Portrait of an Artist

Portrait of an Artist

When you arrive somewhere and there is the smell of a cake baking in the oven... Apfelstreuselkuchen, with apples picked right in front of the door. Anna calls them "Röderhof apples". We eat the apple crumble cake on ceramic plates from the GDR. 

Röderhof Kunstverein is next to the Röderhof Schloss. When we walk by, I notice that the crosses in the stone wall are quite funky. "Dancing crosses," Anna says. 

On top of the hill is the monastery, Kloster St. Romuald, surrounded by forest. When I call my mother, who knows about monastics, she says that monks know how to choose the most beautiful spot. They also know about good drinks. After a big climb, we buy the local liquor with walnuts, the Huysburg Likör, at the monastery shop. 

Röderhof consists of three parts: a Kunstverein, a Schloss and a Kloster. Since Anna Bromley is an artist, she is at the Kunstverein. 

The Kunstverein is run by local anarchist artists. How do anarchists go about in a village? They squad the castle. When they get thrown out of the castle, they take the brewery next door. They let its garden grow wilde and invite artist residents over. These artists are not given recommendations on how to make life easy in the country. In true anarchist style, you have to figure that out yourself. 

A nearby farmhouse has a micro-shop in a cabinet outside, containing eggs and sausages. Later on during our walk Anna tells me about micro-history, which was founded in the 1970s by leftists who opposed to a history writing that left certain people out. 

At the open studio day of Kunstverein Röderhof, Anna takes the visitors to the forest. There they reenact the live reporting of an independent radio on the eviction of the protest camp "1004" in Gorleben in August 1980. Listening to Anna's reenactment, I can hear that the visitors have a lot of fun, laughing and even singing. "The entertaining quality of art is a plus," Anna tells me. 

Anna looks for desks in the forest where she can sit down and write on her laptop. She is a green artist.

"I'm doing centimeter work," Anna says. I think she is referring to the tomato salad she is cutting in little cubes. But then I find out she is talking about her reading of Jacques Derrida's Grammatology, trying to figure out, cm by cm, its meaning. 

Anna is writing a PhD about the "albern", the silly. After finishing her PhD, Anna promises she will no longer write academically but only silly stuff. I'm happy to hear that someone wants to put their PhD into practice.

A student told me how an art organisation where they interned, objected to the use of the gender pronoun "they" as being too complicated. Anna says that language is complicated. We talk about the time of the Third Reich when one had to watch out not to say the many Jewish words in the German language, or after the Third Reich, when certain words were not to be used anymore. 

Anna listened to a talk by Judith Butler online. Judith Butler doesn't like the word "crisis" to refer to Corona, Anna explains to me. She says it's a "condition." It brings to the forefront what is not working in society like, for instance, health insurance. Or take the meat factories in Germany. 

On Saturday night, while drinking the Huysburger Walnut, Anna and I are thinking about a prosperous future. "Roli, roli!" Anna circles her hand. She explains to me it's a gesture for showing off your Rolex.

Is it okay to say that art can be therapy? And what about writing? I'm sceptical. It's not that Charles Bukowski had less misery because of writing, or what about Virginia Woolf? Anna says that when it keeps you alive for 10 years longer before you commit suicide, it's a good thing. 

We're making risotto. Whereas I think one shouldn't steer the risotto, Anna believes in steering the risotto. We contact our Italian friend Giorgia who says it's very Nordic to cook risotto as early as 6pm in the evening. But she asks her mother and comes back with a diplomatic answer: "The truth lies in between. You don't have to stir it all the time but not just when you pour the broth. In between."

During our walk in the forest, Anna serves us coffee in rust-brown coffee cups that are from the GDR. We're surrounded by brown leaves so I make a halo out of leaves for my coffee cup and call it a natural poem titled "Autumn coffee". 

Also Anna makes a natural poem. She sends me the picture of her bread baking, titled "Oven poem"

When I'm back home in Berlin, I reenact Röderhof with good bread, blue cheese and apples on a plate.