The Jewish Museum, Berlin (Daniel Libeskind).
’Everything tilts…’ Like the set of the film, ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Cagliari’, one of the earliest experimental films and (like the experimental Jewish Museum) also an act of mourning (as well as a warning) - mourning another, prior, Holocaust, World War I and its disastrous aftermath – part of which… the rise of Fascism. Everything tilts.
In the (new) building everything tilts. Even the slashes that appear to have assaulted it from the outside, making it appear as if a victim of a crazed knife attack (if not an attempt to saw a way out from within…).
Late-modernist design elements (not least ‘deconstructive’ forms) often do not ‘work’ (that is, they mean a lot less than their designers would like them to; see Paris, Park de la Villette, by Tschumi, for example): but this one does. The details throughout are thought through and meaningful, yet in an open, non-dogmatic (nor non-naive) open-ended manner… A general sense of instability and discontinuity prevails, a map made up of broken lines and incomplete spaces, or discontinuous patterns, abrupt changes of direction – performed by the building design (the means of expression) as coded even into the smallest things and every feature, radical discontinuity, and a general sense of brokenness… and loss. The zig-zag and the blind alley. A line of history … broken. The places of absence; lit and unlit. A reconstruction of a culture… lost.
Tower: (Again) Looking up: inexorably, as with a Greek temple, or a Gothic interior, the eyes are drawn upwards… but here the hypsosis is negative, the eye raising to the heavens is replaced by a shock, a black, lightless, even light absorbing (or so it seems) space above us, blocking out the light and foreclosing our lines of sight… Chimney… the smoke of our thought, with our eyes, rising up, to be blocked by … absence, the swirling smoke that blocks out ingress of light and exit of our thoughts to a higher place… a strange not-space where the heavens should be, where heaven should be… all disappears… foreclosure on the easiest answer to death and loss, the comfort of religion… non-such on offer… The thin line of natural light permitted in acts as a safety light, or a bed-side light, something to help infants go to sleep… sole hope against the total encroachment of night. This slim entry of light is, ironically, in part responsible for the very blackness of the sky place… as absence… The corner light makes the space where the sky should be all the darker… Black sky with no reflection, like gazing upon the surface of a Black Hole, knowing that nothing we see there, comes from there… comes from anywhere. Like looking at the process from the wrong end. Irreversible (like history). Irredeemable?
Perhaps, but certainly memoralisable, and for the best of reasons, not only that of memory… the past claiming its share of the present; but also a warning… the best use of memory and memorials, in life, is to prevent the worst.
Memorial, Museum… or Theatre (site of ritual). The entrance to the main collection may well be through an underground passage… but the staff and others (scenery, props) leave through the surface level… like a theatre then, where the spectators (or in ritual terms, participants) observe one process of preparation; and the workers, the illusionists, quite another…But what is performed? A history play. A repetition of an origin which has been (partly) lost. A representation, re-evocation (tropically speaking, a prosopopoiea) the calling up of what is absent… (lost, or dead).
complete contrast to the sense of loss that pervades the permanent collection…
When I visited (2011) there was a special exhibition; ‘Radical Jewish Culture:
the Music Scene in
© Peter Nesteruk, 2011