Sunday, 9 February 2014

Berlin Schöneweide - my exhibition IN JULY 2014. and other stories!

As I have mentioned already in facebook: G11 Galerie, Schöneweide sits on the knee of the river Spree in S.E. Berlin an area with an incredible history. It was once the biggest industrial area inside the bounds of a city in Europe. Emil Rathenau the industrialist set up his huge AEG complex here having secured many patents from the inventor Thomas Edison as well as manufacturing his own products. Walter Rathenau, his son was the German foreign minister during the years of the Weimar Republic. Peter Behrens who influenced so many well known architects and designers like Walter Gropius for example, not only created AEG,s huge buildings but also designed its shops, products like lamps for example right down to the very office stationary.
There were many factories in Schöneweide producing everything from electrical cable to transformers to all the items required in the old fashioned valve radio sets.The Nazis ordered one company to mass produce a radio set so that the German people could only hear what Hitler wished them to hear.
There is a small Museum and culture centre in Schöneweide called Industriesalon and they have an amazing collection of technical devices and other equipment dating from the 1920s right up to the end of the GDR period in 1989. You can see equipment there used to make glass valves for radios and transmitters devices, some of the valves, all of varying sizes are beautiful, all hand made. There is one cabinet there from the 1950s I think which was used to jam the radio signals in aircraft, the glass valves are huge.

As I have worked (in a previous life) as an electrical Technician, and sometimes make my own machines and industrial devices Industriesalon has invited me to exhibit my work in their building for the Schöneweide Art Festival in July 2014. Starting on thursday the 10th of July finishing on sunday the 10th. After the festival my work will remain in the Industriesalon for a further three months. My devices are industrial and technical yes, but are philosophical even metaphysical in their nature. They encompass or straddle that whole area from what we might call the material to the spiritual, or philosophic to the scientific, metaphysics covering that whole grey area in between. It was the writing of Descarte and others which inspired me after my electrical and industrial life to create my own machines. He stated that our body is a machine and that our spiritual or divine connection with the deity resides within the pineal gland in the brain. The body and spirit having no connection, being totally seperate - Cartesian duality. Having lived in Leiden Descarte attended like Rembrandt the anatomy theatre, curious after each dissection of the brain to see or experience any sense of the other, the spirit or divine that was within. He was often disappointed discovering in the end only a schrivelled up gland which simply deteriorated rapidly after the death of the body, any residue of soul long since fled. James Joyce in Ulysses was also fascinated with the working of the human body, and was determined to give the ´´humble´´ body itself ´´its due´´. on that faithful day in Dublin on the 16th of June 1904 the story moves through all the organs of the body, kidneys, skin, heart, lungs, brain, blood etc. The body being very familiar to us but at the same time strange. Jonathan Sawday in his book The Body Emblazoned says that Joyce was inspired by an earlier work the Purple Island by Phineas Fletcher. As Sawday explains, Freud, Fletcher, Spenser and his Faerie Queene, the mystic Thomas Traherne with his strange and ´odd´ poetry were all fascinated by the human body and mind. Some for purely scientific and rational reasons, others for the wonder the mystery and the glory of God the creator.
 I am very interested in that whole area of how we percieve the world and ourselves. Our education and conditioning dictates that we often view our existance in a very scientific logical and rational manner. With my devices I want to force the material the industrial and scientific to cohabit with things of the mind soul and spirit, not as a Cartasian duality but a oneness, as we should be in ourselves. Endeavouring to capturing that sense of wonder imagination and innocence that we have I feel, somehow lost along the way in our everyday lives. Is it any wonder that we are living in a world where so many people are depressed and dependant on drink and drugs. The balance between reason and science and our imagination and sense of wonder and being alive, is out of kilter. When I read about the 17th century protestant visionary and mystic Jakob Böhme / Jacob Boehme it says it all. Seeing the exquisite beauty of a beam of light reflected in a pewter dish, he believed that the spiritual structure of the world had been somehow revealed to him. If I said that I had this experience today people would laugh and call an ambulance! He had many visions through out his life and often got into trouble with the church for (being on the edge of) heresy, and this sadly was the Lutheran church after the reformation! They preached about the wonder and glory of God and yet did not want it manifested or celebrated in real life. Jakob Böhme,s writing had a strong influence on Newton and William Blake. He lived in Görlitz which sits on the border of S.E. Germany and Poland. A beautiful place, part of what was once old Bohemia and Silesia. As a child I often read stories of this area which was a beacon of light and enlightment in the so called dark ages and later middle ages. Finally last summer I did a short bike tour there and it was way more beautiful than I expected. That part of Germany Czech republic and Poland is lovely and yet somehow seems sad melancholy and forgotten. Not surprising I suppose when you read of the brutal religious wars and history of the area.
 Bohemia always a place apart, attracted thinkers scientists and philosophers, one of these being Kepler, his work also inspired Newton, providing the foundation for his theory on gravity. The reformer Jan Hus (1369- 1415) is the one who really demands respect, for his bravery and his attempt to release the strangle hold of the Roman Catholic Church on the purses and minds of the ordinary people as well as the Aristocracy, in these lands at that time.
He was a priest and popular preacher in Prague, who became greatly inspired by the writings of John Whycliff an english reformer. Richard II King of England married Anne of Bohemia in 1382 and it is believed that Whycliffs ideas appeared in Bohemia after that. Whycliff had attacked the temporal rule of the clergy and papal authority and its influence on secular power - in temporal things the King is above the Pope. Hus,s teaching fell on fertile ground and after his death the followers of his religious teaching rebelled against their Roman Catholic Rulers and defeated five consecutive Papal crusades. As I am already in Bohemia I might as well tell you a little of the story of this incredible man, who was to have a mojor influence on Luther and the German Reformation.  Almost 90% of the population in Bohemia were followers of his religion after his death . An incredible thing considering most of Europe at this time was under the control of the Church in Rome.
In 1414 Hus accepted an invitation to a church council meeting in Constance, there he was arrested imprisoned and finally burned at the stake. It is said that, not only did they throw his ashes into the Rhein, but they dug down a meter into the ground and threw all that earth in also! Years later the followers of Hus were to suffer a terrible fate, as the Thirty Years War began in 1618 and the troops of the Habsburg empire moved up through Bohemia, thousands were slaughtered and lands confiscated. Then the forced mass recanting of the hussite faith began. The Jesuits were the movers and shakers of the mass conversions, those who did not change their religion were killed or left the country. When I arrived in Leipzig in 2002, one of the first places I had to visit was Röcken the birth place of Friedrich Nietzsche. It was a freezing cold day and on the way we had to pass through the town of Lutzen. Nearby is the site of one of the most famous battles of the Thirty Years War, where the King of Sweden Gustavus Adolphus fell fighting against the famous Wallenstein the Habsburg Commander. Both were amazing characters in their own right.
 I read a book about the Thirty Years War and what happened in Bohemia at this time, it is one of the saddest and most heartbreaking stories I have ever read.

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