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Lufthansa Festival of Baroque Music 2008: Day 4

img  Tobias

The pulse of London is beating in polyrhythmic patterns, its hunger is never satisfied. We take the bus to Soho, hop off and pass an old gate into China Town. “This man have just donated 800 Poun!” a voice with an Asian accent screams from horribly distorted speakers and a mass of people crowds in front of what must be a rediculously small podium, where a hipster in rock n roll clothes and sporting massively oversized sunglasses is hugging a clearly uncomfortable man. Posters declare this an event to support the victims of the recent earthquake, there are concerned faces everywhere and each new donation is received with a warm round of applause.

We take a turn to the left, checking out vegetables I have never heard of at the stall of an old lady and glance past shining slabs of marinated meat into silent restaurants waiting for their first customers. It is still early, but Chinatown is already twitching with excitement and anxiety on the streets. At its corners, elder people are having a chat, their voices filling the air with a vibrant clatter. We cross the street into a different part of town, old brick houses hosting trendy fashion stores, an H&M branch and a bookstore with an organic cafe inside.

Through the narrow streets of a covered market, we arrive at a small square, where a guitarist is playing a blues cover version of Michael Jackson's “Billy Jean” with a warm and sonorous voice. This is what I like about this place: Its overflowing creativity, which throws itself onto the streets without thinking twice. Other towns may decide that everything has its limits, but London disagrees: Nothing is ever enough here. We stand in the careful rays of the afternoon sun, listening to the song and I try to catch a glimpse of the singer's name somewhere on his CDs (Alfonso?), as he continues his performance. Maybe it's besides the point anyway. The individual is cancelled out, as he surrenders his art to the city.

We march past Trafalgar Square, enjoying the view, then leave the National Gallery behind us and head for the quietly situated Institute of Contemporary Arts. Already at entering, I know I love this place. Composed of cinemas, exhibition spaces, a theatre- and concerthall, its colorful and friendly shapes are a piece of art in their own right. In the small, but excuisitely equipped store, I am drawn to a world of magazines waiting to be discovered, from various arts publications, a cinematic mag called “White Lies” dealing with ”movies and the truth” as well as “Plan B”, dedicated to alternative music and media. Shelves full of films invite visitors to spend a lot of cash, so I am somewhat glad that Nadja has quickly gotten us some tickets for the current program by Loris Greaud, pulling me away from the shelves and saving me from financial ruin.

“Cellar Door (once is always twice)” consist of three black-walled, seemingly trapezoid rooms containing a strangely organic mobile each, its interconnected molten spheres with protruding speakers glowing from the inside. On the wall, a text informs us that “When people tell me that I don't know how I am going to finish this story, I usually tell them: wait till the end and you will see yourself” and the rooms are separated from each other by means of electric doors, which shoot up from the floor into the ceiling like the ones used in fully automated assembly halls. Classical music is softly playing in the background, its exact origins unknown. There seems to be no difference at all between the individual compartments, but there is a growing sense of estrangement, as we walk deeper into the installation with the invisible eyes of this immobile creature following us.

Only the final room holds the key to the riddle, remaining silent for minutes, before emitting a text about “The Studio”. Purposefully intended to initiate a process of interpretation rather than actively suggest one, “Cellar Door” seems to be about the creative process, about its return to the same source, which nonetheless sets free different results each time.

We then split, with me walking over to St. Margaret's for the concert along the bank of the Thames, passing the London Eye and several touristic musea.

In the evening, we have dinner at a wonderful Japanese restaurant. The “Akari” is located on 196 Essex Road in Islington and feeds from the warm minimalism of its interior, its metres-high ceiling and its long, dark-brown wooden tables creating an open, familiar and yet imposing mood. We select a wide range of plates, smaller and bigger ones, including vegetarian sushi made of huge seaweed rolls containing crisp slices of cucumber, carrot and avocado, as well as a dish of fresh green beans seasoned with garlic. Powered by cool Japanese beer, we talk about London, England, music, traveling and about “Urban Legend” Banksy, an artist who has left a trail of naïve graffitti all over town, using the broken walls of the city as a starting point for beauty (see picture). When we leave, it is already night, almost three hours having passed like seconds.

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