17 February, 2006

Discovering Berlin with Maria

Just to underscore Sara’s impression that her mother (that’s me) is always wanders around lost in the Big City (any city), Maria and I managed to make a simple excursion into the interior of Berlin into a true comedy of errors, mishap, and misdirection.

At one point we burst into uncontrollable laughter, suspecting we were part of some “hidden camera” program, because every person we asked directions from up to that point in time, gave us false or incomplete information. This included an employee of the subway company in a information kiosk, as well as a fellow passenger on a subway train we were thinking of taking.

After following the instructions we ended up, each time, juxtaposition away from where we were intending to go. The crazy thing was, each time we realised we were astray, we chose a new destination to go to; something that lay closer in proximity to our current position. Finally, after nearly five hours (I kid you not, though there was a break for lunch at a café inbetween) of erring, we finally entered our first museum. We did not go to the Hamburger Bahnhof- Museum of Modern Art, the Egyptian Museum and Papyrus Collection, the House of Cultures, or the Pergamon Museum, as we intended. No, instead we visited the Ancient National Gallery, which never was on our wish list.

I would have resigned myself to a day of aimless wandering after the first hour or two, but Maria comes from Frankland, an area in Germany which breeds a more resolute we-can’t-possibly-give-up-now type of person. Thank heavens for that because the museum visit was absolutely delightful. My favourites were paintings from Renoir, Monet, and Max Beckmann.

I have never seen so many, and such a variety of, security guards, as there were in that museum. There we often two or three standing around in each tiny side-room.

The enjoyment of the visit was heightened by an excellent audio guide included in the price of the entrance ticket. At one point, as I was sitting on a bench listening to the audio guide explain some aspect of the painter's technique, I began to wonder what the audio guide would be like if bits of conversation from the security guards were dispersed between the audio recording sequences.

For example, if one security guard gossiped with another guard, telling him that the crazy art lover was over in room 4 was swaying in front of Casper David Friedrich’s, Gartenterasse, again. (This truly happened, not the security guard’s conversation, but the swaying/dancing art lover communing with the painting). I mean the security guards must have a million minuets to tell over the space of time. Then other museum visitors would forever associate Friedrich’s Gartenterasse, as I will, with the dancing observer.

The idea would be for the audio recording to draw the museum visitor’s attention not only to the historical details of the art exhibits, but also into their present environment. Does that make any sense?

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