Hedwig Dances Touch Tour Germany – Berlin on our First Night

Hedwig Dances curated this trip in collaboration with UK based Tailored Travel. Twelve intrepid travelers, led by the incomparable guide, Thomas Abbot, would explore Germany Sept 5 – 13. We began with three nights in Berlin, followed by three nights in Weimar and then we capped our adventure with two nights in Dessau where our final evening would include the unforgettable performance of FUTURA, Hedwig Dances’ Bauhuas-inspired contemporary dance, at the Bauhaus 100 Festival on the historical stage in the original Bauhaus building on which Oskar Schlemmer was staging his works a century ago. This album represents photos from our first evening in Berlin when we went to the historic Reichstag to see the incredible futuristic dome atop the parliament building as designed by William Foster of Foster and Partners. All photos in this album by Julie Volkmann. To learn more about the project’s design and manufacture, check out this site:https://www.fosterandpartners.com/…/reichstag-new-german-p…/

As we drove across town and Thomas spoke to us for the first, but not the last time, of the history of the architecture we were passing by.   We worried that the rain would interfere with our enjoyment of our first night’s expedition to the Parliament building

and still the rain ushered us across Berlin toward the Reichstag and its famous dome.

By the time we reached the impressive Reichstag, the rain had stopped and the skies presented us with spectacular light, cloud formations and beautiful reflections.

Britannica tells us “The Neo-Renaissance building was designed by Paul Wallot and was completed in 1894. It was the home of the Reichstag (“Imperial Diet”) from 1894 to 1933, during the periods of the German Empire (1871–1918) and the Weimar Republic (1919–33).”

Tho colors of the sunset sky and clouds reflected in the windows of the building created a spectacular glass canvas.

Though the previous shot said alot, this shot, with the German flag seemed an appropriate additional shot to speak the German people’s pride in their country.

An awesome approach, indeed.

After climbing the steps and looking out onto the “front yard” of the Reichstag, I was taken by the power and beauty of the setting sun, perfectly framed by the clouds forming a circle around the center opening.

What a sight!

As we waited our turn to take the elevators to the top of the building, the sheer heights of the central area and the large works of art displayed on either side told us this was a space of great importance.

Though our encounter with the many powerful works of contemporary art displayed in the building was limited to this space, I found this documentary (link provided here) that speaks to the many works on display along with this introductory text: A film by Wolfgang Kabisch, 45min The Reichstag Building in Berlin was inaugurated as the new German parliament in April 1999. To mark the occasion nineteen artists were commissioned to create new works that directly refer to the building and its history. With other works either purchased or on loan, these artistic projects represent one of the most important collections of contemporary art in Germany. The film presents the artworks and their concepts and also shows how the artists came to conceive and finally install their works. Participating Artists: Georg Baselitz Joseph Beuys Christian Boltanski Grisha Bruskin Carlfriedrich Claus Lutz Dammbeck Hanne Darboven Rupprecht Geiger Gotthard Graubner Hans Haacke Bernhard Heisig Jenny Holzer Anselm Kiefer Markus Lüpertz Georg Karl Pfahler Sigmar Polke Gerhard Richter Ulrich Rückriem Katharina Sieverding Günther Uecker

I confess, I am a sucker for reflections – in glass, in water, in stone – wherever I see them.

Finally, after waiting for one of the large elevators that brought us to the rooftop, where we first saw and entered the dome.

Once we were all on the roof, we listened to our guide, Thomas Abbot, as he spoke above the cold wind that whipped at us.

Our first full view of the dome as Thomas explained many things about its construction and significance to the Parliament building.

The juxtaposition of modern and historic.

Off in the distance is the Park Inn where the group stayed the first three nights. Just to the left and far below is the Spree river, on which my roommate Nancy and I travelled that very afternoon. Pictures of the sights from the river will be found in an earlier post.

After stepping inside the dome, the impressive staircase that spiraled up to the top of the dome beckoned to us to begin the ascent.

The central funnel is not merely a fascinating visual design of light, form, reflection and movement, it is integral to the heating and cooling of the entire building.

This piece travels with the sun to modulate heating and cooling forces in the building.

The same light modulating shape from another perspective.

Finally reaching the top of the circular walkway, we see the center of the dome’s top. It reminds me of the cloud formations captured earlier in this post.

The “floor” of the dome is also the ceiling of the parliament hall where the legislators convene. We were told that Angela Merkel always wears pant suits when speaking at the dais to the assembly. Why? Because the air currents from the central funnel are such that anyone at the dais wearing a skirt will be subjected to the “Marilyn Monroe subway draft effect” Get the drift?

After completing our dome immersion, we went to the Kafer Restaurant, just a few steps from the dome. It’s the only public restaurant situated within a building of parliament. In summer the glazing of the conservatory can be opened completely. The restaurant offers breakfast, lunch, coffee and cake in the afternoon as well as an upscale dinner. The cuisine is German with French accents and the chef rewrites the menu every two to three months. This photo is the only course I will offer to view in this blog. Great wine, great food and jet lag made the capture of other dishes too challenging for this writer.

This minimalist sculpture stands at Kafer’s doorway along with a sign advising the general public that only reservations would be accommodated that night as the restaurant was at full capacity, and unable to welcome walk-ins.

Two of our group: Lois Barliant and Ron Barliant. The conversation, like the dinner and wine, was rich and satisfying.

As we walked to our bus after dinner, the nightlit flag called my attention.

WayMaking Artist’s 2019 Calendar by JulieV

2018 was the inaugural year for my limited edition calendar featuring photographs I have taken while in a state of mindful awareness, a state of being and creating that I eventually came to refer to as my contemplative photography practice.  More about that practice in paragraph 3 below.

Making the Calendar this year and last year:  As a creative act in and of itself,  selecting the images, assigning each to a specific month in the year and the design of the accompanying calendar page was so satisfying for me that I felt compelled to repeat the process for a 2019 calendar.  In 2018 I accompanied the images with poetic prose and poetry that felt somehow resonant with spiritual elements in the photographs.  In 2019 the images are presented wordlessly in my attempt to discover if they indeed are ‘worth a thousand words.’  Your feedback is welcome.  AND, I have a few more calendars left in the original run of 100 – they begin with February 2019 and end with January 2020.  Email me if you’re interested in purchasing one:  julia.m.volkmann@gmail.com —  $10 per calendar plus $2.50 to ship.  Tell me your birthdate and I’ll personalize it for you.

About my practice: Even before I found a way to label this practice (or should I say “characterize” this practice?), I had been explaining to the unfortunate souls who had to suffer my long philosophical ramblings on the subject that the act of taking the pictures afforded me an opportunity to be still and be totally immersed in the contemplation of the object or scene in situ; the quality of the light, the touch of air on my skin, the sounds of the place and the sense of being both observer and subject in the image, even if I was not seen  in the viewfinder.  My experience of capturing the image was actually an act of paying deep attention, which elicited in me a stillness, a focus, an awareness of the breath that everyday noise and bustle of life could never permit.

During my MFA IA studies at Goddard College in Vermont, my photographic practice was awakened again after lying dormant for some years. When I submitted a series of my photographs as part of my portfolio work for that semester, it became necessary to research this “thing” I was doing so that I could speak of this art practice in relationship to others’ work in the world – how it might be similar, where it differed, etc.  I was gratified to find Stephen Batchelor’s essay “Seeing the Light – Photography as Buddhist Practice” in Buddha Mind in Contemporary Art, edited by Mary Jane Jacob and Jacquelynn Baas (University of California Press, 2004).   I saw how Batchelor and I were aligned in our approach and experience, even though the work we produced was not at all similar.   Having read his essay, I was able to lay claim to the term “contemplative photography” as the way to refer to my practice.

About the cover image:  I took this picture on my way back home from Goddard College summer session in August 2014.  I had stopped at a local motel for the night.  The next morning this motorcycle was in the space next to mine.  I was stopped dead in my tracks by the message and had to dig out my camera to take the picture before I went across the way to get my free coffee and continental breakfast (i.e. dry sweet roll) prior to continuing my drive home.  When I feel most aimless or hopeless or clueless about whatever road I have found myself on  – be it spiritual, metaphysical or literal I try to remind myself of the value of exploring.  The straightest distance between two points is not  A way, or the ONLY  way, or the best way, to get where you’re going. Life happens on the journey.


Introducing JulieV’s 2018 Contemplative Calendar


Over the holiday break this year while I was down with some indefinable malaise – who can really tell what is flu and what is cold?  Especially if it moves into bronchitis?  Too sick to do much, I did find focus and drew energy from reviewing thousands of images that I have taken over the years.  I’ve come to understand the lion’s share of work with camera as  my contemplative photography practice.  A subset of images within this practice contain the presence of the WayMaking Cairn (WMC); an avatar-like manifestation of my spiritual engagement with my surroundings as I walk.  In anthropological terms the WMC serves as both witness and subject in the environment where I framed and took the shot.


As I reviewed all these images I was experiencing again the almost intolerable frustration that I couldn’t share these images in a tangible encounter with others. Paintful reality that I need to overcome:  getting my images out into the world is  a time consuming enterprise and costly.  Here are the biggies:

  1. Printing images ($15 – $100- depending on materials and size) and
  2. Framing images ($50 – 125-depending on materials and size) ;
  3. #’s 1 & 2 are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of cost because applying to the various galleries also costs time and money – one spends a lot of time combing the internet for opportunities.
  4. 98% of the time to apply to be in an exhibit or show requires an entrance fees of $20 – $40 for the privilege to submit 3 – 5 images for the curator’s review.
  5. Let’s not forget the time to frame and mount the images and the costs to deliver the finished images – either I drive these images or I ship these images – shipping is always a coin toss.  The real risk of damage to the image requires especial diligence to protect it – and more material costs for packaging
  6. Applying to show work in festivals is another huge time suck that requires more money to pay for the booth, the tent, images printed on spec with no promise of sale, and time and travel to and from these festivals also requiring overnight stays in hotels and restaurant meals
  7. Those who are early in their practice are pretty much confined to group shows in pop up or non-traditional sites.  Opportunities for solo shows in accredited galleries are slim and none.  There are a few more opportunities to get a solo show in a coffee shop, or a bank or a clinic, but those require a lot of prospecting and the possibility of sales from these personally curated shows are not significant.


As I pondered these things and weighed their costs against my limited resources of time and money, I wondered how I might get my work in front of peoples eye’s without a gallery, group show or retail outlet.  Challenge:  How to get my work to a place where they would see it all the time?   Where they might also have a chance for a contemplative experience?  I couldn’t afford printing, framing and shipping complimentary full size 16 x 20 images to their home. Plus, giving it away sets a very bad precedent.  I need to at least cover the costs of that printing/framing/packing/shipping exercise.  How to get my work tangibly present in their homes and offices?  Though I love the digital world for its reach – its getting too noisy out here and there’s too many distractions.  Attention to one’s work on a website and blog  is fleeting.   The tangible, physical artifact seemed the strongest way in.   So, I  determined to design and print my own calendar of images.   This way each month there would be a fresh image and opportunity for a contemplative encounter for the onlooker.  Publish a limited edition of these calendars and give them to family, friends and prospective clients as a loss leader, if you will. An audience that includes potential buyers of future calendars, as well as organizations  that might commission the design of special interest calendars, and outlets where I might place my own calendars for sale.


This calendar becomes a liberation and expansion of my artist’s role:  I have curated my own exhibit for each calendar recipient.  This also sets the stage for the next phase of creating a way for these and other of my images to be purchased online.   I also hope to design each year a new calendar which can be ordered on line as well.  A survey will be sent soon to all who received those calendars to get a sense of how to think about next year’s design and how to price it.

Along the way though, another idea came to mind, springing from my love of poetry and poetic prose.  Though not a novel practice – many other calendars have been printed pairing evocative imagery and  writing – I welcomed the additional exploration and discovery to pair my images with text that in some way created a rich dialogue of deepening discovery between word and image.  While I made every effort to look for writers’ whose work was in the public domain, occasionally a contemporary writer’s work was so perfectly aligned with my own spiritual stance that I could not look any further.  This is a challenge and an opportunity for future calendars.

I’m a little late in this first explanatory post of the what and why of the calendar and hopes for future calendars.  The next two posts will serve as catch-ups for the January and February images and text.  At the beginning of each subsequent month I’ll post another image and the literary work that appealed to me.