Second Time Around

Michael what´s it like being on an extended overseas adventure the second time around ? You are 57 now and travelled the US and some of Europe in your mid 20s over 30  years ago.

I am attempting something more difficult this time living and working in a country where English is not the first language. Not all Germans speak English especially where I'm living which was in East Germany. As an older traveller you are much more invisible, the plus is that you can observe more closely what else is going on around you the minus is that it can be quite lonely in a city like Berlin where almost everyone seems young and beautiful. Physically I have to pace myself more-I can do most things I want to but it takes more effort and planning

  What are you learning about yourself this time around ? At the moment I am spending a lot of time alone. The residency has about 5 to 10 hours contact time and we see each other occasionally socially but I know no-one else in Berlin. My short term rental on my flat is up next week and I will enjoy some hostel living for a while- I loved living with Glendyr and the kids and don't really want to live alone ..and kids and animals are your best friends travelling as language is not a problem !

 Because I have always had a keen sense of injustice and with confidence coming from my varied life experiences, my qualifications and professional achievements I am more likely to pull people up if I think I am being treated without respect or care. This has mostly been successful -there was some assertiveness required at the residency program at Agora when I expected more support as the last person to join the program now I am beginning to feel comfortable and getting a lot from the experience. The residency is based in NeuK├Âln one of the most disadvantaged parts of Berlin with very high rates of unemployment amongst the Turkish community. Agora the place where I am doing the residency looks like a collection of 30 somethings running frantically in and out of communal workspaces to answer their mobiles, purpose unknown. I have a meeting tomorrow with a director to see what their relationship with the local community is like.

 This time I am travelling as an out gay man something I deeply regret that I could not do last time. It's not easier doing it as an older man. Any gay man can achieve a measure of sexual contact but intimacy is much harder. Is gay culture the only culture where it is possible to have sex with someone without even meeting them?

How is all this affecting your art?

I am definitely being influenced by the works I have seen in the museums especially the Holbein portraits in the Gemaldegalerie such as this Portrait of Georg Gisze of Danzig (1532).

I am exploring secular symbols through two shoots with men who are posing unclothed with items related to their passions -the first a trapeze artist posed with his ropes and harness, the second a DJ with his favourite vinyl and headphones, the third a young man wanting a career in architecture but aware of its potential for heartbreak

I am exploring the potential to see these images projected onto a ceiling- here is an example of how it might look

I have begun to respond to the fabric of the City.
Here is a small tribute I paid to the people taken away to concentration camps by the Nazis - their names are embedded in the pavement outside the place where they  lived in my street ,Kopernicusstrasse.

I left a grave light on these plaques because it is unlikely they will have a grave site and its even more an atrocity that they be robbed of the afterlife as well as their mortal one 

 I have begun drawing Berliner Dom the City's major protestant cathedral-its dome reminds me of Flinders Street Railway station in Melbourne - and as always I am doing life drawing mostly with models I organize myself