Beside the change

Apart from our work in the workshop, we had time to see the town, and participate in the openings of the “coexistence” and “masterpieces” exhibitions. The first one was something of an epic belly-flop, but the masters for the most enarned deserved the title for their socio-political posters. There were many classic ones on display, several very impressive in size and technique. Particularly the large screenprints were nice. Since I don’t have the exhibition catalogue with me now, I might be writing more on them sometime in the future.

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Ljubljana tourism imagery follows:

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Interesting calligraphy and a stylish frog character, decorating the walls of a restaurant. The first letter is a special variant on ž.

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Pidgeon house.

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Post-modern buildings of a characteristic style, of which several examples can be found around Ljubljana. I don’t know the architect though.

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A little parking hall.

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A part of Team Finland posing in front of the self-same parking hall.

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Postmodernism Lives.

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Ljubljana’s famed modular kiosks. This one was, like many, filled with porn.

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A guard- and surveillance company logo.

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Another guard company. The mountains are taken from Slovenia’s coat of arms.

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A third guard company.

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The bank and the All-seeing Eye.

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The eye could be seen in many places around town.

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A former bar called Muca, cat in slovenian.

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A city view from the castle hill, that looms over the centre of Ljubljana. The city lies on a plain, surrounded by the foothills of the Alps.

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In the distance, a colorful factory for making sunshine and joy.

A surprising theme turned out to be graffiti culture, on which I got a whole new perspective by some masters of that field. The world’s most widely practiced form of visual art can be thought of as a tradition-conscious modern folk art, ideologically related to calligraphy and with it’s own subcultures and particular modes of evaluation. This even led to an unexpected tribute, skillfully rendered in the 70’s New York style.

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Finally, a big thank you to everyone who met for the workshop in Ljubljana. It was memorable.

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After Ljubljana, it was time to head back to Antwerpen, but not without a detour through Venice, that sinking city. Somehow that seemed a fitting destination to the theme of climate change.

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…made visible

Señor Coconut was a silly novelty project from around the millennium-shift, which saw Kraftwerk classics among other songs remodelled into “latin” versions.

The man behind that undying contribution to western music was german Uwe Schmidt, now residing in Chile. No-one could be blamed for doubting that he would release anything very significant after that. However, this winter he made a rather impressive return under the alias Atom™ with an album called “Liedgut”.

Here Uwe Schmidt creates a sublime piece of music in a tradition of German-romantic mysticism fused with technology. Sublime is indeed the correct word, seeing references to Schubert, Nietzche, Goethe…  German-romantic mysticism fused with technology?  This citation from the Raster-noton page should explain that concept:

“Atom™ absorbed a universe striving for clarity and simplicity, where science and irrationality, ornament and mathematic purity were the key elements of a (still) oscillating social and mental order. “Liedgut” therefore oscillates between those poles: scientific exercises on Schubert chord progressions, digital waltzes and romantic lyrics.”

Think of that what you will, but there is plenty going on in the album that is divided into 20 short musical movements. Schmidt creates surprisingly organic textures out of complex digital treatment, and does some weird things with the interference sound created by a cellphone near a speaker. An obvious point of musical reference is of course the romantical leanings of Kraftwerk, but  Schmidt manages to make a rather original, contemporary vision of this future from the past.

If all this seems patently pompous and pretentious, it is good to think of what one commentator (sadly I can’t remember who or where) noted about Kraftwerk: The audience outside Germany didn’t always see the smirks on their faces, when they were singing that they were robots.

Trans Europe

This update is long overdue, but better now than never. After leaving Hasselt the train brought me to through increasingly rolling terrain to Liège, a city with a modern but as of yet unfinished train station.

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With only 30 minutes of waiting I had no possibility of actually visiting the town, but at least the platform afforded interesting views of the “LED light district”. Oh, pardon that.

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The next leg took me over the Belgian border and into Germany, for yet another train change at Aachen, which didn’t allow for getting an impression of it either. From Aachen the destination was Köln. On that train I had the possibility to train my ad-hoc german skills (oh, these puns!) by reading interesting articles about land-based fish farming, and electrical bicycles in the on-board magazine of DB, which actually seemed rather well edited. Apparently, bikes with assisting electrical motors are increasingly popular in Germany.

Arriving in Köln at around nine in the evening, I had a good two and a half hours to whittle away until my connection to München. The train station in Köln is nicely right in the middle of the center, but more curiosly right at the doorstep of the pretty little Kölner Dom.

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After marvelling at that gothic wonder for a while, I saw that some german beer-serving efficiency would be in place. The glasses are small, for sure, but that was compensated in the sheer size of the place, and the robotic efficiency with which empty ones were refilled from huge copper tubing systems.

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I think that is a logo for a radio channel. Straight win, in any case.

My next train was an Euro Night Line sleeper carriage. I must say that the concept is neat, and the couches rather comfortable. However, I wasn’t entirely fortunate when it comes to travel companions. When the train was gliding in to the station, I spotted a severely obese man through the window. I thought to myself that the experience of having to sit beside a guy like that was something I’d rather pass up.

Climbing on board the train I quickly found my seat, which turned out to be occupied by the man I’d seen through the window. I double-checked my ticket in the vain hope of some indication that there may be other seats with the same number in some other carriage. Realizing this was not the case, I had to ask him if he could allow me my seat, which was the one to the aisle.

The man was as said very obese, but in a way that made him look rather more like an inflatable swimming toy than a mountain of flesh. He was german, and wearing a conspicuous green felt hat with “Oktoberfest” embroided in gold on it. He seemed to be some travelling salesman of sorts, since he had an assortment of odd briefcases filled with brochures, in front of him.

Luckily he understood that there was no way he’d fit in the window seat and still allow room for me, so we swapped seats, which allowed him to expand out into the aisle. I would be exaggerating if I said the night was horrible, but occasionally my travelling companion would bulge over to my side in his sleep, forcing me to lean closely against the window. Additionally, he wasn’t sleeping very well either, and would at regular intervalls wake up to go stand in the aisle, breathing heavily through his nose and cursing the uncomfortable Deutsche Bahn, not at all suited for a man of his bulk. At one point he startled in his sleep, so that he hit his hand on the seat in front of him. Naturally more cursing followed: “Aie! Aie! Ferdammte DB! Scheiße! Sheiße DB!” Seeing him waggle away like a toy penguin on the station in München the following morning I hoped that our roads wouldn’t cross on any future night trains.

München was yet another slightly longer stop-over. I had the time to do some wandering in the parks near the train station, but in all the impression remained a bit vague, apart from the opulent neo-classicist architecture and interesting travelling entertainment waiting for deployment.

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The train from München to Ljubljana travelled through increasingly Alpen landscapes, with ridiculously green rolling hills and white-tipped mountains. There were some excellent views of such things as a motor-glider dragging a streamer with the words “ICH LIEBE DICH!”, and two men on a ladder, both photographing the same cow. The journey was relatively peaceful, despite a noisy school class on a holiday trip sharing the carriage. I tried to do some sketching in anticipation of the workshop but for the most part the landscape kept drawing my attention from the sketchbook.

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At around three in the afternoon I then arrived in Ljubljana, slightly desoriented. In all my journey Hasselt-Liège-Aachen-Köln-München-Ljubljana had thus covered some 1000 km and taken about 21 hours, inclusive waiting time. The experience was on the whole a pleasant one, apart from the unfortunate night train.

The bar in the tunnel under the rails of Ljubljana Central Station was pumping out the nigh-forgotten tune “Sandstorm” by former finnish trance hitmaker Darude. After deciding on the probable direction of the city center, I soon found my bearings, and set out looking for some internet to snatch.

Interestingly I hadn’t been provided with any information regarding meeting points, housing or other trivial matters of the sort, but this was quickly arranged with a phone call. I found myself waiting around with the group from Kroatia, until I was eventually shipped to my lodging by the wisecracking hostel owner / driver man. The hostel turned out to be a pleasant villa, and being first on the turf I quickly chose a bed in one of the shared rooms, and promptly went out to explore the nearby city park. Later that evening, my fellow finns would arrive from the airport.

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The view from the hostel room.

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Some mysterious tree platforms in the park.

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A decaying villa opposite to our hostel, Villa Veselova.