Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog

Berlin skyline at night (credit: Talent International).

Liberal arts students and graduates might be comforted by the claims in recent years that their degrees might not be as “useless” as they thought (or were told) they would be. The discourse around the demand for liberal arts graduates in the workforce especially revolves around hi-tech companies. It is skills such as “critical thinking, an ability to deal with ambiguity, to reach conclusions based on considered mastery of research and context” that make liberal arts graduates vital for growing hi-tech companies, says a Washington Post article called Why the Tech World Highly Values a Liberal Arts Degree. A Forbes article says a liberal arts degree has become “Tech’s hottest ticket” and describes similar, “human skills” to be required by high-tech companies and provided by liberal arts/ humanities graduates.  So we might have a “hot ticket” once we graduate, but is it really the hottest? Some of Bard College Berlin’s (ECLA) graduates and a current BCB student working in the start-up world shared their thoughts on their liberal arts education with me.

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Arts and Society

Spectator of a video installation by Lena Kück (Credit: Tamar Maare).

The architects of the peculiar building at the end of a long, cobbled driveway on Eichenstrasse 43 would find it difficult to believe what has become of their creation. Originally intended as a tire manufacturing plant, the seemingly innocuous double-storey building has been subjected to a tumultuous history. Rumours of its past use for secret satanic rituals hang about the air like cobwebs. The cracked walls battle peeling paint and ivy. It remains, however, a place of creation. Somewhere along the production line of time, it was subsumed in art. Today, E43 is fondly referred to as “The Factory” by the BCB community. It is the home of the majority of BCB’s practicing arts classes and lies at the heart of the newly instated Arts and Society program.

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Dover String Quartet

Bryan Lee on second violin (Credit: Tamar Maare).

Last week at the Factory, BCB’s arts building, an attentive audience was allowed to have a small glimpse into the most private world of a creative process.

The first four notes of Beethoven’s Op. 74, No. 10 in E flat major, played in reverberating harmony by two violins, a viola, and a cello, filled the space in the factory’s dance studio. We held our breath.

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View over the Danube river in Budapest (Credit: Tanya Sharma).

Sunday, 8:00 pm, On our Way to Budapest
The train is quiet save the steady rumble of any old-fashioned locomotive. The noise laps gently at my ears, rising and falling with the heave of pistons. Night has laid its thick blanket over the window, replacing cityscape and countryside with the eerily distorted reflection of compartment’s innards. Bursts of unsuccessfully stifled laughter from two compartments over, where the rest of the BCBers are seated, are met by our own smiles of sleepy excitement.
I look up from my scribbling to Alona (BA 2019). She is curled like a contented cat in the seat across my own. The words that have been running, screaming through both our minds for the past 4 hours or so have finally settled into a rumbling hum.
We exchange a grin. I see the same words that have been at the tips of our tongues for so many weeks now hanging on the edges of her smile: “We’re going to Budapest”, she says.

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Geoff with Leonardo

Geoff Lehman with Leonardo (credit: Geoff Lehman)

Once, in a seminar of the Representation class with Geoff, I made a comment about the painting that we were discussing by reading a passage that I wrote on my notebook before I came to the class. He appreciated the comment but insisted that I voiced my impression on the painting at that very moment. I asked him why my present impression matter so much, he gave me a rather interesting response:

Well, put it like this, in a psychoanalytic setting, the therapist is much more interested in how the patient describes her dream at the very moment, instead of what she wrote down in her dream journal. In a similar way, I think its more valuable that you talk about your immediate reaction to the painting, rather than what you wrote down in the past.

This is what I consider as one of the greatest examples of how one integrates different approaches/disciplines in a classroom discussion. With that in mind, lets begin our interview:

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One year ago today the Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano died at the age of seventy-five. Aside from his political and journalistic work, which was considerable and spanned three continents, he was a storyteller who mastered the art of the political parable. He unearthed forgotten historical incidents in order to bring to light injustices of the present. To commemorate the anniversary of his death we have translated a small piece he wrote from the book Los hijos de los días (Children of the Days).

Here is a video of him reading it in the original Spanish:

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Comic Invasion Berlin

An impression from the opening of the 5th Comic Invasion Berlin (credit: Ronni Shalev).

We have come a long way from weekly superhero installments and 4-panel strips in the Sunday paper. Comics today are everywhere, and they can range from graphic novels to near-abstract illustrations. They are created using pencils, paint, collage, digital mediums and just about any other tool that can make an image.

Why do I think that comics are today’s most relevant art form? In an age of mass image sharing and self-published internet art, narrative illustrations are the natural successor to multimedia creativity. Existing alongside paper editions that make use of classical painting mediums, internet publications have .gif images for panels. Comics, one could argue, is the art form that is best suited for development in today’s internet age. The idea of combining simple text with narrative illustrations has been around since ancient times, but the past years have allowed digital art to integrate with classic drawing methods to create original and unique storytelling by blurring the borders between literature, illustration, and fine art.

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Michael Weinman

Michael Weinman (right) with Elaine Leong at Max Planck Institute for the History of Sciences (credit: Sopo Kashakashvili).

As a student of Michael (Weinman), I’ve been constantly impressed by his scope of knowledge, fascinated by his pedagogical style and inspired by his own intellectual passion: He reads ancient Greek and has written his Doctoral dissertation on Aristotle, but at the same time he engages with post-modern thought and has written on the works of Judith Butler and Jacques Derrida— he even has a lot to say on the subject of (early) modern science! In seminars, he can always light up the room with his brilliant articulations of complicated theories without oversimplifying them, along with his humour and charismatic comic presence. More importantly, perhaps, through his sincerity he has enhanced my passion for liberal arts education, like when he shared his conviction that “teachers should be model learners first.”

This time, I interviewed Michael on his view with regard to the education offered by Bard College Berlin and asked for an articulation of the approach that our school is taking. Here are his responses:

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