Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Jewish Museum

These columns in "The Garden of Exile" are sitting at an angle. When you walk between them , it make you dizzy and even a little nauseus. The columns are filled with dirt and there are trees growing out of the top.

Berlin is a marathon. There are more museums than we can see in 5 days. Today we saw the Pergamon and the Neues Museum on Museum Island before lunch and the Jewish Museum and the Gemaldegalerie before bed.
Of course, the Jewish Museum was the main reason I came to Berlin. So after a morning on Museum Island, we made our way on the U-bahn to the Halles Tor stop to go the the Jewish Museum. The building is disconcerting. The architect purposely wanted to leave the visitor disoriented. Without the prior research it would have been quite possible to miss important parts of the exihibition, but I had Chad to help me find them before we left. The building itself is a zigzag shape, and to add to the feeling of disorientation, the floor rises in places and the ceiling does not. Halls lead to nowhere. The architect did not feel he needed to interpret the design, but felt it was important for each visitor to draw his or her own conclusions. On top of 1000 years of Jewish history represented in the museum there are two rooms which leave the visitor searching for meaning. Menashe Kadishman's contribution to the Jewish Museum Berlin is the installation titled Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves) in the Memory Void, one of the empty spaces in the museum. Over 10,000 open-mouthed faces coarsely cut from heavy, circular iron plates cover the floor making and unearthly racket as visitors walk over them. I was left feeling it was somehow disrespectful to walk on faces of people like walking over graves in a cemetary. The other empty space was the Holocaust tower. The room was completely dark except for the slit of a window high above in a tight corner. It seemed to be a place for quiet contemplation, a holy place of remembrance.

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