Chez Michel - Spotted By Locals Berlin

My last post on the SpottedByLocals blog is called Chez Michel, full text on the link and below. I let you discover it. And long story short it's a nice place.

Chez Michel
Discussions about food with me are endless. Not because I’m French and that I’m supposed to know about food in general. But there is a great chance that topic comes up after just the first few words with a new acquaintance. Especially if you are a foreigner in a foreign country like me. Often I can’t answer the question “where is the best French restaurant in Berlin?”. It’s just that I’m interested in food in general, when it’s good it’s good.

After years of travelling I learned how to cook recipes that please my taste buds with the ingredients I can find where I live. And it’s very seldom that I can recreate a taste I remember, especially family recipes as there are so many parameters more than just the ingredients. You may need the sound of the wind in the trees, the smell of the bbq or the voice of your grandmother telling you to stop playing football and to come eat.

Therefore I was happily surprised when I joined friends in the restaurant Chez Michel. Here I found a simple kitchen, authentic, a menu full of classics from boudin to quiche and amazing pies. Amazing because they taste as if there were just leaving the oven in the family kitchen I grew up in. I can’t wait to go back!


Tour de Berlin - stage 2 and Mauerweg completed!

For the first stage we were two and the at the end of the tour we were four. It's usually the other way around with bike tour, you loose people on the way. Not this time.

The pitch 
A few month ago when the days started to get longer and the weather warmer - in theory only - the need to jump on your bike and to explore the city or to go away from it is getting bigger. An idea that come regularly at the same period of the year is "why don't we do the Mauerweg"? What is it you will ask, it's simple I will answer, there is a path you can follow which follows the former path of the Berliner wall. And no it's not only the East-Side gallery or the short version you can do in a group following a guy wearing a yellow t-shirt Mauerweg. It's about 170km.

The Berlin wall path forms a loop, it divides the city and actually surrounds West-Berlin. So when you do the Mauerweg you actually doing a tour all around former West-Berlin. The most impressive part is maybe the one in the city because we are full of images of the wall being built, houses destroyed, we think we know. The almost 120km other km are also very interesting.  It gives an idea of the Berlin size, you relation to the city changes. As often - at least to me - to know where I'm, where I go, what's the space I'm spanning is of great help to feel in control. It's probably why I like so much maps.

As the first half I did some weeks ago, this time we did not see remaining of the wall - actually only two pieces close the Schweinmuseum, true story. I can understand the desire to remove this sign visible. But it's also important to not forget. In that matter there is regularly small texts, explanations in the middle of the forest or just a picture of one or two men. Just to remind you that some years ago, wanted to cross the wall could be deadly. Telling history by the mean of bringing local memories to you is something you can easily relate to.

But let's back to the tour and its second stage Wannsee to Mauerpark for 75ish km

11:30am the fours cyclists are all in Alexander Platz waiting for their Regio toward Potsdam. 15min later we are in S-Wannsee ready to rumble in the Brandenburg jungle.

The first 10km almost bring you back to Wannsee, but before you go along the water, you pass the Pfaueninsel and continue to the famous spy exchange bridge also called Glienicker bridge. The following part passing by Potsdam Griebnitzsee is lovely, all house are beautiful and massive and you may consider to settle some years right there. But the stage isn't over so we continue.

We enter the forest, escaping it only to cross the highway and to observe the former Zoll station which looks impressive. A place you don't want to spend your vacation. You continue, along a canal for while, recognising many names of last subway station lines. You  may surprised yourself saying loud "haaaa it's here, hmmmm, yeah it's far".

After Lichtenrade and passing Rudow you enter an area in big changes. The "new new" aiport which should open one day is getting reached by the city and the mix between houses and fields with and without animals is more diffuse. In a few word it's not the most interesting part. But if you want to ride your bike fast there is a track going almost from the airport to Baumschulenweg in a long straight line.

We had a nice stop in an imbiss located in the garden of an house. Sitting there the time stopped, we did enjoy our beers and French fries with some Schlager coming from the garden. And we had time to see people. People and many dogs. The more you go away from the city center the more the typical couple you will meet is a human being and a dog. I have the same experience every time I go jogging toward Pankow and norther.

The entrance in the "alive" Berlin is fast and brutal as we forgot about the fête de la musique. We skipped the Mauerwerg path towards Görlitzer Part as we all knew it already to end in a nice beer garden but also cinema but also local brewery. Once again the time stopped. It was a super nice bike trip, crossing so many different areas, different people, different images in our heads.

8:22ish pm and we are home. Anne-Laure and me continue the tour to our place, leaving Steffen and Alexander near Ostkreuz. It's time now to have some rest or to collapse.


Première expo dit donc!

[below in English]

Je fréquente pas mal les vernissages, surtout à Berlin - où je réside et comme ce soir par exemple, je reviens de l'espace tête - souvent parce que des amis m'y invitent ou y exposent, parfois par hasard et rarement pour y montrer mon travail. Parce que je suis pas vraiment artiste en fait, enfin je suis comme beaucoup d'entre nous, je suis multiple, bref... Et pourtant c'est bien ce qui c'est passé vendredi 5 juin 2015 dernier. Non pas à Berlin mais bel et bien à Morlaix en Bretagne.

Avant le vernissage
Cela faisait un petit moment que j'avais le désir de montrer mes images autrement qu'en privé ou sous la forme de page web sur l'internet mondial. Et en particulier mes images dites de "petites planètes" ou "little planets". Recevant de temps en temps des avis favorables de mes amis venus des quatre coins de la planète ronde je me suis dit que je pouvais tenter d'aller vers un public que je ne connaissais pas personnellement.

C'est donc au détour d'un petit post sur Facebook que Laurent - ami de longue date vu qu'on a fait le Vietnam le collège et le lycée à Gabriel Fauré dans le XIIIème à Paris dans la même classe - se proposait d'organiser une exposition avec mes photos dans ses locaux, en Bretagne donc, à Morlaix si vous n'aviez pas encore compris.

Plusieurs e-mails, conférences audio et/ou vidéo sur Skype plus tard et la date du vernissage se rapprochait... Que dire? Que c'était plutôt cool, de voir tout le processus derrière une exposition, le choix des œuvres, de mettre des mots sur mes images et ce travail, de formaliser, d'argumenter, quels cadre? quels prix? et aussi est-ce que des gens vont venir?

Valider un choix d'image pas téléphone est un challenge, découvrir les impressions quelques heures avant de les montrer une surprise. Pour moi bonne mais mon galeriste et son associé ont eux eu la version impressions ratées et le stress de lancer une réimpression complète en urgence... Ils ont géré!

Pendant le vernissage
Premier fois, des têtes connues familiales qui sont venus de la capitale spécialement! Des locaux majoritairement inconnus de moi même. Des petits fours en masse, du cidre, on peut débuter.

Le choix des photos - qui a pris plusieurs semaines, on a au final opté pour 10 images illustrant les différents thèmes que j'avais développé - a bien fonctionné. Environ une trentaine de personne sont venues.Des gens plutôt curieux auxquels les images parlaient ou en tout cas intriguaient.

Après le vernissage
Maintenant je suis de retour à Berlin. Les images vont rester accrochées jusqu'à mi-juillet et j'espère que d'autres visiteurs pourront les regarder, voir en acheter.

Et maintenant j'ai plein de truc à faire, des idées à développer, des images à bidouiller, des nouveaux endroits pour exposer à trouver! En espérant que ce ne soit pas la dernière exposition.

[English version just below]

I do visit frequently vernissages, mostly in Berlin where I live - like earlier tonight I went to the project space tête - often because friends invite me, sometimes they show their work, sometimes for no reasons but rarely to show my work. I'm not really an artist, I'm like many of you, I do several things which can't be defined by one word only, anyway... That's what did happen a week ago Friday 5th of June 2015. Not in Berlin but in the city Morlaix in Britannia.

Before the vernissage
Since a little while I had the desire to show my images by other means than by creating web pages or privately. More preciasely my "little planets" images. I do receive regularly positive comments about these images from my world wide connected friends. I thought I could try to reach another public, an audience I don't know personnaly.

Following a simple post on Facebook about two three months ago, Laurent - a long time friend because we were in the same class all along our high-school time in Paris - offered me to host an exhibition at his agency. In two seconds it was decided to organize my first exhibition in Morlaix located deep in Brittany, something like 1500km from Berlin.

Many e-mails, audio and video conferences on Skype later and the official vernissage date was getting closer... What can I say? It was pretty cool to see all the process behind the organization of an art exhibition. The choice of what to show, how to present the images, how to explain, how to put words on images, how to present myself, which frames style? what prices? and will people come?

To choose images over the phone is a challenge, to discover them hours before the opening a surprise. For me a good surprise, my art dealer and his assistant had to re-print everything just before I came... they had all under control!

During the vernissage
First time, some known family faces coming especially from Paris! Locals completely unknown to me. A lot of finger food, cider, it can start.

The choice of images - this process took several weeks and we opted for 10
that illustrate the best what I can do - worked well. About thirty visitors came. People were curious, weren't scared to talk with me. And more important they were reacting to the images.

After the vernissage
Now I'm back in Berlin. The images will stay in the gallery until middle of July. I hope more people will be able to experience them, who knows maybe even buy one?

And now I have many things to do, ideas to develop, images to print, to find new place where to exhibit my work. Hoping this wasn't my last exhibition.


Struggle for social graph and datavizzz

The holly Grail of the day
Build an interactive data visualization of my own networks where I could jump from one network to the other and navigate in time.  On the paper it sounds easy: use your own network data (facebook (FB), linkedin (LI), twitter, instagram, EyeEm...) to exercise yourself on social graph. In other words use tools from your beloved statistic toolbox (Matlab, Python, R...).

The why
Why, why and why using your own data? First reason and obvious to me, you know the data - or at least part of it - and it should be bit easier to navigate through them. About the first why bother to do that? Once again it's simple and the answer is curiosity. The more people use a buzz word in all conversations the less they understand what it means and I don't like to not understand.

Social graphs are interesting because they illustrate part of our multiple identities - this of course if you decided to look at your own network instead of looking at the interaction between people forming a group which is also interesting (data journalism loves to dissect political social network to find out who are the leaders). We don't know the same people/don't play the same character depending of the network as they describe different interactions (e.g. FB vs LI).

The reverse engineer path
The path I did follow wasn't probably the most efficient but I'm getting better every day. Plotting a social graph isn't the most difficult task. Using gephi you can relatively fast generate beautiful graphs. In parallel I took in statistic and social network analysis to refresh parts of my brain on the topic.

The prototype
As inmaps isn't available any more I ended up on another automatic solution called socilab.con that requires you to log with your linkedin account. It's nicely made, you get a graph and several score values that describe your network and which role you play in it. Sadly it is limited to 500 contacts, so if your contact list is much bigger the analysis is incomplete. But this website allows you to download this version of your contact list. And actually what you are downloading is the formatted data from your LI account under the form of an adjacency matrix. I had to clean a bit the data using Python and Pandas which make any manipulation of csv file a real pleasure.

The adjacency matrix
This matrix - if I understood correctly - should be square where both columns and rows have the same names: your contact name list. Depending of the cell value 0 or 1 you know if your contact know each other or not, the matrix isn't symmetric. It's a particular case of data, because if you look at a FB group of people liking peanut butter toast for diner they may not know each other but they are all connected by their irrational attraction to fatty cream and low safe consideration.

Where the trouble starts
It starts right when you want to access your data... Building by hand this matrix is doable but is a really silly task. And both LI and FB do make the task easy neither. You will need to play with their API (I haven't checked for twitter, instagram and more yet) to access your account and download/build your matrix.


Tour de Berlin 2015 - First stage Mauerpark to Kladow

Four people signed up, but one decided to sleep all day long and another did prefer to drink Caipirinha at the Karnaval der Kulturen happening the same weekend... Only two braves and their bike on the departure line!

1:33pm and Steffen is joining me. We have bikes, water, yoghurt cake, smart phone and offline map. Go go go.

A few km later we are in the pampa. The time to leave the city, to be still between East and West and to reach a border to the nature. We go over Tegel, Hohen Neundorf, Henningsdorf, aiming for Spandau but always staying away from it.

Relatively fast it's 50km on our counter. Down Spandau - I know the part because of previous summer expedition in this area looking for lakes to swim - the way is going in the forest again and is passing Sacrower See just after the Gross Glienicker See which happen to have been crossed by the wall delimitation.

From that point is becoming  a bit tricky. If you do want to follow the real Mauer path you have to take a boat to reach the Glienicker bridge... So instead the indicated way is to go to Kladow which is facing S-Wannsee. There is one of the public transport ferry lines. It's a big boat, there is place of at least 50bikes. But it's a nice day, no way we can get in without waiting hours.

6:03pm there is only one thing we can do while brainstorming how to go to back to Berlin: drinking beers and eating sausages in one of the beer gardens. Either we go to Potsdam and from there jump into the S-Bahn, but it means 20km more or we go back to Spandau by another way and following the water. We choose the second option which only 12 km to the daily ride.

Going back North we made another stop in Gatow where a fair is taking place. This time no sausages but delicious spätzle with cheese and beer of course. Our stomach feeling satisfied we continue and somehow ends up in the S-Bahn station Streesow.

9:33pm the sun is going down. A lot of km in our legs. It's nice to be transported by the outdoor S-Bahn that slowly brings us back to civilisation. I go down at S-Friedrich Strasse and cycle a few hundred meters to meet another friend for a last beer in this lovely summer evening.

Can't wait to complete this tour!