Any mention of a Winterreise evokes Franz Schubert’s song cycle from 1827 based on the poems by Wilhelm Müller.
Anselm Kiefer’s tight installation with the same title at the Diversity United exhibition in Berlin displays a wintry landscape on a stage in a narrow optical perspective.
Actors appear as labels on wooden tags: Names like Joseph von Eichendorff, Madame de Staël, Ulrike Meinhoff, Hermann Hesse and many others make it clear that the scope is larger than German Romanticism from the 19th century.
The extension happens in space, towards France, and in time towards our century.
The choice of objects include mushrooms from a fairy tale forest as well as war relics: A discrepancy between imagination and reality that has only been partially processed by the actors-writers on stage.
Schubert’s and Kiefer’s Winterreise both warn us about illusions. Why do we never listen?
Below is a stereo pair for creating a 3D illusion for those of us capable of cross-eyed viewing.
The Dorotheenstadt Cemetery is permanent home of more eminent German writers than any other cemetery I know. It is located in in Berlin-Mitte and belongs to the former eastern part of the city.
There are very famous ones like Bertold Brecht with Helene Weigel above or Anna Seghers with Johann-Lorenz Schmidt below.
The style of the tombstones varies enormously – permitting individualism that the living did not necessarily enjoy.
While looking for a proper quote from one of all these writers that have come here together, I came across this little sonnet by Wolfgang Hilbig:
Blätter und Schatten
Nicht neu kann sein was du beginnst – denn immer nimmst du was dir längst gegeben und gibst es hin: wie in der Liebe da es mir gebricht an jeder Kenntnis: rot wie die Buchen Laub verstreun maßlos am Wegrand wo ich schon sehr frühe ging … und kannte nicht den Weg und kenn ihn jetzt noch nicht und kenne nicht das Kind des Schatten mir vorausläuft und weiß nichts von der Sonne die ihr rotes Gold dem Blattwerk einbrennt. Und weiß nicht mehr den Herbst der ernst in meinem Rücken ging und dem ich Schatten war: stets neu entworfner Schatten ungezählter Herbste.
Leaves and Shadows
New cannot be what you begin – because you always take what you’ve already been given and give it away: like in love where I lack all knowledge: red as when the beeches scatter leaves along the trail where I walked so early … and did not know the way and still don’t know and don’t know the child whose shadow runs ahead and know nothing about the sun that burns its red gold into the foliage. And don’t know the autumn anymore that once walked solemnly in my back and to which I was its shadow: Always newly drafted shadow of countless autumns.
Having become a shadow doesn’t mean to be forgotten.
The words still reach for us, like the hands in George Tabori’s tomb stone below.
This blog post is (as will be several in the next weeks) inspired by the art of Matthew Shlian. Below you see ragged squares (or Aztec diamonds, if rotated by 45º), tiled by P-pentominos. On the right, we get by without using mirrored copies, and on the left we see all eight rotations and reflections of the P-pentomino.
The embossment on the left comes from Matt’s instagram pages where you can find a paper sculpture called Some Caterpillars Stay Caterpillars 42. He realizes this tiling using folded paper, and my different color are his different shades of grey, coming from natural light, and much more subtle in his sculpture than here.
The colors used in the embossment above add different esthetic and structural flavors. For instance, on the right the parallel slopes of the region are colored in different shades of the same color, emphasizing striped bands that completely eliminate the original tiling by P-pentominoes.
Matt’s original sculpture maintains a poetic balance between the mathematical rigor of the tiling and the more organic nature of a landscape of valleys and ridges that appear in his embossment.
Above is a tiling of the next larger Aztec diamond that can be tiled by P-pentominoes. It turns out that here you need the P-pentomino together with its mirror, but I don’t know a reason for this.
Mona Hatoum’s impressive installation of this name was shown in the Diversity United exhibit in Berlin this year, and the catalogue speculates that what we see here are the ghost-like fragments of a house.
I saw these hanging concrete pieces as probes into space, an attempt to make visible what has disappeared.
In this reconstruction, I am using PoVRay to probe textured space. A texture in PoVRay is function of the three spatial coordinates whose values is used in a color map to determines the color value of an object at the point given by the three coordinates. Above the function is sqrt(x2+y2+z2), and the color map a simple grayscale gradient, so that spheres centered at the origin have the same color value. Objects placed into the scene appear to be carved out of this space.
Above is a more complete reconstruction of Haroum’s installation, using the same spatula texture with added reflection. And below are the same probes, using an entirely different texture based on the function sin(x)+sin(y)+sin(z).
Dark Matter is a light-sound installation by Christopher Bauder, distributed over seven rooms. Abstract shapes move in space, change color to sound, a concept not unlike the ballets Wassily Kandinsky designed a hundred years ago.
While the aspect of motion gets lost in the static images here, I didn’t find the first few rooms compelling, the shapes are too simple, the action to little.
What really was missing, however, became clear in the Polygon Playground, where an artificial hill could be climbed and interacted with, providing the visitors with a bath in light.
From then on I became more fascinated by the reaction of the visitors to the art than by the art itself.
Or maybe I had just misunderstood before, maybe all the installations are just a canvas on which the actual art is happening.
This became even clearer in Grid, where dozens of light tubes move to an epic electronic composition by Robert Henke (Monolake), transfixing the audience.
The interior of the four-story building that supports the domes of the former Cold War listening station on the Devil’s Mountain in Berlin is accessible only through two (new) exterior stairwells. Each has a long corridor (without any doors!), and open spaces separated by walls.
Most of the walls are decorated with the most wonderful graffiti in bright colors.
The entire building has become a piece of art.
Views through the ‘windows’ show more building-sized graffitis.
So in a miraculous way, one of the most secretive and locked up places from Cold War Berlin has become an organic landscape of open art.
If only we all could deal with our own borders like this.
Frederick the Great’s summer residence Sanssouci features a vast park with all kinds of interesting buildings and sculptures.
Uncommon plants, angels, truncated heads, fauns – all in some form of isolation, for individual contemplation, and all with a sense of esthetic that is not quite our own anymore – suggest that Frederick consciously made an attempt to deal with the Other, the unfamiliar, the strange and alien.
The Chinese Pavilion appears to give an idea of the sophistication of other cultures, using a sense of beauty that was his — not necessarily theirs.
Then a rondel with six busts, a Roman emperor, a philosopher — and four Africans, in white dresses and awkward postures.
Is this how Frederick wanted to see them, and us to see them, too? Then something strange and dangerous has happened here. Esthetic ideals themselves are being colonized.
If our sense of beauty is that fragile, if it allows that imposition so easily, shouldn’t we learn to become more aware of it, and to resist?
When looking itself has become an aggression, isn’t it necessary to see even the familiar differently, to unlearn our sense of beauty, and to begin again, by offering presence?