By Michelle R. Perkins, Cohort '13
During the recent summer residency, British philosopher Howard Caygill presented a series of lectures to IDSVA Cohort ’13 on Kant, Hegel and Benjamin. A Professor of Cultural History at Paris 8, Caygill is an internationally recognized Kantian scholar. His reflections on visual culture are mesmerizing, particularly relative to an examination of the Black Panther Party as part of an ongoing commitment to the analysis of resistance as a means of defying political oppression.
Caygills’ most recent book, On Resistance: A Philosophy of Defiance, redefines elements of Berlin’s architecture. In its origin, the location now known as Potsdamer Platz was Nazi Germanys attempt to reclaim the idea of a great empire. Demolished into a wasteland after WWII, Potsdamer Platz is now a public square, considered as an example of “urban renewal,” highlighting the revival of the heart of Berlin’s center of commerce and tourism. I recall an ad calling Potsdamer Platz the “cosmopolitan” place to eat, drink and shop. Upon seeing Potsdamer Platz for the first time since 1997, philosopher Howard Caygill said, “Its quite a proper mess, isn’t it?” I still question the manner in which space can be reclaimed. Is space ultimately inhabited by souls, or does space create a soulful presence?
I shared an image with Professor Caygill of an occupied apartment building behind our wonderful posh hotel in the Mitte. These squatters boldly announce their opinion that “Soldiers are Murders.” “We are here to stay” was the declaration on this building adorned with art, graffiti and posters! The rear of the building displays curtain-less windows with potted plants on the ledges. In many ways, this place is more beautiful than Potsdamer Platz ever dreamed it could be.