Old Magic

30 May 2007

Best spam subject line of the week:

> I couldn't bear the thought of another woman having your child.

Torrential rain in Berlin, alternating brilliant sunshine. Corresponding dips and hikes in the temperature.

Yesterday at some pretty haphazard Wall Museum with the kids. Strange arrangement of random artefacts, photos, texts. At some point for no reason that I would grasp the focus shifts from 1945 and 1953 and 1989 to a room devoted to 'Religions Of The World'. Its a temporary glitch tho – before long you're back to the rooms featuring models of the East and and the West, photos of wall construction, bona-fide chunks of graffitied concrete and the hollowed-out Trabants and improvised aqualungs that people used in escapes.

What stayed with me was the whole genre of photos showing people just after escape – earth-covered men and women blinking in electric light on emerging from tunnels, two families stood next to the home-made hot air-balllon they flew over the border.

Best of all was the whole string of shots of people smuggled out in the trunks of cars, or people emerging from them or people stood proudly beside the cars in fields, driveways and garages – drivers and escapees, proud, pleased, dazed, numb. Adults playing hide and seek. Pictures taken to mark the moment, to prove that this happened, a certificate of some kind. In some cases the eyes in these images are blanked out – like in personal-ad sex pictures, or as if they were innocents caught by accident in pictures of criminals and whose identity must be protected.

More than anything else though all these pairs of people stood next to cars or clambering inexpertly from the trunks, look like they're in clumsy publicity shots for a set of strange deconstructed magic-acts. A series of drab magicians lacking glitzy costumes, all photographed in black and white, with their grinning but dazed-looking assistants stood next to them, gesturing prouldy to their dated, home-made automotive disappearing cabinets. A kind of old urban magic.