A year or so ago my kid and I were strolling through an exhibition of german expressionism’s greatest hits when she excitedly pointed out the title of a painting which we found ourselves standing before: “Potsdamer Platz” by brother Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1914). I watched the slow sweet light of recognition spread across her face…you see, Potsdamer Platz is one of her hangouts. It’s where she and her tribe view films and drink cokes and look at boys and shop and giggle at more boys and probably smoke cigarettes..well, some of her friends probably smoke, one imagines, but MY DAUGHTER? never, never, never. Anyway, the recognition that her gangly crew’s number one haunt for teenage kicks was immortalized in an ancient canvas which now hung in such a grand palace of high culture, in that very moment, placed my daughter and her homies in an unexpectedly exalted position…an epiphany was delivered and she was quick to claim her place within Berlin’s time space continuum. I told her that right now someone was painting she and her friends running around Potsdamer Platz and that one day that painting too would sit in this very museum. And she liked that idea.
And I’d have liked it too. I’d have liked to see a painting of the Fairfax District or the Midtown Shopping Center in the LA County Museum when I was on one of those goofy field trips where they try to give the kids some kulcha all the while spending most of the time telling them to be quiet. That would have been nice. All through the exhibit we then began noticing and pointing out countless pictures which made reference the various neighborhoods of Berlin. The same neighborhoods where friends and family lived…with shops and restaurants she frequented. Now the museum wasn’t the cultural spaceship it was to me when I was her age. For me the museum was the place where you went to see proof of culture’s existence. Since there was no proof of it anywhere around you, supposedly. For there was nothing in the museum that ever led you to believe that anything about the life you led could have anything to do with culture. Palms, Encino, Compton, Boyle Heights, West Hollywood, Watts…those were just the places we lived, right?