Since our first blog post, we have been dedicated to capturing and documenting Berlin in its many facets so that the whole world can have a glimpse of this wonderful city. It has always been important to us that we address both the residents of this city, as well as visitors, no matter how long they are here and no matter where they originally come from. Our special focus is on those people who have come here and brought a piece of the part of the world they came from with them when making their projects. Because Berlin is never just Berlin – it’s a potpourri with influences from all over the world. And that’s a good thing.
The new interactive exhibition BERLIN GLOBAL, which ceremoniously opened last week in the new Humboldt Forum, takes exactly the opposite approach here, showing Berlin with all the footprints that this city has left behind in the world. We find this approach extremely exciting, which is why we took a closer look at the exhibition.
artwork: Rocca & Seine Brüder, photos: Oana Popa-Costea
The impossible task of capturing Berlin
BERLIN GLOBAL is the result of a long, joint effort by Kulturprojekte Berlin and the Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin with the extremely ambitious goal of capturing our rather crazy and unconventional city in a meaningful big picture. Is that even possible? Or rather: is it even necessary? If you try to find out about the exhibition beforehand, but also when you finally wander through the many exhibition rooms, you quickly realize: Berlin simply cannot be pressed into any familiar mold. The city has changed and reinvented itself so many times. This is reflected in so many details, such as the architecture, the multiple city centers, or the eclectic inhabitants.
The exhibition captures this unruly and stubborn nature of Berlin very well. Although it is structured according to a certain system – each room has its own theme, which deals with different aspects of Berlin – you quickly get the impression that each new room actually throws the known system right back into disarray. This makes the exhibition incredibly exciting because even if you have already informed yourself about the different topics, you are actually surprised again and again.
A critical look at Berlin’s past and present
The entrance to BERLIN GLOBAL begins in the Weltdenken room in the middle of a huge mural by the artist duo How&Nosm curated by Yasha Young, who founded the Berlin Street Art Museum Urban Nation. Here, you’re already well attuned to the exhibition’s strikingly critical tone, which contrasts quite a bit with the Humboldt Forum’s public controversies. Three of the four walls are about colonialism and its impact, but also about cultural appropriation. This important and critical view runs throughout the exhibition, which at times also highlights colonialism propaganda, racism, the punk and squatter scene, gentrification, the gender movement, and women’s rights. While other exhibitions at the Humboldt Forum are accused of not addressing some of these issues, Berlin Global doesn’t mince words here. In my eyes, this fits very well with Berlin, which is very good at not leaving out the negative aspects of its history.
From the mural, it goes on to rooms about revolution, war, borders, free space, pleasure, fashion, and interconnections which could describe a bit of the broad history of the last century until today. An interesting detail: in the axis between the areas of free space, borders, and pleasure there is a very special exhibit: the original steel door of the legendary Tresor Club from Leipziger Straße – a good symbolism for the fact that even places of pleasure have their own borders, which should definitely be viewed critically.
The price of pleasure
I was particularly looking forward to the area of pleasure during my visit because I was curious to see how this important and overarching theme for Berlin would be presented in the exhibition. And like in all the other rooms, I was surprised here. If you were expecting a small history of Berlin’s night and cultural life here, you might be in for a surprise. While some of the exhibits, some of which are hidden in giant copper-colored spheres, focus on the various styles of music that were and are heard in Berlin nightclubs, or on the rich events that have taken place in Berlin, it is also about white colonial views of the world, about racism in the entertainment industry, and about the persecution of Jewish artists under National Socialism. For all the fun, you also get thoughtful very quickly here.
Another very exciting aspect of the exhibition runs like a thread through all the rooms and begins directly behind the entrance with the registration of a wristband that you receive. At each transition to a new area, you have the choice between two doors, each of which stands for a different answer to overriding questions. Which answer you choose when passing through each door is registered and evaluated at the end. In this way, you make direct reference to the themes of the exhibition, for example: “I care about the world” as opposed to “I care about my community”, or “I want a social city” as opposed to “I want an open city”. None of the answers are really the complete opposite, so sometimes it’s not so easy to answer them clearly. Like so many things in life, much is in a gray area and is not simply black or white. The result at the end of the exhibition surprised me quite a bit, precisely because you think little about some nuances, what they actually mean in the overall context.
Berghain outfits, photos: Oana Popa-Costea
Visiting BERLIN GLOBAL definitely felt different than I would have ever expected. With my admittedly very positive view of the city by profession, I was perhaps less prepared for the thoughtful and serious moments of the exhibition. But I do appreciate them, especially because the Humboldt Forum could use this touch of self-reflection and historical critique.
There’s an insane amount to discover at BERLIN GLOBAL, and you can tell how much effort and attention to detail went into the exhibition, and how elaborate all the setup and technology are. Especially the modern, interactive or moving elements of the exhibition are fun and give the whole thing another dimension. If you are really interested in Berlin and want to understand the city and its influence on the world a little better, you can learn and understand an incredible amount here. And those who are simply interested in pure pleasure will also find what they are looking for here, even if it is for a little dance inside a large disco ball…
photo: Oana Popa-Costea
The exhibition is free for its first 100 days. You can get time slot tickets here.