Friday, August 15, 2008

The discipline of preparing for yesterday’s press call meant the show was ready to open first thing even though the opening reception was not due until 17.30. With over 400 guests expected we didn’t want to cover much more of the floor with paper and rice, so it was a day for detail. Chris worked with Daniel and Olivia to develop an impressive array of souvenir bags. In doing so she introduced me to the Souvenir Bag Label Printing Instruction Sheet, a legacy of Karen’s, which makes fantastically easy and flexible a previously nightmarish task. I’m starting to suspect that there may be lurking an equivalent document, which yesterday would have saved a lot of Merger anxiety.

The opening was great. Often they are fraught affairs as rice gets trampled beneath the feet of those thinking and talking about other things whilst looking elsewhere. Last night everyone was hugely respectful and seemed very engaged, the paper and rice escaped almost totally unscathed. With the combined VIP lists of Kampnagel and the Chamber of Commerce coming into play it was a wonderfully mixed crowd. We had suggestions and questions, lots of thanks. A few people who had seen the show elsewhere and inevitably one or two who want the rice all shipped over to Africa and refused to hear that it is all going to be eaten here in Germany.

The most notable figure of the night was a small, stooped, sinewy old lady, elegantly dressed in a blue skirt suit and hat. She arrived early and, clearly not keen on standing for long periods, took a seat at the edge of the hall and watched. She changed seats a few times and looking at things from different angles. Then suddenly in her hand was a robust looking 35mm camera, with a big old flash bolted on and raised top right. She took a series of shots from her seated position, stayed until almost everyone else had gone, then carefully wrapped both camera and flash in a large piece of red fabric and carefully placed in her bag. She then got slowly to her feet and left. I wish I knew who she was and I would love to see what she has photographed over the years. I bet she has some tales to tell.

The classic cream and leather Mercedes taxi eased us four K to Kampnagel. True to form the tec team had done an amazing job. As threatened, the scrubland and scrappy parking rubble that had stood behind the vast run of five performance spaces had been transformed into a beautiful garden. Chippings and pebbles and cut grass. Vast slashes of fluorescent pink from high industrial ironwork, bars, benches, tables, fake snow a coffee vendor, all you could wish for and a start contrast to the stone and breezeblock forecourt that normally serves the outdoor social function here.

We stood mesmerised in Janet Cardiff’s beautiful Motet in 40 parts. Thirty five speakers in a circle place you within a choir singing Thomas Tallis. Chris stayed for an age and then told us all the things we’d missed by not staying longer and listening more carefully. We must return.

Beer tokens and a first night thirst overcame sound judgement. Moving we hi the start of a DJ set built on stripped down industrial rhythm tracks. Some Stan dancing took place. Shattered, happy and lost I give the room of my Aging Dad Head Nod. 45 minutes in I was starting to get into it the swing of it but it was time to go home. Bed at 2 as we ‘have to’ be at The World’s Biggest Model Railway by 8 tomorrow.


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