A peaceful anti-Brexit protest

In my youth, I was not into politics and I was never an activist of any sort. As I grow older, I started to care more about the world I live in, perhaps it’s partly due to the fact that we live in a more turbulent world.

The term ‘Utopia’ was created by an English lawyer and author Sir Thomas More in 1516, who wrote a controversial fiction novel under the same title in Latin. Then in 1949, another English author George Orwell published an influential fiction novel ‘1984’ on a dystopian world set in the future.

Today, our world resembles more like the dystopia depicted in ‘1984’, and the book has become more relevant than ever. Utopia has become an impossible ideal, and we are left with a world that is out of balance, increasingly more divided and dangerous.


brexit protest


The rise of populist right-wing party like UKIP reflects the sentiments of many British working class people whose voices are not being heard by the current government, and are losing out in a more globalised and polarised world. Their anger towards the government is understandable, but they were also lied to by some power-hungry politicians with hidden agendas. They voted ‘out’ believing that the outcome will bring a better future, but is this really going to be the case? Whether we like it or not, we can’t stop globalisation because we depend on each other more than we realise. And for those who are nostalgic about the past, Brexit will not be the answer that they hope for, and life will certainly get tougher ahead.

The shocking results of the referendum brought the country to a meltdown. No one was prepared for this – not even the Brexit politicians. There was no exit plan, and so panic and despair set in. Within a day, our world was turned upside down because of an unnecessary referendum. It felt like the beginning of a long nightmare. What next? Nobody had (has) any idea.

I can’t remember the last time I felt so emotional about a political issue, this Brexit issue has stirred up anger, dismay and anxiety across the nation. My friends and I went to the anti-Brexit protest days after the referendum because we felt that leaving the EU would a big mistake, and ultimately no sides would benefit from it.


brexit protest

brexit protest

brexit protest

brexit protest


We have had unsettling weather throughout the month of June, and according to the Met Office, it was the wettest ever on record. On the eve of the referendum polling day, torrential rain and floods caused chaos across the country; was nature warning us of our future ahead?

On the day of the protest, there was more rain, but this didn’t deter the protesters, nor us. Many protesters were young people under the age of 30, and they believe that their future is going to be bleaker if we leave the EU. They were angry at dishonest politicians like Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, and their signs revealed their thoughts explicitly. Slogans like “Fromage not Farage” and “Eton mess” were cheered with laughter and support from the crowd.


brexit protest  brexit protest

brexit protest

brexit protest  brexit protest


The protest was a good-natured and peaceful one, there was no violence, disorder or misconduct. It started in Trafalgar Square, and then we marched towards the Parliament and stood under the platform staged for news reporters. We were ‘greeted’ by Jon Snow and Alistair Campbell, who were quite delighted by our presence.


brexit protest

brexit protest  IMG_6060-min

Bottom right: An extract from Francis Towne’s exhibition at the British Musuem


A few days after the referendum, I visited the British Museum and saw a free exhibition: Light, time, legacy: Francis Towne’s watercolours of Rome (until 14 August 2016). The British artist Francis Towne (1739–1816) made a remarkable group of watercolours during a visit to Rome in 1780–1781. These watercolours were Towne’s way of conveying a moral warning to 18th-century Britain not to make the same mistakes – and suffer the same fate – as ancient Rome.

As I was reading the extract from the exhibition (see above), I couldn’t help but think that history has repeated itself again. Do humans ever learn from their lessons? Apparently not. George Orwell and Francis Towne were not prophets, but they understood the nature of human beings. No matter how advanced our technology has developed, human nature seems to have evolved very little. We are still driven by our ego, power and desire. Not much has changed over time.

Of course Brexit is not the end of the world, but it may be the downfall of the United Kingdom. The whole referendum exposes the cracks in the democratic system, the inequality of the capitalist society, the growing numbers of nationalists, the incompetence of the governing politicians and the problems within the E.U.

Now that Genie out of the bottle, who is going to fix the mess?


Not proud to be British today…


My response to today’s referendum results


I am sure that 48% of the British who voted to remain in the EU are feeling the same way as I do now – shocked, sad, disappointed, disillusioned, confused, anxious, pessimistic, and very angry. And we have every right to be angry with what has happened. Perhaps we are in need for some group therapy sessions to calm us down right now.

Why ‘Brexit’ – and I hate this word – is a global crisis that will have a triggering effect on the entire world? Let’s not even discuss the economical impact, but look at it from a wider perspective. These results indeed reflect how divided our world has become. The division happens not only within the UK, but also in the USA, Europe, Middle East, Russia, Africa, South America and Asia (pretty much the entire world). The rise of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage is not a coincidence, as they represent the older white working class voters who are anti-globalisation and racist – even though they would never admit this. Nationalism and xenophobia is spreading like a virus, and it brings out the worst in humanity. I think we ought to pray for the next and future generations, because they will grow up in a more dangerous and intolerant world that is likely to be run by fascists.

Yes, the economy will suffer for some time, but it will recover one day. Yet our confidence and trust in humanity is greatly tarnished by this so-called democratic referendum – which we never asked for in the first place – and I am not sure how we can fully recover from this. If we look at the poll results, we can see that 75% of people aged 18-24 voted to stay, while only 39% of those aged 65 and over backed to stay. Thanks to these patriotic pensioners, the younger generation in Britain will suffer from the consequences in the years to come.

It is not hard to see why these English working class voted the way they did. They are angry about job losses, big corporations dominating the market, the influx of immigrants and most importantly, the loss of their English identity. They are also angry at the Government because their voices were not heard, so ‘Brexit’ was their revenge on the Government. Yet this was a selfish move, and I don’t think they realise the enormity of their decisions. The fact that 52% of the population are more concerned with their own self-interests makes me feel ashamed to be part of this nation. But ultimately, it was David Cameron (who I didn’t vote for) who let both sides down. It was his misjudgements and smugness that got all of us into this mess, and although has paid a high price for this, it is relatively insignificant compare to the future of this country.

If buffoons like Boris and Donald end up running the UK and USA, I think I will seek asylum in Mars or any other planets! The thought of this sends chills down my spine, and I sincerely hope that this day will NEVER happen. But the fact that I am writing about this is already quite worrisome, because who is to say that another Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot or Stalin-like figure will not rise again? We now live in a world where people choose to see the differences between people rather than the common ground. This, to me, is the most distressing message that I received from this campaign.

Today is a historical day that we will remember for the rest of our lives. Will the 52% Brits regret their decisions in the coming months/years/decades? We shall see. Meanwhile, the rest of us will have to digest the news of divorce with immense sadness and disbelief.




Open Garden Squares Weekend 2016

inner temple garden

inner temple garden  inner temple garden

inner temple garden  inner temple garden  inner temple garden

Inner Temple Garden


According to a report commissioned by the City of London Corporation in 2013, London is the greenest city in Europe, with over 47% green space in the city. There are also countless of private and communal gardens in the city, and they are usually out of bounds to the general public. The only opportunity to visit these gardens are usually through special events or the annual Open Garden Squares weekend. After seeing a 2 for 1 offer on Timeout, I decided that it was time to explore the hidden gardens in London.

With over 200 gardens across 25 boroughs, it was hard to know where to start. Unfortunately, I was traveling extensively before the event and I didn’t manage to do much preparation beforehand. At the last minute, my friend suggested visiting the historical Inner Temple Garden, which is usually open for a few hours during weekdays.

The three-acre garden’s history can be traced back to 1591; it has wide rectangular lawns and a rare and unusual collection of trees. The garden is extremely tranquil, and it is easy to forget that you are in central London when you are strolling inside.


barbican beech garden

barbican beech garden

fann street wildlife garden  fann street wildlife garden

Top 2 rows: Beech garden at Barbican; Bottom: Fann Street Wildlife Garden


Our next stop was the Barbican Estate as there are 3 gardens in the vicinity. The Beech garden is open to the public, and so visitors and residents can all enjoy the colourful mixed of perennials, grasses and bulbs.

Aside of the public garden, the residents can also enjoy the 2000 square metres Fann Street Wildlife Garden within the estate. The Garden was created over the basements of buildings that were bombed during WW2 when the Barbican Estate was built in the 1970s. Run by the Barbican residents, the wildlife garden has a pond, pollinator bed, shrubbery, wildflower border, meadow and wooded area. We also met some friendly residents/volunteers who were happy to chat to us about the history of the site, and their efforts to run this special garden.


The Golden Baggers  The Golden Baggers

The Golden Baggers

The Golden Baggers at the Golden Lane Estate


The last garden of the day was The Golden Baggers at The Golden Lane Estate nearby. Started in 2010, the community allotment was set up by residents of the Golden Lane Estate, and now 40 individual boxes of fruits, vegetables, salad crops are grown on the site of the former nursery playground. A small wildlife garden and a communal herb garden are recently to the thriving site.


ashworth mansion  ashworth mansions garden

ashworth mansions garden  ashworth mansions garden

Ashworth Mansions Garden


The next day, I decided to explore the wealthy residential neighbourhood in West London: Maida Vale. Maida Vale is renowned for the mansion blocks that line its broad avenues and give the area a very distinctive, and European feel. I was curious to see the communal inner gardens that are hidden from street views, and it was quite pleasantly surprised to see these private and well-maintained gardens.

Ashworth Mansions is area’s leading estate of mansion flats. Built 1899-1900, the Mansions was designed by Bohmer and Gibbs (architects of the Mandarin Oriental Hotel), and it comprises 105 flats in two imposing Queen Anne revival blocks facing each other across extensive communal gardens.

The garden is not huge, but it is well designed and is separated by a variety of trees and a pergola in the middle. Aside from herb and wild flower gardens, it also has lovely knot garden at the back.


formosa garden  formosa garden

formosa garden

Formosa Garden


Formosa Garden is hidden behind a narrow alleyway between 2 buildings, and so I was quite startled to see a vast open triangular green space surrounded by rows of houses. It is not as cosy as the previous garden, but the space is great for kids to enjoy nature and many outdoor activities.


crescent garden

crescent garden  crescent garden   crescent garden

formosa garden

crescent garden rose  crescent garden  crescent garden

Crescent Garden


The stucco-fronted houses around the Crescent Garden were built between 1860 – 1880, including some grade II-listed balconied terrace. In the 1970s local residents defeated plans by the Church Commissioners to turn the garden into communal car parking.

Now the three-acre communal garden has lawns, interesting trees, island beds and many unusual plants and shrubs. There is also a children’s play area in the middle. The garden was recently given an award as London’s best large private garden square, and I especially love the variety of flowers at this garden.


Triangle Garden  Triangle Garden 

triangle garden

triangle garden  triangle garden

Triangle Garden  Triangle Garden  Triangle Garden

Triangle garden, Randolph Crescent


My last garden in the area was the garden Triangle Garden in Randolph Crescent. The perfectly proportioned and triangular garden is surrounded by original white stucco houses, dating from the 1860s. There is a central island of London plane trees that are over 100 years old, and some black iron benches, which I believe are original.

Across London, there are many small and unusual gardens run by charities and local communities, and one of my favourite is The World Peace Garden next to Hampstead Heath Overground station.

I believe these gardens are important to local residents and even passerby as they can nourish us and provide tranquil spaces for all busy Londoners.


The World Peace Garden

The World Peace Garden

The World Peace Garden


flowers  flower

burgh house  flowers


London in bloom



East London Comics & Arts Festival 2016

round chapel

The Grade II listed Round Chapel, Hackney


Organised by London-based Nobrow Press, the fifth annual East London Comics Art Festival (ELCAF) took place over three days at the Round Chapel and MKII gallery in Hackney.

The festival is designed to showcase some of the most exciting works in comics and illustrations, and it features independent publishers and illustrators from UK and internationally. It also include talks, masterclasses, and workshops for adults and children. Together with Pick me up Graphics Arts Festival at Somerset House (which has become too commercial) and the London Art Book Fair at the Whitechapel Gallery, this show has become the leading festivals of its kind in the UK.


East London Comic Arts Festival

East London Comic Arts Festival

East London Comic Arts Festival  East London Comic Arts Festival

Bottom row: The lovely mid-century inspired illustrated books and cards at Design for Today’s stall


It was my first visit to the festival, and I was delighted to see a variety of illustrated books, zines and prints available at affordable prices. It also enjoyed the opportunity to meet and talk to the illustrators and publishers about their works. At the show, I discovered many impressive works by the London-based Design For Today, Otto Press, Peow Studio, Day Job, and I like the comic zines by British illustrator John Cei Douglas.

Exhibitors from outside of the UK were equally captivating. I met and chatted to Singaporean illustrator Michal Ng and the Madrid-based Ruohong Wu about her books that are influenced by her architecture background.


Katsumi Komagata talk  Katsumi Komagata design

les trois ourses

Katsumi Komagata  Katsumi Komagata petit arbre

Katsumi Komagata

Top left: Nobrow founding partner Sam Arthur with Japanese graphic designer Katsumi Komagata at the Artist Talk by The Japan Foundation; Top right: Komagata’s design for children’s hospital ward in Japan; last 3 rows: Komagata’s books at Les Trois Ourses’ stall


Though the highlight of the festival for me was Les Trois Ourses – the French publisher that features graphical books by award-winning Japanese graphic designer Katsumi Komagata.

A few days before the festival, I attended The Japan Foundation‘s Artist Talk by Katsumi Komagata at Foyles. The talk was organised in conjunction with the festival, and Nobrow’s founding partner Sam Arthur was also present to join the conversation.

This was Komagata‘s first trip to the UK, and so it was a fantastic opportunity to hear the designer talk about the inspirations behind his works. Renowned in France, Komagata was less well-known in Japan until he started to design for hospitals children’s wards in Japan. He founded graphic design studio and later publishing press One Stroke in 1983, and started designing books for children after the birth of his daughter. In 1994, he started collaborating with Les Trois Ourses, and has published picture books for children with disabilities. Komagata‘s books have often been compared to the books designed by the great Italian designer/artist Bruno Munari, and Komagata acknowledged that Munari’s designs did inspire some of his works.

Unfortunately, I did not attend Komagata‘s workshop at the festival, but I did manage to chat to Alexis from Les Trois Ourses about Komagata‘s wonderful books like Petit Arbres and Aller-Retour – which I bought at the festival.


round chapel

East London Comic Arts Festival  East London Comic Arts Festival

Top & bottom left: The historical interior of the Round Chapel; Bottom right: comics and zines bought from the festival


I never expected to feel fulfilled after spending all the cash in my wallet, but I was! I think the festival was an inspiring event, and I especially liked the fact that it featured many non-mainstream illustrators and publishers that are hard to find in the city’s generic bookshops. Now I just need to save up for next year’s festival!


Strand Buildings in Clapton

Strand Buildings in Clapton  Strand Buildings in Clapton

Strand Buildings in Clapton

The Art deco Strand Buildings in Clapton


IMG_5723-min  IMG_5724-min

IMG_5727-min  IMG_5725-min

The super cool Cine Real super 8 and 16mm film shop and club at 35 Lower Clapton Road



Braun Design Collection & Dieter Rams

Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection


Like London, New York and Paris, Berlin is a cultural city well-known for its world-class art museums. Aside from art, the city also have many inspiring photography and design museums and galleries. The Bauhaus Archive Museum of Design is an obvious choice for all design lovers. However, as a design geek and fan of German product designer Dieter Rams, I would highly recommend the lesser-known and almost tourist-free Braun-Sammlung Ettel Museum für Design.

Hidden away in a leafy and quiet residential neighbourhood Moabit, it is easy to miss the entrance to this collection. Not only that, the collection is only open on Mondays and Sundays from 11-5pm, so you certainly have to plan ahead before your visit.



Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection


In the world of industrial and product design, Dieter Rams is like David Bowie in the music world. He worked as an in-house designer for Braun for four decades (1955 – 95), and oversaw the design and production of over 500 products. His design ethos have influenced many contemporary industrial designers, including Jasper Morrison, Naoto Fukasawa (designer of Muji) and Jonathan Ive, the head designer of Apple.

Influenced by the principles of Bauhaus and later Ulm College of DesignRams‘ “Less, but better” motto is evident in his designs. He came up with his well-known ten principles of “good design” after proposing the question to himself: “Is my design good design?”. And these principles continue to act like precepts for design students, designers and architects etc today.


Braun Design Collection





This small private museum showcases a vast and fantastic Braun collection that belongs to one man, Werner Ettel. It is hard to imagine how one person could own such an extensive array of household products spanning over decades. As soon as I stepped in, I was like a kid in a candy store, and I didn’t even know where to start… I was also feeling nostalgic to be surrounded by all these vintage objects around me.



Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection


Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection

The radio collection


Although the forms and technology of the products have changed over the years, they all share the “Modern, functional and honest” principles. The products are minimalist in appearance, and they have a timeless aesthetic and appeal. I particularly love the door handles; I wish that contemporary door handles designers could learn more from the master. 

Then I spotted some familiar items: shavers owned by my father, and a travel alarm clock given to me by him when I was a teenager. Maybe it’s time to rummage my family home to look for some vintage Braun products hidden away in storage somewhere.


Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection

braun design collection

Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection


Before I left, I bought a braun poster as a way of supporting the free-entry museum. Cool private museums like these are hard to come by these days, and I hope it will continue to inspire young and future designers from around the world. If you appreciate good designs, then this hidden gem is a must when you visit Berlin – just make sure you come on Mondays and Sundays only.


Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection

Braun Design Collection  Braun Design Collection


Address: Elberfelder Str. 37, Moabit, 10555 , Berlin.



Berlin  berlin


While many people dislike metropolises for their high density, fast pace, congestion, noise level, pollution, rudeness, and high property prices etc; Berlin, however, seems to be an exception because it still retains an unpretentious charm of a smaller city.

The city is relatively cheap (compare to London and other mega cities), it is also spacious, less crowded, friendly, and laid back. In my opinion, Berlin is cooler than London, New York and Paris, which probably explains why many young Londoners have moved to the city in recent years.

London used to be cool and full of character, but now it is ruled by property developers, corporate companies, mega rich foreigners, and wannabe hipsters. Not only it is over-crowded and expensive; homogeneity is making the city commercial, dull and uninspiring. All the independent shops l used to love have disappeared, and now the streets of central London are mostly occupied by chained shops and restaurants.











berlin  berlin


Being in Berlin, I was reminded of the London a long long time ago – when independent shops and street markets thrived, and when everything was at a slower pace. I could wander around the city centre and visit museums without feeling crammed. Cycling is safer and easier, and there is a vast amount of green space as well. From what I saw, Berlin seems to offer a better quality of life than London, so it is easy to understand why the city is a magnet for new start-ups, and people working in the arts and creative industries.



berlin  Berlin


berlin wall  berlin


berlin  berlin



The creative and artistic energy in Berlin is palpable. Yet what I like about Berlin is that its past is very much in the present. There is so much history here, and part of it was rather atrocious to say the least. But Berliners didn’t try to wipe away the horrors of the past, instead they chose to deal with it in an open, contemplative and positive way. I think it demonstrates the attitude of the Berliners, and this is something that I admire.


strawberry hut berlin

phone box berlin  berlin traffic lights

biscuit truck berlin

berlin road sign  berlin

berlin road sign  berlin  berlin sign


Another intriguing thing about Berlin is the divide between the East and West. Twenty-seven years after reunification of the two parts, there is still an significant disparity between the two. West Berlin is notably richer, with historic monuments, elegant buildings and leafy neighbourhoods; whereas East Berlin is edgier, grimmer, poorer and more rundown. As much as I like the upscale West side, I find the East side cooler and more interesting.





berlin  berlin



Despite being in the design industry, trendy and cool places don’t appeal to me much; I have always been drawn to traditional/ quirky/ secluded places. In Berlin, I like the classic Viennese-style Cafe Einstein, the atmospheric Diener Tattersall, the retro music/dance hall Claerchens Ballhaus, the the iconic and old-school Delicatessen Rogacki (their fish soup is fab), and the relaxed and unpretentious English Theatre Berlin.


english theatre berlin



cafe einstein berlin

Diener Tattersall

Claerchens Ballhaus

Top row: English theatre Berlin; 2nd & 3rd rows: Rogacki deli; 4th row: Cafe Einstein; 5th row: Diener Tattersall; bottom row: Claerchens Ballhaus



berlin  berlin woman

couple in berlin

berlin  berlin



But like most wealthier Western countries, Berlin has been struggling with homelessness and many of the homeless are from Eastern Europe. They camp in parks and sleep under railway bridges, and it is hard to miss them when you walk around the city. I cannot imagine how these people would cope in the bitterly cold winters sleeping rough in the streets. It bothers me to see wealthy countries like Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.K. not being able to tackle this growing crisis. Is this the price we have to pay for our capitalist society? Apparently, Finland is the only country in the E.U. that has seen a decline in homelessness in recent years. The country has implemented long term plans to offer affordable rental accommodation to people who have difficulties in finding a home for themselves. If other E.U. countries could follow what Finland has achieved, then perhaps we would see a transformation of the streets across Europe.


homeless berlin


homeless berlin

homeless berlin

Homelessness and alcoholism in Berlin



The 9th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art

Berlin Biennial kw institue

KW Institute for Contemporary Art


After the disappointing DMY design festival, I stumbled upon The 9th Berlin Biennial for Contemporary Art (4th June until 18th September) by chance, and decided to check out it out. A €16 ticket (€26 including a boat trip) includes admission to four venues across the city. Due to time constraint, I only managed to visit three of them; but unlike other mega art fairs, I rather enjoyed these exhibitions.


Office of Unreplied Emails by camille henrot

Office of Unreplied Emails by camille henrot  Office of Unreplied Emails by camille henrot

‘Office of Unreplied Emails’ by Camille Henrot


My first stop was the KW Institute for Contemporary Art, where the four storey building was filled with various disciplinary art works by international artists.

On the 3rd floor, French artist Camille Henrot‘s new project ‘Office of Unreplied Emails’ occupies the entire floor. Created in collaboration with Jacob Bromberg, the installation presents sympathetic, over-emotive, and personal responses to one hundred unanswered emails in Henrot’s inbox from environmentalists, politicians, activist groups, and online shops. The project addresses the ever-changing modes of information distribution and interpersonal experiences that result from the so-called digitisation of our present day. It also considers the subsequent emergence of trolling, phishers and scammers—new modes of duplicity, abuse, outrage, and bullying.


"What the Heart Wants," by Cécile B. Evans

Oblivion by Anne de Vries

DSC_0460-min  Schwarze Pumpe by Lucie Stahl

Schwarze Pumpe by Lucie Stahl  Schwarze Pumpe by Lucie Stahl

Top row: ‘What the Heart Wants’ video installation by Cécile B. Evans; 2nd row: ‘Oblivion’ by Anne de Vries; 3rd right & bottom rows: ‘Schwarze Pumpe’ by Lucie Stahl


It took me a while to find the second venue – Feurele Collection, even with the aid of Google map. Located by the canal in Kreuzberg, it is easy to miss the new museum, which is inside a former World War II telecommunications bunker (1942–44). There is no signage around it, and I only noticed it when I saw several visitors standing outside of the entrance.

Opened in April of this year, the private museum houses art historian and connoisseur, Désiré Feuerle‘s collection of international contemporary and Southeast Asian art and Chinese design. Refurbished by the renowned British architect John Pawson, the museum is an exciting addition to the artistic and cultural-rich city.


Berlin  berlin

The Feuerle Collection

The Feuerle Collection

The Feuerle Collection  The Feuerle Collection

Josephine Pryde's 'The New Media Express'

Josephine Pryde's 'The New Media Express'

The Feuerle Collection  Korpys/Löffler's video installation 'Verwisch die Spuren!'

Yngve Holen's 'Window seat 10–22 F'

The Feuerle Collection – 5th & 6th rows: Josephine Pryde’s ‘The New Media Express’; 7th right: Korpys/Löffler’s video installation ‘Verwisch die Spuren!Botton row: Yngve Holen’s ‘Window seat 10–22 F’


I love the museum space, as the minimalist style reflects Pawson‘s respect for the building and history. At the exhibition, the most prominent features are the mini rail track and miniature train installed by English artist Josephine Pryde. ‘The New Media Express’ is a five-inch gauge model of a full-size train, complete with graffiti added by artists unknown. The train tracks run parallel to a series of photographs mounted on the wall focusing on hands and various sorts of transmitters. Visitors can view the artworks by sitting on the miniature train, forward and backwards!

German artist Yngve Holen‘s ‘Window seat 10–22 F’ features a row of glass-blown objects inspired by the pupil-like Nazars (from the Arabic word for “sight” or “seeing” that protect against the “evil eye”) designs that are sold in countless tourism shops globally. Here, Holen‘s versions are shaped and sized like the portholes of Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” planes and are installed in a row, and they serve as windows to the world of global mobility – conjuring themes of superstition, economics, tourism, and social unease.


Akademie de Kunste

Akademie de Kunste

Akademie de Kunste  Timur Si-Qin's 'A Reflected Landscape'

Simon Fujiwara

M/L Artspace's "in bed together"

 Anna Uddenberg's Transit Mode – Abenteuer, 2014–16: Journey of Self Discovery

DSC_0588-min  Jon Rafman’s L’Avalée des avalés (The Swallower Swallowed)

Akademie de Kunste

Akademie der Künste – 3rd right: Timur Si-Qin‘s ‘A Reflected Landscape’; 4th row: Simon Fujiwara’s ‘The Happy Museum; 5th row: M/L Artspace‘s ‘in bed together’;  6th row: Anna Uddenberg’s Transit Mode – Abenteuer, 2014–16: Journey of Self Discovery; 7th right: Jon Rafman’s L’Avalée des avalés (The Swallower Swallowed)


My last stop of the festival was Akademie der Künste, situated at the touristy Pariser Platz by the famous Brandenburg Gate. Designed by Stuttgart architect Günter Behnisch, the glass building’s foyer is occupied by several conspicuous video installations.

Throughout the exhibition space, visitors would encounter some unusual sculptures created by Berlin-based Swedish artist, Anna Uddenberg. Her ongoing project (since 2014), ‘Transit Mode – Abenteuer’ investigates how body culture, spirituality, and self-staging, examining social codes within consumer culture as they relate to class, gender and sexuality.

One familiar name at the exhibition is Berlin-based English artist, Simon Fujiwara. A room has been turned into ‘The Happy Museum‘ through consultation with his brother Daniel, an economist working in the field of “happiness economics.” Part scientific laboratory, part archaeological display, and part boutique, this selection of objects is a sly materialization of econometric data ostensibly gathered on the well-being of Berliners. The installations and performances question the way we conventionally experience artworks, melding fact with fiction to indicate where such distinctions seem no longer relevant.

Unfortunately, my visit was disrupted by the fire alarm as we all had to evacuate from the building; and I did not return afterwards. As much as I enjoy visiting art exhibitions, often I prefer to ramble around the city to experience it directly. Yet if you are traveling to Berlin this summer, and you are bored of the touristy sites, then I would recommend this festival – if contemporary art is your cup of tea.

Berlin’s DMY International Design Festival

Kraftwerk Mitte  Kraftwerk Mitte

The design festival’s 2016 location – the former power plant, Kraftwerk Mitte


Back in 2010, I visited Berlin and DMY International Design Festival for the first time; and not only did I fall in love with the city, I also found the festival inspiring. The 5-day event took place at the splendid Tempelhof Airport – a disused pre-World War II architectural masterpiece designed by Ernst Sagebiel and built between 1936 and 1941.


Tempelhof Airport  S8003516-min

Tempelhof Airport

dmy berlin 2010

DMY 2010 at Tempelhof Airport


I have been longing to return to Berlin and DMY, and it was only this year that I managed to organise this overdue trip. The 3-day festival (from 2nd until 5th June) took place at the former power plant Kraftwerk Mitte built between 1961 and 1964 before being abandoned in 1997. Since then, it has been part of the techno scene and is now known to music fans and art enthusiasts alike.


dmy berlin 2016  dmy berlin 2016

dmy berlin 2016

dmy berlin 2016

The massive industrial interior setting


This year, the festival was shorter and smaller than the one I attended in 2010; and unfortunately, it was hugely disappointing too. Although I have been complaining about the London design festival becoming too commercial, but it is still one of the most anticipated and mega design event that attract talents and big names from all around the world. In contrast, this year’s DMY lacked ambition, scale, and most of all, originality and substance. The industrial space was cool, but perhaps it was slightly too dark for a design exhibition. Few projects at the event grabbed my attention, and I felt that many of the works were too lifestyle-focused that lacked vision and innovation.


dmy berlin 2016

Unicorn berlin limited 

dmy berlin 2016


2nd row: Small tables by the Berlin-based Unicorn Berlin Limited


One project that I liked was the Poured Collection by Danish designer, Troels Flensted, a winner of the new talents competition. The pieces in his collection are handmade from mineral powder, water-based acrylic polymer and a small amount of pigment. The mixture is poured into a mould where the material flows together and creates its own patterns – these ‘frozen moments’ make every piece unique. I think his experimental and unconventional technique enables him to create unique pieces that are aesthetically intriguing and quite striking.


Anastasiya Koshcheeva  icoon for refugees

Vendulka Prchalová

DSC_0328-min  DSC_0331-min

orsi Orban

xiao xin wang  troels flensted

Ugly fruits

Top left: Stool by Anastasiya Koshcheeva; Top right: Icoon for Refugees; 2nd row: Tables by Vendulka Prchalová; 3rd left: Wearing water by Nacood Lab.; 3rd right: Slow coffee by Gemma Leamy; 4th row: lighting by Orsi Orban; 5th left: Flower Worm House by Xiao Xin Wang; 5th right: Poured collection by Troels Flensted; Bottom row: Ugly fruits


I was equally fascinated by Chinese designer Xiao Xin Wang‘s Flower Worm House. The studio raise silkworms and use their abandoned cocoons to make moving magnetic jewellery as if the the silkworms were still in their houses.

New eco-conscious companies around the world are trying to tackle vegetables and fruits waste due their imperfect aesthetics, and in Germany, 18 million tons of food are wasted every year. Querfeld was set up in Berlin to collect and find homes for these rejected fruits and veggies, and make consumers be aware of this global issue.



Hendrick’s gin’s stand at the festival


I was hoping to spend hours at the festival’s opening night, but the content was not inspiring enough for me to stay. I returned again for a second viewing before the show ended, but it only validated my initial impression. I couldn’t help wondering if it was the issue of the applicants or the curators, or a combination of both; but whatever the reason, the festival’s organiser needs to re-evaluate the ethos of the festival for their 15th anniversary next year.