Friday, February 08, 2008

Berlin museums

Museum for Communication in Berlin; photo by Val PhoenixWhile waiting for the opening of the Berlinale, I have availed myself of the plethora of museums on offer in Berlin.

First up was the DDR Museum, which I have meant to check out since it opened in the summer of 2006. With late openings seven days a week, it`s pretty accessible and surprisingly busy on a weekday evening visit. Star attractions include a Trabant in the window and a replica DDR living room, complete with the dreaded Black Channel for one`s viewing pleasure. More enjoyable was the DEFA film on housing available in the screening room. Definitely worth a visit.

In a very much more sinister vein is the Stasi Museum, previously headquarters of the security police and now on show to the public to see just what the police were up to for all those years. Behind the bland wallpaper and plush chairs, hideous things went on, and the contrast is startling and disturbing, even now. Most of the complex has been taken over by doctors and Deutschebahn, which lends a peculiar air to the place and it`s easy to walk by without noticing it. Easily worth three hours and there`s an adjacent archive, which has limited opening hours.

On a more cheery note, one can find the Museum for Communication within walking distance of Potsdamer Platz. Current exhibits include photos by Erika Rabau of Berlinales of the past. Famous names on show include Kirk Douglas, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Shirley MacLaine. One gets a tinge of faded glamour from the array of photos draped over railings around a central courtyard patrolled by robots. Most peculiar. Also showing is Andreas Gox`s exhibit of Berliners at streetlights. But these are not just any streetlights but the fabled Ampelmann lights. Why one would want to devote a year to shooting people at streetlights is anyone`s guess. Anyway, clearly the spirit moved Herr Gox to pursue this project and the photos are, at times, charming.

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