Ryan Hellyer
Berlin, Language, Life in Berlin, people

Creative in Berlin: Ryan Hellyer

Ryan Hellyer is a former chemist, software developer and creator of Comic Jet, a fun and colourful site that enables you to learn German from comics.

Ryan HellyerIntroduce Yourself

I’m a Kiwi who somehow made his way across the globe to wonderful Berlin. I work as a software developer, and can usually be found working from a cafe some place in Berlin.

What is your favourite place in Berlin?

Herman Schulz cafe. I regularly go there to meet friends, get work done and experience their yummy cakes and soups.

Tell us about Comic Jet

Comic Jet is my attempt at helping people practice their German skills. It doesn’t actively teach, but allows readers to begin reading proper stories in German (or English) and when they get stuck, they can simply click on the comic to switch into their native language.

Where did the idea come from?

I had been trying to improve my German by reading comics, but it was driving me nuts having to constantly look things up in a dictionary. I ended up scanning both the English and German versions and putting them on my phone so I no longer had to take the books with me, and could easily switch between the two. This was useful, but it still took me a second or two to switch languages. So I set about working out how to switch languages quicker, and the basis for Comic Jet was born.

What is your favourite comic on the site?

The XKCD comics are my favourite for reading in English, but for learning German I prefer any of the Gaia comics, as they use much simpler language.

What is your favourite German word?

My favourite German word is “duh”. Most people use der, die or das, but I prefer to just say duh, as it makes the language a whole lot simpler! If you say it fast enough, people don’t even notice.

What other projects you are working on?

I have a whole fleet of open source projects on the boil. Most of them are posted on my geek blog. The most popular one is my Disable Emoji’s plugin for WordPress which is currently installed on over 50,000 websites.

What are your future plans for Comic Jet?

My main goal is to add more comics. There are very few comics which are available in both English and German and have licenses which allow me to use them on Comic Jet. If the site becomes popular, I will look into having existing comics translated.

For more, check out Comic Jet, or follow Ryan on Twitter, Instagram or his blog.
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art, Berlin, Life in Berlin

Creative in Berlin: Jenny Brockmann

Berlin artist Jenny Brockmann, whose exhibition Chronicle of a Place is on at Die alte feuerwache in Friedrichshain, talks about her work and relationship to the city.

photo courtesy of Jenny Brockmann
photos courtesy of Jenny Brockmann

You were born in Berlin. How do you think the city has influenced your work as an artist?

Although I spent 16 years of my life abroad, I feel at home in Berlin. I am convinced that architecture and urban landscape shapes us as individuals as in the idea of Leib (connection between body/senses and mind) described by phenomenologist Merleau-Ponty and I am sure it subsequently affects our interaction with others. My work is deeply influenced by Berlin in particular in how I deal with space and built structures and the resulting social and societal references.

What’s your favorite place in Berlin?

I like those places which give us a different, unusual view of Berlin. The small port in Treptower Park for example, the Tempelhofer Feld or Teufelsberg, with its derelict radar station, telling us about former times. 13

Tell us about your current exhibition.

The exhibition ‘Chronicle of a Place’ shows part of a huge archive of drawings, texts, material samples, photos and film recordings I collected over the past one and a half years in three different places: Istanbul, Tel Aviv and New York. I followed paths in these cities which are connected to the migration of German people in the last 150 years. However, the work is not primarily  about looking back in history; it is more about approaching the city in a situationist kind of way, exploring the structure of the city in present time.

What themes are you concerned with in your work?

The main idea behind this work is dialogue. Starting with the interactions that occur when working in public spaces, affecting people’s perception of their daily routes, then bringing the collected materials into the exhibition space in a distant city and last not least creating space for dialogue through workshops, talks and events. Taking a different perspective and experiencing new ways of thinking is one major point. The aim for dialogue is also the reason I invited the curators Kristina Kramer and Ece Pazarbasi to talk about their perspective on my project, which will take place tonight in the exhibition.

Where do you work?

I work throughout the city, in scientific laboratories, in the middle of nature, in the workshop, in the exhibition space, in my studio, at home or in a cafe. It depends on how the actual project needs to be conceived.

Describe your process.

Working on a project involves considering it from many different angles. In terms of output, this includes many different media such as drawing, sculpture, photo, film, collected materials and measurements, texts, installation, performance.

What are you working on now?

I am working on 07a participatory project I began last year, in which I ask Berliners for a photo of their horizons. I want to share what people see. These photos give us the opportunity to look at the horizon from a proximity; I think the horizon that is close to us is predestined to be looked at in an abstracted and thus interpretative way. It reveals something about the people who photograph it. I believe the horizon of people in Berlin is different to that of people in Tokyo or New York.

Curators Kristina Kramer and Ece Pazarbaşı will talk about their responses to Chronicle of a Place tonight at 7 pm, followed by music by Jeff Özdemir and friends at 9 pm at die alte feuerwache / Projektraum – Galerie, Marchlewskistraße 6, 10243.

If you are being creative in Berlin and would like to chat about it, contact me.