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Cherry-picking at the Haus am Waldsee (Berlin Biennale)





The cherry trees in front of the Haus am Waldsee are full of fruit. Before we visited the Berlin Biennale, we loitered in the villa's garden and ate our fill.



The back garden had the air of a children's party, of a lazy Sunday picnic. Scattered tables on the lawn held apricot cake and espresso cups.

Parents stooped to read the plaque explaining the Slavs and Tatars sound piece (a jagged, synthesized muezzin's call to prayer) while the speakers, laid out on the grass like an open book, beckoned children to romp. By the lake, a father explained the motion-triggered water sculpture while the boy stared spellbound at the sky reflected in the still water.

The lake itself, I learned later, was an artificial one, constructed from a meadow. To stand at its edge and spot the rear sides of the adjacent villas felt utterly natural, though really, we were all interlopers: we had art to thank for allowing us to sample such rare air. As before at the Haus am Waldsee, art for a moment seemed pale placed alongside life — but I did come around to the art.



'Quintor des nègres' played as we drank our tea on the veranda, part of the Argentine artist Carla Zaccagnini's installation, Le Quintor des Nègres, encore. A fountain fashioned of Cypriot copper plashed in a back room. A horror-film score punctuated the still dramas of forests and housing project in Patrick Alan Banfield's twin-screened vyLö:t. The pleasing cacophony continued upstairs with the video and soundtrack of a woman DJing classical music LPs in Anri Sala's Unravel.

If I thought the magnetism of the grounds represented a personal failure to be serious, I was pleased to read curator Juan Gaitan remark himself on this tension: "It is an intimate space, and more demanding in terms of one’s focus on contemporary artworks. The artists are competing with the house, the surrounding lake, and so forth."

Before we left, we filled our pockets with cherries, and when we went home, we made Rumtopf.


I always admire your ability to elevate even the most mundane of outings (although this one was not so) to the level of pure poetry.

By the way (hint hint), get thee to the Comenius garden off of Richardplatz in the next week. I spotted cherry trees as well as white and purple mulberry trees, and black currants ripe for the picking.

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