The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin Jens Ziehe
art, Berlin, history, Life in Berlin, Museum, politics, things to do

Welcome to Jerusalem at the Jewish Museum Berlin

The Jewish Museum Berlin is a disorientating place. It is made up of various buildings from different periods, most recently The Libeskind building.

Architect Daniel Libeskind created his design around a series of intersecting voids and straight and zigzagging lines. Corridors veer off at angles, and lights, mirrors and installations constantly make you aware of the strangeness of the space.

Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman at the Jewish Museum Berlin
Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman, Jewish Museum Berlin

One of my favourite installations in this are is Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) by Menashe Kadishman. You hear it before you see it, a distinct clinking reminiscent of chains or shackles. The work consists of over 10,000 screaming faces cut from iron plates, which you walk over as you approach a dark void. It is a disturbing refection of victims of war.

Adding another layer to the confusion of space is the newly opened “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition in the old building. The exhibition transports you through the history, sights and sounds of the city in over 15 rooms. One room, dedicated to maps, displays The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, showing Jerusalem as the centre of the world. Disorientating again, from a geographical point of view, but accurate from a historical, religious and political point of view.

The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin Jens Ziehe
The Whole World in a Clover Leaf by Heinrich Bünting, Magdeburg, 1600, Woodcut © Jewish Museum Berlin, purchased with funds provided by Stiftung DKLB, photo: Jens Ziehe

 

The exhibition successfully shows the changing landscape of Jerusalem, from 5000 years ago to the present day, where old and new constantly overlap and collide. The exhibition is full of interesting insights and facts, for example, that the keys to one of the holiest sites in Christianity, The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, are held by two Muslim families, or that Muslims once faced towards Jerusalem to pray, before this was changed to Mecca, or that when the Jewish temple was destroyed, Judaism fundamentally changed to focus on the study of holy texts. In addition to all this, the exhibition provides you with a good understanding of the current conflicts that occupy the city today.

So, if you’re getting tired of the grey Berlin winter, take a trip to the Jewish Museum to be transported through time and space.

Welcome to Jerusalem is on at the Jewish Museum Berlin (Lindenstraße 9-14, 10969 Berlin) until 30 April 2019.

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Germany, Life in Berlin, News, politics

Opening of the Google Offices in Berlin

Opening of Google Offices BerlinOn Wednesday night, Google officially opened its offices at Unter den Linden 14. We used our best gate-crashing skills to get in, but the party was disappointing.

Google’s presence in Berlin will help the company influence government Internet policies. Germany’s strict privacy laws have recently resulted in a couple of high-profile cases being brought against the company here; Max Mosely is making a fuss because the site references photos of him taken at a sex party, and former wife of German President Bettina Wulff says it’s defamatory that her name appears in combination with ‘prostitute’ and ‘escort’ when typed into search. (Bettina happens to be releasing a book; the publicity can’t be bad for sales).

Although the Berlin office functions as a lobby, it has that colourful, nerdy, Googly feel aGoogle Offices Berlinbout it. The meeting rooms are named after Berlin clubs like Berghain and Weekend, you can doodle on chalkboards, lounge around on bean bags etc.

German newspapers such as Die Welt and Bild have been fascinated by the interior deco, but it felt predictable. Besides, hanging kinky toys on the wall is trying too hard…

The attempt to combine lobbying with the image of cool new media company also made the party fall flat. It started off promisingly, with proffered trays of cocktails in Google colours (blue, red, yellow and green) and an interesting flying buffet  (smoked quail eggs served with vegetarian caviar etc). A hypnotizing projection of a globe showed searches going on in different languages around the world, there was a photo booth to mess around in and a massive screen rendering Google Earth in 3D.

Google searches around the world; different colours represent different languages

This was ruined when chief lobbyist Annette Kroeber-Riel began her speech. It took 5 minutes for people to realise she was speaking, her speech was over-long and she read from paper. Then followed speeches from Hans-Joachim Otto (Deputy Economy Minister) and Nicolas Zimmer (Deputy Minister in the city of Berlin) and an uninteresting three-way video conversation using Google Hangouts, by which point everyone had stopped listening again. This would have been tolerable if alcohol was allowed to be served during speeches, but the folks at Google Berlin had told the bar staff to stop serving during this time, showing their true, dull colours.

There were a few celebrities on show, including Jette Joop, but altogether, it was pretty boring…

Looking at other coverage of this party makes me wonder whether those writers were at the same party as me, or whether they’re just making sure their articles will appear in search…

For more, read The Spiegel’s article on How Google Lobbies German Government

Life in Berlin, politics

The Art of Political Lobbying

This week German parliament was fully underway, which meant that various pressure groups were swinging from the chandeliers of the lobbies desperately trying to find a way in.

I’ve never understood political lobbying – it all seems so simplistic and corrupt. Take for example E-Plus´s attempt to limit free access to content on the web on Wednesday night, when they hosted a Mobile meets Movies evening.

No matter how much wine they plied you with, nothing could shake off the corporate atmosphere that clung to the whole affair. This was partly due to the fact that E-Plus’s Unter den Linden offices are…very officey; photocopiers, bland abstract art and grey carpets all the way.

Moreover, the people at E-Plus did not really care about the topic Mobile meets Movies, and scarcely bothered to hide the fact. We expected something vaguely in line with Virgin Shorts, The Pocket Film Festival and creative uses of new media; we got two short films – one from 1981 and the other from 1989 – shown in a meeting room normally used for PowerPoint presentations. Now why would they pick two very old films when there are thousands of brilliant short films made every year, especially in Berlin? One; the people organising the event had no interest in movies, and two, one of them was made by Lutz Dammbeck, filmmaker and Professor of New Media, which brings me to the low point of the evening.

After the films, we were subjected to a lecture from the aforementioned Professor and Christoph Keese, a journalist who works for Axel Springer AG, Germany’s largest newspaper publishing company and owner of the Bild.

Both of them spent the next hour and a half pleading for the limitation of free content on the web using the stupid arguments. For example, that free web content would result in there being less artists in the world, which is the stupidest statement I’ve heard since Elton John suggested that the Internet should be cut off for 5 years to encourage creativity.  If anything, the Internet democratises and encourages creativity – and it’s not just losers like me that are using it – Elfriede Jelinek, the feminist anti-capitalist former Nobel Prize Winner is shunning massive advances to publish her latest writings online for free.

In short, both the journalist (for the profit of his paper) and the filmmaker (for his art) were dancing around like apes trying to protect their territory.

It was with this attitude of annoyance that I went to an event hosted by Vattenfall, one of Europe’s largest energy companies, who wish to extend the service life of nuclear power stations, the following day. While I had previously not really cared one way or another about free content on the web (although by Wednesday night my opinion very strongly against that of E-Plus), I have never really been in favour of nuclear power stations so I was geared up to start an argument with the first suit I saw.

However, when we arrived at The 12 Apostles, the party was in full swing and there was no one round to have a serious argument with. The restaurant, situated under three arcs of the S-Bahn between Friedrichstrasse and Hackesher Markt, had a self-service buffet in each room as well as a flying buffet. There were also several wine bars, beer bars, cocktail bars, a fresh sushi bar and a cigar bar where you could get a genuine latina to roll you a fresh cigar (unfortunately not between her thighs).  In the red smokey atmosphere, surrounded by religious frescos with the train rumbling occasionally overhead, we felt like we were having a party in the depths of hell.

There were no speeches, no-one telling you what they wanted and why, just pure, sinful decadence. Sure there were lots of evil-looking Mr Burns types around, however, there were also quite a few well-known faces – Andrea Nahles (deputy and gerneral secretary of the SPD), German soap stars, Peter Scholl-Latour (non-fiction writer and documentary filmmaker) and Heiner Bremer (former anchor man and TV journalist). What were they all doing there? Who cares. What do I think about nuclear power stations? Well, here’s a short piece of free web content to help express my thoughts: