In the last decade, the digitization of culture and heritage has become more than a matter of heritage preservation. It has “radically [changed] cultural consumption and production patterns, obliging museums to rethink how they relate to their audiences as users of cultural content.”  In this way, museums were forced to open up to a wider range of visitors by endeavouring to broaden their community scope through new digital initiatives.
Europe will always be defined by its colonial past in the same way that its former colonies will never be able to deny theirs. Even now, hundreds of years after Europe’s “golden period”, its effects still echo loud and clear in all aspects of life all over the globe, and any discourse with a colonial tenor remains a delicate topic for both sides. One would think that after all these years, we as a society would be so much better at addressing this matter, that we could finally talk about these things with sensitivity, but this is not the case at all. Colonialism is still the elephant in the room that everyone tries to skirt around whenever history is being discussed in a multicultural room.
It is a topic that requires a certain tenderness that only comes from the understanding that colonialism touched different countries in different ways, some more positively than others. The insensitivity swirling around colonial rhetoric only proves the majority’s extremely shallow understanding of it and that we should have stopped this ignorant cycle a long time ago.
The Amsterdam Museum’s decision to stop using the term “golden age” pertaining to the 17th century, undoubtedly caught the attention of the public. The confused discourse surrounding this renaming shows the unaddressed tension that manifests itself when it comes to the topic of colonialism and post-colonialism. The world is divided between those who commend the museum for the renaming, and those whose reaction ranges from disapproving to being outright upset. The Amsterdam Museum took to its website to address its audience with an official statement, calling its re-evaluation of the term an important step in the name of inclusivity that gave room to different perspectives and narratives of that time.
The recognition of untold colonial stories is indeed a good step towards the evolution of colonial discourses. However, a lot remains to be done. Empathy and sensitivity are values that should stand as the foundation of respectful interactions in society, but are lacking in present-day colonial discourse. Admittedly, perspectives that have persisted for generations are not easy to change. How can we even begin to alter the enduring negative attitude towards colonialism when it is so deeply rooted in culture, history, even xenophobia? This is a question which is hard to think about and even harder to answer, but we cannot simply ignore it, as we have done for years.
The fact that this question remains unanswered in the 21st century shows how terrifyingly good we are in repressing issues that do not touch us directly. The first step towards remedying the xenophobia and sense of entitlement, which define colonial discourse, must come from addressing the fact that they do exist and still have concrete and real life consequences for millions of people around the world. We as a global society must be conscious and active in identifying as well as correcting the mistakes of our past. To continue ignoring the insensitivity in the colonial discourse means continuing to see the world through a narrow lens. Silence, in this case, is nothing short of being compliant to the repression of colonial voices and the burying of hundreds of untold colonial stories.
It is time for all of us as a united society to see our own countries’ histories in their entirety. We must recognize the good that our past has brought us, but at the same time be aware of the bloodshed and oppression that must have taken place in order to get what we have now. Realizing that we are a part of a bigger world that is hurting is the first step towards addressing the imbalance in colonial rhetoric. To be humbled by the truth is not admitting to weakness, it is surrendering to reality with the hope and potential of becoming better in the future.
The wounds of colonialism still run deep. This is evident in the quality of colonial discourse that we have today. The insensitivity that defines the colonial rhetoric proves how the majority still has an extremely shallow understanding of colonialism in general. It remains to be a topic that requires a certain delicacy that only comes from the understanding that colonialism touched different countries in different ways, some more positively than others.
The uproar that surrounded the Amsterdam Museum’s renaming of the “golden period” proves how divided we still are as a society when it comes to this. Acknowledging the unspoken colonial narratives is indeed a good step forward, however, there is still a lot that remains to be done. We as a society must stop denying pressing issues that do not touch us tangibly. We must be conscious and active in correcting the mistakes of the past. It is way past the time we realised that we are part of a world that is hurting and in need of empathy and sensitivity.
Berlin, August, 2006. After two weeks traveling from London – where I used to live at that time -, Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, I had arrived in one of the most fascinating cities of the world – at least in my imaginary, which could easily be confirmed later. Summer breeze was blowing through the cafes and bars of Prenzlauer Berg. Kastanienallee was the perfect picture of how Berliners could enjoy their lives on a Saturday afternoon, with groups of friends and families hanging out and experiencing all types of foods and drinks, listening to different kinds of music and appreciating the sunny weather. All way down to Alexanderplatz distinct generations were sitting together in front of yellow, blue, green and red buildings talking about life and keeping problems completely away. Alone, I observed that and could barely believe that only a little more than 15 years earlier that part of the city was not that colourful and had nothing similar to that.
On the other side, Mitte was also full of people on the pavements observing passersby. Unter den Linden was like an anthill made by tourists that after walking the whole day could finally have some rest in the “Biergarten(s)” around. The city was beautiful, alive and tender following a World Cup that Germany had hosted less than a month ago and only a few days after the Swedish trio Peter, Bjorn and Jon had launched the classic “Young Folks”. You could feel the tenderness in the air. You could feel the spirit of happiness flowing freely in such a vibrant and great atmosphere. It was simply wonderful.
I knew, though, that at least in one of the seven days that was going to stay there I needed to take some time to cross the city and leave all that happiness and good vibrations behind. It would not be easy or pleasant, but I needed to do it. The goal was tough: Sachsenhausen.
The Museum of European Cultures emerged in 1999 from the Museum of Folklore and the European section of the Museum of Ethnology. The collection counts around 250,000 objects. Its small exhibition can be seen as an introduction to European cultures for new MA Euroculture students or as a revision for “Euroculturalists”.
Does European identity exist? The question has come up thousands of times during the MA Euroculture Program, but maybe only a few people know that there is a museum dedicated to it. I am not talking about the Parlamentarium, the Visitors’ Centre of the European Parliament inaugurated in Brussels which presents different exhibitions on two topics, EU institutions and EU integration, but about the Museum of European Cultures in Berlin. The latter is an ethnographic museum, which is part of the Dahlem Museums, and thus of the National Museums in Berlin. The Museum of European Cultures emerged in 1999 from the Museum of Folklore and the European section of the Museum of Ethnology. The collection counts around 250,000 objects. Its small exhibition can be seen as an introduction to European cultures for new MA Euroculture students or as a revision for “Euroculturalists”.
The itinerary of the permanent collection “Culture Contacts. Living in Europe” indeed explores the cultural contactsand cultural diversity from the nineteenth century until today. A Venetian gondola from 1910 symbolically leads the way. It represents trade, migration, travel, and cultural identity. The exhibition begins with the theme of “migration”. The Earth is described with the words of the German historian Karl Schlögel as a “planet of nomads”. A big plastic Doner Kebab, dish introduced in the 1970s by a former Turkish “Guestworker”, is taken as symbol of cultural contacts through food. Borders: What do they stand for? What is their meaning?
“The Earth is described as a planet of nomads and a big plastic Doner Kebab is taken as symbol of cultural contacts through food…”
Another section is dedicated to cultural localisation and folklore. Typical textiles from Spain, Czech Republic and Greece are exhibited. But also music such as the traditional songs from Sardinia can be heard. Besides the “Gondola” another means of transportation – the beautiful hand decorated “Carretto Siciliano” – a Sicilian cart, stands there. Furthermore, funny cartoons show the stereotypes of all the different nationalities in Europe. The exhibition also warns about the phenomena of populism and conflicts.
On the wall the photographs of the German artist Sabine Von Bassewitz, part of her collection “Unisono”, show the gatherings of different kinds of people with the same passion, standpoint or affiliation, thus exploring the meaning of community. Communities are in fact the kernel for cultural production and cultural interaction. A similar exhibition on communities could be found at the Museum of Cultures of Basel, Switzerland. Another artist, the Berlin fashion designer Stephan Hann, investigates the issue of transnationalism. He presents a particular dress named “Europakleid”, which is made of pictures, maps, textiles, and items of different origins in Europe.
“Communities are in fact the kernel for cultural production and cultural interaction…”
The Museum of European Cultures also dedicates a section to religion, in particular focusing on Christianity and Islam. It exhibits Nativity scenes from Poland, France, Italy, and Germany along with votive paintings, but also Ramadan calendars. The interactions between Muslims and Christians are highlighted. The last room is dedicated to the huge mechanical Nativity scene from the Erzgebirge.
Through a scientific lens the permanent exhibition presents different items and topics, and prepares the table for discussion. On 2nd August was the inauguration of the temporary exhibition “I’m not Afraid of Anything”, which comprises ofone hundred portraits of European youths from Portugal, Moldova, Romania, Italy, Iceland, Germany and the United Kingdom, accompanied by interviews that were realised by Edgar Zippel. What are their dreams? What are their fears? Are they the same as yours?
“You might find inspiration for your IP paper, Master’s Thesis or a topic for an interesting talk with friends…”
If you are a Euroculturalist, you probably won’t remain astonished by the exhibition but it is still worth it. Do as I did: go there with another MA Euroculture colleague or maybe a friend outside of the Euroculture-bubble;maybe you will find inspiration for your IP paper, Master Thesis or just for an interesting talk that you could lead with a friend who does not know anything about it. The museum poses questions. So what is your opinion about European identity?
Museum of European Cultures
Student price 4 Euro
U-Bahn U3 (Dahlem-Dorf), Berlin
Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor
Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg as part of her MA Euroculture Programme. She did an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy. Currently, she is participating in European Voluntary Service (EVS) Programme in Romania. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.
Interférences/Interferenzen Architecture: Germany and France 1800-2000
Inspirational meeting with the renowned architectural historians Jean-Louis Cohen, Professor at New York University, and Hartmut Frank, Professor at the Hafen-City University of Hambourg, also curators of the exhibition “Interférences/Interferenzen Architecture: Germany and France 1800-2000” which delivers an exceptional approach to discover the architectural and urban interferences between Germany and France, exploring the architectural space of Europe.
The city of Strasbourg seems to embody the best scenario to frame and host the exhibition named “Interférences/Interferenzen Architecture: Germany and France 1800-2000”, as inaugurated on 28 March 2013 and which will run until 21 July 2013 at the MAMCS (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Strasbourg).
This is a truly Franco-German project, conceived and realised by the Franco-German architectural historian pair of Jean-Louis Cohen and Hartmut Frank, which clearly sees the result of life-long passionate careers and research. Both men have always been interested in interpreting certain architectural phenomena through a common perspective, not necessarily a national point of view that could hinder the complexity of architecture. Already twenty-five years ago the first ideas of the project exhibited today emerged, but it was only about four years ago, after a long series of separate and joint professional ventures, that an extended project began to see its realisation thanks to the positive response of the city of Strasbourg. At this time, the city was also working on the project of the extension of their UNESCO World Heritage site. The “Grande-Île” (“Big Island”) had already been inscribed as such since 1988, and now work was being done to extend the World Heritage area to the Neustadt (“New City” but also known as the “German Quarter”), an urban area realised at the end of the XIX century after Alsace and part of Lorraine became part of the German Empire.
Explaining the choice of the term “Interferences”, or better Interférences/Interferenzen, as key words for the exhibition, Jean-Louis Cohen and Hartmut Frank like to stress the reasoning behind it. Concepts such as Cultural Transfers, Interactions, Histoires Croisées, Contaminations, or Influences could have been used, but they decided to borrow a concept of physics which refers to electro-magnetic fields. In fact, Interférences/Interferenzen best express the idea of the effect that each national French and German cultural field has on the other.
The exhibition embodies a new approach in the field of architecture, not separating countries, in this case France and Germany, but working on the totality with the aim to show their many levels of observation and mutual exchange.
With around 600-700 m2 of space and more than 400 pieces from 60-100 different sources, rarely or never yet exhibited, from the spheres of architecture, art and history, Interférences/Interferenzen is an extraordinary exhibition. Its itinerary chronologically leads the visitor from the aftermath of the French Revolution and Empire until today, guiding from Napoleon to Angela Merkel, from Schinkel to Nouvel. The exhibition path follows nine sections, each of them developing further themes. You begin with gothic and classic crossed passions and art from Schinkel and Hugo, then move to the dawn of the industrial age and new issues of workers’ accommodation, and later to the phenomenon of nationalism and new urbanities with Haussmann in Paris and James Hobrecht in Berlin. In the XX century, you find monumental rhetoric, the use of concrete, and arrive to the First World War. Continuing, you discover the occupations and reconstructions of 1939-1949 and then modernisation, the dialogue between France and the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, and end with a united Europe and the mobility of professors, architects and students (referring also to the Erasmus Programme, of course!).
Strasbourg is present in almost all of the sections. In particular, it is referred to in the context of the Franco-Prussian war in the late XIX century and the subsequent construction of new areas in the city, as well as the cité-jardin by Edouard Schimpf constructed in the area of Stockfeld and the bridge in the Jardin des deux rives which, built in 2004 by the French architect Marc Mimram, connects Strasbourg to the closest German city of Kehl. The exhibition ends with a stand of the city of Strasbourg presenting the project of the extension of the perimeters of the safeguarded sector, the extension of the UNESCO World Heritage site to include the Neustadt, and the inventory of the Neustadt. The inventory of the Neustadt is being carried out by the Region and Sophie Eberhardt, who is working on the UNESCO application at the Culture Department of the City of Strasbourg, considers the exhibition to be a great opportunity to question the idea of frontiers and how to overpass them. She also considers it to be a great opportunity to raise awareness among Strasbourg’s population and its visitors, and foster exchanges between experts about architecture which is neither unequivocallyGerman nor French. Hartmut Frank also believes that the re-evaluation of a part of the city that is historically not appreciated (even the colossal Palais du Rhin’s existence was questioned in the late 1950s) is demonstrative of a radical change in line with a European dimension and which indicates awareness of the fact that Strasbourg’s three wars represent the legacy of the city, which is in fact a Franco-German history. He also points out that the Neustadt was realised by 80% of local architects that had studied in Paris or Karlsruhe, thus being urban planning as a result of interferences of city planning from Paris and Berlin.
The exhibition required a lot of dedication because, as Frank reminds: “Architecture is not easy to communicate, the only true exhibition of the architecture is the city, the exhibition in a museum is always a translation”. In this, they have been helped by an architect agency for the display, Frenak & Jullien Architectes, and Volker Ziegler, lecturer at the École nationale supérieure d’architecture of Strasbourg, is the associate curator.
When asked to send a message to the MA Euroculture students, Jean-Louis Cohen says: “Go to school but do not limit yourself. Go outside, observe the landscape, meet people and you will learn as much as you can do at university”.
* Practical information:
Tickets cost 7 Euro, reduced price 3,5 Euro. Free entry with Carte Culture or on the first Sunday of every month.
There is a book-catalogue of the exhibition available. The texts of the exhibition, which has been jointly organised with the Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt, are bilingual, in French and German. The next destination for the exhibition will be Frankfurt, from 28 September 2013 to 13 January 2014.
Bianca Rubino, Exhibition Editor
Bianca is Italian with Swiss roots. She studied BA Humanities for the study of Culture in Modena, Italy, and went on Erasmus to Malmö, Sweden. She is now enrolled in MA Euroculture , which she studied in the University of Groningen and the University of Strasbourg. She did an internship at Interarts, based in Barcelona, Spain, in the field of cultural project management and cultural policy and is now back in Strasbourg to finish her MA thesis. Her interests are anthropology, sociology, artistic and cultural life and institutions, cultural management and policy, and many more. She has the smallest feet a girl ever had.
What is it that reflects the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana the most? It is the ‘red pickup truck’. In my very first picture of Indianapolis, I captured this favourite car of the ‘typical Indian resident’. I was wondering, why is it so popular here? My American classmates explained to me that it’s like with “Hoosier values”. Indeed, this explanation did not help me at all. But then I had a chance to watch the political campaign ads of candidates running for the office of Governor of Indiana and finally figured out this mystery of Indiana’s culture. John Gregg, a Democratic candidate, explains: “To hold ‘Hoosier values’ means to respect hard work, personal responsibility and faith. These values draw the Indiana community together, from church on Sunday morning until the basketball court on Friday night”. This is the essence of the local people: Hoosiers.
Indianapolis: I would say a ‘typical American city’ where everyone has a car, historical monuments are not really historical (at least in comparison with our European standards), and people are very friendly. There is always a smile whenever you meet someone. Indianapolis brings the best of American culture. It is home to the internationally renowned Indianapolis Motor Speedway (advice for students coming for the Autumn semester – do not miss the last race, “Indy 500”, at the end of August). Indianapolis offers numerous museums. Do you love fine art? You have to visit Indianapolis Museum of Art with a great collection of European, as well as American, painters and much more. Do you want to return to your childhood? You shouldn’t miss the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis – the largest children’s museum in the world. Do you want to explore the history of the Native Americans? The Eiteljorg Museum is the right place for you.
DO NOT MISS!
– Pumpkin pie, cupcakes, cinnamon rolls, real American steak;
– Travelling to Chicago for a 10 US$ return ticket with the Greyhound bus company;
– Every Thursday student night in bar Howl at the Moon (1 US$ beer + live music)
IUPUI is a well-known university across the United States, especially due to its School of Medicine which has one of the largest student bodies in the country. For MA Euroculture students, IUPUI offers a variety of subjects from different departments of the School of Liberal Arts. As far as I know, Euroculture students remain faithful to the departments of Political Science, Sociology, Communication Studies, and World Languages and Cultures. The university facilities are excellent! But considering the amount of money American students pay for a year at the university, it is understandable.
It takes you a few weeks to understand that American classes are far different from European ones. Here is the essence of American success: productive discussion, participation in class, and critical thinking. American students are used to expressing their opinions, so you are expected to talk a lot. If I believed that the only way to gain knowledge was via memorising facts, I was completely wrong. Graduate classes are pretty demanding; you have to work hard throughout the whole semester. In general, graduate students have a regular job while studying, which is why their classes start at 6pm at the earliest. Local students have a lot of experience to share; for every class they work 100 % and beyond. The best you can do to combat your student culture shock is to get involved, jump out of your comfort zone, and make yourself known.
However, American students do not travel much or do not travel at all (many of my classmates have never left the state of Indiana), but at the same time they are very friendly, helpful and open to international students. They seem to be very interested in talking about different cultures, do not hesitate to invite you to a Thanksgiving party, and offer to drive you anywhere you need (because they are afraid of local public urban transport).
Ludmila Vávrová, Olomouc/Indiana Correspondent
Ludmila is from the Czech Republic, and studied Economics and Management for B.Sc. and European Diplomacy for M.Sc. She studied Euroculture in Palacky University, Olomouc and the University of Strasbourg. She is currently doing a research track in Indianapolis with an interest in finding image/word arguments during the 2012 presidential election campaigns in the US and in France. Ludmila is a girl with a dream, mostly involving Czech beer.