Writing #2

# 11 [21 May 2012]

Neue Museum, Berlin.


Field Notes


Single footsteps, radio echos through the arched brick. Group enter with a low hum breaking the contemplative silence. Where one is looking adds to their interest. Photography a currency creating value. Low voices murmur and exclaim. Moving on the excitement, passing, a hive of activity consuming further, racing through to the contemporary.


Missing panel an eloquent admission to loss, to an absence. The narrative of panels a standard one, this could be anywhere.


Convinced I am in London. But the architecture of the journey – buildings of the German golden age, the centre of the world, the 19th Century. And the daring subtlety of this interior, a strange unfinished state between Roman ruins and the echos of conflict and abandoned schemes. Broken chunks of plaster carefully applied to walls and ceiling roses. New paint painstakingly chipped from wooden cladding. Appropriate. The building itself an exhibit. Action to progress, not forgetting, to a new world remembering its narrative.


Moving through quickly, suddenly more silhouetted staff, radios crackle. More visitors enter the space, looking where silent aides direct, each follow the same pattern. Hearing a story, pausing when instructed, appreciating an unlikely age and standard aesthetic of the old.


Paces echo through, slow and measured, on the marble floor. Leaning against the pillar, listening to that ever present guide – what if you want to linger here? A hundred years flit by. In ancient surroundings, it seems like nothing at all. Civilisations crumble and dwindle to dust. Great leaps made measured by this slow pacing. Those without guides move quicker, a race to modernity.


Where has the panel gone? Maybe that voice tells you. Or is it a standard story of names, dates, places. That doesn’t stick, the story of an object seems richer, more real, the physical journey of actual, not the referenced. The inferred narrative of a hazy other.


Turning away, dissappointed by the unrealness of this physical manifestation… it isn’t real. The looming object isn’t here, not real, not really. Its somewhere else, in Italy. Turning away, the original must be a sight, its the real thing, genuine article. Age is surely the point to this place, or else everything would be facade. Like the surrounding buildings, casts of grand Roman and Greek styles meshed together in an uncomfortable greyness. Yet, now these too are aged, reputation earned through the centuries and damage.


Everything borrowed, everything pastiche.


A missing panel telling more of an immediate past than any biblical referent. A history through damage, replicant, absence. Creation itself removed here. Time has no beginning now, only forever shifting. Another half heard mythology, a glimpsed object without context, becoming something else, not its sign. Another life, another creation story misplaced.


The edges become blurred and softened each copy, each coat of paint, spreading yet diluting a message, until the tipping point is reached, saturation. The likeness everywhere but none of the significance understood. Halls of objects instantly recognisable, equally unknowable. Signifiers of age in the impossibility to read.


Photographs of copies, further dilution. Moving away from a genuine product to something new again, something created from layers of meaning, implied value and referent status. The value in something being what it is. Not. The stand in, the place marker. Museums speculating. Obviously the real thing is in the genuine context. This is the cast, in the cast building, in the recast city. Experience the world and time in this sixty minute tour.


The beginning, the beginning. Lets forget it, quickly, erase it from memory. Just this cyclical notion of the replicant. Yet, it ages and deteriorates, this too. Decay written within each copy. No original context, the context is now. The creation myth, that of the workshop, swirls of unknowable chalk dust, air. This isn’t here anymore, but we can guess, approximate.