Sitting back on a leather couch at the location of her current exhibition, Urban Spree, French artist Bilbo Calvez announces, “I needed about twenty years to love this city. When I came from Paris to Berlin I thought the Germans were so fucking cold, but in the lapse of 25 years it’s reversed…the Germans changed, actually I’m sure why––ecstasy!”
Despite sounding vaguely loopy, yes, I think, she may have a point. She goes on, “When I came here I used to kiss everybody the French way and Germans would be like ‘Ooh she’s French, these extraterrestrial people!’ Then came techno music in the early 90s and the kids took ecstasy, and then it is impossible not to touch! I remember my very first experience…” A lengthy anecdote follows, which ended with a younger Calvez lying high in the arms of a friendly nude gay couple after having been shepherded, saucer-eyed, from a crowded dance floor. She concludes, “I’m sure there’s a connection between this techno, this trance, this collective orgasm that everyone has through the dancing, that these things started to change the Germans so strongly.”
Opposites attract – getting up close and personal at Calvez’s show. Photo: Txuca
Calvez originally made the move to Berlin from Paris for various reasons, partly because her partner (whom she did performance art with in Montmartre––“He was a classic robot, I was a modern robot”) suggested it. She reminisces, “I was really liking this idea of Berlin, like a village in Asterix and Obelix where if you get lost you just follow the Berlin wall and come home, this kind of thing.” Despite these notions, reality was a bit harsher, and her first winter resulted in a frozen toe which was nearly amputated. She goes on, “At the beginning it was a hate love relationship, I always thought ‘I have to leave, it’s so cold in the winter!’ ” Jump 27 years later and this is a sentiment we can all still (sadly) relate to.
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