Die Bärliner - The Bard College Berlin Student Blog
Tag "Museums"
on the Bard College Berlin Student Blog

► 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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Paul Fest performing an impromptu concert for students (Credit: Acacia Mays).

Along with a flurry of new smiles and voices to acquaint oneself with, a sprinkle of tentatively sunny days, and the usual buzz of post-vacation excitement, the start of the Spring Semester at BCB brings with it a unique opportunity for new and returning students to explore the ultimately unknowable city that unfolds beyond our campus borders. This opportunity, offered to BCBers at the beginning of every semester under the innocent and unassuming name “The Berlin Weekend”, features some of the the city’s ever-changing and multifarious attractions — with a BCB twist.

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Last weekend, members of the junior core course Berlin: Experiment in Modernity, and City for Citizens, took a trip to the historic town of Weimar. Though Weimar was small enough to wander and easily find our way back to the hostel, it was rich with more than 15 museums, with special attention paid to former residents Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller. The trip was packed with tours and paid-for meals, but there was plenty of room to eat ice cream and be playful on top of that.


Students on a guided tour of the Bauhaus University, where Walter Gropius founded the Bauhaus movement in 1919. The buildings on campus were specially constructed to maximize the potential of student-art; indirect light sprinkles into the classrooms of painters, as direct light fills the classrooms of sculptors to promote more dynamic pieces. 

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Awesomely creepy ghost catfish

Awesomely creepy ghost catfish (Photo by: Irina Stelea)

31st August 2013 – day of the 33rd Lange Nacht der Museen (Long Night of Museums) in Berlin. Over a hundred museums, institutions and cultural centers open their doors to the public during this time, starting from 6 pm and continuing into the night until 2 am. This year’s stroll through Berlin museums was particularly adventurous and exciting for our two blog writers. Sometimes unexpected conditions come as the best surprise and set the trajectory for one of the most interesting and exciting nights of our summer (in the end, that is)…

7:25 pm: The arrows of the clock move relentlessly. I am in the cafeteria still munching on an apple while being firmly grounded in the belief that the sound of my nibbling and the strikes of the clock arrows are in perfect sync with the BVG schedule when it comes to the measure of time. I am wrong. Little do I know at this point that my plans for the night, for my Lange Nacht der Museen, will actually turn into a Run, Lola, run––esque attempt at different scenarios to spend the evening––all ending a bit “off” compared to the original ‘script’. I have planned to finally go to the Archenhold–Sternwarte: the oldest and largest public observatory in Germany that prides itself on possessing the “longest movable refracting telescope on Earth”. Although the Lange Nacht der Museen official program offers other curiosity–provoking potential visits, I have made my mind, perhaps also in a somewhat pay–back–time effort to erase all the frustration that I have gathered every second Friday of the month (the only time one can observe through the giant telescope) in the past year and a half when the weather was bad or when I had to delve into the depths of some text rather than those of the clear night sky. I have decided that what the old observatory would offer would suffice as a full program for the night. I will go to the “Radio-astronomical Demonstrations” at 8:30pm, then to the “Generation of the Stars” presentation at 9pm, then at 10pm I would see the current starry sky over Berlin in the Planetarium, and finally from 10pm I will be able to observe through the giant telescope…if the sky is clear. It’s 7:30pm and it’s rainy, cold, and…as cloudy as it can get…and I missed the tram.

8:00 pm: Berggruen Museum. I am waiting for my friends at the entrance while freezing in the cold evening rain––typical for the predictably unpredictable Berlin weather. At least the entrance is free, I think to myself to kill the time and ward-off the shivers. My mind focuses on the images by Picasso, Matisse, and Klee––some of my all-time favorite contemporary artists––waiting for me in the building. It will be the first time I see these works in person… As my imagination wanders off into the Surrealist realms, I can see the familiar silhouettes of my friends in the distance as they approach the museum.

8:00 pm: I get on the next tram not really sure where I am going. Given that the weather is not even close to clearing up, I try to think of another plan and promise myself that I will hunt that clear-sky second Friday of the month, even if that would be the last of me. I remember that there is another venue that interests me: a 3–hour workshop on 3D animation at the Museum for Film and Television. At 8:30pm my friend and I find ourselves at Potsdamer Platz. There is still some time, so we decide to check whether we should register. The man at the info desk does not know whether there should be prior registration but does enlighten us that the ticket costs 12 euros regardless. Just until now I had the illusion that the entrance is free which justified my lax schedule.

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The Berlin Museum of Medical History - 02 Anatomisches Theater und Virchows Arbeitstisch

Photo: Thomas Bruns, The Berlin Museum of Medical History

My cousins in Pakistan who are studying to be doctors often boast of their capacity to treat human beings’ greatest impediments in life—physical ailments. Such confidence comes from their commitment to contemporary medicine, which (unfortunately) is often mistakenly thought to be omnipotent for the rather remarkable strides it makes concerning patient health. Many debilitating diseases and disorders bearing grim prognoses are now losing their potent grip thanks to the advent of modern medical science and technology. However, with this contemporary ease of suffering and prolongation of life, an individual can lose perspective on what these ailments meant for people living a hundred or two hundred years ago.

On a recent visit to the Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum der Charité (a requirement of the 2nd year core course, The History and Philosophy of Science: Early Modern Science), I had one such moment of historical reflection when, for the first time, I actually thanked our ancestors and all those who contributed to the field of medicine. The museum displays a variety of tools, instruments and equipment routinely used in the early 1800s, a time when surgery was just becoming a popular way of treating people with various ailments. Looking on in amazement, I pondered on the extremely large and (certainly) painful cutting instruments used for surgery.

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Pergamon Altar

The Pergamon Altar, Pergamon Museum Berlin.

As ECLA of Bard students, we are relatively familiar with one of Berlin’s most amazing treasures—the Pergamon Altar. Not only do we visit it annually in an almost festive fashion as First Years, but it also decorates our homepage. I would even dare to say that if ECLA of Bard were to establish a formal sports team, Pergamon’s Zeus would serve as a mascot.

Yet in the past few years, the Pergamon and other artifacts of Turkish origin are at the center of a cultural battle comparable in scale to that of the Olympian gods and Giants. Recently, the directors of several of the largest and most distinguished museums around the globe such as The Metropolitan, The Louvre or The Pergamon have accused the Turkish government of unprecedented aggressiveness, claiming that the Turks are using any means (including extortion) in order to retrieve their cultural artifacts. Turkey has also been accused of threatening sanctions against countries currently in possession of these treasures (this includes, but is not limited to, forbidding universities and research institutions from conducting excavations on Turkish soil). German officials responded by claiming that all of the Turkish artifacts which are displayed in German museums were purchased legally more than 100 years ago, therefore absolving them of any legal obligation to return them. Irrespective of the legal reality surrounding the artifacts, Turkey’s culture minister, Ertugrul Gunay, claimed in an interview for “The Guardian” earlier this year that these aggressive measures are proving effective, spurring on further reacquisition: “Whatever was returned till today is only the start…We will retrieve many more Turkish  national treasures in the next few years”.

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Pietà, 1937/38 (photo from www.kaethe-kollwitz.de)

Pietà, 1937/38 (photo from www.kaethe-kollwitz.de)

On December 7, the students in the Berlin: Experiment in Modernity course visited the Käthe Kollwitz Museum as part of their then on-going class discussion about social democracy, through the lens of Europe’s workers’ movement in the 19th and 20th century.

Situated in Berlin’s elegant Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf neighborhood, the museum is actually a modified 19th century villa which houses art dealer Hans Pels-Leusden’s collection of over 200 prints, lithographs, drawings, woodcuts and sculptures by Kollwitz. Deviating from the conventional grand confinements of modern museums, the unique and cozy setting of the Käthe Kollwitz Museum helps to draw one’s attention to the harrowing human story behind the artist’s work and life.

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Image from www.einsteinfoundation.de

Image from www.einsteinfoundation.de

Every once in a while, a forgotten piece of history gets the unique chance to be remembered and to resurface in the public sphere. As it happened, on December 4 a lost piece of media history got its moment: the phonograph.

I learned about the lecture through ECLA of Bard’s weekly newsletter on activities in Berlin. Organized by the Einstein Foundation, the lecture was to take place at the Museum for Communication. Although I am not usually one to leave campus on weekdays (I always feel safer cuddled next to the heater in the Library, doing my reading for the following day), the lover of antiques in me would not let me miss such a lecture. So, armed with a map and an exact address, I left ECLA of Bard’s campus and ventured into the wet from the rain streets of Berlin.

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