Competence Nature

Nature can be approached without competence. Emotional attachment is fine. If we delve deeper into the issue, we realize that a lot of processes that have evolved over years or even centuries are hard to study. The learning about nature is manifold and many scientific disciplines deal with nature in the broad sense of the word.
Today the study of nature is scattered across so many disciplines that an overall view of the field seems hard to achieve. This creates a problem to teach a competence to deal with topics around nature. Water, air, species, soil, climate or reproduction are all topics in which we have to make far-reaching individual and collective choices. This requires adequate competences to allow judgments about opportunities and risks involved.
For more than 100 years now we have researched education systems and processes, but the competences to talk and explain basic processes in nature are still scarce. Classification systems are a static way to sort nature into categories. Processes of evolution and development have more or less human input.
We all gain if we keep an eye on education and learning processes that have been applied years ago. The field of the history of education provides clues about some forgotten approaches. Learning about nature and how to acquire competence in the field has been an issue in this field for at least 100 years. It is time to test some of these approaches again to see what went wrong in learning about nature. Man-made climate change is only at the end of a causal chain of things and people moving in the wrong direction. We probably have to press the reset button and start from scratch with the learning and the tracing of wrong decisions. Maybe, the start is the appreciation of a splendid bouquet of flowers. Want to know more? Try to grow and assemble them yourself.

Competence Gardening

Primary Schools in Berlin have the possibility to participate in the “Gartenarbeitsschule”, the school with learning goal of gardening. It is an interesting option to go out into the real world and deal with nature, sustainability, consumption, climate and many other topics. Voltaire could complement the curriculum in philosophy with his biographical links to gardening. The access to the fields is easy next to one of the central train stations and a larger urban reforestation project as just one example of the 15 overall in Berlin in 2024. (Südkreuz, Südgelände). Hands-on experience of gardening can address multiple forms of problem-solving competencies. Beyond the use of AI, a major advantage is the possibility to train collaborative problem-solving. Beyond the multifactorial approach in determining what to plant, the organization of the implementation and individual contributions towards the realization, all these elements are learning goals. The scope of learning qualifies gardening for learning well beyond primary school as well. It is a nice example of lifelong and lifewide learning even a hundred years after their wider applications in Berlin.

Gardening School, Berlin 2024

Narratives

In psychology it is a long-established field to study narratives of persons as they age. To make sense of individual narratives might even be considered as one of the foundations of psychological research since its starting times. “The Cambridge handbook of cognitive aging : a life course perspective” has 2 entries that enlighten the issue of personal life stories or narratives. We have to consider the importance of our personal past to the construction and reconstruction of our personal narratives. As persons age reconstruction of narratives becomes a more frequent exercise as life experiences and new evidence continue to accumulate. The chapter on “narratives and identity” supports the view of plasticity in old age, which means that narratives and identity are an adaptive process. “Processes of evaluation and reinterpretation of personal memories enable people to maintain a sense of self”. The importance of recalling personal life events and positive self-regard is a well-established link in this research tradition. The self-memory system consists of the autobiographical memory, the self-concept and the working self as its components. It is evolving in most persons as part of the construction and reconstruction of the self, as well as narratives of it.
As persons age our brain and memory functions age as well. This starts earlier than most people expect. “Many studies in gerontology have shown that being able to remember, evaluate, and integrate personal memories and thereby dynamically maintain identity is related to mental health and well-being in later life (Westerhof et al., 2010).” (p.392). Reconstruction of narratives is a process that is hard work for our brain, therefore as people age many seem to shun away from these tasks. It is easier to clinch on to the old narratives of the self.
The chapter on emotion recognition and aging of the social brain summarises the research (p.369) by Ruffman et al. (2012, 2016) which shows that older persons were not as good as young persons to detect lies due to difficulties with emotion recognition. “Finally, we examined right-wing authoritarianism (Ruffman et al., 2016), that is, the tendency to hold conservative social attitudes (e.g., believing that women should have to promise to obey their husbands when they get married). Older adults had more pronounced right-wing attitudes than young adults, and even within the older adult group, these attitudes were entirely explained by their worse emotion recognition”.
The causal link, however, is less clear. The positivity bias in old age might be a major factor. The positivity bias describes the fact that older persons prefer to look at positive stimuli and avoid negative stimuli. The evidence is rather inconclusive about this effect. Probably persons have a positivity bias all along their life course as part of their personality traits. The other explanations of brain region decline and activation seem to receive a bit more empirical support (p.375). In any case, men seem to be even at higher risks.
Archives of personal diaries, letters, correspondence of persons are a valid additional source to study the process of the construction and reconstruction of the self. Biographical accounts of life histories serve as empirical material to analyse narratives and historical validity of narratives. The better the story, the more scepticism should be applied.

Luftschloss

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.

Generationswechsel

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.

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.

Work Satisfaction

There is an important distinction between job satisfaction and satisfaction with one’s work. Being satisfied with the work you have done or something you created or co-created has become almost a privilege. Production in capitalism has mostly different objectives like rent seeking rather than satisfaction with one’s work. Compromises between both are a major learning process about the functioning of labour markets. Remote work, for some, contributes a lot to more job satisfaction. For others a healthy work environment is the top priority. Many people however focus simply on pay packages and this is often out of sheer necessity to escape poverty eventually. Trades have a tradition to allow satisfaction with one’s work, more than most jobs in industry. Flat hierarchies and subordination to your own standards, rather than pressure from supervisors, are much more common. Recognition of your work adds to the pay you receive. Job turnover is related to job satisfaction but also to satisfaction or even identification with the product of your work.

There is more to work than pay. Recognition in form of winning a price in a competition may help to keep awareness high that pay is only one element of remuneration. “meilleur ouvrier de France“ is such a kind of recognition. It encourages people to try new things and test new ideas. This is a major source of satisfaction with one’s work. We might even feel sorry for someone shouting “I can get no satisfaction”. He probably has to try in a simpler or different fashion rather than to try harder. The city Dijon in Burgundy seems to have a pretty high number of people with high levels of work satisfaction and happy to show it.

Healthy Brain

We’ve got only one brain. Hence, we better take good care of it. There is only a small community in Wales that has got more than one brain, they have got brains. For all others we should like to know what we can do to keep our brain healthy for as long as possible. Scientists try their best to find out for decades. The state of the art is well documented in a study published in The Lancet which followed 64 so-called superagers in the study and 55 in the control group. These superagers are 80 years old persons that have annual brain fitness tests and brain scans (MRIs) that show their brain has a functionality of a person 20+ years younger. Anxiety scores and depression levels seem to be major explanatory factors for reduced grey matter and decline in functionality of the brain in aging. Fewer glucose disorders and hypertension contribute to successful aging of the brain. An active lifestyle and any form of practicing music make you also more likely to be in the group of superagers. Motor control, balance and speed are important to take into account additionally. A good solution to successful aging is “singing in the rain” I would say. In terms of prevention of “brain loss” it seems important to highlight both the pure brain functionality and the importance of exercise to keep sufficient motor control. Get up and walk! That is the answer. Yes. Again. Trying to do it fast is a good way to preserve not only your body but also your brain.

Special

We all value special skills and specialists. In Berlin is a whole week devoted to the special event of the #SOWG. These are the special Olympics world games. Berlin is booming with special people all around. Already the arrivals of the athletes to Berlin tests the public transport system as much as private infrastructure to welcome persons with special needs. Rather than the waste that is produced for normal Olympic games the same incredible amounts of money should be devoted to make cities more welcoming to special people every day. We have become as societies so used to speed up things as much as we can that we have forgotten the value of allowing people to live their lives with their own speed and rhythm. Looking at the huge numbers of private sponsors for the SOWG it becomes obvious that many people care to support these special people on their journey. I am more willing to pay taxes for such efforts than the public money wasted for football, like TV-rights or stadium buildings. The joint experience of love and joy with these extraordinary persons makes us all happy and rich. Happiness is the new “wealth of nations”. Inclusion brings happiness to more than just the normal. We wish you all a happy #SOWG. The stars are you. 

Waldbrände

Waldbrände sind leider jenseits vom Süden Europas auch im Zentrum von Europa ein Bestandteil der täglichen Gefahren geworden. Vor 50 Jahren waren die seltenen heißen Sommer die große Gefahr. Seit einiger Zeit bemerken wir öfter heiße Sommerwochen, die die Wälder austrocknen und leicht entzündlich machen. Jetzt haben wir die noch frühere Sommersaison nicht nur im Süden, sondern auch im mittleren Europa. Neben den Bränden in der Lausitz in Deutschland, kämpfen Feuerwehrleute öfter in den französischen nördlicheren Waldregionen mit Bränden. Eine Nachricht, wie die zum Brand Anfang Juni im „Forêt Fontainebleau“, sollte uns klar machen, da brennt unserer europäisches ökologisches und kulturelles Erbe. Jeder hat die brennende Kathedrale „Notre Dame de Paris“ noch in Erinnerung. Da war Klimawandel nicht die Ursache. Bei den Waldbränden sieht das anders aus. Das Ergebnis ist das gleiche. Die Vernichtung unseres kulturellen Erbes schreitet voran ohne Prävention. Das ist eine zentrale Aufgabe. Nicht erst in der Zukunft. Prävention verlangt Handeln, Planen und Implementieren schon heute. Das ist ein riesiges Qualifizierungsprogramm nötig. Es umfasst die Sensibilisierung für die allgegenwärtigen Gefahren genauso, wie das Schulen allfälliger Einsätze von professionellen und freiwilligen Helfenden. Gefahr erkannt, heißt leider nicht schon Gefahr gebannt. Da gibt es viele Zwischenschritte, die geprobt sein wollen, damit ein effektiver Einsatz gelingen kann. Es bleibt viel zu tun, packen wir’s endlich an. (Artikel in La Marne 7.6.2023 S.6)

Fröhlich

Fröhliche Wissenschaft. Das geht. Nach gut 6 Monaten mit einem Blogeintrag pro Tag hat sich eine Textsammlung ergeben, die recht umfassend ausgefallen ist. Nach eigenem Monitoring der Themen, wie die Bearbeitung der UN-Themen zu strategischen Entwicklungszielen, oder der alphabetischen Auflistung von Schlüsselwörtern der Sozialwissenschaften sind nahezu täglich Kommentare entstanden. Neu war für mich die Bildredaktion, als Kommentar, Erläuterung, Selbstkritik oder wissenschaftliche Referenz. Eine interessante Variante, Erkenntnisse mit Key-Visuals zu unterstützen. Die bildliche Erinnerung an Beiträge ist ein eigenes Inhaltsverzeichnis. Klar, Hund- und Katzenbilder werden das Ranking der am meisten aufgerufenen Beiträge gewinnen. Egal, wir machen fröhliche Wissenschaft, immer weiter, immer heiter, so bleibt es lebenslanges, lebensweites Lernen.

Design Start-up

Es war wieder Designmesse. Klein, aber fein, in Berlin in den KantGaragen. Die Location weckt schon Hoffnung auf Experimentelles, Garagenhaftes, Handwerkliches. Das bringt Abwechslung in die sonstige, glitzernde Shoppingwelt. Das renovierte und entgiftete Parkhaus erlaubt einen Rundgang über mehrere Etagen, vorbei an Galerien und Ständen von DesignerInnen. Es macht sich eine anregende Brise von erfrischenden Ideen breit. Von Design im Raum mit Leuchten und Möbeln über Design von Mode und Schmuck lässt sich viel Schickes finden. Blickfang, samt Blickfang Akademie haben es geschafft, die Mini-messe in den KantGaragen zu etablieren. Es kann sogar Eintritt verlangt werden. Eine weitere Begleitung der Neuen auf dem Markt wird oft nötig sein, denn selbst gute Innovationen sind meistens keine Selbstläufer. Konkurrenz belebt nicht nur das Geschäft, es bleibt meist auch ein Verdrängungsprozess.
Die großen, vielfach schließenden Kaufhäuser in den Innenstädten spüren besonders die Konkurrenz der individualisierenden DesignerInnen mit ihren einzigartig anmutenden Realisationen. Singuläre Kauferlebnisse auf solchen Messen, in stilvollem Ambiente, selbst in einem alten Parkhaus sind, allem Anschein nach, ein Erfolgsrezept. Start-up statt Close-down schafft viele erfüllende Arbeitsplätze. Gute Arbeit wird nicht aussterben, sondern durchstarten.

Schaukel

Sagt die Lehrperson zur Schulklasse: Stellen wir uns alle jetzt mal alle eine Schaukel vor. Wie sieht die Schaukel denn so aus? Was gibt da so drumherum? Könntet Ihr nun bitte versuchen, die Schaukel auf ein Blatt Papier zu malen? Jeder hat seinen Bleistift und einige Buntstifte dabei. Einfach mal versuchen, es gibt keine Noten dafür. Es soll Spaß machen und wer möchte kann sein Bild anschließend den anderen zeigen. Schön, sofort wird es ganz laut in der Klasse und alle legen los. Naja, fast alle, das stille Mädchen aus einer der hinteren Bänke stockt und wirkt unruhig. Sie ist erst seit einigen Monaten in der Klasse und spricht noch nicht wirklich wie die anderen die Ortssprache. Da liegt wohl an der langen Reise, die die nicht mehr ganz so Kleine hinter sich hat. Die meisten Jungen und Mädchen erklären zugleich recht lautstark welche Schaukel sie malen werden. Die vom Garten hinterm Haus, vom Spielplatz nebenan oder sogar die Schaukel unterm Baumhaus im angrenzenden Waldstück. Bei den meisten Kindern steht rasch die Schaukel nicht mehr im Mittelpunkt der Kurzgeschichten, sondern die Freunde oder Kinder mit denen sie gemeinsam schaukeln. Nur unser stilles Mädchen erinnert sich mehr an ihren Reiseweg, bis sie dort in dieser schönen bunten Schule angekommen war. Das waren viele Stationen, von denen sie gar nicht erzählen möchte oder gar ein Bild malen möchte. Die meisten Erinnerungen war so, dass sie diese lieber für sich behalten wollte. Zu weit weg waren sie von den aufgeregten Erzählungen und fantastischen Geschichten der anderen MitschülerInnen. Doch dann hatte sie doch ein Bild vor Augen. Ein Spielplatz in einer großen Stadt, Berlin genannt, ist ihr in Erinnerung geblieben. Als sie diese Schaukel grob, ohne Farbe nur mit Bleistift auf das Blatt skizzierte, keiferte der Banknachbar schon: So sieht doch keine Schaukel aus! Die Neue kann noch nicht mal eine Schaukel malen. Das stille Mädchen blieb weiter still, wusste sie doch genau, dass ihre Schaukel eine Überraschungsschaukel war. In der großen fremden Stadt war ihr diese Schaukel aufgefallen, denn sie war fast so schön, wie die Schaukel an dem starken Ast des Baumes, im Garten ihrer Großeltern. Dadurch verknüpften sich ihre vielschichtigen Erinnerungen zu einem Bild. 

Goals SDGs

The Strategic Development Goals (SDGs) date back to 2015 for their enactment. The goal setting is a routine procedure for the UN and its subsidiary international organisations. This makes a lot of sense, because if you do not name the problems, you are unlikely to address them in a systematic fashion. Quantifying the goals is then a much more difficult task and that then already part of the ensuing discussion about idealist, illusive or realist goals. Most diplomatic exchanges focus on this goal setting and scheduled monitoring as well as more comprehensive evaluations of goal achievement. The SDGs comprise another strategic twist. Rather than concentrating on national governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses were encourages to actively participate in the implementation of the goals. After more than 7 years the achievements of intended improvements should become visible. Well, goal setting and monitoring over the last seven years is likely to reveal failure on several of the 17 indicators. Covid-19, disruption of supply chains, wars causing recessions and high inflation are major factors to explain failure. However, knowing the reasons of failure is a substantial part of improving in the next coming years. Returning to cooperation rather than confrontation could do the trick. Even after wars cooperation to organise relief is the only way forward to come closer to achieving the SDGs.
Bold initiatives like the Marshall-Plan for Europe in the 20th century made it possible to rise from the ashes. Countries that have been in ruins at that time, now have important roles as financial contributors to support other regions. The goals remain the same, the challenges as well.

Aphorismen L3

“Was für Aussichten würden wir bekommen, wenn wir unser Kapital von Wahrheiten einmal von demjenigen entblößen könnten, was ihnen nicht sowohl wesentlich ist, als vielmehr aus der öfteren Wiederholung zuwächst.“ (Lichtenberg S. 50). Die Wiederholung ist eine starke Lernmethode. Sie wird seit Jahrtausenden erfolgreich eingesetzt. Alle Religionen bedienen sich am liebsten täglich dieser Methode, um sich der Treue der Anbetenden zu vergewissern. Der Glaube im Glauben ist: Oft genug wiederholt ist gut verinnerlicht. Dabei bleibt ein Glaube ein Glaube, selbst bei ständiger Wiederholung. Lediglich so manchem Mensch erscheint durch regelmäßiges Wiederholen die Botschaft als verinnerlichte Selbstverständlichkeit. Wahrscheinlich ist es beruhigender, sich nicht täglich zu fragen, ob das 1x,2x,3x mal tägliche Einmassieren von Chemikalien auf Zähne und Zahnfleisch wirklich nachhaltig gesundheitsfördernd ist. Alleine dem Markt wollen wir das Thema nun auch nicht überantworten. Warten wir weiterhin auf die nächste entblößende, hoffentlich wirklich unabhängige, wissenschaftliche Studie dazu. Mit den Pestiziden in der Ernährung hat das bekanntlich nur sehr bedingt funktioniert. Wie schön, dass alle Jahre wieder Frühling kommt und die finsteren Tage hinter uns lässt. Wiederholungen lassen Routinen entstehen, die uns das ständige Hinterfragen ersparen. Rasch gehen wir über Fragen von Kindern hinweg: Muss ich heute in die Schule gehen? Dabei ist Hinterfragen von Wiederholungen ein wichtiges Lernen, dem Mitläufertum entgegen zu wirken.

Sax and the Sax

Adolphe Sax is celebrated for his celebrated design of musical instruments in what it known and played as the Sax family of musical instruments. Most museums around the world have an example of an early Sax instrument in their collections. Beyond the many fascinating musical delights and emotions produced with the instrument, there is a century-old debate around the issue of the patent attributed to the various designs claimed by Adolphe Sax for the Saxophone among others. The patent attribution was hugely different across Europe in the 19th century (largely inexistant in other parts of the world at the time). The reason for this were differing laws guiding intellectual property rights. “In France no preliminary examination was necessary before a patent could be granted; in Germany examination was obligatory; and … British patent laws, which allowed makers to register designs or apply for patents for developments that had been copied from abroad (imported inventions), as long as they had not been published in Britain.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.93). There is a well-documented controversy about the “Berlin valves” and the contested patent in France of it. Design of instruments, particularly popular ones, guarantee sizable earnings for producers of instruments. After 20 years of the 1846 patent in France 1866 the patent expired and the copies could become even cheaper. Some ugly disputes in the middle of Europe were fought around this issue. Remember that military music was still accompanying troops for better or worse. “Visionary or plagiarist? The authors are unable to give a simple verdict. … The fact that Sax claimed originality for some borrowed ideas seems in retrospect less important than the true vision shown.” (Mitroulia and Myers, 2008 p.135). We might not agree with this statement. The visit to the MIM in Brussels gives a good overview of the evolution of musical instruments over thousands of years and across continents, which pushes us to rethink the link of society and technology through the lens of music and technology. Welcome to techno music beyond patent laws. Pushing the boundaries of copyrights on sound sequences to new limits.
(Sources: MIM Brussels, Rice A. R. (2009). Making and improving the nineteenth-century saxophone. Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society. 35:81-122. Mitroulia, E., A. Myers. (2008). Adolphe Sax: Visionary or plagiarist? Historic Brass Society journal, 20, 93-141).

Dumky

In cultural performances it is always interesting to refer back to titles given or attributed for example to music pieces. Dumky is the title of Antonin Dvořák’s 4. Klavier-Trio opus 90. In the late 19th century Antonin Dvořák found inspiration in the notion of Dumky. Rather than just composing a “Trauergesang with few joyful intermezzi” he creates a new form for this Trio containing, quite unusual, 6 parts. Dvořák plays around with structure and sharp swings from “piano to forte” parts, “moll to dur” intonations reflecting sorrow and joy in frequent and refreshing short sequences. It feels sometimes like fireworks, but at times the sorrow of soldiers and their families becomes evident as well. However, the music proves resilient. Knowing that Dumky is a Ukrainian word and notion, the choice of one of the masterpieces of Antonin Dvořák  close to the 24.2.2023, the day of the anniversary of the Russian attack on Ukraine is a commemoration of the sorrow caused by war and ways to overcome it. The “Concerts de Midi” of the Musée des Instruments de Musique” allowed us to travel through Ukraine a bit and experience the longing for better times. Joy will eventually prevail there again just listen to Dvořák’s version of the Dumky. Superb and effectful presentation of the work by the “Trio Impression” made for a memorable lunch break in the city centre of Brussels. The (virtual) visit of the Museum should be one of the attractions of visitors to Brussels as well, not just for the Art Nouveau architecture, but for the inclusive “global music” collection.

Photo K

The self portrait is a timely topic for an exhibition of photography. As part of the European month of photography (EMOP), the PhotoBrusselsFestival offers a good overview of what photography deals with in the 21 century. The Korean cultural centre (KCC) in Brussels has a long tradition to serve as an exposition in the centre of Brussels (Sablon) and is joining this year’s photo festival. The 2023 photography festival has the “Self-Portrait” as a guiding theme. Rather than entering the debate about “portrait chosen or portrait endured” (Photographica 5,2022) the self-portrait has more degrees of freedom in it. Even if it is apparently a choice to portrait oneself, there are ample examples, where the urge to produce a self-portrait is part of a wider concern for fundamental issues.
The exhibition of 5 artists from Korea at the KCC invites us to reflect on the pervasive self-portrait practice all around us. The self-portrait is not only a tool of self-reflection, which has a long tradition in art (just think of a famous drawing by Albrecht Dürer of himself), but self-portraits are also pervasive on media and social media today. Additionally, the self-portrait is a powerful tool of thinking and imagining yourself at various stages of the life-course. For centuries it had been a social or political privilege to have your portrait taken. It still is to some extent, but only if the person taking the photograph, has a special reputation. In a market difference to the selfie, the exhibition of artists in the KCC highlights the process of self-reflection that is part of creating the portrait as well as the ensuing reflection by the spectator. In looking at the self-portrait of the photographer, we might involuntarily deal first with our own perception of the image. Danger, dreams, fantasy, sorrow, pain, self-assertion and reconstruction of the self, all these themes come to mind when confronted with the self-portraits of the 5 artists (Bae Chan-hyo, Jeong Yun-soon, Lee Jee-young, Ahn Jun, Choi Young-kwi).
KCC director Kim Jae-hwan names this collection, curated by Seok Jae-hyun, “An odyssey of images leading to self-re-flection”. In referring back to the protagonists in novels from Hermann Hesse, he points our attention to the “unique journey through images as they find themselves”. To embark on the journey visit KCC in Brussels, ask for a copy of the catalogue or start by reading the title of the exposition: “Who Am I” – it is apparently no longer a question after the journey. Is it for you?  More reflection on images and photos here.

Affordable Art

The affordable art fair in Brussels 2023 has different rules than other art fairs. First of all, well behaved dogs are allowed to visit. Underdogs might have a problem. The entry fee is an astonishing 20€, only 5€ less than “Brafa”. Inflation hits affordable art apparently more than the prestigious fair, at least at first impression. It remains questionable, whether artists represented as affordable art can actually afford to make a decent living from their art, now and at retirement. Taking into account the cost of rent, material and working time of artist, gallerist and transportation, art is frequently the art of minimalist approaches. The “garbage cycle N18” by Alessandro Gerull presented by WinArts challenges our habits of endless production of garbage by use of recycled material for making art. Not an entirely new idea, but still intriguing at affordable prices. Similarly, from the same gallery the work from Golsa Golchini invites us to “Remember to water the plants” as we might have asked somebody to help us out.
Re-use of material or innovation in photography are present at many places. Discovering new talents at affordable prices is a feasible feature of affordable art around the globe. The thresholds of entry are considerably lower than at Brafa. The surroundings of the old Tour & Taxis Logistics Centre in Brussels are an interesting excursion in modern renovation of old industrial sites as well. Not many skill-shortages in arts, except the more critical and provocative artists probably have still a hard time to find their way into galleries and art fairs. Other cities dare more daring art, be it affordable or not. The concept is a bit like coffee or “art to go”, quite many people walk away with a nice, little parcel in their hands. Even participatory art is represented, a kind of do-it-yourself, or finish it yourself drawing. It is fun to experience and to be part of affordable art of that kind to leave with some positive vibes (Roxehga). Enjoy!

Protest

In studying the 60s we still come up with a number of remarkable ideas. Not only concerts moved the masses but also new ideas flourished. Many subcultures developed specific forms of protest. To implement new ideas, new forms of protest were applied to advance civil rights, to overcome established routines and to raise awareness for inequalities and injustices. New forms of participatory democracy were tested and some reached public attention and/or approval. Burner (1996, p.162) even goes as far as defining freedom as “continuing exercise in decision-making” which hinges on the taking-in of all voices across society. The coming together of freedom and community constitutes the cross-roads of politics. Besides terrible effects of violent abuses, peaceful forms originated in Gandhi’s peaceful resistance in 1930. Martin Luther King and later Nelson Mandela reached historical milestones through peaceful forms of protest. In 1967 in Oakland, California, the form of “action protest” took place. The basis of protest was civil disobedience going beyond sit-ins as the civil rights movement had applied. “They involved blocking roads and entrances to buildings, peacefully inasmuch as the demonstrators used no force beyond the presence of their own bodies or other obstacles to passage.” (p.163). The new feature was, that protesting persons take the risk of being a victim of violence without a violent response from themselves. The intention is to “convert temporary antagonists into permanent friends”. Through the repercussions in mass media protesting persons can reach larger audiences and touch “uninvolved or possibly sympathetic bystanders” (p.163). Such new forms of participatory democracy, acting in the public arena, are stretching the idea of peaceful protest to its limit, where the freedom of others might be impinged. Participatory democracy, therefore, is a balancing act. Some recent forms of protest, in fact, have their origins in the 1960s or the year 1968 a focal point. They continue to be influential 55 years later in many countries and at all instances where basic freedoms or minority rights are violated or threatened.
Protest has also moved online. Internet sites are not only used for simple communication, but they serve as port of entry to prepare and organise protest. High-jacking of company or political adverts in the public arena can be taken online as well. Challenges to conventional politics and media representation is enacted through webpages like www.adbusters.org or www.indymedia.org the latter page comprises a whole network of local activist groups. Brian D. Loader (2003, p.1320) has added activist approaches against particular corporations to the list of online protest forms. Through public shaming of brands these activists attempt to raise awareness of the public for abusive employment practices, cruelty towards animals, environmental disasters or fake information using online channels like social media, email-lists or chatgroups via mobile phone numbers. The funding of protesting persons is another relatively new form which ranges from crowd-funding initiatives through platforms as well as forms of corruptive practices applied by states or corporate interests. Protest against protest is online and offline the next round of activist forms of protest. Democracy, law and the police have to balance out these new forms of protest. Learning about the way democracy functions is a continuous task, some would say a continuous struggle. Evaluations of the short-term or long-term effectiveness of protests yields important insights about the functioning of democracies and autocratic regimes. New forms of protest need new forms of measuring impact as well.

80s

The colourful 80s. That could be a summary of the years from 1980 to 1989. Certainly in fashion and design a multitude of colours dominated the 80s. Mariel Marohn (2010, Ed.) published 20 years later a visual summary of the 80s. Often thought as less spectacular than other decades, the 80s had seen some defeats to start with. John Lennon shot dead in New York December 1980. The NASA space shuttle Challenger explodes 2 minutes after the launch in 1986. Nuclear accidents (after three mile island 1979, Tschernobyl 1986,or the finding of the Titanic demonstrated not only the “limits to growth” (1972), but reminded us of deadly consequences of technological ambitions wanting to move too fast in time. Ghettoblaster, Walkman, first cell phones, facilitated a more mobile life style to more people. Overcoming the oil crises of the 70s, mobility roared ahead again. Cars, bikes, planes, CDs, windsurfing and aerobics become part of the lifestyle in these years.
Mass culture in music reached all levels of society. Music was no longer perceived as a protest movement, but a normal part of the freedom of expression. Fusion of music and dance, but also music and street art like in hip-hop music and graffiti art become part of day-to-day experiences of commuters. In the anthology of poems of the 80s we find on page 141 “Commuters” by Edward Hirsch 1983 who singles out the commuting practice as the way of life, he does not want to identify with. “Malgré lui”, in spite of himself, he finds himself in cars, trains travelling distances every day. More, faster and with more colours, time moved on. The fall of the Berlin wall 1989 was thought of as a “Zeitenwende” already. Royalty in the press with the marriage of Diana & Charles, was replaced by Madonna as the Queen of Pop and Michael Jackson as the King of Pop. The digital age entered into a new era with the Apple Macintosh desktop computer with an accessible visual interface to computing. Reaganomics and Thatcherism pushed for a revival of liberal market economies ploughing the fields for digital multinationals (GAFAM) to thrive ever since. These lasting technological changes define this period as colourful, grabbing all our senses and attention. Want to breathe a bit of the air of the 80s – visit MAD Paris.

Romanatik2

Zur romantischen Periode gehören die bekannten Lieder von Schumann und Schubert. Meine Auswahl dazu liebäugelt besonders mit den Liedern zum Lindenbaum. Die Linde mit ihrem süßlichen Duft an warmen Tagen hat Malende der Romantik sowie die Dichtenden und Komponierenden betört. “Am Brunnen vor dem Tore da steht ein Lindenbaum …” kannte vor 50 Jahren jedes Kind. Etwas weniger bekannt sind die fabelhaften Rückert-Lieder von Gustav Mahler: “Ich atmet’ einen linden Duft …”. Für mich steht dabei die Atmosphäre in der Nähe der Linde im Vordergrund. “Unter den Linden” assoziieren viele nur noch mit der Verkehr in der Hauptstadt auf dem Weg zum Brandenburger Tor. Zum Reinhören und Reinversetzen in die Romantik sind die Lieder ein idealer Weg. Der Frühlingsglaube (Schubert Op.20.2) besingt die linden Lüfte und das Aufblühen der Natur. Es keimt die Hoffnung auf, dass sich alles zum Besseren wendet. Doch etwas Skepsis ist schon angebracht. Im Lied “Die abgeblühte Linde“, ebenfalls von Schubert vertont, ist dann das Altern und die Treue thematisiert. Der Zyklus der Natur und Jahreszeiten nimmt scheinbar unaufhaltsam seinen Lauf. “Nur der Gärtner bleibt ihr treu, denn er liebt in ihr den Baum”. Das weise Herz will Gärtnern und erhalten, was so viele Emotionen und Optimismus hervorgebracht hat. Wir müssen die Bäume retten, aus Pflicht die Romantik inklusiv und erlebbar zu erhalten. Dazu können wir mit den Linden ja schon einmal anfangen.

Flotow Analyse

Interessant ist der Aufsatz über Flotows’ Martha, der vor einigen Jahren in einer musikwissenschaftlichen Zeitschrift erschienen ist. Anselm Gerhard ordnet die Oper unter Berücksichtigung des Werdegangs des Aristokraten Flotow dem französischen Stil der Oper zu. Das Schicksal des von Flotow war es wohl, mit seiner aristokratischen Herkunft aus Preußen, Deutschland, ein Uraufführung in Österreich, dann mit Bel Canto assoziert überwiegend auf italienisch aufgeführt zu werden (Metropolitan Opera 1914? mit Caruso), aber ein französisches Opernschema basierend auf einer irischen Volksmusik mit einer Story in England zu verbinden. Kosmopolitisch nennen wir das im 21.-ten Jahrhundert, nicht oder schwer nationalistisch verwertbar im 19. und 20.-ten Jahrhundert. Für die Handschriften ist es wohl am besten, gleich in die Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF) zu fahren. Im Saal Richelieu ist das dazu passende kunstgeschichtliche Ambiente noch nachvollziehbar. Quelle:
Gerhard, A. (2004). „Tinta musicale“ Flotows „Martha“ und die Frage nach Möglichkeiten und Grenzen Musikalischer Analyse in Opern des 19. Jahrhunderts. Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 61(1), 1–18.

Giselle

Once upon a time, not at the Opera de la Bastille, but next it, in a small theatre called Théâtre de la Bastille, the fairy tale of “Giselle…” was performed. The world-famous ballet Giselle (Karlsruhe Programmheft) is still amongst the most frequently performed magic piece of classical ballet. What is it about? In short: sex and crime. Yes, and it sells well.
Francois Gremaud tells the classic story of excitement, love, deception, death, regret, haunting and memory in a concise and witty fashion. The exemplary dancer is at the same time the narrator of the story as well as the critic and art historian accompanied by a 4 musicians strong orchestra. The educational piece with a “womanxplainer” on stage is great entertainment, full of references, why it is still okay to like the piece in spite of its fantasy-loaded content. Modern dance (Cunningham, De Keersmaeker) has decoupled or emancipated movement from music. In classical ballet, at least, you still know what comes next and this is aesthetically appealing for most people. Besides Wilfried, no he is not part of the “Wilis” (could be an interesting variant), but in the ballet there figures “Hilarion”. He is not hilarious at all. Splendid entries are from Myrtha (close to Martha, but not quite the same) and, of course, Giselle, when she leaves her tomb and turned into a “Wili”. Then there is Albrecht in a pas de deux with Giselle, swirling between earth and space. Aldi dances like mad on impulse from Myrtha, but Giselle vanishes nevertheless. End of story, or is it? Giselle is a Wili and Aldi is the wally. Maybe the story could be retold like in the film “Billy Elliot – I will dance”, which is an emancipatory tale where dance is the liberation rather than part of the dooming fate.
Francois Gremaud with the astonishing performer and choreographer Samantha van Wissen have created a version of Giselle that is musical, aesthetic, funny and critic. For those who enjoy an epic theatre version of Giselle including its “alienation effects”, referring back to Berthold Brecht, will want to read the script as well, kindly distributed as a gift after the show.

Employment

Employment is back on top of the agenda. Not as we used to think, though. Previously unemployment had dominated societal concerns. Now it is the lack of persons seeking or available for employment. What has happened? The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the need of persons qualified to work in the health sector. From health care and urgency care, we are short of personnel in all these fields, everywhere. Then we discovered the role of essential services and the need to equip crucial infrastructures like ports, transport, shops, schools and ambulances with service persons resisting despite work overload. Larger cohorts leave employment to retire, some even early due to illness or burn-out. Additionally, war is back in Europe. Military personnel is in high demand again, drawing largely from younger cohorts. The need for conventional weapons. long thought to be oblivious, is forcefully back on the agenda.
Growth potentials are everywhere. However, these pre-modern facts encounter a population in the western democracies that insists on new approaches to employment. Beyond hard and soft skills, recruiters seek atypical skills, competences and trajectories. A parachute jump from an airplane, cooking and dining experiences, caring spells, periods in self-employment, all are directly or indirectly relevant for employment and teamwork. So, what is your specialty? Collecting stamps? Surely you are able to spot tiny differences in images with specific content. Fake news and fake image detection or video surveillance is in high demand, just try an application and discover the employment potential of your MAD skills. Sounds crazy? No joke. Skill needs are everywhere, just give it a start again and again. Read a serious newspaper regularly (here LeMonde 19.1.2023) for inspiration.