Neues Museum Berlin

March 8, 2009

The Neues Museum has opened again, 60 years after being bombed in WW2. It is part of the world cultural heritage site of the Berlin museum island.
Architect David Chipperfield was entrusted with the task and his plans for the Neues Museum were controversial. There was a lot of critique especially by the citizens of Berlin (of course, architecture critique is a public hobby in germany…)
But for the opening (just the building, the exhibitions are not even there yet), people stood in rows waiting 2 hours in the rain to be let in. And so far the majority of the reactions have been postive.
The Neues Museum is certainly unique. A truely modern museum, with state-of the art technique. And (and this is a true miracle) it was 33 millions cheaper than calculated.
Many people wanted a complete reconstruction of the building. There were enough scars in Berlin they said. Chipperfield decided to keep those scars, the history, the life of the museum, visible. It was a brave decision.
This museum is old and new, whole and hurt. It´s an exhibit in itself.

Looking at historical pictures of the Neues Museum i think i like this version better (even though i´ve only seen pictures yet). Of course i like historical buildings and reconstructed frescos, but i don´t need a time capsule, a happy disneyland. I would rather have this building, a building that breathes history. I think it has dignity.

You could write books of course, about the architecture and history of the museum, so here are some articles to start with:
Here is a (postive) in-depth article by bd-the architects website.
And a negative one (in german)by german newspaper Die Welt.
Here is an english one with statements by Chipperfield Architects themselves.

(As someone working in exhibition design, i wonder though, how the exhibitions will work, especially since the contain such iconic exhibits as the Nofretete bust. The museum itself is an exhibit and it will be difficult i think to give both, building and exhibits, the attention they deserve without making them compete or negate each other.But we´ll see.)

\"here lived from 1933-1945 a human being, killed by the perpetrators of the NS regime.
“Here lived from 1933-1945 a human being, killed by the perpetrators of the NS regime.”

Our cities overflow with so many monuments… of old kings (that no one knows anymore), generals or Holocaust memorials. Often you don´t really see them anymore and just walk past them (the exception being the amazing Holocaust memorial in Berlin). Memorials should make you feel and remember and empathize. Most stone memorials don´t really do that.

The “Stolpersteine by Gunter Demnig do. They can be found throughout germany and even Austria and Hungary, over 12500 of them. I “found” the first ones in our town Dortmund a few months ago. They remind us of people killed by the nazis, whether they were jews, homosexuals, members of the resitance or disabled people. A brass plaque is put in the ground in front of the houses where the people lived and says just “here lived” or like in Dortmund “here worked”, the name, year of birth and the fate of the person.

It´s so smart – and touching. The stones don´t match the allignment of the surrounding stones, you literally stumble over them. Even in the busi shopping street in Dortmund they stand out, not like a monument where you just walk around…they “hit” you personally and make you stop and look.

Fallen leaves

March 25, 2008

The Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind is probably more known for it´s amazing achticture but it contains also some impressive art installations. One of them by Menashe Kadishman is called Shalechet (Fallen Leaves) and is displayed in the Memory Void, one of the empty spaces of the Libeskind Building.
Over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor. The Voids , normally empty spaces in the building “serve as an architectural expression of the irretrievable loss of the Jews murdered in Europe” while “Menashe Kadishman’s sculptures filling them evoke painful recollections of the innocent victims of yesterday, today, and tomorrow.”

A truly powerful and moving installation.

What an ingenious idea to present otherwise dry statistical data!
Entering the exhibition “Of all the people in the world” you get one small grain of rice. That grain ist you. One rice grain represents one person. You are invited to wander around huge mounds of rice grains which represent for example all the millionaires in the world.
And compare it with one that represents all the refugees in the world.
Or all the people who die today.
Or those who are born today.
Or a single rice grain representing Tony Blair with the whole population of Britain.

The travelling exhibition was created by James Yarker, co-founder and artistic director of Stan’s Cafe, a performance group based in Birmingham, England. The stories that are being told here change with the location. In Germany you might find out that all the child soldiers in the world together would roughly the same size as the german army or compare statisitcal data from the World cup.

Performance artists measure the grains on site and add new piles or rearrange them throughout the show.
The mounds of rice grains are simply piled on sheeths of paper and labeled. However, no actual numbers are shown, and really, they are not needed. All you need is your little grain of rice in your hand to understand the relations between yourself and the rest of humanity.

Here is a short promotional video of the show.

via Infographics

I came across the machine-animals of Nantes at Dark Roasted Blend today. These creatures are made out of steel and wood and they can *move*! Some kind of remind me of Jules Vernes Nautilus (and the costumes of the musical The Lion King). The “Les Machines de l’Ile Nantes” exhibit looks incredible, the elephant (11m high!), squids and fishes by François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice are truly exceptional, just the right blend of machine and animal. Very poetic i thought.
Dark Roasted Blend also shows in the same post an old favourite of mine “The Sultan´s Elephant” a theatrical show which was created by Royal de Luxe. Truly magical. And their website is very worth a look.


July 30, 2007

The Great White Bear exhibition

Wow, this is such a moving piece. Artists Bryndis Snaebjornsdottir and Mark Wilson tracked down every (stuffed) polar bear in Great Britain. They photographed them in their original setting, be it dusty museum display , private or stately homes or even in storage and documented their history. Take a look at their website to see the images taken at the various sites. Ten of them can be seen in an exhibition called “The great white bear” at South London’s Horniman Museum and there is also a book called “A Cultural Life of Polar Bears” by the artists themselves.

To see those majethetic animals reduced to souvenirs or museum exhibits or forgotten in a box is truly sad, especially since they became again (thanks in some part to Knut) symbols for the loss we might face because of the impending climate change.