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Oli East in Der Tagesspiegel

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Oliver East’s latest book ‘Berlin and That’ has been reviewed in Berlin’s influential Tagesspiegel (Daily Mirror) the town’s liberal paper. We can only presume that the reviewer found the book in Berlin shop Grober Unfug (which is in my opinion one of Europe’s best comics stores although I haven’t been there for 10 years) and has reviewed it from the point of view of seeing what outsiders make of you. Tagesspiegel was awarded World’s Best-Designed Newspaper in 2005 by the Society for News Design in New York and is an important news source for Berlin and much of the former West Germany. Our thanks to Lars Von Toerne for his kind words.

Here’s an english translation of the review

The Magic of City Heating Pipes

With “Berlin And That” the briton Oliver East has published a curious little book about his hikes from Berlin to the Polish border. Pretty weird, those Germans. They talk indecipherable gibberish littered with sch- and ch-sounds, openly drink alcohol in public and don’t say ‘hello’ when you meet them whilst hiking. Or at least that’s how East experienced it. East is a british indie comic artist who recently had his small but powerful book of drawn memories of a visit to germany published.

It’s called “Berlin And That” and is an artistic diary in which East uses drawing, text and collages to tell the reader about his week long trek through the eastern parts of Berlin out to the polish border. On these almost 200 pages (so far only available in the original english) he collects occasional, very entertaining observations of what, to a foreigner, must be quirky idiosyncracies of Berliners and Brandenburgers. From postboxes and birdcages made to look like miniature houses to the aggressive territorial behaviour of cyclists. He illustrates his observations with watercoloured drawings, part meditative miniature, part detailled study of everyday objects – that long established Berliners or Brandenburgers won’t even be consciously aware of anymore.

S-Bahn bridges, construction sites, walls and front yards put the foreign visitor , who speaks no german and only has a miniature map to orient himself, almost under a magic spell. East’s drawings, coloured in muted tones and in which humans are reduced to stickmen, have their own weird charm. You haven’t seen Berlin and its eastern surroundings like this before, also because the artist – with the exception of the tv tower – stays away from the well known subjects/motives that normally attract tourists. Instead he praises  the morbid beauty of bahnhof ostkreuz or the aesthetics of sausage stalls, district heating pipes and pieces of woodland, sometimes crammed onto pages of up to 24 panels. Like a butterfly collector the artist amasses impressions of Berlin, sorts and groups them with a foreigners eye. Throughout the book he’s supported by more than 50 guest artists, all contributing snippets, pictures and collages.

The whole thing is stuck together by East’s special, in places self ironic humour. He meticulously jots down every nuance of his mental state during his monotonous ramble through Brandenburg’s forests. Once he’s finished hiking another page of his often unreliable map, the artist’s little stickman alter ego does a dance of joy. We never really know what motivated the briton to do this hike, that stays a mystery. Have a look around Oliver East’s blog however, and you get the feeling that he is one of those guys for whom the journey itself is the goal!

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