This is the last post I’ll write about this Europe trip, because I’ve been back in Norway for almost two weeks and have so much I want to share! Orientation has been so overwhelming and since I discovered that Sherlock is on Netflix, it’s all I can do to crawl into bed at the end of the night and episode and then have trouble sleeping so I’m tired the next day. But I digress.
Berlin! I love this city. Alex and I both agree that we could come back here every year for the rest of our lives and never get bored. I did go here last year, too, but hardly remember it because I came down with a killer cold and was so sick that at one point I actually fell asleep in a beer garden. On the last morning of that same trip, Ande and Alex and Ellen were gallantly trying to get me to explore the Tiergarten park but I was so ill that we all seriously considered just leaving me lying in the grass somewhere so they could enjoy the park, and then they would come collect me on the way back to the train station. Then, there was a train strike, so all the trains were overflowing with people and there was no seating, so I spent the however many hours ride curled up on the floor in the aisle of the train car staring up at the ceiling and thinking it actually felt really nice to be lying down.
So! I was super excited to be back and in full health. Alex and I were primed and ready to drink some good coffee after the swill in Leipzig, learn all about German history, walk in some parks, and eat laugencroissants. We were staying in cool neighborhood of Friedrichsain, which consists mainly of restaurants and so many delicious coffee shops and a lot of English speakers. Our first day we made the excellent decision of going to the Berlinische Galerie, a modern art museum, for what I can unequivocally say is the most enjoyable time I’ve ever had in a museum and maybe some of the most fun I’ve had in a long while.
Erwin Wurm at the Berlinische Galerie
First of all, everyone working there was very friendly, even the museum attendants were warm and not creepy, and it made the museum in general seem very welcoming, which I loved. The guy selling tickets gave us both the student price, even though I didn’t have a student ID yet and Alex isn’t a student. Off to a good start!
The first exhibit was Erwin Wurm’s “Narrow House”, which is “a faithful reconstruction of [the artist’s] parents’ home in every detail, except that the artist has compressed it into a depth of just over a metre.” This was one of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had. From the side, the house looks totally normal, but from the front you can see it’s just really very narrow.
And then inside, everything has been narrowed, too, like the dining room table, or the stove, or even the slippers that are laid in the bedroom. I took some crappy photos (although I’m glad to see they’re not much worse than the ones up on Modern Met in the link above) so you can get an idea. Everyone shuffling in and out of the house had huge smiles on their faces, and it was nice to see a piece of artwork that inspires so much joy.
The next Erwin Wurm exhibit was his One-Minute sculptures, which consisted of individual stations with instructions on what pose to hold with a particular. The idea is you hop up on the pedestal and hold the pose for one minute. The first one you see has a bunch of tennis balls, and you are supposed to lie on your back on top of the tennis balls. I helped Alex with this one.
There was another with just an empty handbag that you are supposed to put over your head.
Another that was supposed to be a confessional with two people sticking their heads in a little doghouse.
Or one where you had to hold books between your legs and arms.
Or another where you stick your leg through a hole that has been drilled through the back of the couch. This one I tried to leave after the photo was taken, but the museum attendant, who were the most jolly and non-creepy attendants I’d ever experienced, so “nein! Eine Minute!” so I had to hold it for one minute.
There was another where two people put on one sweater. The oddest part about this one was experiencing someone else taking off their sweater that you are also wearing, it was like my body was leaving me behind.
Or try to wear a chair like a shirt.
Everyone in the exhibit was laughing, and the whole room was full of such joy, except at one point an infant that started to cry. I wanted to say to him “Child—why are you crying?! Can’t you see you’re in the happiest place in the world?!”
In the next room over they had some sketches from Erwin Wurm about other potential one-minute sculptures, which were generally quite funny. I liked the one where you kneel are commanded to "think about nihilism".
Hm…what else about Berlin. It was a lot of walking around and eating and going to the Topography of Terrors several times in order to make sure we could take it all in (it’s such a fabulous museum, but so dense that I could only last about 45 minutes before needing to take a break.) One thing I really like about this city is that there is always something interesting to look at on the street-level, so much public art! It’s nice to be constantly discovering small little things on every block. We tried to go to the neighborhood pirate-themed ice cream shop, but it was too busy.
Oh! But we did happen across a traveling installment of an Asisi Panometer! This one was about the Berlin wall (of course) and was very different in feel from The Great Barrier Reef one we saw in Leipzig. Instead of calming, watery music, there were a lot of voiceovers of scary-sounding German and crackly radio transmissions. Also, the guy selling tickets had this amazing combination of his tone sounding really angry and aggressive but his words being very kind and gentle. It really threw me through a loop.
I didn’t like the this Panometer quite as much, but I did feel transported, and for a few moments I felt like I was looking over the wall into east Berlin.
Well, that’s all I think I’ll go into for now. As I mentioned, I am eager to begin writing about Norway, many things have happened! My Masters of Agroecology kicks off with a four day visit to a farm, and we leave in just a few hours!