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Berlin, Again (Credit: Ronni Shalev)

Berlin, Again (Credit: Ronni Shalev)

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From left to right: Inasa Bibic (BA 2016), Norman Manea, David Kretz (BA 2016). Credit: Gaia Bethel-Birch (AY 2016)

On the evening of Friday, September 18th, in a residential neighbourhood on the fringe of one of the world’s most vibrant cities, something odd occurred at Bard College Berlin. This is a time when one might expect the students of BCB to be out and about the city, or simply doing their best not to think too deeply for a while. And, indeed, most of the classrooms were empty: doors locked, lights off, lying in wait of Monday morning. Curiously, though, on this night, light and sound filled the school’s lecture hall. 

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Falling Man by Richard Drew

I think I must have been holding some brightly colored toy. I remember the flash of color falling from my hands to the ground as my mother’s bloodcurdling scream reached my ears. I ran into the house to see what had happened. My aunt, uncles, grandmother and mother stood crowding around the TV screen. They had closed faces of general disbelief while my mother stood crying hysterically in the middle. I remember a hand coming to cover a mouth, eyes bulging, a limp cigarette dropping ashes on the living room floor. I knew something big, bigger than us, was happening from they way they could not hear me as I shouted “what’s wrong?” from the fact that they didn’t feel me yanking at their sleeves. So I tried to understand what the television was showing us, but it was a blur of strange sounds and incomprehensible images. Flames and something familiar, something I had seen on countless postcards my whole life. The live stream from CNN was dubbed by an Italian newscaster. The volumes of their voices were equal, like two people shouting over one another. Their words tangled around each other so I couldn’t understand either of them. All I knew was that the place on the TV was New York.  “Una delle le due torri. Colpita. We do not yet know che cosa sia accaduto.” Then the second tower was hit and my family began yelling.

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A woman plays with the variations of sound produced by her drum.

A manipulation of sound on conventional and unconventional instruments.

“You can understand nothing about art, particularly modern art, if you do not understand that imagination is a value in itself.” – Milan Kundera

I was wandering through a small book store, browsing through the English book section for something I might like to pick up, when I came across a new edition of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. I sat down on the steps, avoiding the trail of water that followed up from various other browsers’ foot prints, and decided to read the new preface in which Lucasta Miller describes the disturbing effects of the novel on its readers; an incomprehensible disturbance that is almost impossible to locate. The solution Miller came to for this problem is that “…great literature was as much about questions as it was about answers.” She explains that readers open the novel with the anticipation of receiving some sort of set answer, when really the book leaves one with more questions than when she initially passed her eyes over the first word. Because many readers use books as a mode of escape, great literature mirrors the unsettling facts about life: sometimes there are no answers, but it’s the thoughts and questions that make life fascinating. As time has melded art into what it is today, this concept of the importance of an idea and a process instead of a final product has taken hold of the art world.

The night before I happened upon this copy of Wuthering Heights, I attended my first electro-acoustic show at Acker Stadt Palast, a small venue hidden within a Berlin courtyard. Folded up cardboard boxes littered the courtyard’s corner, small tables covered by a thin sheet of rain were surrounded by chatting smokers, and the inside of a bar was illuminated through the doorway with soft oranges and yellows, exuding the warmth of the room. My friends and I walked in, paid 6€ for our tickets and crawled in quietly through the side door so as not to disturb the show. With all of the benches full, we found some room on the floor, crossed our legs and began to listen. The peculiarity of the instruments and the sound created for me the same unsettling feeling that Miller ascribes to the novel. The first thing I noticed was the multitude of buttons…

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Goodbye Lenin PosterOstalgie is a German term composed of Ost (East) and Nostalgie (nostalgia). It refers to the history and culture of the GDR, and relates to former East Berlin – the current location of ECLA. The film screening of ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ followed by the guest lecture by Dr. Sean Allan from the University of Warwick took place in the last week of the academic term.

The first part of the lecture addressed how contemporary German cinema depicts the past and how the GDR was represented in post 1991 films. As Dr. Allan described, earlier post-reunification cinema tended to be more dramatic, because directors made films which they could not do in the former GDR. In contrast, later the employment of comedy to depict a traumatic past has proven quite popular, with more than five million people viewing ‘Good Bye Lenin!’ in the first two weeks after its release.

‘Good Bye Lenin!’ presents a universal narrative: the love between a mother and her son, the idyllic personal memories of childhood stretched into collective impressions of the period. The world of East Germany reconstructed and performed by the film characters intensifies the Ostalgie phenomenon. East German lifestyle recreated by the characters becomes what they would have wished the GDR to be in reality – in the words of Dr. Allan “the ultimate Ostalgie”.

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