Braun (Berlin XI)

Taste changes, as do necessities.

What you see here are impressions from the new Berlin-Brandenburg Airport, which has been controversial for two decades, mainly for financial reasons.

My own reservations are more of a more esthetic and, alas, political nature. At first, I was struck by its boredom.

We have low ceilings, steel, glass, and — brown decor.

The prevalence of the color brown (mostly in the form of dead wood and marble tiles) darkens the place, and, much worse, reminds me of an esthetic that I believed had been overcome long ago.

Curiously, the older airport Berlin-Tegel (which had replaced airport Berlin-Tempelhof, famous for the being used for the Luftbrücke during the Berlin Blockade) still feels much more modern, with its successful usage of simple geometric shapes like hexagons and triangles to create an efficient and stimulating atmosphere, was co-designed by the same architect, Meinhard von Gerkan.

Admittedly, here in Indiana I am used to the color brown, and I have always feared that it supports an unhealthy emotional state.

At least here, at BER, there is a solution built-in: Leave.

Panopticum (Berlin IX)

The Designpanopticum is a small but densely packed museum in Berlin’s Nikolaiviertel.

Vlad Korneev has been collecting technical relics for decades and arranged them to make them even more bizarre, as if this was necessary.

If there ever was meaning, we can be certain that it is gone now.

This place is the exact opposite of a tabula rasa; it’s what I expect to find in my own brain, if I had the ability to climb into it and have a look.

Still, and non unlike the tabula rasa, this overloaded chaos gives us the opportunity to commence again, to consider this as fertile ground instead of as a mess.

Following the loop, stairs up and down, we find new ways to see, to make sense again, in an entirely new way.

Lost function becomes purposed beauty. Maybe this is not for everyone to see. It’s my brain, after all…

Remains to be Seen (Berlin VIII)

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).

Disappearances (Berlin VII)

One of my favorite post-wall places to photograph in Berlin is the Hauptbahnof, the main railway station, about which I have written twice already.

If you look at the previous posts, you will see that I took full advantage there of the strong lines that steal beams, rails, escalators and elevators offer.

The many transparent and reflective surfaces seem to emphasize the structural strength even more, but one can also take a different point of view.

Using a shallow depth of field, the lines disappear in secondary and tertiary layers. Out of the sudden we become insecure, and the certainty of the place is cast in doubt.

The overwhelming feeling of being here and now is replaced by questions about elsewhere and tomorrow. A mistake? I don’t think so. After all, we come here in order to leave.

Dark Matter (Berlin VI)

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.

Interaction has become art.

Borders to Canvasses (Devil’s Mountain III)

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.

The Unclosable Door (Sanssouci II)

By building fences and walls, we impose an artificial structure on an existing landscape. Is there a difference in our way of seeing these structures? Both allow us to see them as beautiful, but is it the same esthetics we are applying?

And, probably more importantly, is there a functional difference between natural grown and artificial structures?

And what happens when we consider a landscaped landscape? Is this wall really a wall?

Maybe I am wrong, but it seems to me that Nature doesn’t allow for closed doors.

Has René Magritte ever painted a closed door?

Fading Time (Devil’s Mountain II)

One of the most fascinating buildings in the old listening station on the Devil’s Mountain is the Villa. That’s my name, I don’t know what it is called, or as what it was used for. We are free to imagine.

Dark corridors eventually lead to brighter rooms, where the colors of the outside graffiti is blinding.

Then, the main room, in faded colors, with shards from a faded time. Who can sit on a chair like this?

And was that lamp used to take away the light?

It seems like all the happiness has been removed from this place.

And yet what has been left behind appears to be waiting for something, for someone.

Is this how the place looks like where we will eventually go?

Or is it us that will be like this?

The Canvas (Devil’s Mountain I)

One of the concise views one can have of Berlin these days is from the top of the Devil’s Mountain (Teufelsberg), the artificial hill that consists of rubble from the ruins of World War II.

The conciseness decreases when stepping back, inside the structures on top of the former US listening station from the Cold War.

So we enter a place of fascinating decay and devastation that has become in its entirety a canvas.

The ruin as a design pattern for our self seems an aporia, but not so: as in many paradoxa, there is synthesis.

Descending further we witness that light and dark not only coexist, they require each other,

and they require a canvas.

Otherness (Sanssouci I)

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?