Schinkel Winkel

Was wäre Berlin ohne Schinkel. Die Berlinerin sagt sogar, „in jedem Winkel steht ein Schinkel“. Das trifft das historische Berlin schon recht gut. Am Charlottenburger Schloss mit seinem schönen rechteckigen Parkanlagen, ganz nah, steht das sogenannte „Schinkel Palais“, genauer heißt es das Neuer Pavillon. Wenn Könige reisen ließen sie schon mal ganz gerne eine Kopie einer schönen Architektur in ihrem Park anfertigen. Das Vorbild eines italienischen Palazzos war hinreichend eindrucksvoll, um Schinkel mit einem Nachbau zu beauftragen. Viele rechte Winkel ließ der Schinkel mauern. Die verhältnismäßig kleinen Innenräume sind heute mit zeitgenössischen Bildern ausstaffiert. Da darf der Caspar David Friedrich natürlich nicht fehlen. 200 Jahre nach Beginn des Bauens am Schinkel Pavillon lässt sich noch recht gut sozusagen in die Epoche eintauchen. In einem etwas abgelegenen Winkel vom großen Schloss lässt sich somit die Zeitreise architektonisch Fortsetzen und mit weiteren Kunstgegenständen verknüpfen. Es ergibt sich so eine „dichte Beschreibung“ der Berlin prägenden Epoche.

Schinkel Pavillon 2024-5

Time Perception

There are many different angles from which to look at time. Of course, we all do it several times a day or during boring meetings. The study by Ma, Cameron and Wiener (2024) highlights the bi-directional link of perceived time and memorability. Visual stimuli alter our perception of time. Watching a video we all make the experience that the perceived length of the time spent watching varies according to content and maybe only the cutting technique applied to shorten the perceived length. Similarly it has been demonstrated that looking for longer at an image and grasp the meaning or implicit story we tend to remember the image for longer. In courts it is a usual procedure to question the memory capacity of persons and the sources of bias. The study by Ma et al. demonstrates the impact of the size of the scene, how cluttered it is and aspects of memorability in visual perception. Our memories are co-determined by these factors. The other direction of causality i.e. that memorability determines the time perception seems equally at work. This apparent undetermined element, so far, calls for additional care when analyzing recall from memory. Memory is not only selective in terms of content, it also is subject to the impact of all sorts of visual stimuli.
Time can be many things. For humans it is everything but exact. In science we measure time with ever more exactitude and try to standardize time on the moon now. In addition to exact time, humans have perceived time and subjective versions and even concepts of time. About time to take time more seriously.

Family Kafka

100 years after Franz Kafka’s death nearly all facets of his life and writings have been analyzed. The archives of the editor Wagenbach and the publishing house have now opened an exhibition at the “Stabi Ost” in Berlin adding a family picture book description of Kafka’s life (Curator Hans-Gerd Koch). This is of interest because Kafka himself had written an extensive letter to his father (Brief an den Vater) in which he tries to understand his intricate relationship with his father and other family members.
Nowadays, some people would try to analyze Kafka’s life through the parapsychological technique of family constellations. The far-reaching and pan-European family networks of the Kafka (father) and Löwy (mother) families were more than just an excellent source of inspiration. 2 younger brothers died in their first year. 3 younger sisters followed more traditional evolutionary patterns within families. The television series on Kafka’s life add to the understanding of his sources of inspiration and “parallel worlds” he created and lived in. The exceptional “fictionalization” of his own life and existence in the spirit of André Breton’s surrealism remains a milestone in the history of literature.
Kafka himself thought he was not really “instagrammable”at the time, but his image has reached and still reaches millions of people (Link to Picture archive). He himself would probably have defended the thesis that the most powerful images are within us. … and they are hard to escape from.
(Image from Exposition in Staatsbibliothek Berlin 2024-4, QR-code links to reading in originals!)

L’Albatros

Charles Baudelaire has immortalized the albatross in his poem entitled “L’Albatros”. For me it appears like a poem about the beauty of the sea and sea life. The marvelous creatures that populate the sea and its surroundings sometimes seem strange to us. The albatross with its large wings unable to move properly on earth is one of these special animals. They are threatened by human beings in their very survival up to extinction even. A dedicated website to “Les fleurs du mal” with multiple English translations of the same poem may give us the impression that all those who translated the poem wanted to feel this little moment of sublimation like a poet just forgetting for a little while the weight of our earthly existence. The gospel tells us a similar story of life up in the air. It must be so much better to be free and not to be bound to restrictions of gravity. As gods would prefer to stay away from earth just somewhere up in space. The albatross and the sea keep teaching us lessons beyond their physical appearance. (Image bird “dodo” now extinct, model in Berlin Natural History Museum 2024)

Mehr vom Meer

Wir sollten uns mehr um das Meer kümmern. Länder ohne Küsten finden meistens wenig Gründe, warum sie sich um das Meer bemühen sollten. Es ist doch so weit weg. Weit gefehlt. Erderwärmung erhöht die Meerestemperaturen und das wiederum beeinflusst massgeblich die Regenfälle im Inneren der Kontinente. Wir sitzen buchstäblich alle zusammen in einem Boot. Historisch betrachtet war das Meer mindestens seit der Antike Teil des machtpolitischen Kalküls der Beherrschung der Welt und der sie Bewohnenden. Wirtschaftliche Interessen waren ebenfalls Bestandteil der Erkundung und Eroberung des Meeresraums. Die Hansestädte in Europa bieten dazu noch heute gute Beispiele. Nach dem Sklavenhandel sind heute die Überseekabel und Rohstoffe des Meeres die begehrten Schätze des Meeres. Der Artenreichtum der Tiefsee wird erst seit kurzer Zeit intensiver erforscht. Externalisieren von Kosten des Umweltschutzes zu Lasten unserer Meere hat noch wenig Berücksichtigung in Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft gefunden. Tourismus- und Migrationsströme zum Meer, auf dem Meer und über das Meer stellen uns vor große Herausforderungen. Wir werden sicherlich mehr über das Meer reden müssen, und das ist keine Mär. Image aus „Europa und das Meer“ (DHM).

Disappeared

We talk a lot in abstract terms of the loss of biodiversity. In the Museums of Natural History, like the one in Berlin, we can follow the trajectory of extinction of species. The dinosaurs are for most children the greatest attraction. No surprise, they are the biggest ones we have had on our planet. But there is a huge collection of disappeared species represented in the museums which we admire as a lost treasure or species threatened with extinction. Evolution had also created this rather big bird-like creature of the “dodo”. It couldn’t fly anymore and was inhabiting the splendid island of Mauritius. Hungry colonists passing have most likely literally eaten up this rather defenseless animal. Many other extinct species can be admired now only in museums and children feel naturally attached to some species that seem to have human expressions. Panda bears and gorillas rank high on such a list, but also some fish, especially if they smile or look at you straight into your eyes. This should help us take biodiversity and biodegradation more seriously. Children feel intuitively attracted to animals as natural companions. Something we have lost as adults and most of do not even realize this as a deficiency. The Nobel price winning author frm Mauritius has published a collection of short stories „Avers“ which captures the spirit of the island and the loss of species. J.M.G.Le Clézio seems to look at us through the eyes of children or a disappeared species. Magic moments are an escape as well as reason for hope.

Natural History Museum Berlin 2024

Symbol

What is it that makes an object a symbol? Probably, it is the widely shared perception of the meaning of a symbol that turns an object into a symbol. The etymology of the word symbol refers back to the Greek word σύμβολον. The earliest philosophical refer back to the Greek philosopher Aristoteles who deals with symbols when he writes about interpretations. Written words have become powerful symbols in the ancient world. We still have them all around us today. The interpretations of the words as symbols, however, may change considerably over time. Some symbols keep their designation and significance over centuries. Maps are well known to contain lots of symbols for roads, railways, tunnels or height. We learn about these symbols and interpret them in a specific societal context. Science is making ample use of symbols, e.g. chemistry. Different cultures define and apply their own symbols. Colonialism has been a form to impose symbols upon other societies. Throughout history symbols of power have changed as well. Each of those topics is an interesting field of application in itself. Young generations create their own symbols to establish a specific cultural identity or subculture. Urban spaces have been invaded by graffiti that tend to spread symbols as messages or symbols for their own sake.
Sociology has taken up the challenge to identify “status symbols” of groups of society. Possession of gold and silver have long ago been symbols of being rich. Maybe, even today such easily visible symbols play a role in how a person’s role is perceived in societies. Not only for priests etc. dresses have been applied as a symbol. Modern fashion is full of symbols as well. Interpretation of the meaning or even no meaning is an act of becoming conscious of the world around you. From the seriousness of symbols, we have come to the playing around with symbols as expressions of ourselves.
No matter whether we use the word, like water, we all know the chemical symbol H20. An image or art work using the symbol in whatever form will be decoded by us accordingly. However, the meaning we attach to water depends on the environment as well as specific context we (or the artists) are using it in. Cross-cultural competences consist in the awareness that symbols grow out of contexts and need to be interpreted accordingly. It needs a lot of openness, willingness to learn about differences and careful consideration in our everyday world to handle symbols. Doing culture is doing symbols.(Image of art work by Anderegg, Andi taken in 2016)