Hegel, Ping-Pong, Blessed Carbuncle

Dropped by Berlin Backs Barack and met some nice people.  Delivered some spittle-flecked tirades, but received none.

Spent the rest of the time wandering about, and dropping by a museum or two, including the Gemaeldegalerie (Picture Gallery) in the Kulturforum next to the Potsdamer Platz.  The Gemaeldegalerie is one of my favorite museums.  First, because there’s usually almost nobody in it.  It’s hard to reach by public transport, the building complex itself is uninviting, and its collection was pieced together from other Berlin museums in a way that generated some bad feelings (g).  I don’t really care where the collection was poached from, it’s outstanding.  The focus is on German and Dutch art, but there’s also a Caravaggio room, two Vermeers, and some Rembrandts, and my favorite Tiepolo, the Martyrdom of St. Agatha

The building itself, designed by Heinz Hilmer, Christoph Sattler, and Thomas Albrecht (g), is beautifully understated.  The exhibition space is located in rooms surrounding a large enclosed hall, and all are lit only by natural light.  Large, comfortable, burnished-wood benches are everywhere.  The gigantic central hall is designed as a place for contemplation; the only work of art in it is a small fountain called the 5-7-9 Series by Walter De Maria, which generates a barely-audible sound-curtain of burbling water.  Unless my celebrity-spotting skills have abandoned me, I’m pretty sure I saw Jonathan Littell wandering through the gallery as well.

Here are a few more photos.  First, a sign of the times: a member of the working class (presumably) scraping the word "Funds" from the marquee of some defunct investment firm.  Next up, "Stocks":


Hans Klok, the shiny-fingered Fastest Magician of All Time:


Two ubiqitous pieces of German street furniture in one photograph:


Have I left anything out?  Perhaps the Byzantine relief of St. Simeon Stylites:


Last but not least, can anyone identify the saint with the (blessed?) leg carbuncle featured on this Gothic altarpiece? Extra credit if you know who’s, er, ‘fondling the carbuncle’.


9 thoughts on “Hegel, Ping-Pong, Blessed Carbuncle

  1. Looks like you had a good trip, Mr. Hammel.

    A stern Hegel keeping vigil next to a suitably monolithic building–monolithic like his philosophy.

    The depicted saint may be St. Roch. The gentleman may be a pope, Urban III, for example, or a church patron.


  2. Looks like you had a good trip, Mr. Hammel.

    A stern Hegel keeping vigil next to a suitably monolithic building–monolithic like his philosophy.

    The depicted saint may be St. Roch. The gentleman may be a pope, Urban III, for example, or a church patron.


  3. > Delivered some spittle-flecked tirades, but received none

    Sorry to hear. A visit to the Galerie Nord in shabby Moabit would have helped. They feature the Danish group “Surrend,” who had Mr Ahmadinedjad and the Burmese Junta ridiculed lately. The exposition is somewhat lame really, as politicised concept art is wont to do, but receiving spittle-flecked tirades would have been a breeze. I particularly like the elder gentleman among the protesters, who feels that “Berlin is an Islamic city” already, and who wouldn’t take no for an answer, particularly not when delivered by dastard Danish mocking birds.

    Anyway, this Tuesday the city’s hotshots, including Klaus Staeck, president of the Academy of the Arts, and Erhart Körting, our tiny Land’s interior minister showed up to ensure that pious protest wouldn’t lead to bloodshed and broken windows. They deployed some police as well, to ensure a cocky community’s, ugh, respect. Besides, they hid the window front with shades, to boldly cave in defend open society’s rule.

    Then again, reassessing your stances on things pious and blasphemous, you might have wound up ein Herz und ein Seele with the righteous elder gent. You could have spittle-flecked Mr Staeck then, how about that? It stands to reason that he, the interior minister, the, ugh, artists, and the puny exposition’s curator are assholes of magnitude. Sock it to them next time you hit the town, Mr Hammel.


  4. To close on a gentler note, let me point to something we all will like in this lil speck o’ bliss: stuffwhitepeoplelike. May I assume that the black, brown, yellow and polka-dotted are underrepresented over here, owing to the wonderous ways of selective coverage? None to worry. stuffwhitepeoplelike may seem a little irritating at first, but it sure grows on you, once you get the gist. Should we add “fondling carbuncles” to the list? Or rather “musing on fondling carbuncles?” Anyway, what would we do without our daily dose of Hochkultur?

    (as usual, multiposting for technical reasons, sorry)


  5. Thanks to Marek’s comments, I reread your earlier comment on the caricature affair, as well as a few that escaped my attention.

    It’s really odd, Mr. Hammel, that you so often trash Americans and make fun of various personages or institutions or odd cultural quirks, but are so quick to restrict the basic freedom of expression of a few Danish cartoonists.

    Some of the Danish cartoons may have been in bad taste, but in a free society they had every right to be published. When European newspapers published those cartoons, they were sending out a courageous signal that free countries will not be intimidated or exercise self-censorship in the face of Islamic fundamentalist terror.

    Please reconsider your position.


  6. Good morning, Paul. Don’t we early birds catch the juicy worms? As Henryk M. Broder so aptly paraphrased Art. 5 GG: Eine Islamisierung findet nicht statt. Considering unnamed Societies of , ahem, Professional Journalists and His Blogness’ reasoned–though occasionally hoarse–discourse on things holy, ethnic, and whatnot, I’ll have the effrontery to link to some passionate defenders of this very discourse.

    Der Preis der Meinungsfreiheit, dradio.de
    Wir hoffen sehr, dass es nicht zu Angriffen kommt, jungle-world.com
    Zensur zerstört die Gesellschaft, art-magazin.de

    Isn’t it reassuring that we’ll always have folks who’ll boldly affront l’Infâme, so others can take turns stabbing their back? Last bust not least, let’s have my little self on this: bluetenlese.wordpress.com/2008/03/01/appeasement-doesnt-pay-or-does-it. Posts featuring Noel Coward can’t be all wrong. Don’t you fear, I’m done for now.


  7. Good belated morning to you, too, Marek. I have just now checked back here to see if His Blogness deigned to reply to my posts. I suppose I will never find out who the runty guy next to the Saint is.

    In Mr. Hammel’s defense, I doubt if I myself have the courage, or were so foolish, to speak up openly and in public against Muslim fundamentalist threats of murder against Western journalists and writers like Rushdie. (On the other hand, I would certainly not castigate Danish cartoonists, however tasteless they may be, for poking a little fun at homicidal religious fanatics.)

    The problem of Rushdie and the caricaturists is that it is just the beginning…. Once the door is opened a crack, it may be thrust wide open later on. Today, cartoonists live in fear of death; tomorrow, paintings may be removed from museums that offend fundamentalist sensibilities (in fact, some already have), among others.

    Among the “among others” is self-censorship. The West, which prides itself on its open, free, democratic spirit, has already succumbed to various forms of censorship, the “political correctness” of the Left, the dumbing-down conformity of corporate culture and neo-conservative politics of the Right. And, of course, it has its own religious fanatics.

    Whether from Iran or the U.S.A., those who willingly wear Blake’s “mind-forg’d manacles” will always strive to censor the imaginative productions of others–it is no accident that the wave of Islamist intimidation began with an artist, Rushdie. Competing visions of reality, mythologies, religions, will not be tolerated.


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