Zurich

On the Verge: F&F Art Show at Rote Fabrik Zurich

On the Verge is an art show, featuring the work of the artists enrolled in The Professional Artist Mentorship Seminar, docent Olga Stefan (F&F Schule für Kunst und Mediadesign). We will be showing at the F&F Schule by the Rote Fabrik in Zurich. Works will include painting, sculpture, installation, a video game and short films. We are artists on the Verge and this is the opportunity to see our work. We have a show over the weekend, with a Vernissage on Saturday night from 7pm, with the art fun continuing on Sunday 12-5pm. 

Feel free to drop by Saturday night before heading to Hive, enjoy a coffee lunch Sunday morning at the Rote Fabrik and then wander through our work at the F&F Schule. Artists will be on-hand to mingle and we would love it if you can join us. Promo video of the show is at the end.

Vernissage on Saturday June 25th from 7pm
Show open Sunday June 26th from 12-5pm

Rote Fabrik Zurich
Entrance B – 3rd Floor – Room 201

Artists Exhibiting:

Misha Camenzind
Christiane Haase
Sarah Honner
Dominik His
Malgorzata Krynicka
Annamarie Merz
Mark Melnykowycz
Kirsten Moselund
Chris Solarski
Louise Tidd
Annie Unsworth


Writing the Artist Statement

It’s about 5:30pm on Wed. so it mush be time for the pre-art class beer by the Rote Fabrik in Zurich. Chilling in the shade, a cool lake breeze on my face – paradise. Time to lighten the head you see, make it all non-linear and stuff, ready to soak up the art direction. Engineering detox, twist the neural pathways into different directions and stretch out the frontal lobe. Time for the professional artist seminar, time to think about an artist statement and professional purpose for the work. I’ve been working on my statement but so far have stalled at, Statement is a purpose and art has none. But that’s why I’m here. If I had it all straight in my head there wouldn’t be a reason for being here drinking a beer, waiting for class to start. Instead I would be sick with confidence and taking the gallery world by storm. Carpe diem and fuck the emotional insecurities, I have something tho say and it just needs to packaged into a conversation that the art can have with anyone.


Ah, yes, the backstory, since I’m depressed enough to be an artist I decided to take a professional artist class at the F&F Schule in Zurich. Olga Stefan is running the course, and each week we hear a mentor from the Swiss art community speak and mentor us on our way to poverty or art stardom. Each week one or two students gives a presentation of their work, and mine is do next week. We’re learning how the art gallery game is played in Zurich and how to go pro. A key element of being a pro is the artist statement. A short but potent set of words that defines and explains your work to the masses. It’s an excellent self-realization adventure to define your work, but naturally the first thing in my head was, statement is a purpose, and art has none. The artist statement is your brand of sorts and should allow any one to get it. However, since the mobile internet thing has re-shaped all manner of print and video media and consumption habits, I’m highly interested in what it’s doing to the gallery scene and art buying in general.


To write a statement I’ve been deconstructing my paintings and their meanings, and the undertone of the meanings behind the meanings to understand my sense of self in order to make a presentation for the class, and eventually, to write my artist statement. I love to write, but it just seems so 1990’s to write up an artist statement instead of creating a video which can be consumed on a mobile device. Maybe I need to unplug? A video sort of thing is in the works, and that’s why I registered ArtistStatement.me the other week. Like with anything, I’ll start with what I know, figure out what I don’t know, and then go from there.

The Formers Band Portraits

The Formers are a local Zurich band that I’ve been working with lately. It started with their show at Zak in Rapperswil, and I dropped by their jam session in Zurich to shoot some portraits. The Formers are the type of band I love working with. They’re motivated to play their music and you feel the passion they have just by walking into the same room. I also like their music, this might seem irrelevant for a portrait project, but it’s a powerful motivator for me as a photographer. When you can identify with the people you’re shooting you have a much better base for creating images which combine and communicate all the essential elements of those people.

The Concept


We wanted to go with something that combines the band members and also had a sort of gritty texture. I wanted to start out with individual portraits, because it gives you the ability to relate to each person as an individual, before figuring out a concept for everyone together. I decided to go with a ring flash and post-processing concept, which would give gritty portraits with a certain edginess, but allows each person to be focused on. So my concept was to put the portraits together in a classic square compilation. This is ideal since you can view and relate to each image, but see them together in one image. I like this because each member of the band has distinct features in their face and hair, and it would be a shame if we had highlighted the singer and left the drummer in a shadowed background, or simply lined everyone up in front of a brick wall (the worst cliche in band photos).


On the processing side I went with a high-definition look and desaturated everything a little bit. This makes the features of the face like cheek bones and beards stand out strong and gritty. I used my Sony A900 with a Sigma 24-70mm set on like f/3.5 for the aperture and my Sony F58 flash off-camera in an Orbis ringflash adapter. I then focused on the eyes and this makes the eyes sharp in focus with a nice defocused area around the rest of the face.


I’ve had a fabulous time making images of the Formers at their show and portraits at their jam session. If you’re in Zurich I can highly recommend checking out their next show and their music on  The Formers MySpace. Their next show is at Abart in Zurich on February 27th.


Photo09 Zurich – Rejection Stings for An Instant

Bratz-0420.jpgThere’s a cool photo exhibition in Zurich each year. Depending on the year it has a new name, in 2007 it was called Photo07, in 2008 it was Photo08 and this year they’re calling it Photo09 (although it’s taking place in 2010). The concept is sort of the year in review, present the body of work of different Swiss photographers in one big show. Basically, each photographer presents their work from the past year in a giant old industrial hall. The images are the focus, and you walk through the visual menagerie stopping to check out interesting images and passing on others. It’s in the Maag event hall in Zurich, the cool thing about the show is that it features anyone, pros, amateurs, fashion photographers, hobby photographers, it’s just a really cool collection of visual imagery. All in all it’s a cool night out to attend the show. I checked out Photo07, was in Detroit during the 2008 show, and decided to submit a portfolio and image concept for Photo09.


I went about the submission process like it was an engineering conference, which means that as long as you pay the registration fee and present some work, you can show or talk about whatever you want. I figured, based on the Photo07 show that it was the same concept, present my photos of the past year in a layout which I think best represents my Vision09. The organizer of a conference like the SPIE Smart Materials get-together doesn’t know what will be ground-breaking research and what is worthless crap because they can’t predict the future and progression of science, and therefore generally won’t deny serious work (although to be fair, some conference organizations just want to make money and will take anything).


So long as the organizers think you’re on the level, you’re free to display your vision. I figured it was the same thing at Photo Zurich – and maybe it was at some point, but that was before the show got popular, and this year they had far more submissions than space to display them. So naturally, people had to be cut from the list. I submitted a portfolio and concept presentation to Photo09, which basically encompassed my year in photography for 2009. This was an interesting year since I had a nice combination of income, travel, and free time to think about life. My Vision09 includes images from Bratz in Rome and California to portrait shoots with Jurgita, her cousin Margarita, myself, and the Barbie Hunter Alexandra was there as well. It seemed like a cool collection of images which couldn’t be denied, but it was – and I’m fine with that.


It’s sort of discouraging to get a rejection letter for your first photography show, my first journal submission was accepted by Smart Materials (IOP Publishing) with barely a correction request. The divide between Art and Science is nonexistent for me, so I figured I would at least get in to Photo09, but on the other hand, I’ve had an equal number of articles rejected as published in scientific journals. It was actually a very apologetic rejection letter I received, so well-written in fact, I had to ask my girlfriend to confirm that they had indeed rejected me. The German was so eloquent to my non-fluent eyes that I didn’t know if I was being asked to not attend, or if I had gotten in and they didn’t want me to feel too good about myself. On the one hand this sucked, but on the other hand, it meant I wouldn’t need to pay the 250 CHF entrance fee plus the costs associated with printing out my display images. Which, in the end means it’ll make paying the credit card bill for that Zulu shield I ordered from South Africa much easier to rationalize (yes, it’s for a photo shoot).


Photo09-Zurich-Concept.jpg


Rejection from Photo09 stung for an instant. I’ve never been actively interested in what people think about what I shoot (not to the point that I would cry for not getting in a show). Each image is a failure in my mind, to accurately communicate the emotions and visions from my brain, so I wasn’t hurt that the editors at Blofeld Entertainment GmbH didn’t want to show my pictures. However, since I went through the editing process of putting together a presentation concept for Photo09 in Zurich, I figure I should display it somewhere. Since the web is one of my main platforms of choice to display imagery, I figure I’ll do it here (Vision 09 on Issuu). I’m slightly scared to see what  the Vision will bring in 2010.


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Web Monday Zurich #11

Google_Tennis_Seat.jpgThe days after a Web Monday Zurich (01.12.2009) is always hard on my head – still exploding from the tech-inspiration from the night before. On nights like this I need to find a dim place with mellow music and down a beer, sometimes with a chocolate brownie to calm my mind (this often happens at Alltag in Winterthur). The 11th Web Monday Zurich took place in the Zurich Google offices, that alone was enough of a reason to attend, the technology insight was just a bonus. There were three topics; Panoramio, UBS Web 2.0, and Mathias Vogel. Then I got a chance to tour through the Google offices.


Panoramio_logo.jpgThe Panoramio presentation wasn’t so much about the software, but more of a how-I-woke-up-and-found-myself-successful talk by Joaquin Cuenca Abela. Joaquin sounds like the type of startup personality everyone imagines it should be like. A basic idea, applied to a certain technology, you keep pushing your ideas, and for some reason you get a call when you’re in the mountains to hear that your one server has crashed and your idea is becoming a success. Joaquin tried a few different ideas before thinking it would be a good idea to allow people to post pictures on Google Earth (the purpose of Panoramio). Basically they did that, eventually Google got interested in it and added it as an option on Google Earth. Then the server crashed and they knew they had arrived. It’s the feel-good type of story that makes a person want to quit their job and sit around an apartment drinking beer and programming. However, the real essence of the talk was that one should just keep trying with their ideas, many successful web startups are by people who are not necessarily super smart or unobtainably talented. Just do what feels right, respect you decisions and try different things to find out what works.


ubs_logo.jpgNext up Andreas Hoffmann gave a presentation on a challenge/contest from UBS. Basically, UBS wants to know how to use Web 2.0 in the banking business. All they want is 4-5 PowerPoint slides by Dec. 24th explaining your concept (details at the Web Monday Zurich project on Amzaee). The top three winners get 5000 CHF each. Sounds pretty sweet, pretty basic, straight-forward, everything you always expected in an idea contest. Since I’m an idea man I’m planning to brainstorm some ideas and send it in. After all, I’m a UBS banking customer, and if I can tell them how I want Web 2.0 in my banking life and they’re going to take me seriously, well, that’s worth a few nights at the coffee shop combined with some scribbles on a piece of paper on the way back from a night out in Zurich.


fhnw_fhnw_logo_de.pngLast up Mathias Vogel talked about the Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz (FHNW). The FHNW school is interested in applied research, which means creating prototype technologies, serving industry partners, as opposed to basic science and writing publications (like at ETH Zurich). The program is currently after woman and industrial partners at the moment, with one goal being making computer science more attractive to women. I like this idea, and I can understand the motivations but generally dislike programs which separate one group of people from another at this level. I sort of felt excluded in many ways from the research communities in the United States because such a great push was made in universities and companies to recruit everyone who isn’t a white male (and that would be me). I decided to do research work at ETH Zurich largely because they seemed to be interested in results and ethics more than looks or gender. I think the best way to get more woman into the tech fields is to do more outreach at the lower levels and preschools and teach children at an early age not to exclude colleagues because of their gender or skin color. Pushing for women at the professional level, after they’ve already gone through a male-biased system and are already taking a research carrier direction (already succeeded despite the roadblocks) seems like a good start, but I think that giving support to tech-minded girls so they realize they could become startup-creating-women could have a greater influence (hmmm, sounds like a cool Amazee project idea). But now I’m interjecting random commentary where it might not belong (or does it?).


coolpeople_map.pngAs part of the FHNW program two projects were also presented. Amazee is included in one of their partner projects, one goal being the creation of a sort of Karma Index into the Amazee system, which will include a recommendation engine so that new users are quickly connected with other users with similar interests when they join. I find this to be fantastic, because the first thing you wonder about when joining an online organization like Amazee (or Stylished, or Talenthouse, or Flickr) is how to find the people you want to work with. My mind had become a tad befuddled by this point from the free beer, but it was able to coherently listen to the presentation of the Galaxyadvisors.com website. It’s basically a connection engine, trolling through networks picking out connections between different people, creating connections between them, and then displaying this as a giant web. I’m more or less smart enough to appreciate the full value of it, as were most people in the room. I’m going to keep tabs on Galaxyadvisors, as many great things could come from it.


After the talks I walked around the room enjoying two quick glasses of wine talking with cool people, and then took a tour of the Google offices half buzzed on vino. The experience was…fantastic. You don’t need to be half buzzed to enjoy the Google offices, but it does enhance the experience. Just walking around you feel drunk, wondering if it’s possible, or if you’re simply hallucinating, can it be possible for offices be this “cool?” No, this is madness, surely I drank a bottle of bottle of Jack at my apartment and am simply losing all functions of my mind, and as a last gasp before dying my brain has created this fantasy land for me to enjoy before I cease to exist. But this actually happened, and I have pictures to prove it, as well as a video of my shoes sliding down a pole instead of taking the stairs.

Web Portraits Zurich – The Idea

Amazee-Balmhorn


A few weeks ago I launched a project on Amazee called, Web Portraits Zurich.


The project is simple, easy to explain and painless to promote. I want to combine photography with the interesting people I’ve met in the Zurich web scene. While heading to events like the Swiss StartUp camp in Basel, barcamps in Berlin and Switzerland, as well as the WebMonday meetings in Zurich, I’ve met a lot of interesting people with interesting ideas. Then, after WebMonday Zurich #10 I brainstormed some lighting setups for an upcoming photoshoot - and then an idea was revealed in my head. The idea is to use Amazee to organize portraits of the people in the web and startup community around Zurich. Right now I’ve cut a few videos in my head explaining the Web Portraits Zurich concept and will cut them for real this week. These will both present and explain the Web Portraits concept and organization. This seems the most effective way to give people an idea of what to expect and to promote to interested parties.


But as a prelude, I’ll reveal some personal motivations behind the project. Why Web Portraits? Why organized on Amazee? After all, to just do some portraits of the web people in Zurich, I can just contacted people and shoot the portraits and than would be it. You see, with Amazee I see some inspiration to experiment with Creative Production.


The Web is also Human


The Net is also Mortal


If you shoot a portrait it might all be done by the photographer, setting up lighting, choosing a location, organizing things and then doing the shoot. In my experience the process of creating a portraits involves a few steps (or non at all): Concept Creation, Production Design, Shooting, Post-Processing, Distribution.


I want to give back, to give the opportunity to people to participate in the process of creating these portraits. Why? Because I’ve found that exercising your creative tendencies outside of your normal interests (or jobs) makes you a better, more flexible thinker and enables you to improve your ability to view the world in different ways, and that improves your ability to come up with new solutions for different problems in life.


Since the project was launched on Oct. 29th there’s been a healthy interest on Amazee, including a feature on the main page. Now it’s up to me to build on the momentum and release these videos and start shooting. If it all works out in the end there will be a sweet collection of portraits from the Zurich web scene, we’ll integrate the interesting personalities with their cool technological achievements and see what trouble we can get into along the way.

Get_Shot_Crop

Web Monday Zurich #10

WalimexOcta150cmWeb Monday Zurich is a meeting setup on Amazee.com to enable interaction between people in the web community around Zurich.  Startups have a chance to present their ideas and get feedback, everyone has a chance to mingle and network, feed your brain and your innovation side in social atmosphere, how can you not go?


I wanted to attend my first Web Monday at the end of August, companies like MAGMAG Magazines were presenting, and being a photographer looking for new ways to present visual content, I was eager to see what was up.  But that Monday I had just flown back from shooting a wedding in Rome, had picked up some sort of sickness, and took down the wrong address.  So I ended up looking for Feldstrasse 113, a fictions address just different enough from Feldstrasse 133 to make me think I was going out of my mind.


Web Monday #10 was held in the Amazee office at the Technopark in Zurich (I was there before for a booster party), and my mind was sharp, so it was problem to find and attend. I could have stayed home and played with my new Octabox, but I was itching to infuse my mind with something new.


Two companies presented, GetYourGuide.com and StreamForge.


getyouguideGetYourGuide.com


So, there’s like a thousand travel website on the net, you can book a flight, book a hotel, book a car, book a train…but what about booking “an experience?”  GetYourGuide is a newly out of Beta website Startup which seeks to connect trip provides (suppliers) with people looking for travel experiences (customers).  The idea is you head to the website and and quickly search through destinations or activities and quickly find a cool experience, like a city tour, bike tour, etc.  I see a lot of potential for GetYourGuide, because I’ve been in a position to use it many times.  During the Spring I was in San Diego and L.A. for a few weeks.  In San Diego I was trying to book a kite boarding class, in L.A. I was searching for the best graffiti.  I ended up buying some Bratz dolls and shooting them on the streets of the cities.  So, in the end I didn’t learn to kite board, but did have a cool experience.  However, I didn’t end up kite boarding because by the time I found a school, I had run out of time and had to fly back to Zurich.  For a travel consumer such as myself, GetYourGuide can offer a lot of value, and I’ll use it to find a cool trip in the next city I visit.


For trip suppliers GetYourGuide is attractive, because it connects the local suppliers to the global customer directly.  It includes a very nice back-end with analytics software to help suppliers see how people are visiting their trip listings.  At the moment GetYourGuide is targeting popular destinations, and finding trip suppliers in those main cities.  This is nice strategy, as they can bring in revenue quickly, and then expand to targeting trip suppliers in broader destinations.  This is what interests me the most, because if you’re looking for a cattle driving experience in New Mexico and you live in Stuttgart, it’s not so easy to do.  I also had problems in the past contacting mountain guides in Bolivia when I flew down there.  I think if GetYourGuide expands into these areas and eventually targets specialty suppliers, they’ll set themselves apart from their competitors like Viator.com and have a web company offering a lot of value to their customers and suppliers.  I’m looking forward to a travel experience-enhanced future.


streamforgeStreamForge


So, when Barack Obama was giving his inauguration speech, so many people tuned in that the video feed was unavailable, the internet was broken - overloaded, users were blocked, their experience ruined.  I didn’t watch the speech, but I do recall trying to watch the 2009 Leica webcast during the launch of their new cameras, the S2, X1, and M9.  Their servers were overloaded and I had to read about it on a forum, how disappointed I was.  How can we avoid this in the future?  By using Peer-to-Peer strategies like those employed in LimeWire and previously in Napster (and now many others).


Instead of downloading the video or audio content directly from a website, parts are downloaded from other people who are downloading the same content.  This removes the load from the main server, and enables people to maintain their enjoyment of the internet without overloading the system.  This isn’t a new idea (in principle) it was tried (and failed) in the past.  But StreamForge is using technology developed from the latest research at ETH Zurich, and like many technologies, the subsequent try is often far better than the first attempt.


Like (as far as I know) all Peer-to-Peer sharing platforms, StreamForge does require that their software be downloaded and installed by users, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to upload data and remove the load on the main server.  But this presents a potential problem, because many consumers are wary of installing random programs which are connected to the internet, even though it may not be any different than using a webpage.  Also, this is a technology which the main server companies need to adopt and trust in.  If these two barriers can be overcome, then StreamForge has a bright future.  There are other examples of companies with similar problems.  Flash was introduced something like many, many years ago, but it’s really only in the last few years that it’s gained wide acceptance, and nearly every web browser has it installed.


Brass Tacs


Web Monday #10 rocked, I love seeing how different technologies develop and how new companies launch and present themselves. It’s very inspiring, and makes you think in new ways (at least, it works for me). I had an excellent time at Web Monday #10, I’m sad I missed #9, and am looking forward to #11, which will include presentations by Prof. Manfred Vogel from FHNW, Joaquin Cuenca Abela from Panoramio and Andreas Hoffmann from UBS (there’s a contest in the works).


The next Web Monday is coming up on Nov. 30th, location to be announced.  Check out the Web Monday Zurich magazine on Amazee for further details.  Also, STARTWERK.CH was a German write-up on Web Monday #10.

The Shaman’s Trance

Ken's Nightmare IPart II: The Shaman’s Trance


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After making preliminary plans to re-write the internet, a few of us from the Amazing Amazee Booster Party headed into the heart of Zurich to find the Digital Shaman at Kanzlei. We paid the cover charge and moved through the place pack with bodies. The DJ was spinning and we made out way to the front of the dance floor.


Culled into the Shaman’s Trance, secure in his embrace the dance waves encircle the mind. This was the final cap to the night, a long set of music and body movement. The mind moving in and out of step with hard reality, and every part of the brain and body gets tuned in to the music. These places are best to leave at the apex, before the DJ starts the chill-out music and the lights come on. But we had no intention of leaving before the music stopped, and danced until the end. At 04:01 “Give Me Love” started playing, and I knew the night was closing. It’s a sad way to end the shadow games and await the morning sun, the DJ had no initiative and played something easy to end on – A downer. I like to dance out of a place, my emotions intimately connected with the rhythms. The lights turned on and we headed outside.


“Das Music spielt in Mein Kopf!” I yelled back at the bastard who had killed the beats. My fists raised in mock protest. Indeed, the music is always drumming in my head. The Doors gets mixed into Beethoven, and I don’t need an iPod. I just listen to some stuff in the morning, and remix the rest of the day in my head. Then I head out to clubs once in a while get fully engulfed by the energy. The night ended and the morning began on a train back to Winterthur around 5am.


This end wasn’t too different to the next Thursday when I headed out to Zurich to celebrate a birthday. We started at PurPur, a restaurant and nightclub near Stadelhofen. That night started out in a similar fashion. The mind confused, I decided to walk confidently into the night, wait for the beast to take on a fantastic form and then embrace the monsters and creatures which you meet along the way. Strangers are friendly faces in the shadows, and nothing is quite so comfortable as when you face the situation with the right eyes and attitude. The problem is that Zurich was dead that Thursday night. This isn’t Berlin where you can easily stay out all night, every night and walk out of a club into the sunshine. We left PurPur at midnight, and the place was nearly as empty as my apartment, just cleaner, fewer clothes on the floor. But if you try hard enough, even on a dead Thursday in Zurich you’ll find what you were looking for.


We stepped into Amber, right across from the Zurich Hauptbanhof. Amber is an over-priced place, but there was no cover-charge and a DJ was spinning – so the costs all balanced out, plus there was no other option without paying to get inside Hive or Kaufleuten. Amber was loosely filled up with bankers and foreigners (like us). The scene was basically a bunch of highly successful business guys standing around a few women that couldn’t be bought, but pretended like a price was listed next them on the bar. To characterize the ambiance in a single scene, one banker chick with a low-cut breast-popping, almost fully unbuttoned shirt was getting eye fucked by five guys at a time. A few other bank managers half-danced near the bar – trying to look hip and trendy. They stopped moving every five seconds to see if they could catch the eyes of one of the few women in the place – to see if anyone was looking at them. It was a sad and irrelevant scene. Irrelevant because we had come for the beats, and headed directly to the dance floor by the DJ.


For this Amber was perfect. Cool music, slightly deserted, little smoke in the air and room to dance. I easily lost myself in the music and started my interpretive dance moves. The floor was comfortably covered in broken glass, and large chunks got embedded in my Doc Martens, which made sliding around the dance stage effortless. There was a small group of Vikings on the floor as well, two tall guys with blonde hair wear white T-shirts and jeans, and one short female in a black skirt. They were the only other people interested in just enjoying the night and being touched by the music. I channeled Jim Morrison and started doing an Eagle Sun Dance. Arms outstretched in the sky, slowly circling the Earth below, you fall into that sacred trance and feel only the music. The body becomes the receptacle for the soul – and as the DJ turns it to a high-frequency sea of waves, which tunes in perfectly to those of the brain and showers down around your being – the mind-body connection becomes totally complete.


Carpe Noct mon ami…

The Amazing Amazee Booster Party

Amazee_Climber.jpgPart I: The Amazing Amazee Booster Party


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We always tend to start with a beginning, and find our way towards an end. Photography is simply a lazy Artistic form of communication. Sit in front of a computer doing Photoshop every night, and you run the risk of living a predictable plotline.


When your mind is locked in a tired day-dream-suspension of animation, where it’s impossible to focus and you imagine that a bed would be your best friend, then it’s time to say “yes.” Time to take an iced bottle of Vodka from the freezer, step into your Docs, and stroll confidently into the night. No other reasonably sane option you see, just have faith and propel yourself “forward”. My destination of the night was the Amazee Booster party at the Technopark in Zurich.


Amazee is a grassroots social networking and project management website. It’s a Swiss Startup and was having a booster party to energize funding and interest into different projects. Since it was a good time to say yes, I decided to attend. I like stepping into a comfortable set of street clothes and heading out when I feel drained by life. Sometimes you recharge the batteries of the body by pushing it further – see what’s in the shadows and alleyways of the night. Try hard enough and you’re sure to find what you were looking for – Cape Noct mon ami. The day is a time to hide and play out the pleasantries of society, the night is the time to take place on the Greek stage and act out all the monologues which embarrass us in the sunshine.


I got to the Amazee party sometime after 8pm. I didn’t actually know anyone, which was one reason I said “Yes” and decided to attend. The only requirement was a bottle of vodka/run/champagne and some booster money. I figured it was a good time to step out of my comfort zone and see how my social skills really are when fumbling with my not-exactly-fluent German. I figured I would go there and push my German language abilities are far as they would go. Parties are the best place to test these things, between the alcohol and noise you really see if you have any actual conversation abilities, or if your German is just a bit better than gibberish, fit only for asking for directions in Berlin or ordering drinks at a bar. Naturally, the Amazee people were as you would expect at an internet startup party, cool and easy to talk with.


Of course, one has to be careful when discussing things like, “internet parties.” When you say, “I attended an internet party in Zurich” everyone thinks something like, “What, you went to a Craig’s List sex party last night?” So you say instead, “I was hanging out with hip Swiss StartUp people at a company party.”


Amazee had recently been contacted by lawyers for Amazon.com, who asserts that the name Amazee is too close to Amazon, and therefore Amazee must change its or face litigation. This is like McDonald’s getting pissed at Burger King for selling french fries. It’s like Apple computer suing iRiver just for making an awesome music player. It makes no sense. Those who ask those in the know, know that Amazee derives it’s name from the word Amazing, which accurately describes the Amazee grassroots web platform. At least Amazee an original idea. Where does Amazon.com come from? The name is taken from a fucking rain forest in South America. Amazon.com is one of the least original names of the DOT.COM boom era, slightly more original than Buy.com and far less clever than Yahoo. The actions by Amazon.com is nothing but imperialist bullshit and internet strong-arming. However, this internet stand-down is slightly relevant to the night, as there was a white board at the party and people were putting up possible alternative to Amazee. I was slightly intoxicated and a moment of false clarity manifested in my mind. There was a pen, so I went slightly mad coming up with new names:


Zaema, Kadamos, Gadakis, Zukama, Kamkan, Zakahann, SAMO (apologies to Jean-Michel), Freudzeud, Zukama, Adazoo, Edokann, Eomasan, Uberkann, Zanasan.


It’s such a shame I took up engineering instead of marketing and brand management as a career, but that’s why I publish a blog. The party was breaking up around 2am, and a few of us decided it was too early to go home. We headed towards Hive, the logical location if you’re coming from the Technopark and looking for a place to groove, but the beats were uninspiring and we took a cab to Helvetiaplatz and walked into Kanzlei, to seach out the Digital Shaman.


Part II: The Shaman’s Trance

The City Whispers – Zurich Graffiti

zurich_graffiti_i_smallGraffiti speaks across the walls and streets and later I see it all at once in my heads. All the hope and hate and colors and concrete are there in front of my eyes. Shadows on the streets, whispers in the heads. I walked around Zurich shooting graffiti the other day. The excursion was slightly cold and very cool. I walked towards the old Lowenbrau brewery, just beside the river. I’d seen the place thousand times from the train, but never took the time to explore it on foot. just like I’ve visited Zurich a thousand days and nights without ever really walking around with a camera. There’s always things to find, new things to inspire and learn from. I forget this sometimes, but love finding it again.


zurich_graffiti-5I love graffiti because you never know what you’ll find. On the wall of Lowenbrau is a poster of Obama’s Hope, staring off into the future. On the opposite side on a wall a sticker reads, “911 was an inside job.” Across the river from the brewery I see the Star of David and a Swastika sprayed next to a sidewalk leading up to some houses. There’s an equal sign between them. Social commentary on the action of the Nazi and Israeli governments perhaps? Who knows, it’s open to interpretation, some might say intimidation. The next week there’s a story in 20 Minutes about anti-Semitic leaflets being stuffed in mailboxes, someone said it was like the 1930’s. Hope and hate a few minutes walk from one another. In between a 911 conspiracy. Who knew the streets of Zurich were so crazy and political. Is it everywhere – waiting to be seen with the right eyes at the right time? Then there’s the socialists, the hammer and cycle are often found on buildings, usually not too far from an anti WEF image. Thoughts in time, what’s the reason? The abstract works are the best, no specific message, just shapes and colors, your mind doesn’t need to translate the universal language, just enjoy the views.


zurich_graffiti-3


Zurich isn’t generally known for it’s street art. Berlin, Dresden, these are the cities which come to mind. There you find fantastic visions around every corner. In Zurich the streets are clean, the punks are few, and political demonstrations are anomalies, except for the 1st of May. But if you walk the streets and take a few turns you’ll find the voices on the walls. Images that were once in someone’s head and got translated to poems of the pavements.


The abstract comes out, the aliens faces, the eyes staring back at you and then looking across the city. The graffiti reminds me that Zurich is an inspiring place. Everything looks clean and orderly, but there’s also revolt inside the Stadt. There’s dissension, there’s hope, there’s inspired art. For some reason this fills my heart with joy. Sometimes I think that a city without graffiti doesn’t have a soul or just has nothing to say, or is under a social boot. I don’t think I’ve been in my any small mountain village in Switzerland and not seen at least a small sliver of street revolt on the door of a Kiosk or the side of a train. It’s not always in your face, shouting at you like a Coke advertisement, but the voices are there if you go listening for them.


zurich_graffiti-4Ah, but who is saying what, you wonder. Not everyone is talking to the walls with spray cans, you only hear the most determined voices. That’s fine, I’m not looking for SAMO’s ghost or Van Gogh’s ear lobe. There’s Andy Warhol in the Kunsthause and galleries around Zurich, but I love graffiti because the environment is always changing, and part of the art, the texture of the images changes with the lighting and the season. You never know if it’‘ll be there the next time you walk by. I think of fleeting moments in the time that can never be recreated or improved upon. Perfect.


zurich_graffiti-9Beware of cities which are too clean, without stickers on the lamp posts or writing on the walls. Beware of people who always clean off the walls with out hearing what they say. Not all graffiti is good, a lot of it sucks. I vomit every time I see nothing but tags. In Zurich most of the stuff around the train tracks is just kids writing their names in colorful ways, who cares. What I like is seeing a horse in scuba gear, alien faces below windows and giant lizards crawling up the sides of buildings. The coolest find by far was this piece of newspaper on the wall near Escher-Wyss-Platz. Basically it’s an astronaut painted on newspaper, with a map included. Pure imagination, priceless inspirations.

Zurich Notes – Photo 07 Photography Show

Photo 07 is a photography show in Zurich, held once a year to highlight Swiss photographers and their work from that particular year.  So, actually the name changes every year; Photo06, Photo07, Photo08, etc.  It generally takes place in the Maag Event Hall near Hardbrücke, the cool Zurich club district.  In short, an old factory is rented out and hundreds of photos are put on display by the represented photographers for anyone interested.  A pallet of Faces magazine was sitting unattended for pilfering, the same as you’re likely to find at a Kunsthaus-techno party or other art-type exhibition around Zurich.  You can also grab free literature and promotional cards from the photographers.


There’s no real theme for the iconic Zurich photo show, the only qualification being that the photographs were produced during the year of the show.  This lends a broad subject matter, everything from photos that are “supposed” to be out of focus to tables bleeding black blood, fantastic aerial shots and high fashion.

This also means there’s no pretentiousness about the presentation of the work.  The goal of the night is to exhibit Swiss photography, network, hang-out, basically just chill and have a good inspiring time.  The work of a high-paid fashion photographer can be found next to that of high-adrenaline hobbyist.  It’s all about the images.  Of course, because the show highlights the work more than the artist, I can’t remember a single name of anyone who exhibited at Photo07.  So, it’s fortunate that a list of all of them can be found on the Photo07 site.  There you can find the contact info for Sandor Rozsas, who can produce sharp photos if kindly asked.  You can also find out about Oliver Oettli, who’s glamor works sometimes includes pink plastic dolls from IKEA.

The actual presentation of the works is left up to their owners and might range from well-matted to frame-less prints seemingly freshly removed from the cutting room floor.  The display surface was uniformly white Styrofoam – cut into giant blocks, which fit nicely with the concrete flooring and dark industrial setting.

The coolest and most enjoyable art is the type you can interact with.  And one of the first exhibits was a giant foam column with a permanent marker on hand for every anonymous person to draw or write whatever they felt like.  Naturally I produced a strange looking creature with large Alien-like head and human nose.

After walking through the avant-foam maze of faces of colors you end up near on the other side of the cool-factory ambiance and can chill in the lounge – by the bar.  The perfect setting to sit back and reflect on the experience you’ve just witnessed.

Photo07 was a cool experience, situated conveniently in between Christmas and New Years, the show is an excellent reason to wander into the crisp December Zurich night.  I’m looking forward to Photo 08 in Zurich, and might even submit a portfolio to the show.


Zurich Scribbles – King’s Kurry and Indian Palace

My parents were in town, which means I was eating out with them every other night.  We happened to have a taste for Indian, and took in a few of the Indian restaurants in Zurich: King’s Kurry and Indian Palace.

King’s Kurry is popular throughout Zurich, and is generally recognized as the place to get Indian food.  It’s located at Freyastrasse 3 (map), near the Wiedikon Bahnhof.  The interior is really cool, probably the most exotic Indian place I’ve visited between Zurich and Detroit.  The ceiling is sky blue, the knives and forks look like cool futuristic surgical tools and the bowls look pieces belonging to a collection from MoMA in New York.

Like in every Indian restaurant, King Fisher beer is on the drink list.  You can get all the tasty favorites like tandoori, palack paneer, samosas, dosas, chutney, mango lassies, and pakoras.  As an experience, King’s Kurry is top notch.  The lassi comes with a K drizzled on top, the cool triangular tandoori plate, the curved-handle bowls; all pretty cool and for sure made the meal a memorable one.

Ordering at King’s Kurry was also an experience, the waiter seemed to talk to at a rather quick pace, and when the topic of appetizers came up, in the confusion – it seems we ordered samosas, nan and rice.

Apparently we’d actually ordered the King’s Plater.  A nice collection of pakoras, tandoori chicken, fish, chutney, and dosas.  This offered a nice collection of different tastes, it was a bit much as the main meal was still coming, and the pakoras were cold.  Apparently it also came with a price tag of 55 CHF, which we discovered when the bill came.  If we’d known the price we would have just indulged in a side of samosas.

Talking quickly and bringing out a side dish is not uncommon is some places.  It’s especially common in places like the el Greco restaurant on Zakynthos (in Greece).  At el Greco they dropped off some oiled peppers as a side order and then charged us 2 Euros on the bill.  This way the restaurant makes a little bit more off of the tourists who will be gone the next week.  2 Euros is ok, 55 CHF is a bit much for a blind-sided appetizer.

It’s more a matter of principle than the cost, you shouldn’t have to order and then carefully check every single charge to make sure you’re not buying something unexpected.  So long as the extra charge is small, it’s ok.  As a tourist you want to be carefree and enjoy your time.  For the restaurant it’s a question of long time customers versus short term profits.

Tourists represent shot-term gains, they’re there, spend a lot of money (hopefully) and then leave.  Locals represent long-term revenue, so if you screw with them you screw with your ability to make a consistent profit month to month and year to year.  At King’s Kurry, half of us were tourists, half were foreign locals, who probably will never go back.

The tandoori was good, it came on a large black triangular plate, if you’ve been heavily medicated, the tandoori will probably induce visions of UFOs and Martians coming to abduct you.  The tandoori was yummy, but not much better than what I’d cook at home with tandoori mix.  The rice was some of the best I’ve ever tried and the nan was also quite kick-ass.  I ordered the palak paneer with three chilies, and it was at my limit of hot. This is absolutely outstanding for Zurich, where most places are mild for the European palate.

After a sampling of the King’s Kurry experience, the taste in my mouth makes me feel that presentation was more prominent than quality.  I’m not an Indian chef, but I can dish out a chana masalla or dal without much of a second thought.  I guess this is generally true, it’s easy to cook an awesome meal at home, you go out for the atmosphere.  In the US I go to Indian restaurants because the food is generally not that expensive and usually quite tasty.  Considering that it’s made of basic ingredients and wait staff are usually all related, it makes sense that it should be cheaper.  Otherwise I cook Inidan at home because it’s fast, healthy, and cheap.  For Zurich it feels like a lot to drop a wad of cash on a palak paneer, plus rice, plus nan.

When faced with the prospect of a future visit to King’s Kurry, I’d rather drop 250 CHF on a new dishes, a cook book, and recreate the the experience in the apartment.  Then the dinner would be more personal, and I wouldn’t leave wondering where all the money went.

Indian Palace left a completely different taste in my mind, although not the most originally named – Indian place (there’s many in Detroit) is my choice for going out in Zurich.  Inidan Palace is located at Schaffhauserstrasse 129  (map) near the Milchbuch tram stop.  The prices are about the same, a little less than King’s Kurry, but I enjoyed the experience far more.  I ordered palak paneer with potatoes, and the dinner was served in small bowls with a candle below to keep everything warm.  This is where King’s Kurry and India Palace diverge.  At India Palace the focus was on the excellent savory things we were eating – not on what the cutlery looked like.

Also like every Indian restaurant in the world (that I’ve been to) both places offer an Indian buffet during lunch, which is the thing to do if you want tasty Indian food in Zurich without dropping a wad of cash (usually the buffets are around 20 CHF).  A rather extensive list of Indian restaurants in Zurich can be found here.