Sunday, March 8, 2009

Historical Reconstructionism

The Neue Museum on Museuminsel is on the verge of re-opening for the first time since its pounding during WWII. I went by there on Friday to check out this weekend's open-door preview, but the long line of people waiting an estimated hour in cold drizzle was enough to send me on my way. Its website lists the opening date as October 16, 2009, but clearly another artwork shuffle will take place in the next few weeks. Nefertiti, with whom I just checked in a couple of weeks ago, will be moving to the Neue Museum's Egypt rooms and that part of the museum will open in April, if my reading of the very difficult German on Berlin's Staatliche Museen website is correct. After all, they can hardly afford to keep Nefi out of circulation for very long. She gets around, though, that babe. She was in Charlottenburg in the summer of 2003, the one and only time I visited Berlin before moving here three years later, by which time she'd moved again, to the Alte Museum.

Working the long line of waiting people was a group called the Gesellschaft Historisches Berlin, handing out slick pamphlets with color photos and asking passers-by to complete a small survey as to whether the museum should have been rebuilt instead of "conserved as a ruin". I have railed before at historical revisionism in the context of the destruction of the Palast der Republik and I'll say again: Berlin was leveled in the war and virtually anything you see in the center of town that looks over 70 years old is NOT. The Director kindly gave me this photo he took just days ago of the empty lot where the Palast once stood. The graffiti reads DIE DDR HAT'S NIE GEGEBEN (THE DDR HAS NEVER EXISTED).

An old-time American Berliner who's since moved on used to say that the only thing people care about here is either Nazis/Jews or East/West. There's a great deal of truth to that, in my experience. But standing in the middle of downtown Berlin, one would think that the only thing worth memorializing is the former, and even such examples are precious few. I'm particularly fond of the Anhalter Bahnhof and Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche (preserved unapologetically as ruins). The Bundestag is a brillant compromise between preserved remains and modern reinvention. Although scarce, such examples do at least exist. But the destruction of the Palast makes me fear for Alexanderplatz, with its wacky space-age clocks and workers-of-the-world murals and Plattenbau and the Marx-Engels statue that kids love to clamber over. The true heart of the city, Alex is, rightly so, constantly morphing. But they'll never take its crazy brave-new-world touches away from us, will they? They couldn't, could they?

No comments: