The Dark Tower (Columbia Mine Preserve II)

After looking at the mining facility near the Columbia Mine Preserve from the outside last week, now it’s time to step inside.

DSC 2182

This is already the second floor, from a total of six. Thanks to the broken windows, the wind has done a decent job cleaning the place.

DSC 2191

Moving up. This feels like one of these dungeon computer games where you have to deal with cute monsters on the way up (or down). I am pretty sure I know where the undead from the three (!) cemeteries I passed on the way spend their free nights.

DSC 2210

Further up. It also reminds me of Snakes and Ladders. One misstep, and you have to start climbing all over again, if you can.

DSC 2218

The eeriest part of the place is the sound. Birds have conquered it, and the sounds they make are surprisingly close to human chatter. Maybe this place is some sort of temple for them.

DSC 2219

It also feels like I am an exploring some alien space ship. I have absolutely no clue what these enormous machines were used for. 

DSC 2220

Not only birds have left their stains. Monsters, undead, animals, aliens — what do we fear most?

DSC 2234

Down again, unharmed. Two decades ago, this place was busy with people who worked there. Where are they now, what are their stories?

Come in Without Knocking (Columbia Mine Preserve I)

DSC 2159

Spring last year, on my way back from New Harmony, I made a small detour to the Columbia Mine Preserve. The Vigo Coal Company mined the area in the 1990, then filled the holes, and let it sit. The Sycamore Land Trust acquired the area, turned it into a nature preserve, which is now part of Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge. 

DSC 2169

Last year the early warm weather didn’t encourage any good pictures, so I decided to return a bit earlier, to catch the gloomy Indiana winter. When I entered Patoka River National Wildlife Refuge into my GPS, it took me to a dead end just outside the refuge, but I passed this wonderful relic on the way.

DSC 2171

About six floors tall, this structure was apparently used to do something to the coal before it was used to enrich our atmosphere with carbon dioxide.

DSC 2238

I am also clueless about the purpose of this truck, and why it looks so unhappy.

DSC 2236

This time, the door was missing, so again I couldn’t resist the temptation. There was quite a bit to explore inside, so I leave this as a teaser for next week:

DSC 2233

Berlin Alexanderplatz (10mm VI)

DSC 4478

In Alfred Döblin’s novel Berlin Alexanderplatz, the place of that name is being used to dramatically convey transformation: Franz Bieberkopf  is traumatized by the changes it has  undergone while he spent years in prison, and stands for the transformations he himself will undergo.

DSC 4458

Döblin’s novel takes place in the 1920s, and Berlin has undergo dramatic changes since. After the destructions of the Second World War and the division of the city, it was no longer the single city center. The architects of the Eastern part weren’t insensitive, they kept the space open and repurposable.

DSC 4473

Nearby churches were renovated and allowed other change to happen, later.

DSC 4570

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, many of the administrative buildings were taken down. The facade of the Palace of the Republic used to annoy the people of power with distorted reflections of the nearby cathedral. Not anymore.

DSC 4446

Radically modern buildings show that transformation is still possible. This leaves hope for Franz’s children.

DSC 4432

The Intimacy of Space (10 mm V)

Berlin and Bloomington have few things in common, besides their first letter B.

DSC 4416

Of more general interest is probably that both cities feature a building by Chinese architect I.M. Pei. I wrote about the Art Museum in Bloomington in an earlier post. Here you see the German Historical Museum in Berlin, or rather its extension.

DSC 4527

I would call this building an invitation to explore the esthetic possibilities of dysfunctional space. The helicoidal stairwell, it’s most prominent feature, connects only the second to the third floor and extends further without purpose to a non-existent fourth floor. It’s placed inconveniently at the (sharp) entrance corner of the building. Climbing these steps has as its main purpose to be climbing these steps. They are gorgeous.  

DSC 4521

The more functional connection between the ground floor and the first floor is a long ramp leading to the helix. Like everything else, it is pushed to the side, so that as much of the empty space of the building remains intact.

DSC 4540

What we see while walking this building are the structural elements that connect. Above is a view down into the basement level, reachable through the escalator or an angled stairwell (at the bottom).

DSC 4552

What I found striking and inexplicable is the harmony and balance between the playful round elements like the helix or the circular opening above, and the cornered, straight-edged, almost brutal structural components.

DSC 4554

It’s tempting to call these the male and female aspects of the building. No matter, it lives from the dialogue between the two. 

Futurium (10mm III)

DSC 4165

This cute little building in Berlin houses exhibits that are concerned with — you guessed it — the future. A thematic question on one of the walls brings it to the point: How do we display something that doesn’t exist yet?

DSC 4138

You can find robots and explanations of some cutting edge technologies, but also large scale models that just keep you musing. 

DSC 4141

Much of the interior design is an attempt to appear moderately futuristic.

DSC 4158

This object is the closest I could find to something like a personal oracle. It lights up (or darkens) when you move in front of it.

DSC 4145

The exhibit above seems to be designed for introspection. Which me will pick which door? 

So maybe we have a misconception here. The future doesn’t just arrive. It’s upon us to create it.

Absence (10mm II)

Hisham Matar’s autobiographic book The Return talks about his father’s absence.

DSC 4231

The image above show the Voided Void at the end of the Axis of Holocaust in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin. 

DSC 4310

Matar quotes Aristoteles: The theory that the void exists involves the existence of place: for one would define void as place bereft of body.

DSC 4213

Right now, the museum is being prepared for a new standard exhibition, and hence almost completely void.

DSC 4259

Matar continues to reflect about Aristoteles. He adds: He says nothing of time here, and time is surely part of it all, of how we try to accommodate the absence. […]. Only time can hope to fill the void. The body of my father is gone, but his place is here and occupied by something that cannot just be called memory.

DSC 4254

A second accessible void in the Libeskind building is the Memory Void, containing Menashe Kadishman’s installation Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves).

DSC 4276

Matar concludes this reflection: What is extraordinary is that, given everything that has happened, the natural alignment of the heart remains towards the light.

DSC 4230

Berlin at 10 mm

These here are my first shots with Samyang’s spectacular 10mm wide angle lens for 35mm cameras.

DSC 3989

The first three pictures are from the government district in Berlin.

DSC 4008

Almost everything becomes extremely compressed in width and pulled apart in depth.

DSC 4012

It is a very satisfying experience to have to step closer when all other people step back to take a picture.

DSC 4040

And the last three pictures are from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station.

DSC 4071

This extreme lens forces the photographer to compose differently.

DSC 4075

Courage (New Harmony VIII)

Walking a bridge always takes courage.

DSC 2001

This is particularly true if the bridge has been abandoned, become treacherous, or otherwise suspect.

DSC 1974

Why do we do it anyway? Walking across a bridge is the quintessential metaphor (the pattern) for change.

DSC 1982

When done right, it is a slow process, and involves looking at what we are transcending.

DSC 1980

It also involves facing, eventually, the other side.

DSC 1987

And finally, the test: Can we look back and accept where we come from? A bridge is not about abandoning the past, but connecting it with the future.

DSC 1989

Sunrise (New Harmony VII)

DSC 2013

While the absence of light in winter has it’s own appeal, we humans prefer it bright. We would be nowhere without having mastered fire. The pottery studio in New Harmony gives multiple evidence of this.

DSC 1969

For the photographer and everybody else who likes to see, these early hours just before sunrise are the most revealing.

DSC 1975

Everything appears gradually and returns to existence.

DSC 2035

Sky and earth are still in perfect balance.

DSC 2053

We get ready to continue to walk the mazes of the human mind. A new day has been born.

DSC 2078

Silent Night (New Harmony VI)

DSC 1938

Now is a good time to approach darkness: You know that this is it, from now on the days will get longer again.

DSC 1947

It is also a good time to approach silence. New Harmony, at this time of the year and this time of the day, is nearly deserted.

DSC 1951

In the Roofless Church I met James. He was making music, just singing and playing guitar. This is also a form of listening.

DSC 1955

We talked for a bit. He is there sometimes three times a week. He also likes the Athenaeum, and the Bridge, but hasn’t been on top of the Athenaeum or across the Bridge.

DSC 1961

It is also a good time to approach light.