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Stepping through gauzy curtains (Credit: Clara Fung, Institute for Art and Architecture, University of Fine Arts, Vienna)

Spatial memory is a term often used to describe the neurological process of recalling where something happened or where an object was placed. This type of memory is also used to project into the future, to plan a route to a desired location.

It is hard to consider spatial memory without invoking a poetic light. What is this intangible part of us that is tied to places and our memories of them? How is it that we can still recall the layout of a childhood home despite not having stepped foot in it in years?

The themes of the “Tread Softly” exhibit included “the city, migration, and memory”. The title is an allusion to the W.B. Yeats poem, “The Cloths of Heaven”, where he writes, “Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.” [*1] It considered how the cities we live in become the space in which we operate, tenderly attending to ideas of spatial memories, among others.

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This article originally appeared on The Point and has been republished here with their kind permission. David Kretz is a German-born Austrian and a BA 2016 alumnus.

Philipp Ruch (front left) in the action Center for Political Beauty’s action “Lethe Bombs” in front of the Reichstag, 2009. (Credit: Lara Wilde via Wikipedia)

The most compelling political performance artists in Germany do not like to be called “artists.” Nor do they prefer the label of “activists”—a term they reserve for gradualists, clicktivists, and the letter-writers of Amnesty International. Founded in 2009 by the philosopher Philipp Ruch, the Center for Political Beauty makes its base of “operations” (Aktionen in German) in Berlin, with changing groups of volunteers and partners throughout Europe. Its members, who wear suits and charcoal war paint, are organized into “assault teams” aiming to establish “moral beauty, political poetry and human greatness [Großgesinntheit].” They call themselves “aggressive humanists.”

The Center initially made a name for itself when it launched a campaign in the style of “Wanted” posters promising a reward of twenty-five thousand Euros for information leading to the arrest of the von Braunbehrens and Bode families, who share ownership of the arms corporation Krauss-Maffei Wegmann. Controversially, the company had proposed exporting several hundred Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia. One member of the board stepped down from his post after the exposure, and eventually the deal was abandoned on account of public pressure.

The Center has risen to new national prominence during the recent refugee crisis. In May 2014 the German Ministry for Family Affairs, headed by center-left secretary Manuela Schwesig, announced on a new website that it would offer asylum to fifty-five thousand Syrian children—1 percent of the five million who would need it according to UNICEF. This was in the build-up to the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015, months before Merkel’s exhortation “We can do it.”

The website, which offered online forms for Germans to register as host families, went viral on social media. A video showed happy, grateful children in Aleppo thanking Secretary Schwesig for her initiative. Large crowds spontaneously assembled in front of the offices of the Ministry for Family Affairs in Berlin, celebrating and leaving an ocean of flowers and teddy bears. Such is the political beauty that the Center imagines. It was they who had created the website, as well as a complete Federal Emergency Program, including IT infrastructure, a ready-to-implement legislative framework, extensive PR materials, active hotlines with actors answering questions about the program, and contacts with schools and other organizations inside Syria—a hyper-real theater performance. The Ministry could have played along but chose not to. Embarrassedly and awkwardly, they declared a day later that, no, they would not save the children.

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Kerry James Marshall speaking at the American Academy in Berlin. (Credit: Photos by Annette Hornischer | Courtesy the American Academy in Berlin)

Our class, Curatorial Practice: Past and Present, filed into the American Academy — a mansion buried deep in the affluent Berlin neighborhood of Wannsee — on a beautiful sunny day. Any sense of intimidation we could have felt at the very formal invitation we received to the American Academy’s event, “The End Of Criticality”, a master class with Kerry James Marshall, quickly melted away once he began his talk. A sweet, friendly man whose warm laugh immediately puts one at ease, Marshall is one of the most important and influential painters today. Our curatorial practice class was joined by art students from the Universität der Künste and Freie Universität. During his talk, Marshall spoke with us about everything ranging from ways of approaching art institutions built on a foundation of exclusion and exploitation to how his own love of the image began.

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► Monday: Between Spaces – Art, Urbanism & Public Space

Space only ever exists with a context, charged with socio-political and socio-economic interests, shaped by power structures and defined by boundaries. The 15 artists featured in this exhibition explore issues in urban life from 1970s New York to 1980s East Berlin through the mediums of photography, sculpture, drawing and painting.

  • When: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Where: ZKR – Alt-Biesdorf 55, 12683
  • Admission: 5,50€
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► Monday: MyFest 2017

Join Berliners as they honour worker’s day by joining the Street festival and 1st of May parades. This year’s MyFest is against violence. It challenges previous violent clashes between the police and demonstrators by reclaiming the spaces around the Kiez in Kreuzberg and celebrates with peaceful festivity, culinary delights, performances, and live concerts.

  • When: 11:30
  • Where: Mariannenplatz, 10997 Kreuzberg
  • Admission: free
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► Monday: Black German Cinema: “Sankofa – Return and get it”

Jump right back into Berlin’s cultural scene by attending the film series In-between Performative Films, which focuses on artists trying to break away from patriarchal and national production contexts. This month’s movie premier follows artists and curators from Ghana. It raises various questions: Does the artist imitate art, or is it the art that reflects the artist? How can Ghanaian artists convey their history and heritage in art that is distanced from home? There will be a discussion with the director Maman Salissou Oumarou after the screening.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where: Naunynstr. 27, 10997
  • Admission: 3
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► Monday: Gritty Glamour – a Queer Intervention 

This performance not only teleports the audience to Berlin’s nightlife and queer scene, but it also sheds light on the personal stories of queer and drag artists, who constantly negotiate their identity and explore their boundaries. The artists represent a wide range of Berlin’s nightlife figures, from electro queens to punk feminists and drag chanson. They share their perspectives on and understanding of community, sex, love, diaspora, family and their personal as well as stage identity. Moreover, the performance raises the issue of racism in the queer scene against the invisibility of queer post-migrant bodies.

  • When: 20:00
  • Where: Naunynstr. 27, 10997
  • Admission: 8
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► Monday: One Year Home

Initially intended as a short-term project, the intensity of the encounters and photographs shot for ‘One Day as a Refugee’ resulted in a long-term collaboration between the photographer Lorenz Kienzle and the Syrian filmmaker Omar Akahare. Using photographs and film representations, the two arists document and explore the daily lives of refugees in Guben and Lietzen.

  • When: 11:00-18:00
  • Where: Käthe Kollwitz Museum  – Fasanenstraße 24, 10719
  • Admission: 4
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