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.
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.
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?
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?
In Alfred Döblin’s novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, the place of that name is being used to dramatically convey transformation: Franz Bieberkopf is traumatized by the changes it has undergone while he spent years in prison, and stands for the transformations he himself will undergo.
Döblin’s novel takes place in the 1920s, and Berlin has undergo dramatic changes since. After the destructions of the Second World War and the division of the city, it was no longer the single city center. The architects of the Eastern part weren’t insensitive, they kept the space open and repurposable.
Nearby churches were renovated and allowed other change to happen, later.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of the administrative buildings were taken down. The facade of the Palace of the Republic used to annoy the people of power with distorted reflections of the nearby cathedral. Not anymore.
Radically modern buildings show that transformation is still possible. This leaves hope for Franz’s children.
Berlin and Bloomington have few things in common, besides their first letter B.
Of more general interest is probably that both cities feature a building by Chinese architect I.M. Pei. I wrote about the Art Museum in Bloomington in an earlier post. Here you see the German Historical Museum in Berlin, or rather its extension.
I would call this building an invitation to explore the esthetic possibilities of dysfunctional space. The helicoidal stairwell, it’s most prominent feature, connects only the second to the third floor and extends further without purpose to a non-existent fourth floor. It’s placed inconveniently at the (sharp) entrance corner of the building. Climbing these steps has as its main purpose to be climbing these steps. They are gorgeous.
The more functional connection between the ground floor and the first floor is a long ramp leading to the helix. Like everything else, it is pushed to the side, so that as much of the empty space of the building remains intact.
What we see while walking this building are the structural elements that connect. Above is a view down into the basement level, reachable through the escalator or an angled stairwell (at the bottom).
What I found striking and inexplicable is the harmony and balance between the playful round elements like the helix or the circular opening above, and the cornered, straight-edged, almost brutal structural components.
It’s tempting to call these the male and female aspects of the building. No matter, it lives from the dialogue between the two.