Follow the Fellow #5

Monthly notes from Les Vynogradov

21. Juni 2024 | Les Vynogradov

An abstract portrait of Les Vynogradov
©Les Vynogradov

In this series, inm fellow Les Vynogradov from Kyiv shares sonic, spatial, and existential explorations of Berlin. 

I’m in June’s lukewarm embrace. Surrounded by trees and drowning in chirps and tweets of countless birds whose names I don’t know. The balcony of my Pankow apartment is a small boat rocking on soothing waves of green. It’s like the Instagram page of my music project, anom, came alive.

That is not how I first came to know Berlin. I had all the wrong expectations and less-than-stellar initial impressions. I miscalculated Berlin’s scale and planned a walking tour of several dozen kilometers for my first day, which turned out to be a daunting, joyless toil. I thought I would stroll around and check out the striking modernist architecture between sips of finest filter coffee, and that I would do it all in the city center because that’s where all the nice things are… Rookie mistake. I relied on my eyes too much when I should’ve let my body sync with Berlin, allowing it to swallow me whole and work its charm.    

After a few days of recalibration, however, it suddenly dawned on me: Berlin is a city where I could lie down in the middle of the street, as if on a blanket, reclaiming any inch of that space, and the street wouldn’t mind. I got my first ›sous les pavés, la plage‹ moment, not in Paris, but here. Everything seemed possible in Berlin and the local geniuses of place were benevolent to the slightly disoriented wanderers like myself.   

Now that I’ve been living in Berlin for some time, I had the luxury of tasting it in small sips, exploring its nooks and crannies, not expecting much and always finding more. That’s how I learned to experience it the right way — slowly, one Kiez at a time. And that’s how I came to grasp its true essence: Berlin is a Späti of a city — always open, always welcoming, a bit camp and a bit divine, and never lacking means to numb your pain.

Waking up to the choir of birds and the gentle murmur of leaves, I am reading an Instagram post by Clemens Poole, a good friend living in Kyiv. Clemens, an American, chose to live in Ukraine and, an insanely talented artist and thinker he is, has become an integral part of the local art scene. He writes:

»(…) The presence of war in the consciousness of Kyiv is always there, but it moves environmentally, more like tides than waves, ebbing and flowing through periods of numbness and acute feeling. (...) When the tide rises it’s like the rubbery filtered sound when your ears dip below the surface, and you realize the rest of the physical experience—the slowness of underwater movement, the enveloping pressure—is perfectly completed by the new liquid soundscape. Even if you try to cry out or move with violence, you’re slowed to the point of impotence by the thick world around you.

»(…) Although the tide will ebb and flow, sea level is rising, and I can imagine that we might start spending more time underwater in Kyiv. (…)«

Suddenly my forest boat tilts and starts sinking. Before I know it, it’s entirely submerged under the thick layers upon layers of blunt, uncompromising reality.

Then I awake, paralyzed by fear.

~

You may know Kateryna Zavoloka, a Berlin-based composer, sound artist, performer, and visual artist, but I will feature her anyway. I love her music and recommend her label I Shall Sing Until My Land Is Free which boasts releases by legends such as Merzbow, Muslimgauze, and a plethora of brilliant Ukrainian artists fundraising for self-defense and humanitarian foundations in Ukraine. Zavoloka will play at Radialsystem on 13 July as part of Heroines of Sound and you should be there.

»Follow the Fellow« – ermöglicht im Rahmen des Stipendienprogramms »Weltoffenes Berlin« von der Senatsverwaltung für Kultur und Gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt.

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A view on Pankow

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