Early in the hour-long film, “The Judicial Murder of Jakub Mohr,” the central protagonist, a patient in a psychiatric ward, shouts in Czech, “My words are not my own!” [“Moje slova nejsou moje!”]. He is on Kafka-esque trial for saying out loud what is visibly true: a series of wires—“Threads!” rebukes the prosecutor—extend from his back and connect to an ominous box, which is held by a man who in turn dictates in whispers what the patient says. At one point, Mohr lists to the jury in indignation what he has become: a gramophone, a radio, an instrument. He is something between human self and machine, a cyborg, his agency mediated by the state and psychiatric institution.
“The problem I have with contemporary culture is that today everything is treated as a product. Culture is a huge and shiny supermarket. As all products are announced as ‘brilliant,’ the risk inherent in buying those product falls entirely to me. In that respect, I often miss ‘my butcher’ and ‘my baker’ and ‘my vegetable lady,’ people I could rely on. These days, shopping and consuming—including consuming culture—have become more difficult. In such a context, I behave like any other cultural consumer: I buy books randomly, because I’ve heard of the author or the title, or I know the publisher’s taste, or a friend recommended something to me.”
But Lucia was everywhere in Dessau for me. I have spent time with her posthumously, reading her diaries and letters kept at the Bauhaus archive, and looking through her photographs, which include a series of nude self-portraits she took in 1930 after she was “liberated” from Dessau, the Bauhaus, and László. I have been the voyeur she never intended to be leafing through her life with white gloved hands. I don’t take this privilege (for which I never asked her permission) lightly. Her story is now folded into me as we walk through the streets of Dessau, where she is a ghost, haunting the place in which she longed for the city.
The Hamburger Bahnhof is not a train station now, and never was in Hamburg. It’s a museum of contemporary art in Berlin. It’s also a good metaphor—in name and in content—for this city where nothing is quite as advertised. Though a very fine layer of general German Ordnung covers everything here, it gives way easily to a jumble of rules without regulation, a mass of juxtaposed and unlikely objects of which I am also, and only, one.
* Kristie Kachler *
I thought I was preparing to sit down to write a blog post about writing, but first I had to meet a friend in the Media Markt to drop off the key to the apartment where I’ve been cat sitting between Christmas feasts. This Media Markt is located in a shopping center in Berlin-Neukoelln, the neighborhood that might offer the most insight into what gentrification looks like in 2013 in Germany. My friend, surrounded by glittering cases of DVDs and CDs, had apparently chosen her destination wisely. The desperate post-Christmas sales were on, and the sidewalk in front of the Arkaden was swarmed. I stepped into the crowd of Neukoellners. So did a man who looked homeless. The man who looked homeless was pulled aside by two policemen who told him this wasn’t the place for him. He started yelling. One of his interlocutors looked unmoved and professional. One laughed. The man kept protesting, but he would not be coming inside. I was swept in with the families and teenagers and young singles who looked to be probable customers.