Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pt. 8 Museum Island, or 'No autofocus!'

In the center of Mitte (which itself means 'middle' or something like it) there is an island with a collection of museums, the center piece of which is the Pergamon Museum which contains the Pergamon altar and the Ishtar gate. On display there was a massive Babylon exhibit divided into 'myths' and 'reality.' There were no photographs allowed, so I don't know where this came from.

By this time we had been to enough museums to decide to do away with the audio tour. We had been dragging these clumsy bastards around to only listen to maybe three tracks that more or less just repeated what was on the wall next to the display. Rather than jostle with the crowd for a cumbersome device to do our reading for us, we jumped ahead to the exhibit. (besides, we had an all museum pass, so there was no dallying...)

The result was on of the most surreal experiences of the trip. Among all the glass enclosed antiquity, massive throngs of museum goers shuffled around occasionally gathering in semi-circles to stare silently at displays. When the signal in their ears told them, they would shuffle off in small groups to stand in silence in another semi-circle around another display.

We darted in and out of these clusters, vaguely following the map that suggested our route. As we poked in and out looking for signs or sometimes not caring the silent people would move around us like water.

It was kind of wasn't even library quiet, it was quiet quiet. Footfalls and the occasional voice.

The 'truth' was stuffy and warm. Myth was air conditioned and spacious. I don't know if this was by design, but it certainly made me like the myths of Babylon a lot more. Plus, there was porn (for the 'whore of Babylon'), so that's always good.

We passed through other museums, the New Museum and Old Museum, where I was taking these pictures when I encountered the strangest photography restriction yet-

A kindly but heavily accented curator came up to me and said, "No autofocus." (well, actually, he was one of the few people that didn't just automatically speak to me in English. Apparently I scream, "Not German.") We figured that since I was taking close ups they were afraid the that the lens moving in and out might hit the sculpture.

The real highlight (well, there were a lot) was the Turkish street vendors on the bridges selling 'authentic' Soviet paraphernalia, mostly hats and pins. My host informed me that for ten year after the fall they were selling 'authentic' chunks of the Berlin wall (which can also still be bought in the store next to the Brandenburg Gate, across from The Museum Kennedy...we had to look because the name was odd.) While the East Berlin government buildings have been torn down due to asbestos, the Marx and Engels statues were still up.

Also what my host kept calling the 'television tower.'

It was interesting to see a product of what I had studied in college. During the occupation the 'west' and 'east' had very different ways of dealing with the communications and film making in Germany. The East kept them nationalized, naturally, and churning out works, the west tore them down (which conveniently opened the door for British and American films that had already made their money domestically. This is a phenomenon that continues on, with American movies filling the theaters and American shows taking up the television programing. I was reminded of the line from a Wim Wenders movie, "The Americans have colonized our minds.") After re-unification the studios are now oriented in the East where they still stood and operated.

I never actually went to Checkpoint Charlie, though I did contemplate getting something with the "You are now leaving the American controlled sector," but it seemed too predictable...

No comments:

Post a Comment