Sonntag, 17. Mai 2015

A visit at the Bauhaus Archiv-Museum

I am a very big admirer of the Bauhaus movement, both as a cultural and an artistic/architectural standard and since I move to Germany I rarely miss the opportunity to document their traces, including by an early visit to Dessau. However, the Bauhaus Archives were somehow missed, probably because I was - wrongly - thinking that there must be only about documents and nothing new can be brought to me already extensive knowledge about the movement. However, one Monday of the last week, I decided that I have to change this, and took the bus till the Museum. First, I had a short meditation on the Herkules bridge, taking the full advantage of the sunny morning. The chaise-longues near the river were inviting to stay more, but decided to keep with the schedule this time.
At the entrance, the project re-use in process to be finished, is aimed to show the different layers of the movement and also to offer a new temporary exhibition place.
The irregular and outsanding building of the museum is one of a kind in Berlin. Initially set for Darmstadt but moved to Berlin in the 1970s, it was planned by the founder of Bauhaus, Martin Gropius, who did not live to see it finalized. The local authorities were not that keen to accept it, and was finished thanks to private contributions. It was the first such archive of the Bauhaus and it used most of the archives donated by Gropius himself as well as by other members of the movement. 
In the middle of the green area, with trees and a small park, the building is a patch of concrete white. The entrance is done through a serpent-like platform, called 'Eternity', in the middle of two independent agglomeration of blocks, parallel and equal to each other, united by a middle section. 
From the top of the platform, I was able to see the simple geometry of the two-story structure hosting the 800 square meters of exhibitional space. 
According to the special wishes of Gropius, this unique post-war modernist building should be renovated and changed only by respecting particular technical and artistic directions.
Inside the museum, a new exhibition introduced over 100 new objects added to the Museum collection. Among them, many black and white photography by Nathan Lerner, Josef Hartwig sculptures, collections of wooden toys and studies about colours, sketches by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, or the beautiful paper umbrella by Ferdinand Kramer. 
What I admire about this movement is its extensive interest for almost any topic related to arts, from the fine investigation and reevaluation of the properties of metals - an example being Takehiko Mizutani Study in the property of metals, made of sheets of brass superposed - till the focus on how to better teach arts. The archives are carefully tracing the different stages of the movement of the trajectory of some important representatives, such as Kandinsky, Lyonel Feininger, Oskar Schlemmer or Paul Klee. Not to miss also the Marcel Breuer chairs or the spectacular light installation by Laszlo Moholy-Nagy or the project of Germany's Pavillion at the World Expo 1929. The full archives can be also consulted at the library, upon request.
Interior design and architecture are one of the most famous changes brought by Bauhaus and that changed the faces of many cities from around the world (the White City of Tel Aviv not mentioned in the exhibition is the most famous example). According to Gropius, building means designing life processes and an art of living. He was pledging for 'organic designing of objects in keeping with their own present-day laws, without any romantic goss or fanciful frills', 'limitation to typical primary forms', use of 'colours that anyone can understand', 'simplicity and multiplicity', 'economical utilization of space, material, time and money'.
We can hardly understand the contemporary architecture today without Bauhaus and the Archives are a good inspiration for anyone trying to learn more about, either as a curious tourist or as an artist/architect-in-the making.

Samstag, 9. Mai 2015

Wild horses at Brandenburg Gate

While arriving by accident at Brandenburg Gate this Friday morning, after a couple of good weeks of motivated absence, I noticed more crowds than usual, with many tourists and cameras focused on massive horses, overpassing more than once the live horses from the touristic carriages parked nearby. Curious, I made a tour of the open air exhibition, trying to figure out what it is all about, till I found a guide that gave me some clear details.
This short-lived photographic attraction was part of an exhibition that took place between 2-9 May, by the Mexican artist Gustavo Aceves, titled 'Lapidarium - To overcome borders'. The project is the result of the cooperation between gallery Jarmuschek+Partner, in cooperation with the Embassy of Mexico in Berlin and Kulturprojekte Berlin. The life-sized horse sculptures are located in opposite t the Quadriga of the Brandenburg Gate.
The exhibition was designed as a reflection about current affairs of Europe and Germany: migration, asylum-seeking and immigration. In the word of the artist himself: 'Lapidarium tries to be a silent witness. So voiceless like the silence of immigrants halfway'.
My first thought I had when I saw the exhibtion was about the Trojan horses, but the symbols seem to go much beyond the Greek mythology.
The horses, free creatures, go on their own restless journeys. The political message of the work is aimed to push and raise awareness for more responsibility to cope with the contemporary problems, especially in terms of new policies regarding immigration.
The reflection point is represented by the end of the war and the images of destroyed Berlin, that are displayed through high resolution pictures all over the city. The question can be what are the lessons learned of Europe after the terrible war years? As this is exclusively a travel blog, I will prefer to avoid to enter into too much discussions about this very sensitive topic.
The exhibition is part of the 'May 45 - Spring in Berlin', project conceived together with Kulturprojekte Berlin, Foundation Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst, and Berliner Unterwelten e.V., the Society for exploration and documentation of subterranean architecture.
For one week, visitors from all over the world and locals had the opportunity to admire these works of art. I think that for most, it was just another touristic opportunity and I am not convinced that the serious and complex message of the work reached too far away.
However, there is part of the work of art to make the world a beautiful and meaningful place. At least for a short while, this exhibition accomplished part of its mission.

Freitag, 1. Mai 2015

Squares of Berlin: Bertold Brecht Square in Mitte

Berlin is a city where work is always in process. Years after years, new buildings appear while old ones are destroyed to the ground in order to leave place for new interesting ideas. Yesterday, I was spending some early morning time in Mitte, 10 minutes away from Friedrichstrasse, when I noticed that the old construction works in Bertold Brecht Square were finished and some interesting constructions were erected. 
First, I noticed the game of small volumes, sweetened by the gracious white and the fragility of the glass. In the vicinity, an ensemble of statues, almost lost in the orderly register of the building. 
Coming closer, I noticed the alongated silhouette, sitting on a chair on a round stone structure, with black pillars with quotes written in Caps-Locks. I made more than one tour around, trying if there is any mention about the artist or if there is any mention about who is the man standing. I asked a lady who was taking pictures near me if she knows who he is, but he did not have any idea. Obviously, in Bertold Brecht Square the statue should belong to Brecht, but if you have no idea about literary history, or about Brecht work and about Germany in general, you just end up taking pictures of something that looks interesting to you. 

But even without that applied knowledge, there is still something interestin to observe. I entered the interior yard of the white cubicle building, passing by the intensive works preparing the interior of an art gallery. 
Till the work was done, sculptures inspired by ancient cultures were spread all over the place, bringing more diversity and even mystery to the sober ensemble. As for now, it was looking empty, without too much noticeable life behind the clean windows. Maybe soon, the inhabitants of the place will also leave their own traces of life and individuality around.
Another suggestion that the man on the chair cannot be other than Brecht, is also the vicinity with the Berliner Ensemble, that he established in January 1949 after coming back from exile. He leaded this noteworthy post-war Berlin institution till 1956, his place being taken till 1971 by her life partner Helene Weigel. The presence of Brecht in this part of Berlin left traces also in the history of some pubs around, some of them still serving Brecht's favourite meal.
I left the now empty and sunny square, happy with solving this literary riddle and decided to turn more often in the next weeks in this part of Berlin.