Berlin: a Holocaust Memorial and a whole lotta street art

Berlin is an awesome city. The street art is mental. Case in point:

And again:

A little bit more:

And one more:

Seriously, it is everywhere. I wonder whether it has been legitimised, or whether they simply can't control it? I kinda hope it's the latter.

But the piece (or pieces, depending on how you look at it) I'm going to look at isn't graffiti. It's not even 2D. Yes, it's been a while since we had a ponder about some sculpture, but the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is quite... something.

Designed by architect Peter Eisenman and designed by engineer Buro Happold, it Is a 19000m squared site covered with 2711 concrete slabs or stelae, arranged in a grid pattern on a sloping field. The architect says it's designed to give off an uneasy, confusing atmosphere - the whole sculpture aims to represent a supposedly ordered system that has lost touch with human reason.

When my travelling buddy Anni and I first saw it, we thought it was a bit shit. Not pretty enough to draw you in, not compelling enough to make people stay quiet (the kids using it as a hide and seek playground were a little off-putting, when you put it back in its intended context). 

But then we walked 'inside' the memorial. It's exactly as they say; something seemingly ordered has lost touch with human reason. We felt uneasy because of the varying sizes of the  stelae. We felt claustrophobic because the blocks towered over us. We felt lost because it was a maze. And we felt unsupported because the ground is uneven. It kinda made you feel a bit sick, and there's no way that wasn't intentional. This is a sculpture that relies heavily on its spiritual effect on the - well, not viewer, more 'experiencer'. So much so, in fact, that its aesthetic shortcomings actually accentuate its effect. It looked a bit shit, yes, but I think that was the point.

As an aside, one of the creepiest things for me was that people kept appearing and disappearing. Putting that in the context of the holocaust is... Ugh, horrific.

I love the effect this had on Anni and me, and as much as I like my pretty Impressionists, I think it's really worth sacrificing aesthetic when it comes to driving an important message home.

Sorry for the sombre tone this week - I'll be super chirpy next week!

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