-making scheme of the “Street Art 4 Sale” site.

So, in four easy steps:

(1) Always Be Prepared: Rummage through the streets and abandoned buildings, hang outside of art exhibitions and parties, and be sure to get extra friendly with curators who are organizing indoor street art exhibitions and festivals. Be sure to always carry a hammer and nails with you, just in case. Keep your eyes open for any artwork that is left unattended or hanging loose. This is your chance. Steal that shit.

(2) Make A Website To Sell The Artwork You’ve Stolen: Simple enough. Ebay, Facebook, whatever.

(3) Fine-tune Your Marketing Skills: Learn from “Street Art 4 Sale” with their brilliant (or rather sketchy – the sketchier the better!) promotion skills – refer to the temporality of street art and why you, as a consumer and art enthusiast, must save it from being vandalized or disposed of by city officials. [Exact text from the site of “Street Art 4 Sale”: “Street Art often seen as a temporary piece of public art can now hang in your home forever. We save Street Art from being vandalized or disposed of by city officials. Make you walls inside look like the walls out side. For prices message me.”]

(4) Watch Your Back: You are, after all, working on the streets and will probably, sooner rather than later, be on the radar of someone who is also working on the street and who you probably owe a shit ton of money too.

Good luck.

[Disclaimer: If you’re actually considering the above, then there’s just no hope for you.]

Breaking Past the Illusion of Berlin

Making it in Berlin is not always an easy feat. The allure of low rent, inexpensive food, cheap beer, a continuously flourishing creative scene, can only extend so far; when you see whatever funds you had saved dwindling in your bank account and start to receive one Craig’s List ad rejection after another, the idea of “making it” in Berlin becomes as elusive as ever. Kirsten Hall, the founder of the entertainment and advice blog, Lushmug, tackles this and many other survival issues in her very personal, confessional and cathartic blog. From culture shock, to issues that arise trying to date German men, or boys, and overcoming the winter blues, Kirsten is very forthcoming in offering honest advice based on personal reflection and experience.

But don’t expect nagging or self-pity, the beauty of Lushmug is that it handles topics that can be rather depressing (and very ordinary) with a humorous and self-ironic twist. The reader becomes easily hooked. a.muse berlin interviewed Kirsten to learn more about her blog, the most important tactics for “surviving” Berlin, and her thoughts on her first art exhibition – though she doesn’t consider herself a serious artist.

a.muse: You’re originally from Indiana, what brought you to Berlin?
Kirsten Hall: I went on a Euro-trip last year and really loved the city – I was born in Germany and have always wanted to live here so I moved to Berlin after I finished my Bachelor’s degree.

a.m: What inspired you to create your new blog “Lushmug” and what’s behind the name?
KH: I’ve had other personal blogs in the past, but oftentimes gave up on the projects and didn’t put the time and effort into them that I should have – this time I wanted to commit. While the blog has my own personal opinions and stories, it also has a bit of a “self help” aspect to it. The idea is that no one is perfect, but society gives us these perfect images that we have to try to live up to, although we need to accept our own faults, with a little help, we can lead a better life and be happier with ourselves.

The name “Lushmug” is a noun that I made up to describe a person that is a bit of a mess – I’m not talking about heroin addicts on the street, not exactly people with serious life problems, but people who just don’t have their shit together sometimes. They are people, like me, who have insecurities and “weirdness” and sometimes make complete idiots out of themselves – but they are real.

a.m: Was Lushmug, also known as the “the dysfunctional guidebook to life,” something that became more urgent for you to pursue in Berlin, or was it already something that you intended to pursue regardless of location?
KH: Although the blog is predominately about my life in Berlin, that aspect is merely a result of my current location, if I lived in New York City it would be about my experiences there, but I also try to produce content that can be universally applied. I’ve been developing the concept for a while, but was only just able to solidify my idea – I have so many different things I want to write about and it gets difficult trying to funnel them all down… But I’ve always wanted to do something with advice and dealing with real life.

I love people that are wild; people with quirks and bad habits and other shortcomings, but that make up for it because they are confident and secure in themselves… their flaws are what make them interesting. I love shows like HBO’s Girls that show people in more realistic ways – I think our society really needs that realness. It is a bit of a tricky road though, on the one hand I admire Lena Dunhamso much for putting herself out there and I wish I could do the same, but sometimes it is difficult to let go and show so many of your own insecurities to the world. I hope that one day people can read my blog and feel better about themselves – that they will feel like they aren’t the only people who get embarrassed, or do/say the wrong thing; that it’s ok not to be perfect all of the time.

a.m: Your first art exhibition is this week – can you tell us a bit about the work that you will be showing?
KH: I’ve never really considered myself an artist – art was a hobby I always did on the side and I never dreamed of ever showing my work to anyone as “serious art.” The pieces that I will be showing are simply a collection of large-scale drawings that I created using found, recycled material. They have no message, no hidden meaning and they don’t conform to any artistic movements, although, I guess even art without a purpose is its own movement. As with Lushmug, these drawings were a creative release. Personally, I am a huge fan of minimal canvas – large, strong blocks of color like Rothko’s that illicit a deep emotional response from the viewer. I love these kind of paintings, but I can’t make artwork like that. As with everything in my life, I am prone to excess; too many colors, too many lines, and the only emotional response my artwork produces is agitation and confusion. I don’t know what the response to my work will be. It is embarrassing putting my work up publicly when I know I am not a serious artist, but I am a little bit interested to see the reaction.

Kirsten Hall’s Artwork.
a.m: What advice would you give to international creatives who want to come to Berlin to work and live?
KH: Be open to change – I have seen so many people come here that don’t make it because they aren’t willing to work outside of their respective career fields or they take an unpaid job that they love over a paying one, meanwhile burning through their savings accounts until there’s nothing left. Get a job that makes a living then pursue the awesome unpaid creative projects you want to in your free time.

a.m: What’s something that you’ve discovered while trying to survive life in Berlin?
KH: This place is a bit of an illusion; it seems like the perfect place to be young and carefree – the rent is cheap, the beer is cheap and there is plenty to do, but that lifestyle can only last for so long. The reality is that it is actually really hard to live and support yourself here – I have to remind myself occasionally to lighten up and enjoy Berlin the way I used to.

a.m: Can you share a DIY tip with the readers of a.muse?
KH: If you are going to check your makeup in the reflection of a car window, make sure there’s no one actually sitting in the car first.

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