After a relatively early night, I slept in a bit and then got up and started getting myself organized. I had a lot of emails to send around as my return to Paris approached, and I still had a bunch of museums to hit before leaving Berlin (oh, and all that partying).
As soon as I had taken care of emails and blogging, I ran out and hopped on the train to Hamburger Bahnhof for the Wolfgang Tillmans exhibit. The exhibit included a few new works and a bunch of his old works, which together helped me realize that all of Tillmans’s works can be reduced to about three categories:
Unemotional Documentation of Perspective
Sex (usually gay male, but not always)
Some of these categories overlap, such as the famous Sportflecken (sport-stains) photograph, which features semen dried on a white t-shirt.
Anyway, this is not necessarily a critique of the quality of his work, most of which I find really lovely, but rather a complaint that I quickly got the feeling that I could’ve just visited one room and gone home with as much knowledge of Tillmanns style as if I had seen all 6 or 7 rooms.
Anyway, that was the only exhibit open today, so after that I headed out to for my next stop, the Jüdisches Museum. However, I realized on the way out that I had left my cellphone at home, and I was expecting some messages and phone calls from at least a few people tonight, so I ran home and got my phone and also did a quick grocery run on the way. Since I was already home, I picked up my bike (or, rather, my roommates bike that she loaned to me) and decided to head over to the museum by bike.
The Jüdisches Museum (Jewish Museum) is the sort of museum that people write dissertations about, so I’m not going to go into great detail, especially because a quick google-search will give you lots of great descriptions of what goes on here. Essentially, the museum documents 2000 years of Jewish history in Berlin, German-speaking lands, and the Ashkenaz more generally. Aside from a wonderfully-detailed and interactive historical section, the interesting aspects of the museum are:
- the main building has a zigzag shape, approximating a warped Star of David
- the zig-zag is intersected by a straight line of negative space, which creates “voids” in the building like dark, empty courtyards or silos. One of these voids has an art installation where you are invited to walk over a pile of screaming metal faces
- you don’t enter the main building directly, but rather through an underground tunnel that you access from the Baroque building next to it
- the underground level has three crisscrossing tunnels, called “axes.”
- The Axis of Continuity leads up along long stairs into the main building and the historical exhibit
- The Axis of Exile has installations about the Diaspora along the walls and leads to the Garden of Exiles, which is this 7x7 set of pillars with olive trees growing out of the top with everything on a disorienting, nauseating angle that is supposed to reflect the difficulties of Jews settling in other countries
- The Axis of the Holocaust has installations about those killed in the Holocaust (notably, all displays always use the term “murder” in English) and leads to a super-tall irregularly-shaped concrete silo, unheated or cooled, with only a small slit at the top for natural light to enter.
All in all, the museum was great and rather intense, although I appreciated that the tone of the place shifted quite a bit, so it wasn’t consistently depressing or too rah-rah, either. Throughout my visit, I remembered a blog post by an old “liberal” blogger (I think his blog was called Americablog, but he doesn’t really merit the google-search), where he visited the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC and complained that the museum failed to entertain him. He got a drubbing in the comments thread, which elicited hysterical, ALL-CAPS defenses from him, but he never came around to the possibility that a museum can teach you important things without it being always pleasurable.
Anyway, I made it home and took care of some more business, ate dinner, etc, before heading out to meet a Frenchy buddy of mine for drinks at Kantine Berghain (i.e., Bierhof Rüdersdorf). I thought the plan was just to hang out for a bit and exchange music, but it soon turned into a club night, as we went into the Kantine building to hear the first sets of the night. By about 3h00 I was dead-tired, and I had my laptop in my backpack, which made me a bit nervous, so I headed home and crashed.