Avoidable Mortality

Mortality in many instances is avoidable. Estimates Mühlichen et al. (2023) for Germany are as high as 19% of all deaths in the years 2017 to 2019. For men the figure is as high as 24%, for women “only” 13%. The scientific interest in the concept of avoidable death originates in the interest to indirectly gauge the efficiency of health systems. In order to do this the authors estimated cause-deleted life tables in a fine graded regional fashion. Avoidable deaths are defined as deaths that occur before the age of 75 and are either classified as medically preventable or preventable through a different life style. The study applies a quasi-experimental design in comparing German speaking regions within Europe. This allows to measure the influence of health care systems on a general level within Germany, Austria, Switzerland and South Tirol in Italy. The study corrects for different age structures in these regions. For Germany avoidable deaths are substantially higher in the North than in the South. Additionally Eastern parts of Germany have higher avoidable deaths. Even the best performing regions in Germany have higher rates of avoidable mortality than Switzerland.
The differential to other countries health systems is worth a concern, because the expenditure in the German health system per 1000 population are among the highest in Europe (OECD 2021). Despite the high expenditure per head, avoidable mortality remains particularly high for German men and in the North and East of Germany. Lack of prevention of unhealthy life styles is most likely the decisive factor to explain the disappointing results. There might be another “unaccounted” risk factor that originates in the lack of sufficient preventative health care and environmental risks during the young age of the regional populations. 33 years of unification and a cut-off age of 75 mean that in East Germany the oldest people lived through 40 years of high pollution coal as primary heating system.  Similar to Northern and Western Germany little concern and careless use of risky fertilizers might drive higher mortality decades after exposure. Life style patterns might additionally contribute, but are harder to assess in comparison. Research to clarify these differentials are just at the beginning. A valid conclusion remains: prevention is key, but it has many facets.

Nations Fail

Ever since Adam Smith wrote on the “Wealth of Nations” the topic concerns social scientists. The discourse around the wealth of nations has become even more fundamental these days. Beyond wealth calculated in economic terms we are convinced to add well-being of the population as well as the state of the environment into the accounting procedures like national accounts. But wait a second. Similar to the term wealth we have to widen our perspective in what is considered to be a nation. Shifting borders through wars (Russia aggression on Ukraine) or separatist tendencies of regions, (re-)unification of Germany or Korea (eventually) show that the nation is a concept in flux. Considering migrants from former colonies still as having residential rights in the colonising country shows, there is more to nations than a one size fits all nation concept.
Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson had published the book on “Why nations fail. The origins of power, prosperity and poverty” already in 2012. On the 3rd of October Germany celebrates its re-unification only because the Russian dominated German Democratic Republic (and the other Eastern European satellite states under Russian control) can be considered as a failed state. These Russian dominated states crushed private initiatives and build corrupt systems where party allegiance and hierarchical structures were overemphasised. Following Acemoglu and Robinson (chapter 10) the lack of diffusion of prosperity is likely to be the root cause. Even similar to the French revolution, which brought about tough measures of redistribution, the external threats to the post-revolution France demanded subscription of masses into armies to defend the young republic against aristocratic rulers in the surroundings. If monarchy in France is a failed state, the post-revolution France survives due to high identification with the republican idea. The Soviet dominated Ukraine is a failed state, but the Ukraine of today resists due to its willingness to defend its own republican ideals. To get virtuous circles of development started, inclusiveness across the board is necessary. Leave nobody behind, seems to be a shortcut summary. It is much easier said than done. Loosing younger generations in the sense that they no longer subscribe or feel part of an inclusive wealth of the nation is a highly dangerous path. Failed states have a history in failed inclusive social and economic practices. Democracies are at risks just as much as authoritarian nations. However, democracies have better institutional settings to address the lack of inclusion and in multiple ways.
When I celebrate the 3rd of October in the Federal Republic of Germany I celebrate (1) the accomplished failure of the GDR, its undemocratically elected elites, corrupt institutions and the failure of the thousands of willing collaborators of the Russia-backed regime; (2) the peaceful resistance movement, (3) the relatively short-lived humanitarian focus of the Russian leadership at the time to not send in the tanks and (4) the willingness of the FRG to support 20 million new citizens for many years to come (5) the allies of the FRG to accept the potential security threat of a strengthened Federal Republic of Germany, which might entail a shift in the balance of power in Europe.
And yet, even in 2023 we pose questions on what is the concept of failure, when authoritarian regime can still survive for sooo long and some still accomplish extensions. We keep questioning the sense of the term “nation” in modern times and across the globe. Too many wars are still fought in the name of a “nation” even if only a handful of military-supported leaders and single autocrats try to impose wars in the name of some rather vague or plainly mistaken claim of nationhood.
On the 3rd of October we celebrate that “nations can fail” opening a path into a more prosperous and inclusive society. Some nations fail, just because they were no nation in the first place. The GDR was such an artefact of international compromise as part of the overall “balance of power” and the Cold War. The result of this process gives so much hope to other divided nations (Korea) or nations under authoritarian oppressive rule.


Eigentlich gibt es nur „die“ Schachnovelle von Stefan Zweig aus dem Jahr 1942. Heutzutage schon zu haben für 3 € (Reclam) als Reisebegleiter. Die Ausgabe ist gerade so groß wie ein Mobiltelefon. Darauf habe ich natürlich noch ein Schachprogramm mit unzähligen Rätseln und Partien, nur für den Fall eines Rückfalls. „Damenopfer“ sind im Schach eine elegante Art, die mächtigste eigene Spielfigur zu opfern, um einen strategischen Vorteil oder gar Schachmatt zu erreichen. Kurz gesagt, der König opfert seine Dame, damit er den anderen König überwältigen kann. Shakespeares Dramen klingen dabei an.
Aktuelle Literatur „Damenopfer von Steffen Kopetzky“ setzt ebenfalls auf diese Analogie. Aber zurück zu der Schachnovelle. Meine Lesart der Novelle, bei der aus dem kleinen Bauernjunge, der spätere Schachweltmeister geworden ist, bezieht sich auf die Menschheits- und Realitätsflucht des Schachspielens. Eintauchen in die Welt der Figuren und verbundener Fantasien bietet sich an. Neben Königen und Königinnen, stehen Türme von alten Ritterburgen, Pferde samt Reitenden als Teil von Reitturnieren, Läufer mit Kurz-, Langstrecken oder Marathondistanzen, sowie die Menge an Bauern, die für Nahrung sorgen, Deckung bieten und die Logistik bewältigen. Essentielle Arbeitende eben. Schon bei Verlust eines einzigen Bauers ist die Partie bei Fortgeschrittenen meistens schon verloren.
Das Eintauchen in die Parallelwelt des Schachspielens kann zu schizophrenen Verhaltensweisen führen. Ausblenden aller realen Vorgänge und Leben in mehreren möglichen gleichzeitig stattfindenden Parallelwelten als Varianten von Schachpartien verlangt mentale Stärke. Ab einem gewissen Niveau des Eintauchens in die Schachwelten, gleichsam von Schachnovellen, wird die Rückkehr in die real stattfindenden Vorgänge ebenfalls schwieriger. Spielsucht kann die Folge sein. „Gamer“ mit ihren virtuellen Welten und Abenteuern wissen sicherlich nur allzu gut, welche Gefahren dort lauern.
Stefan Zweig hat seine Schachpartie im realen Leben gegen den Nationalsozialismus verloren. Die gewählte Selbsttötung seinerseits war ein Königsopfer, das ein spielerisches Damenopfer in den Schatten stellt. Zu Recht steht die Schachnovelle oft auf dem Schulcurriculum, nicht nur da, wo Schachspielen Unterrichtsfach ist.

Marathon Prep

Most people, including many sociologists, believe preparation for a marathon is a rather lonely exercise. During hot summers you get up early and run alone across the streets in your neighbourhood or in a green area. Even on weekends you tend to put on your running gear at least once to chip in a few extra miles or once or twice before the marathon a longer distance test run of 20, 25 or 30 kilometers. Just for the sake of testing to withstand more pain, like in the real event. Running guides in form of books, apps reach “cult status”. In sociology we teach students about the social trends of individualisation ever since the book by Putnam “Bowling alone”, which depicted the new kind of lonesome person going alone to the bowling hall for exercise, as social life seems to evolve towards “individualised” leisure time and social life. Social capital seems to get lost on the way.
The New York Times International” published an article and photo by Lauren Jackson on September, 27 (2023) page 17 in the sports section, which states the not so new phenomenon of “run clubs” (see extract on image below). These clubs bring runners from all walks of life together on a regular basis to train jointly and add a social function to the club as well. Just like previous sport clubs or socialising bowling groups did before, they meet and greet as well as party and celebrate together. Even travelling thousands of miles to distant events occurs in groups. Berlin seems to be a very attractive location for such clubs to go to. For some the sport stays in front of the activities, but for quite a few the social and party-like atmosphere is just as important. Even a local Berlin newspaper portrayed an older runner who stops in-between to have a small glass of alcohol-free beer on a terrace 2 steps from the official track with friends and family. Most people take their time record rather seriously, but the event is to enjoy community and celebration. Lauren Jackson even equates this to some forms of religious practice. I’s rather call this the other side of the same coin. Lone practice and meditation like running prepares a person to enjoy community (again). Extremes in both directions are part of the bell-shaped probability distribution of runners across the lonely-crowded spectrum of running experiences. The Marathon 42km 195m certainly has some historical even mystical connotation. While watching the finishing line at 42 km, just after the hypothetical run from Marathon to Athens in ancient Greece, you see many worn out persons, but also the many happy faces. After the run you meet your peers to exchange on stories and anecdotes around the track. Success and failure, just as in other team sports become a topic of conversation and shared experiences. These are community building events as wheel chairs and hand-driven bikes are part of the Berlin event as well as the in-line skaters the day before. In Berlin you get a feeling that running world records (women 2023, men 2022) can go hand in hand with the running fun for many. From “bowling alone” to “running together”. Sounds good to me.

Marathon Berlin2023

Berlin celebrates its 49th Marathon in September 2023. The first Berlin Marathon in 1974 had less than 300 participants. To separate this from Olympic games, these runs were coined “Volks-marathon” at the time. 5 events had already taken place in New York when these annual events started to catch on in Berlin. In 2023 there are close to 50.000 participants mostly drawn from a lottery of about 500.000 entries. So, you can call yourself one of the lucky few, if you manage to get a place. The event is a drain, but it creates a fantastic hype not only for the runners. The many cheers and bands along the running track transform the inner city into a huge party zone. The Berlin marathon is known around the world for its fast track. In 2023 Berlin is proud to be the city where both the women and men’s world record are held currently at the same time. This is quite an achievement.
Personally, I enjoy more the courage, stamina and will power all the participants gear up to. Months, if not years of preparation find their climax in getting to the starting line in the “Tiergarten”, just where you had (have) the “Love Parades” some weeks before. The finishing line is 300 meters away, once you have passed the “Bandenburger Tor”. From a public health perspective, we applaud the encouragement such events give to all those that have an active life style and to some to get started on such a trajectory. The media coverage is enormous and with all sponsorships, equipment, hotels, meals and travelling involved such events have become big business, too. No such event and going to health limits is without risk. This is, of course, also the case in Berlin. The emotions run high for almost all, except for a few, who go too far beyond their limits.
The medical assessments of exhaustive endurance sports are an ongoing research issue. A recent literature review reveals that there are quite substantial numbers of previous smokers or persons with previously unhealthy life styles participating in popular marathons. Running, probably, has been part of overcoming bad habits of the past. It is therefore, not surprising to find that some of the participants are at a risk of wanting to run too much or too fast for their current state of health. The hypnotising effect of music and stimulation from being part of a huge crowd, contribute to the effect to go beyond limits. Cardiovascular events or brain lesions are, therefore, part of the ex-post risks of participants who have had specific medical check-ups. Know your limits, train them wisely, but respect that limits exist. This seems to be a reasonable summary based on sports medical research. Berlin 42km finishing line2023


In a country where most people subscribe to the “protestant work ethic” it is not easy to raise the issue of overwork. Yet, overwork needs to be become an issue of concern. In combination with overwork comes too little rest. Particularly the lack of rest and sleep is likely to cause serious medium and/or long-term effects. Burn-out is only one of the more obvious and drastic experience of exhaustion. The lifestyle of overwork has direct causal links to malnutrition and cardio-vascular risk factors. Once triggered these processes are even harder to control. The run on meditation exercises is only reiterating the huge difficulties to find a balance or antidote to overwork.
The Pew Research Center in Washington has published results from a survey in 2023 that shows that only about half of American people take the full vacation they are entitled to. The evidence of pervasive overwork in the U.S., not limited to the higher executive branches of employees, is hugely unhealthy. Physical and mental health is endangered and the cost to individuals and society are immense. Who cares? Well, we should care. (1) Documentation and monitoring this trend are the first elements of a strategy to counter these effects. Keep spreading the message that overwork is not without serious risks and mostly is followed by huge costs, someone will have to pay. (2) Start to analyse why we glorify overwork and keep doing so for centuries. The strive for higher pay, more money, higher profits, wealth or social prestige is a powerful driving force, of course. Legal measures or taxation to curb extra benefits of overtime have apparently had only marginal effects as they are circumvented, if people are too much focused on the immediate earnings effects. (3) Examine the question, why we glorify overwork? The Harvard Business Review published an article on this on 28th of August (just after the vacation period) to blame the culture of “workaholic” behaviour. In short, if your self-concept is defined exclusively through work, you will be doomed for overwork and its consequences. The next shot of overwork satisfies the urge for self-esteem and most likely also recognition from peers, colleagues and supervisors. This is an unbelievably heavy drug and addiction terribly hard to resist. (4) Who keeps pushing the agenda of overwork? We know for sure that it is not your children. If you have none, you will be at a higher risk to overwork and to push the overwork agenda compared to others, just because compared to families your time budget leaves more reserve capacity for time to rest. Employers set powerful incentives to reward any form of overtime and thereby overwork not only in pecuniary form, but also more rapid career advancement. Strongest and most addictive is your very own behaviour not to respect limits to working time. (5) Remedies to overwork are only partly in your own command. Of course, getting more sleep, doing more exercise, walk instead of drive to work are all fine. However, we need to address the danger of addiction, especially when we do not want to admit our dependency on overwork for self-esteem and recognition by others. Getting together with like-minded persons, for example, in trade unions, will make it easier to get collective solutions to isolated overwork. Higher wages should allow you to get more rest as you earn the same absolute amount with less input of hours. The danger of working even more, because the incentive to put in an extra hour of work has risen at the same time. Be aware of this “duality of higher pay”. Societies have lots of reasons to redistribute work. Between women and men, young and old as well as the “overworked” and “underworked”.


Im K21 der Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen ist ein Luftschloss eingebaut worden. Es ist das einzige mir bekannte Luftschloss, das für alle Besuchenden begehbar und fühlbar ist. In wahrhaft luftiger Höhe von 25+ Metern über der Eingangshalle der Kunsthalle K21 und zentral unter der gläsernen Dachkuppel platziert, lässt sich mal so richtig abhängen. Nahezu schwebend kann die weiträumige Installation von Tomás Saraceno erklommen werden. Die Schritte und wippenden Bewegungen der anderen BesucherInnen lassen sich unvermittelt ebenfalls erspüren. Du bist nicht allein, im originären Sinne des Wortes. Die buchstäbliche Vernetzung mit allen anderen Personen werden durch Schwingungen des Netzes zu anderen Kletternden oder Chillenden übertragen. Eine unmittelbar erlebbare Erfahrung der Verbundenheit mit unbekannten, anderen Menschen stellt sich ein. Die Verbundenheit innerhalb einer Gesellschaft wird eindringlich verdeutlicht. Die Angst, durch die Höhe verursacht, weicht rasch der freudigen Erfahrung der Schwebung und der kindlichen Erfahrung der Suspension. Nahezu freischwebend in der Luft, im Orbit erlebt jede/r sein eigenes Luftschloss inmitten von transparenten Kugeln, die wie Planeten wirken. Gleichsam real, aber dennoch imaginär durchwandern wir die Installation immer im Bewusstsein, dass andere um uns sind, die unsere Schritte, Möglichkeiten und Haltungen mit beeinflussen. Vom Luftschloss träumen oder im Luftschloss träumen, beides ist dort machbar.
CO2 freundlich lässt sich die Erfahrung in der APP Aerocene fortsetzen. Der für unser Wetter so bedeutsame Jetstream wird zur imaginären Flugerfahrung genutzt und mit recht aktuellen Daten gespeist. Die Verbindung zu „Earth and Space Sciences“ ermöglicht die Einbettung der sozialen Erfahrung in einen noch weiteren Kontext.
Die eigenen 4 Wände sind die Grenze. Das galt schon früher nicht. Weit darüber hinaus lassen sich neue Möglichkeiten erschließen, die nicht umweltbelastend sind. Selbst die Reichstagskuppel in Berlin sehe ich plötzlich mit ganz anderen Augen. Mehr als Möglichkeitsraum, statt der traurigen Vergangenheit und der zerstrittenen Gegenwart. Was wäre die Kunst, wenn sie nicht zum Träumen anregen würde.


In den öffentlichen Bibliotheken ist ein Generationswechsel der Besuchenden überfällig. Traditionell finden sich 4 unterschiedliche Gruppen von Personen in den öffentlichen Bibliotheken wieder. Da sind (1) die bildungsaffinen Rentenempfangenden, (2) die Eltern mit Kleinkind(ern), (3) Wärme- oder Kühle suchende Menschen der Umgebung und (4) die Schul-, Hochschul- oder Examensvorbereitenden. Soziologisch betrachtet ist das ein interessantes Aufeinandertreffen von gesellschaftlichen Randgruppen.
Die „Neue Zentralbibliothek im KAP1“ (Düsseldorf) hat aus diesen meist unverbunden nebeneinander operierenden Gruppen eine kommunikative Gemeinschaft produziert. Aktion und Interaktion ist nun angesagt. Der Flyer betont richtungsweisend: „Menschen, Bücher, Räume“. Fortan soll der Mensch und seine Lernfähigkeit im Vordergrund stehen, nicht mehr nur die Bücher. Dazu braucht es meistens anders oder umgestaltete Räume. Lernen war immer schon interaktiv und nur in Teilen allein im stillen Kämmerlein. Dazu braucht es Labs als Lernräume und nicht nur die Stille der „Page-turner“. Lernboxen, Lernstudio, Musikstudio sowie eine „Kreativschmiede“. Dort wird heute gepodcasted, 3D gedruckt und es werden social-media Kanäle entworfen und betrieben, immer schön generationsübergreifend. Voneinander Lernen ist das Motto nicht mehr nur nebeneinander und im Wettbewerb um die beste Bewertung. Kollaboration und gesellschaftlicher Zusammenhalt brauchen neue Räume, dem KAP1 in der Düsseldorfer Zentralbibliothek ist dabei schon viel gelungen. Die zentrale innenstädtische Lage ganz nah am Hauptbahnhof ist ein zusätzliches Asset. Ansonsten hätte ich mich wohl nicht auf der Durchreise dorthin verlaufen. Ein Random-Walk in Bahnhofsnähe, verursacht durch verpasste Verbindungen der Bahn, hat zu einer unerwarteten, bereichernden Zwischenpause geführt. Der Ausblick aus dem Café auf das übliche innerstädtische Verkehrschaos konnte umgeben von Alt und Jung richtig genossen werden.

Selfie 3D

Wir meinen gerne die heutigen Gewohnheiten, wie die ständigen Selbstbildnisse seien eine Erscheinung des 21. Jahrhunderts. Weit gefehlt. Wer es sich früher schon leisten konnte, hat sich malen lassen. Photographen haben später diesen Markt übernommen. Aber eben auch Kunstschaffende haben seit langer Zeit ihr Selbstbildnis gezeichnet, gemalt und in Stein oder Gips geformt. Selfies sind daher eher die Demokratisierung der Möglichkeiten, sich selbst zu inszenieren. Eben sich so zu portraitieren, wie sie oder er sich selbst sieht, sehen möchte oder gesehen werden möchte. Es ist daher weniger ein narzisstischer Charakterzug die Antriebsfeder, sondern für die meisten Menschen steht ein Teilen, eine Form der Interaktion mit anderen im Vordergrund. Die portraitierte Person ist da, auch wenn sie gerade nicht da ist.
Diese Intention haben Herrschende jahrtausendelang genutzt und sich Mausoleen und Pyramiden errichten lassen. Gut, dass diese Praxis weit in den Hintergrund getreten ist. Heute regeln wir bereits unseren digitalen Nachlass in Ergänzung zu unserer analogen Hinterlassenschaft. Für viele werden dabei, ganze Sammlungen von vielfältigen Selbstbildnissen zu verwalten sein. Die 3D-Ausdrucke unserer Gesichtscanns samt mehr oder weniger noch vorhandener Haarpracht kommen dann in eine eigens vorbereitete Vitrine. Selbstverständlich gehören die MRTs und sonstige Scanns von ZahnärztInnen auch in die Sammlung. 3D ist schon ein guter Anfang auf der Interaktionsreise mittels Selbstbildnis. 4D Realisationen, wie Yoko Ono mit ihrem Cut Piece 1967 kamen dann später. (Photos from Friedrichwerderschen Museumskirche, Berlin 2023 Austellung Ideal und Form, li: Schadow Selbstbildnis, mi: von Kahle, re: Rauch).

Biermann poetic

Wolf Biermann is probably most known and still controversial in Germany. His outspokenness in the GDR already caused a lot of trouble leading to his forced expatriation, but a warm welcome in the FRG. Most people from the baby boom generations know some of his songs prominent in the peace movements of the 1970s. Much less know is his relentless fascination with poetry. The Staatsbibliothek Berlin devoted 2 readings to his translations of poetry of Shakespeare and his French preferred poets and song writers. The expert reading and intonation of the French originals and Biermann’s translations was presented with enthusiasm as part of “the poetic coffee break” in the modern Stabi West. Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel presented in a lively fashion some of the work of Biermann and his remarks on the idiosyncratic style of Wolf Biermann were very much to the point. The translations form a unique style of translations, where it is possible to identify Biermann as translator. Here we enter into the theory of translation, where we tend to view the personality of the translator secondary to the first author of a poem. In Biermann’s case he seems to deviate consciously from this path. Doing translations becomes a kind of exercise to work and improve your own poetic skills. Exercise in metrics, lyrics and melody appear like a meditation on classical texts. In the translations from French, more than the ones from English, there is at occasions an additional critical or “Verfremdungseffekt” present, which enhances the translations with respect to the original. What are those translations? Perhaps more intended as “Pastiche” as the translators version of “rendre hommage” to his idols. In any case a memorable series of events in the Stabi. The small exposition of mainly books is another highlight, which facilitates the glancing through and reading of more of the writings of Wolf Biermann. The DHM has additional material on life and career of Biermann in a current exhibition. The strength of cultural institutes is the cooperation on specific projects. All in all, this is a great and rewarding effort honoring a troubadour between and beyond frontiers just like Bob Dylan, the other now acclaimed hero of the peace movement.

Hinrich Schmidt-Henkel in Stabi 2023-9-12
Lese Lounge Wolf Biermann 2023-9

Participative Art

Beyond participation in the performance based on Yoko Ono’s Cut piece 1964, you had the possibility to imagine yourself as a sculptor by touching a sculpture of art attached to the Genzken exposition, nothing less than the head and bust of Nefertete, also a piece transformed by Genzken and exposed, untouchable, in the exposition. You can hardly get more involved and incited to participate with hands-on experience, so to speak.
Additionally, there is the perspective from the performing artist in “Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece” to confront the spectators with a silent, stoic expression hardly moving during the more than 90 minutes performance. Imagine, what kind of vulnerability you are risking. Artists give a lot from themselves to the public. Imagination is even going beyond the act performed. Mastering your own fear of mutilation or being exposed to views, touching and multiple other forms of sensation.
This surely is an exercise of mental strength. Spectators also interact with other participants as, for example, spontaneously another spectator too the scissors to cut his own shirt in front of the performing artist and covered the shoulder of the performer. The personal interaction assures a more intense experience of art.
After all, this is a well-known principle to enhance learning experiences as well. Imagine all the people, each taking just a tiny little piece and remember their experience that they, as well, can be actively contributing to art. Reviving this participatory experience is leading beyond imagining only your participation. Democracy is built on this stimulating experience as well. It is ever so necessary to foster participation and to overcome indifference or abstention. Learning  by doing, or experiencing through touching, offer many additional insights.
(Images and videos taken on 2023-9-12, Berlin)

Yoko Ono Cut Piece 2023 Berlin


Almost 50 years after the first performance of Yoko Ono “cut piece” (1964), as a silent performance, it was performed again at the beginning of the Berlin Art Week (BAW2023). The “Neue Nationalgalerie” opened the art week somehow, in honour of her. The performance consists in the interaction with the audience inviting persons to approach her in front of the other spectators to cut a piece of her dress. They are allowed to keep the cutting and walk away with a little piece of her dress. In the 60s this was quite a big deal. Nowadays, after the fall of the wall and the wrap-up of the Reichstag by the Christo couple, we have become used to such kinds of take-home pieces and sharing in art work or historic moments. Hence, this was the chance for Berliners to add another valuable piece to their collection consisting of a piece of painted concrete from the Berlin wall as of 1989, Christo-foil in 1995 from the Reichstag and now the tissue from the live performance in honor of Yoko Ono.
The participation in the art performance invites several interesting approaches.
First the artist exposes herself in an extremely vulnerable fashion. The scissors in front of her make for a weapon in the hands of an aggressive person. Therefore, the number of security guards was beyond the scope of a normal protection of art hanging on the wall or sculptures exposed. In the background of the performance is the exposition of work from Isa Genzken which has been much less of a security risk. Her super-size rose in front of the gallery is accessible night and day. Some of the images taken have a somewhat blurred, more distant view on some pieces of Genzken’s work as well. The entry hall of the Neue Nationalgalerie allows a fabulous transparency of art and invites persons passing-by to attend spontaneously the performance as well.
(Images and videos taken on 2023-9-12, Berlin). Video Clip here.


Jede/r hat so seine Assoziationen mit Li_be. Für eine kleine Gruppe von Literaturbegeisterten steht Li-Be seit langem für das Literaturhaus Berlin. Das war nun ebenfalls, anlässlich des Tag des Offenen Denkmals, im September 2023, als solches zu besichtigen. Zentral am Ku’damm plaziert, in der benachbarten Fasanenstraße, liegt diese geschichtsträchtige Villa in mitten eines kleinen Gartens. Trotz wechselvoller Geschichte konnte die Villa als Ganzes erhalten werden, nachdem der Denkmalschutz Veränderungen untersagt hatte. Das Haus der Li-Be hat wirklich alles gesehen, was Leute sich unter Liebe so vorstellen und wahrscheinlich noch einiges mehr. Nach den familiären Nutzungen der Gründerzeit, wurde in den wilden 20er Jahren dort ein russischer und ein arabischer Studentenclub eingerichtet in Verbindung mit der Humboldt-Stiftung, die sich auch heute noch um den wissenschaftlichen Austausch bemüht. Das Rote Kreuz hatte eine erfolgreiche Suppenküche dort in der unmittelbaren Nachkriegszeit betrieben. In den 60er Jahren war es ein Nachtlokal, aber auch einige Jahre ein Studio für modernen Tanz von Manja Chmiél, einer Schülerin von Mary Wigman. Die heutige Nutzung hat weiterhin viel mit Liebe zu tun. Lesungen und Workshops laden laufend ein, sich mit Literatur zu befassen. Der Zeit angemessen finden sich in den Archiven des Literaturhauses zahlreiche Prominente AutorInnen, die Lesungen dort abgehalten haben. Starke Frauen bildeten dabei seit den Anfängen als Literaturhaus einen Schwerpunkt. Nobelpreisträgerinnen gehören zu den Vorleserinnen seit geraumer Zeit. Annie Ernaud und Herta Müller traten schon lange vor den Nobelpreisen dort auf. Toni Morrison und Olga Tokarczuk im  Jahr der Preisverleihung oder kurz danach. Ein wahrlich toller Ort und dennoch keineswegs mit BesucherInnen überlaufen. Es bleibt eben so eine Sache mit der Liebe, auch im Li-Be.


Jörg Widmann hat seinen Einstand bei den Berliner Philharmonikern als „Composer in Residence“ gegeben. Die Schwester, Carolin Widmann interpretierte das Violinkonzert Nr. 2 von Jörg Widmann als Solistin. Das war ein ganz besonderer Abend. Die Widmanns haben doch tatsächlich gemeinsam die Einführung in das Programm des Abends mitgestaltet, eine ¾ Stunde vor dem Konzert im großen Saal der Philharmonie. Mit Begeisterung haben die beiden Geschwister von der gemeinsamen Zeit der Entdeckungen rund um die Violine in ihrer Kindheit erzählt. Damit wird die faszinierende kindlich, unschuldige, nahezu naive unbedarfte Herangehensweise an das Instrument verdeutlicht, die so charakteristisch ist für den Anfang des Violinkonzerts. Die Entdeckung eines Klangkörpers (vom einzelnen Instrument bis zum Tutti) geht aber rasch weiter zu einer Demonstration der vielfältigen Gefühls- und Virtuositätsregister der Violine. Paganini lässt grüßen, könnte man meinen.
Kaum klingt eine virtuose Passage an, da hinterfragt der Komponist die eigene Begeisterung. Ist das nicht einfach nur Akrobatik, um dem Publikum zu gefallen? Zweifel stellen sich ein und etwas Distanz zum gefälligen Wohlklang. Reflektierte Virtuosität, der Soziologe würde vielleicht auch reflexive Virtuosität als kompositorisches Element verwenden wollen. Notation von Musik und Klängen hat seit dem wohltemperierten Klavier relativ feste Vorgaben. Daran hat sich Jörg Widmann zu 98 Prozent wohl gehalten. Die anfängliche Erkundung des Klangkörpers Violine lässt sich aber nur anders notieren. Innovativ, mit mehr Raum für Interpretation in der Aufführungspraxis. Das betonte so auch die Schwester, die nun wirklich dem Komponisten sehr eng verbunden ist. Interessant war daher ihr Kommentar, dass diese Anfangsstelle für sie gleichsam die größte Herausforderung darstellt.
Die folgende „Fantasie für Klarinette solo“ von Jörg Widmann passte daher gut zu dieser Erkundungsreise von Instrumenten des Symphonieorchesters. Die Klarinette hat in allen Musikepochen und Stilrichtungen ihren Platz behauptet. All diese Anklänge lassen sich in dem Solo, welches der Komponist selbst dargeboten hat, wiederfinden.
Nach dieser aufregenden Reise durch die Jahrhunderte der Musikgeschichte stand die „Reformationssymphonie“ von Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy auf dem Programm. Spannend war die Umsetzung „dieser Art von Teufelsaustreibung“ (Worte von Jörg Widmann) mit dem „2. jüdischen“ Satz und dem „3. protestantischen“ Satz der Symphonie in denen Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy seine beiden Wurzeln in den Gesängen und Liturgien in Andeutungen aufnimmt. Mit Klängen und Fängen der ausgehenden Romantik wurden wir in den weiteren Abend entlassen, samt Eindrücken aus der Ausstellung zu der Entstehung (60 Jahre) und der Architektur der Berliner Philharmonie und dem Scharoun Ensemble (40 Jahre) der Gebäude einschließlich der Stabi West. Das Mendelssohn Archiv hat in der benachbarten Stabi West einen kleinen, feinen Ausstellungsraum mitten im großen Lesesaal. So haben wir einen umfassenden Rundblick und Ausblick genießen können, die dem Kulturforum in eindrücklicher, dennoch unaufdringlicher Weise, eine hervorragende Stellung einräumen.
(Image: Jörg Widmann jenseits des Schattens von Furtwängler 2023-9-9)


Jedes Jahr gibt es die hervorragende Möglichkeit am Tag des offenen Denkmals, historisch wertvolle Gebäude und Anlagen zu besichtigen. An heißen Tagen, wie in 2023, sind Altbauten oder klimatisierte Räumlichkeiten besonders bevorzugt. Die Philharmonie hat erneut die Möglichkeit geboten ohne langwierige Voranmeldung, spontan vorbeizukommen und an einer Führung teilzunehmen. Das von Hans Scharoun entworfene Gebäude samt seiner akustischen Spitzfindigkeiten bietet spannende Einblicke. Stille, Sound und Noise in einem Gebäude und Konzertsaal will sorgfältig geplant sein. Kompromisse mit verfügbaren finanziellen Mitteln und Planungsverfahren gehören zur baulichen Realisierung, wie eventuell zu den Kompositionen, die dort aufgeführt werden. Heute erscheint uns die gelungene Akustik als historischer Meilenstein. Ebenso die Form des Konzertsaals mit Plätzen hinter dem Orchester, aber auf das Gesicht der Dirigierenden bietet einzigartige Einblicke in die Praxis der Aufführung. Für 10 Minuten war selbst bei der Führung zufällig ein Zuschauen bei der Generalprobe der Berliner Philharmoniker von weitem erlaubt. Komponist und Dirigent Jörg Widmann probte noch Ausschnitte aus der am Abend aufzuführenden Werke. Selbst hoch unter dem Dach der Philharmonie konnten die leisen Ansagen des Dirigenten leicht verstanden werden. Akustische Meisterleistung der Architekten. Wer hätte gedacht, dass Anfang der 60er Jahre eine solche Glanzleistung möglich war, im Berlin, das gerade erst durch die Mauer getrennt werden sollte und dann geteilt überleben musste.

Entwurf Hans Scharoun Ausgestellt in Berliner Philharmonie 2023

Write, write, write

A poster announcing the “internationales literaturfestival berlin 2023” prints in big letters: “Read, read, read, … 14 times”. This is a quote from Werner Herzog when he was asked what makes a good filmmaker. The message from Manjeet Mann to the young audience at Berlin added to this: “write, write, write”. At least this was my impression as a summary of the talk and her short readings from her novel in verse “The crossing”.
The lecture hall of the “Stabi” was packed with students from high-school who felt at ease with the English language presentation and talk. The host Shiva Mesgarian managed to get the crowd of students to ask questions in the huge lecture theatre. Manjeet was giving a lot of insights into writing, editing, motivation and the difficulty to give a voice to persons from marginalized backgrounds. In her case as a person of colour herself, born and raised in England with additional links to India, she took issue with the topic of refugees. Living in Folkestone (Kent), she is confronted with people crossing the Channel on a daily basis.
Her book “The crossing” is actually building bridges between countries and continents. Her entertaining way to talk about her hard work as writer motivates, inspires and encourages young persons to pick up their pencil and/or notebook to start writing. Just don’t stop. Journaling helps. Take your emotions of an issue seriously, then work on it. Give characters a voice who have not received much attention. Go out and interview persons to get authentic input.
It is not about appropriation of a story. It is about meeting and exchanging with marginalised persons. Return your written pieces to those “sensitive readers”, whose story you attempt to develop. All this takes time. Re-writing is an important element as well. “Having written the story for yourself, you then re-write it for the readers”. Edit, clarify, sharpen, blur, attend to detail – all this helps the reader to follow and enjoy. These were the messages to all the students who were grateful for advice as the new season of essay writing in school, university and beyond is about to start.


Ozone (O3) has a rather mixed reputation. High up in the stratosphere it protects us from too much radiation from the sun, but down on earth in our respiratory environment it causes and amplifies respiratory difficulties. Hence, it is very important to differentiate the 2 different layers and differential effects of concentrations of ozone in the air. A forthcoming study in the Lancet Regional Health Europe (Nov. 2023) by Tianyu Zhao et al. demonstrates the long-term, negative effect of higher concentrations of Ozone on lung function. The prospective cohort study followed individuals in multiple states and locations over 20 years and corrects estimated effects for other environmental effects (fine particles PM 2.5 pollution) and green environment. Faster decline in spirometric lung function is highly likely to be caused by higher ambient ozone concentrations. The study is based on 3000+ observations from 17 centres in 8 countries in Europe. Older persons in the range from 35 to 55 had a steeper decline in ozone-related decline in lung functions.
This is rather bad news for older persons living in inner cities where both ozone concentrations, mainly in summer, heat and micro-particles cumulate. Similarly, areas with frequent so-called inversion micro-climate, (a layer of cold air on top of SMOG blocks the renewal of air for extended periods) face particular health risks. Professions that work long durations outside in the sun or the exercise of sports during high ozone day-time run higher risks for a deterioration of their lung functions in the long-run. The medical evidence is there now, also for Europe, what had been shown already for the US before.
It is time to adapt our lifestyle to these health risks. High effort physical work outside should start as early as possible in the morning hours or even before sun rise. Staying indoors is highly recommendable for older persons and persons with reduced lung functions (asthma risks) during such periods of high ozone concentrations. Like it or not, even wearing a mask outside, when it is sunny and hot would be preferential, but is rather inconvenient. We need to shift airing living rooms or offices without climatization to early morning hours rather than ambient temperatures in the afternoon, when ozone peaks are prevalent.
These effects and remedies have been known for some time, but the evidence is much more compelling now (Zhao et al. 2023). Climate change in form of global and local warming, particularly in inner cities, will only exacerbate these effects in the coming years. Prevention measures need to be considered in public health measures as well as urban planning. We can do it, if we want to. Start now to benefit from the effects a decade later or for the benefit of younger generations. (Image: Int. Encycl. of public health, p.702).


Seit der Antike sind Bogenschützen und Archer ein Thema der Künste. Meistens ist die männliche Repräsentation die dominierende Variante. In Berlin lässt aber auch seit langem eine starke weibliche Realisierung bewundern. Nahe dem Pergamon Museum und der Alten Nationalgalerie steht die Statue der Bogenspannerin. Die Zielrichtung geht Richtung Hedwigsdom, als ob der Kampf zwischen Kunst und Religion ein andauernder wäre. Erfahrene Stadtzeichnerinnen, aber auch Jugendliche fühlen sich dadurch angeregt. Kunstschaffende können einen nachhaltigen Einfluss haben. Innerhalb Berlins ist nicht nur die Vielfalt der Kulturen zu bestaunen, sondern auch der Wettbewerb der Künste um Aufmerksamkeit. Da werden nach Regierungswechseln oft viele Bögen gespannt. Bleibt abzuwarten, wen es alles dieses Mal treffen wird.

Energy Ethics

Around the topic of energy there many ethical issues that urgently need sorting out. Carlos Diaz-Rodriguez and co-authors have provided a sound basis for such ethical considerations. To leave the disastrous path of energy provision through polluting fossil fuels and, additionally very risky, nuclear energy, they propose a departure from the principles and values that have guided us into a dead end. In their opinion we suffer from a mistaken belief to be able to control in extremis, through scientific methods, the forces of nature. In ethics this mistaken belief has roots in religious beliefs that mankind is mandated to make the earth subordinate to its own will. The authors propose to overcome this old paradigm with a new paradigm. This builds on the (1) “precautionary principle”, (2) justice as equity, (3) protection and the (4) principle of responsibility.
Most European readers of philosophy and social science are familiar with these principles. The virtue of the paper is to expose and juxtapose these principles in a clear format and a stringent application to the ethics of energy (production as well as consumption of it).
The precautionary principle is part of the European treaty on the functioning of the European Union Art. 191, but its implementation on energy issues reveals that it is a tiger without teeth. Younger generations across the globe are right to claim a more forceful implementation of this principle.
The perspective of justice as equity is bringing in later born generations as well into the balance costs and benefits of “cheap energy today” but huge costs of dismantling, repairing, stocking deferred to the future.
The protection principle refers to the loss of biodiversity and exploiting resources in areas of world heritage, for example.
The principle of responsibility goes beyond the judicial and economic principle that the person, company or state causing damage through exploitation of resources, and in producing energy with it, has to pay for repairing those damages.
As this is hard to achieve in real terms, there is an urgent need to reiterate the responsibility principle at all levels. Despite the inefficiencies of legal systems, the international legal order in particular, there is no way around than to insist on responsibility from the individual behaviour, company strategic goals as well as objectives set by nation states and international organisations. The Paris agreement and all COP XY conferences only prove the fact that irresponsibility continues to be a guiding principle.
Maximalist positions as well as continuing like decades before is failing people on earth. Organising a discourse on these ethical issues is a first step, but we have to be able to address negationists as well.
The missing principle so far is the solidarity principle. Without a firm commitment to intergenerational and international solidarity we shall remain unable to solve the ethical puzzle. It is high time to organise solidarity related to the field of energy.
(Image: “The fallen tree of knowledge” by Fabrice Samyn. Exposition in Yerres, France 2021-11)

Smart watch

Das Handgelenk hat noch viel Platz für elektronische Geräte. Vom preiswerten Schrittzähler bis zur smart watch und intelligenten Armreifen oder sogar Ringen gibt es dort viel Potential für Innovation. Jenseits der Schritte werden mittels vielfältiger Sensoren eine Fülle von Daten erfasst. Datenschützer erschaudern geradezu. Das Potential für medizinische und soziologische Auswertungen dieser Daten ist immens. Vergleichbar mit einer elektronischen Waage, die Knochenmasse, Wasser und Muskeln erfasst erlauben die smarten Uhren noch mit Ungenauigkeiten, aber stetig besser werdend, kardiologische Werte und Schlafrhythmus zu erfassen.
Mit Daten von tausenden bald Millionen Datenlieferanten lassen sich wichtige Studien zur Früherkennung von Gesundheitsrisiken durchführen. Plötzlicher Herzstillstand ist eines der immer noch wenig aufgeklärten Phänomene. Die Studie im LANCET digital health hat solche Daten ausgewertet und kommt zu der Schlussfolgerung, dass dyspnoea für Frauen und Männer der größten Risikofaktoren darstellt. Für Frauen wird Entwarnung gegeben für Diaphoresis, exzessives Schwitzen, aber nicht für Männer. Letztere sollten Schmerzen in der Brust ebenfalls ernst nehmen. Daten sammeln kann durchaus Leben retten.
Dennoch droht dem Gesundheitswesen eventuell eine Welle an falsch positiven Selbsteinweisungen in der Notaufnahme der Krankenhäuser. Darauf sind wir noch wenig vorbereitet, inklusive der möglichen rechtlichen und finanziellen Konsequenzen. “Big brothers are smart watching you”. Müssen Ärzte die smarte Evidenz berücksichtigen, etwa so wie eine Patientenverfügung? Was wenn plötzlich der Notarzt unaufgefordert an der Tür klingelt? Wer hat meine Uhr gehackt, … , singt das Paulchen Panther jetzt.

Stabi locker

Die Staatsbibliothek Berlin in der Potsdamerstraße macht sich mal richtig locker. Neben all dem gebundenen und gebündeltem Wissen gibt es eine kleine, etwas versteckte Ecke in der richtig gechillt werden kann. Mit aktuellen Tageszeitungen in Papier und online lässt sich gut pausieren. Eine tolle Aussicht gibt es zusätzlich. Selbst eine vorübergehende Schließung wegen überfälliger Sanierung wird die Stabi bei den Wissbegierigen eine wichtige Location vermissen lassen (fehlende Bücher).
Neben Wissensmaschine ist die Stabi eine Lernanstalt erster Klasse. Die Anzahl der mitgebrachten dicken Gesetzbüchern samt Kommentaren lassen einen immer wieder staunen über den Mangel an stillen Lernorten an Universitäten und in Privatwohnungen. Die richtige Lernumgebung befördert den Ansporn, noch eine extra Meile zu gehen. Wissbegierig ja, aber es braucht auch viel Durchhaltevermögen bei ständig wachsenden Ablenkungsmöglichkeiten. Gemeinsam, einsam, allein mit sich und dem Wissen lässt sich vorzüglich dicke Bretter bohren. Das ist ein wichtiger Teil, das Lernen zu lernen. Kunst am Bau und im Bau gibt es gratis dazu. Die Nähe zur Ablenkungsindustrie am Potsdamer Platz, Kinos, Spielbank und Fresstempel kann da getrost auf ihre späteren Opfer warten. Mit Regionalzügen und S-Bahn kommt man von dort rasch wieder weit weg.

Barbie explore

The film on Barbie after more than 60 years of the first puppets to arrive on the market is a huge money spinning exercise. Hitting more than 1 billion $ is really a huge box office success. More interesting even is the banning of the film in some countries like Algeria. This gives the film an interesting subversive touch to it, which we in the Western countries no longer see as something special. Emancipated women pose a threat to authoritarian regimes.
However, we see in the stereotypes of beauty-driven dolls not that much of an emancipatory chance. To view emancipation independent of the looks of a person is another interesting twist to the role in stereotypes of beauty. It is not only fun to play around with stereotypes, that is mostly, if you are not negatively affected by them (age, gender, ethnicity, extraordinary persons). A nice task for sociology and psychology to explain the working of stereotypes in society and possible remedies. Tolerance is a competence that needs to be learned and updated continuously, from early age onwards.
Therefore, the website created by the US Design Agency Rvnway offers an entertaining way to play around and learn about stereotypes. Perceived, generalized beauty or gender roles can be explored using the tool. Maybe some see themselves differently after such explorations. Everybody is a model. This is the message. www.bairbie.me will let you explore other formats of yourself. After 3-D rendering and printing your children or grandchildren will decide what role they would like you to play in their playfull, or virtual “real” life. I suppose many of us will be up for a big surprise. Go on and imagine in 4D. In the age of selfies all around us, all the time, we believe we are very modern, but the artists of the 19th and 20th century following all great painters before, frequently started their careers with an “autoportrait” or “Selbstbildnis” or series of those as they were aging.

More Design

How about a subject like Design in school. Rather than the same old boring teaching manuals in art, music, economics or social science, young learners have always been attracted to making things by themselves. The theoretical context is then coming to the subjects and objects more naturally. Economics as market design, design social security for platform workers, sound or furniture design could bring in the creative potential of the learners. Lessons learned through subsequent applications or realizations of prototypes allows the link of theory and practice. A school garden would even be a fantastic cross-discipline learning opportunity.

The most difficult part is probably to find competent coaches to guide the learners exploring and designing. The world is not perfect, so why should learners not be confronted with imperfections in learning set-ups. The most fun part in science is when experiments go wrong, hopefully not too badly though. Catching learners by their curiosity is very likely to get them hooked on more thorny scientific questions as well. Across Europe holidays are coming to an end and millions of pupils go back to their benches and rigid curricula. We should really care more about the next generation.

Vitra Design Exhibition and Campus 2023

Europa Meer

Europa und das Meer, so lautet der Titel eines Buches und Katalogs zu einer Ausstellung des Deutschen Historischen Museums (DHM) aus dem Jahr 2018. In 2023 im August sind die Zeitungen voll mit Artikeln über Meererwärmung und die schwerwiegenden Folgen für Menschheit und Bio-diversität. Die Geschichte der Beziehung zwischen Europa und dem Meer ist leidvoll und euphorisch zugleich. Alljährlich zur Sommerszeit wird das Mittelmeer von Wellen mit Touristen überspült die „over-tourism“ erleiden müssen. Menschen sind oft eine in Massen, aber nicht in Maßen, auftretende Spezies. Das Meer spielt zusätzlich eine faszinierende, verheißungsvolle Anziehungskraft aus. Europa sieht sich zudem gerne noch als Dreh- und Angelpunkt der Weltgeschichte.

Der Ausstellungskatalog enthält lesenswerte Beiträge von der Antike übers Mittelalter bis in die Neuzeit. Die Thematisierung von Herrschafts- und Handelsräumen , Brückenschlagen und Grenzziehungen, Meer als Ressource bis hin zum Sehnsuchts- und Imaginationsort bieten eine originelle Herangehensweise. Schon 2018 enthielt der Katalog einen Beitrag zum Massengrab Mittelmeer sowie zum Sehnsuchtsort Hafenmetropole Odessa.

Migration in ferne Länder samt der Verheißung eines vermeintlich besseren Lebens sind so alt wie die Menschheit. Die Weite des Meeres suggeriert zusätzlich die Möglichkeit des Neuanfangs und Althergebrachtes, hinter sich zu lassen. Freiwillig oder gezwungen, das ist dabei oft die entscheidende, unterscheidende Frage.

Kelani Abass, Casing history, Gropiusbau 2023

Politicians and Literature

Biographies as well as autobiographies of politicians receive a lot of attention. Even spouses of politicians or artists benefit from this sensational effect (Obama). But beyond these ex-post or after-office effects, it is more interesting to look at what literature or authors have had an impact on the life and, maybe, office of presidents. So-called literary couples or specific relationships between artists or authors can reveal interesting additional information to understand “what made these personalities”.
In “Le Monde” there is a series of articles devoted to such relationships. It is a kind of romantic summer reading satisfying nosy looks into the private lives of politicians and other celebrities of a more intellectual kind. On the 25th of August 2023 it was the turn of the relationship between Francois Mitterrand and Marguerite Duras entitled … “menteurs sublimes, forcément”.
Their long-standing relationship had in common to cover-up some of their failures in the Nazi-occupied France.
Post-war each person had more than just sympathy for the other person’s accomplishments. The interesting feature to accept advice and criticism from the other person is rare for highly exposed persons. Relationships between artists and presidents are somehow tricky for both. As artist you can get instrumentalised by power rather quickly. As politician you run the risk to open-up too much, as they are rarely unobserved. Paparazzi or other agents go a long way to get or make up a good story. “Tell me what you read, and I tell you who you are”. The relationship between literature, politics and politicians will never be easy. It remains good stuff for literature and cinema.