After looking at the mining facility near the Columbia Mine Preserve from the outside last week, now it’s time to step inside.
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.
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.
Further up. It also reminds me of Snakes and Ladders. One misstep, and you have to start climbing all over again, if you can.
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.
It also feels like I am an exploring some alien space ship. I have absolutely no clue what these enormous machines were used for.
Not only birds have left their stains. Monsters, undead, animals, aliens — what do we fear most?
Down again, unharmed. Two decades ago, this place was busy with people who worked there. Where are they now, what are their stories?
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.
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.
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.
I am also clueless about the purpose of this truck, and why it looks so unhappy.
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:
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.
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.
Nearby churches were renovated and allowed other change to happen, later.
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.
Radically modern buildings show that transformation is still possible. This leaves hope for Franz’s children.
Berlin and Bloomington have few things in common, besides their first letter B.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
It’s tempting to call these the male and female aspects of the building. No matter, it lives from the dialogue between the two.
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?
You can find robots and explanations of some cutting edge technologies, but also large scale models that just keep you musing.
Much of the interior design is an attempt to appear moderately futuristic.
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.
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.
Hisham Matar’s autobiographic book The Return talks about his father’s absence.
The image above show the Voided Void at the end of the Axis of Holocaust in Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Matar quotes Aristoteles: The theory that the void exists involves the existence of place: for one would define void as place bereft of body.
Right now, the museum is being prepared for a new standard exhibition, and hence almost completely void.
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.
A second accessible void in the Libeskind building is the Memory Void, containing Menashe Kadishman’s installation Shalekhet (Fallen Leaves).
Matar concludes this reflection: What is extraordinary is that, given everything that has happened, the natural alignment of the heart remains towards the light.
These here are my first shots with Samyang’s spectacular 10mm wide angle lens for 35mm cameras.
The first three pictures are from the government district in Berlin.
Almost everything becomes extremely compressed in width and pulled apart in depth.
It is a very satisfying experience to have to step closer when all other people step back to take a picture.
And the last three pictures are from Berlin Hauptbahnhof, the main train station.
This extreme lens forces the photographer to compose differently.
Walking a bridge always takes courage.
This is particularly true if the bridge has been abandoned, become treacherous, or otherwise suspect.
Why do we do it anyway? Walking across a bridge is the quintessential metaphor (the pattern) for change.
When done right, it is a slow process, and involves looking at what we are transcending.
It also involves facing, eventually, the other side.
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.
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.
For the photographer and everybody else who likes to see, these early hours just before sunrise are the most revealing.
Everything appears gradually and returns to existence.
Sky and earth are still in perfect balance.
We get ready to continue to walk the mazes of the human mind. A new day has been born.
Now is a good time to approach darkness: You know that this is it, from now on the days will get longer again.
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.
In the Roofless Church I met James. He was making music, just singing and playing guitar. This is also a form of listening.
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.
It is also a good time to approach light.