Archives for category: inspiration

Why I love drawing like a little kid, forgetting everything around and focussing on that piece of paper as if my dear life depended on it?

It reminds me of happy times. Of childhood. A childhood rediscovered, so to say. With its particular naivety, that gives me the permission to immerse my entire attention into what I like most.

There’s a simple equation: Wherever you put your attention’s focus is where your energy goes. It’s the Theory U lesson that marked me most. There’s so much distraction going on, an incredible amount of energy to be wasted. But there is always something more specific and worthwhile calling your permission to immerse yourself. So I’d rather put my focus and energy where my passion dwells, a path of personal growth. Have you given yourself permission to follow yours?

Most answers to our crucial questions dwell somewhere inside, we just need to harvest them.

Visual Harvesting Methods

Harvesting thoughts with a pen is rewarding in many ways, because it makes insights rise, shine and last with ease like no other method.

To the visual thinking crowd in Berlin: If you’re curious to try out visual harvesting methods that fit into a flip chart, today’s the opportunity to do so @ the Vizthink Meetup at Neukölln’s Kulturlabor Trial&Error.

For those of you who want to use visual tools in order to make your most desired change & impact happen, the next Visual Tribe’s workshop on May, 7th will help you to thrive doing that.

Remember that you are loved.

Today, everyday.

More than a look at the few remnants of today’s Berlin Wall, a certain documentary film evokes the spirit of change linked to that symbol of separation. Jürgen Böttcher’s documentary “Die Mauer” has captured the immediate aftermath of the peaceful German revolution in 1989 around the wall. His aesthetic brilliance adds to a discrete narration: while the filmmaker’s voice remains mostly silent, his attentive glance tells so much about moments between (almost comical) uncertainty and newly gained freedom. The pensive style of the filmic narration leaves space for thoughts. As the camera scanned the length of the wall stretching and disappearing into the nightly dark, my very own remembrances of an East Berlin childhood gradually welled up.

berlin wall thoughts documentary die mauer juergen boettcher

Glancing at this concrete wall provokes so different feelings in all of us who were separated by it. Arisen from villages, this city’s vastness makes it hard to gather and feel close to each other. A look around sometimes reminds you of how small we really are.

I saw the screening of “Die Mauer” at the Berlinale film festival in 2006, when Jürgen Böttcher was awarded with the Berlinale Filmkamera. It was this film that sparked my interest in documentaries in general. Ever since, the documentary section proved to be one of my favorites at the Berlinale.

If films crystallize our dreams, good documentaries have the power to remind us of what dreams truly are: sparkles of personal experience, mixed in with hints of our secret fears and wishful thinking.

Seeing “Die Mauer” has made me realize just how much of a dream came true for me when this hated piece of concrete came down.

When the place you inhabit becomes too narrow for your dreams, move out!”

… said the bird to the wanderer, so wander we did.

manga lucid global village bird and wanderer
When a journalist recently asked me to draw a manga sequence for a TV feature about two Japanese players from the Berlin based football club Hertha, it kinda made sense. I’m not that big of a football fan, but this year’s world cup saw me taking more interest in the game than usual. Starting with a first excitement about (the Chilean) outsiders who went for unexpected chances, eventually closing the chapter of former (Spanish) domination…

…I gradually went more emotional seeing the German soccer team making its way til the finals – and beyond. Around the games I found small hints of what I think really matters in a good teamwork: a kind of fair play and moving on together that transcends the sport context.

Three months later, the idea to use manga drawings for a TV feature on football came quite out of the blue. On the occasion of an away game, the rbb regional broadcasting station’s journalist Christian Dexne figured out an unconventional story hook: portraying two players of the local team who hadn’t really been in the spotlight yet, using a typical medium of their far away Japanese homeland.

Both Hajime Hosogai and Genki Haraguchi are relatively new in Berlin. Meant as an encouragement for them, this visualization project actually became a great motivation to me, as well.

After a friend had already filmed me drawing for a documentary project, this new experience gave me an even deeper look into the whole process of professional TV making. From first idea discussions to interviews, filmic execution, cutting and sound recording, I learned in a few days what has interested and bothered me for years now. How to plan a sequence of scenes, how to decide on what to cut away and what to keep in, how to synchronize the music with the visual content? Is the work of a sports journalist that different from mine as an urban researcher, when we skim our documentation material for decisive hints – for foul play on the football field, for signs of social appropriation in contested urban spaces?

We actually took chances. Before knowing how Hertha would play, we made a big fuss about how they were maybe going to win.

And they wouldn’t win, at first. The TV feature was broadcast shortly after Hertha lost a match against Schalke. One week later, though, our “motivational medicine” took effect:

Playing in Hamburg, Hajime Hosogai managed to realize what his comrade Genki Haraguchi had promised, enchanted, after seeing my manga depicting himself:

We’ll make these pictures come true.”

Sometimes, life is made of second chances. If being seen is what matters most today, then changing the script of how you’re perceived by others can be crucial. Switching from raw sketch…

manga illustration storyboard
…to final picture always ends up reinforcing my confidence and the will to experiment. Nowadays, I’m realizing things from a bucket list I haven’t even written yet. Teamwork has often been the key to realize the most difficult steps of worthwhile projects, and making it happen is what counts most.

I guess, I’m kind of a football fan, after all.

manga YOLO bucket list
*The colored pictures shown here were made last Saturday at this year’s AniMaCo. Inserting them here means checking another item from my unwritten bucket list: show more of your drawings at a faster pace, since you can do it.*

Had you asked me this in my younger days, at age 20 maybe, I’d never have deemed this possible. Finding inner peace and sorting out the constant flow of images in my mind through buddhist meditation techniques?

meditation Chiba Japan
Back in the nineties, I used to despise those Hollywood stars turning towards far away rooted religious traditions, maybe just to hide a lack of local connectivity and personal spirituality…

So I thought, and so would I have brushed off the idea of finding access to a practice of self acknowledgement from the far east.

meditation Berlin Kreuzberg
And here I am, thinking back of my younger self not knowing for sure yet but feeling already how better things were coming my way.

Reading my old short prose poems about light embellishing the urban streets we daily cross.

meditation Quito Ecuador
Finding my first pictures taken far away, of moments in between and the  delight of dwelling it: calmly, joyfully.

Then, I’m skimming through photos from newer travels, some maybe still “unprocessed” in my mind.

meditation Tokyo Japan
I’m not so different, now. Just improved the art of being and staying myself.

So, the tighter you’re gripping the bars, the more they restrain you?

manga watercolor prisoner
Let go, then. Think of what’s beyond, and we’ll see how fast you’ll make it disappear: a prison of thoughts and habits holding you back from the next step towards more awesome things.

manga_watercolor_prisoner_work-in-progress
Big thanks to André for encouraging thoughts on the freedom to pursue a personal passion: Your words inspired this picture and its message. It was fun being filmed while drawing, and I’m looking forward to further documenting sessions.

Stormy weather is approaching the city, yet in the metro I see a barefoot beauty with blonde dreads taking a seat in front of me.

Berlin barefoot metro beauty

This reminds me of a “Death Note” dialogue, where the always good looking, psychopathic main character named “Light” asks his opponent, the always messy, strange looking and sharp minded “L”, about the reason for his sloppy look (– a style so many watching and cosplaying fans grew fond of). I don’t remember the exact percentage, but L basically informs Light how significantly his thinking capacity diminishes when he forces himself to dress and behave “correctly”.

On the backside of my metro ticket I take a quick sketch note of barefoot beauty, phone stuck to the ear, legs crossed and slightly swinging to the rhythm of her conversation. Looks like I found my daily inspiration.

And the storm still keeps us waiting.

Gee, how I love Berlin, at times.

… on a sunny afternoon in Berlin, Wedding, I see reflections of light transforming the other side of the street.

sunny-afternoon_Berlin-Wedding_facade
This is when the charm of living in a neighborhood like mine becomes obvious to me.

sunny afternoon Berlin window beauty
You don’t need to share the tastes of your neighbors, it’s sufficient to watch. Every now and then, a smile will haunt the corners of your mouth, amazed by the odd diversity even a small urban radius can be made of.

Once again, Hong Kong film director Dante Lam turned the city itself into the main actor of his new motion picture, “That Demon Within”. His work caught my interest first in 2009, when he presented “The Beast Stalker” at the Berlinale film festival.

Hong Kong filmic tribute Beast Stalker

Despite the predictability of the action movie genre with all its exaggerations, climaxes and showdowns, I was mesmerized by the fast-paced yet precise glance on the complex, shadowy metropolis behind. No matter the rush and tricks of the antagonists, the surrounding city would outsmart them all along, watching their upcoming final collapse in a patient, threatening silence.

Hong Kong filmic tribute skyline

“The Stool Pigeon” (2011) elaborated on the topic of guilt as a driving motive for both “good” and “evil” characters, blurring this cliché distinction itself. Hong Kong movies often treat the uncanny embrace between the underworld and forces of order, where corruption and entanglement seem almost inevitable. Similar to the falling man who keeps repeating to himself that everything’s still going fine until he crashes, Dante Lam sends his protagonists towards violent collisions of interests where nobody wins, and everybody gets to sacrifice something dear. Having seen two of his filmic variations on this topic, I was curious to find out whether and how the new Dante Lam movie would handle this familiar pattern.

Hong Kong filmic tribute losing game

My first surprise already awaited in the trailer: the dramatic soundtrack and the cut remembered me of silent movies. The screening at the Berlinale enforced my impression. Some almost black and white key scenes, abrupt cuts and musical accents to emphasize the emergence of evil – it seems like the director of cutting edge action movies found inspiration in the origins of cinematography to create a fresher, less foreseeable narration.

Hong Kong filmic tribute Coolness

“In order to ease your pain, you must try to open up to the past”, says a psychologist to the main character, tormented policeman Dave. The fact that he saved the life of a criminal leader through a blood transfusion has triggered further violence in the streets, yet a bigger darkness awaits in the depths of the policeman’s own consciousness. What if looking back just reveals how little control one has over the present, haunting demons and inflicted scars in mind?

Hong Kong filmic tribute facades

Those who saw Fritz Lang’s “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” (1933) will have a moment of recognition when the policeman faces his own, personal demon. In a story that keeps accelerating from the very beginning of the film, the psychological dimension of the crime adds a layer of suspense that the two former Dante Lam films were missing. When a main enemy lurks in one’s own mind, it is clear that it won’t be defeated with mere physical strength, technique or malice. Something needs to be confronted, even though it may be an abyss.

Hong Kong filmic tribute lesson

The scenery couldn’t be less appealing, yet it fascinates: An urban space is turned into a civil war zone by combating forces of crime and law, and the inner mind landscapes of the involved people don’t look any better. When Dave tries to calm himself down by drawing square dots on a simplistic pattern paper, he suddenly loses his patience and pushes the brush into a glass of clear water, staining it in deep dark tones. Just like the water, a stained soul won’t be easily cleared up again. This kind of lucid communication through visual metaphors characterizes asian cinema, and it clearly differentiates such an action movie from mere blockbuster entertainment.

“Do you intend to explain everything in your films?”, asks a viewer in the Q&A session following the screening. Dante Lam says yes, and effectively the puzzle gets quite complete for those attentive enough to gather all the pieces. Beside the obvious storyline, the movie outlines the difficulty of a definitive moral judgement where the personal reasons of a development become clear. I avoided the spoilers here so you will be able to see the film enjoying to put it all together, the pieces of a broken image.

The one who had asked whether everything needs to be explained sat next to me in the theater, and it was clear that he would have welcomed a story with more room for interpretations. From what I could notice, he actually missed some central points in his (first) perception of the film. Once again, a Hong Kong film director has achieved a capturing tribute to his hometown, and there is still much more left to say. Skyscraper city keeps calling out and makes me want to see its depictions in yet another good genre movie. Or better yet, to go and take a fresh look at it in real life.

Hong Kong filmic tribute: travel