Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Aya Soika"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog
'Berliner Stadtschloss', postcard from the 1920s

‘Berliner Stadtschloss’, postcard from the 1920s

Museum Island – the island of grand architecture, remarkable artworks and astonishing exhibits––stands incomplete before us today. It is impossible to miss it: the hole in the center of Berlin, surrounded by the city’s greatest and widely known museums; the place where the Berlin City Palace (Stadtschloss Berlin) once stood. 580 years after its cornerstone was first laid, and 63 years after it was blow up by East Germany’s authorities, this baroque palace that was once home to Prussian royalty is being reconstrusted at a cost of around 590 million euros. And this is only the cost of rebuilding it – mainteinance costs are still to be considered. Under the lead of the Italian architect Franco Stella, the Palace is finally getting its original place in the city back – with the funding support from the federal government.  Despite the major criticism of the project by ministers, academics and concerned Berliners, the German President laid the new foundation stone on June 12 this year. Welcome back, old days of glory?

Read more
Deutsches Historisches Museum

Deutsches Historisches Museum

Each semester, ECLA of Bard offers the course Berlin: Experiment in Modernity. Just like the ECLA BA students have a mandatory core course each semester, this Berlin–themed class is the core component for the exchange students enrolled in the Bard in Berlin program. However, all ECLA students have the possibility to take it. Furthermore, students not enrolled in the class can join the weekly museum visits, which form an essential part of the course. Students of ECLA of Bard thus have the possibility to visit some of Berlin’s museums and galleries for free and enjoy guided tours with ECLA professors.

Last week, I joined in a visit to the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) led by ECLA’s professor Aya Soika, who as an art historian and native Berliner seems to know everything about Berlin. The museum is really big. It captures the complete history of the territory of current Germany from the settlement of Germanic tribes until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the following reunification of Germany. Because of the size of the exhibition, it was quite useful that our guide, Aya Soika, showed us the highlights of the museum. For the future, visits of places like the Bertolt-Brecht-House, the Reichstag building, the Berlinische Galerie, or the Christian Boros Collection are planned.

The Missing House on Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Berlin-Mitte

The Missing House on Grosse Hamburger Strasse, Berlin-Mitte

As students from different parts of the world, we contemplate this ‘vividly-coloured’ city – Berlin – through the prism of our own upbringing. It has much to offer, indeed: if environmentally-aware – its green parks are a ‘snapshot’ of nature’s bliss; if interested in history – you’d never complain about the lack of a city ‘aura’; if merely curious – take a stroll along its streets, and the city will slowly unfold itself to you.

Still, despite the unrelenting courage, inquisitiveness and readiness for discovery, one may sometimes fall short of grasping the city’s ‘spirit’ without being open to new perspectives on it from those who ‘have breathed its air’ for longer. And here is where we – the Die Bärliner team – come to act as mediators between the bearers of opulent knowledge and experience of Germany’s capital and the enthusiastic blog readers, eager to explore it. The “Berlin Through the Eyes of…” blog series, comprised of interviews with the ECLA of Bard faculty and staff, is meant to impart to students and blog readers a wide range of sensible and vivid points of view on this wonderful city.

As a companion to us in the discovery (and re-discovery) of the city is the ECLA of Bard professor Aya Soika, whose own life is strongly entwined with the city of Berlin. Enticing us to embark upon a historical voyage of this formerly divided city, and offering us some great insights and tips for further exploration, Aya Soika enthusiastically shares a part of her rich experience and knowledge of Berlin. 

Read more

It was quickly decided by public decree that Leonardo would be given some beautiful work to paint, and Leonardo was thus commissioned to do the hall.”

Giorgio Vasari, Lives of the Artists

All over the world, art historians’ minds are divided concerning a recent discovery in Florence’s Palazzo Vecchio. The main hall, covered in sixteenth-century frescos by Giorgio Vasari, appears to hide a Leonardo da Vinci painting beneath, raising the question of how – and whether – to uncover the hidden artwork.

ECLA Faculty member Professor Aya Soika was one of those experts consulted on the controversy. On the AY/BA1 trip to Florence, ECLA students had the opportunity to listen to the views of Federico Berti, an art historian and Florentine native—as well as a longstanding friend of ECLA–who strongly supports the work of uncovering the ‘hidden’ painting.

Read more

Photo: Irina Stelea

I had heard much of Daniel Liebeskind’s deconstructive architecture of Berlin’s Jewish Museum before visiting, so was therefore surprised by the presence of a romance-style building at the museum’s location.My visit was shared by a collective of ECLA students and guided by faculty art historian Professor Aya Soika and winter term guest professor Dr. Irit Dekel.

I quickly learned that this romantic building, named the Kollegienhaus, is a structure historically significant to Berlin’s history, built over one hundred and fifty years before the side of the museum designed by Liebeskind was constructed.

The architectural contrasts between these two buildings are numerous. The Kollegienhaus houses the main entrance and is immediately viewable from the outside, while much of Liebeskind’s structure is covered from street view by trees.

Read more

Max Pechstein

On Friday 21 October at the Brücke Museum in Berlin, ECLA faculty member Aya Soika presented, in collaboration with the executors of his estate, her catalogue of and commentary upon the work of Max Pechstein.

The results were no light production. Weighing in at 8.4 kilograms, with 1188 pages and 1340 illustrations, the labour-intensive project took seven years to complete.

Research for the project began at the University of Cambridge where Aya investigated the idea of “Raumkunst” (interior design art) important to the Expressionist movement “Die Brücke”, an attempt by the artists to go beyond the frame of the canvas to create total artworks that bridge different art disciplines.

Read more

Whose Is That Wall

The very first event of the Annual Conference 2009 materialized with the support of ECLA art history faculty Aya Soika and addressed one of the many features of Berlin that I find particularly fascinating –the ubiquitous street art. I became a discoverer of street art when I saw that familiar cities ‘back home’ were no longer neutral, but had started to engage each pedestrian with their playfulness. Suddenly, forgotten corners of Bucharest, Brasov or Timisoara blossomed into gems of style and wit through which one ‘reads’ how a special group of dwellers lovingly approach their cities and poke at the indifference of others. No surprise that once I got the chance to live in Berlin, I felt like a child in a candy store. Walking (or biking) though the streets here comes close to reading a perpetually changing comic book. For this reason, I needed to transmit a dose of my exhilaration to those ECLA classmates with an eye prepared to see art in the most unexpected sites. My proposal for this years’ Annual Conference was a presentation of street art and the question of ownership, followed by a walk through Kreuzberg where we got more acquainted with the ‘works’ and, indirectly, with the artists.

What we call ‘street art’ now is an umbrella term which originated in 1960s wall scribbling, and which expanded to include other manifestations that share a fundamental characteristic:  using public space as display. Spray-painted names or words on building façades were a nuisance to everybody, initially; regarded as vandalism and punished by state authorities, this set the course for many of the practices still present in street art operations: the anonymity of the artists, the speed at which they work (prompted by the fear of being arrested), the formation of a ‘behind-the-scenes’ community, and the ephemeral and critical nature of this art. The scope is now international, no longer restricted to an urban setting, and by gaining the appreciation of city dwellers, it gradually grows out of its illegal relation with the city authorities. Nonetheless, this is a slow process undercut by massive arrests and rapid defacing of the works, even in cities where street art is old news by now.

Read more
AY Seminar at the Gemaeldegalerie

ECLA Seminar at the Gemaeldegalerie

Owing to the immense number of opportunities that Berlin offers, the students of the AY core course managed to get a first-hand experience of some well-known art works that have been the subject of study for the past few weeks. Another of the AY core seminars, led by Professor Aya Soika on February 14, was held in Berlin’s Gemaeldegalerie, famous for housing one of the best collections of European art from the 13th to the 18th centuries. What made it suitable for our visit was the fact that one of its main sections is dedicated to Italian painting from the 13th to the 16th century.

The Gemaeldegalerie was first opened in 1830. The present-day building, however, was built in 1997. The architectural style tries to create a setting in which the paintings will be shown in their true splendor. A special attention is paid to light, which comes from the big windows on the ceiling, and there is even a “piazza” inside – a huge space where no paintings are exhibited and where visitors can just walk, enjoying the freedom that this spacious hall offers.

Aya opened the seminar by showing how a connection has been made between Giotto di Bodone and Mark Rothko. Three paintings, two by Giotto (Crucifixion and Death of the Virgin) and one by Rothko (Reds), were exhibited in a small, cube-like room. The fact that only a limited number of people could enter the room at once created an atmosphere of serenity similar to that of a church. This was done with the intention of giving the viewer time and space to contemplate the art presented. As Rothko himself had said: “silence is so accurate.”

Read more