Dr. Christopher Lonegan (IDSVA graduate of 2013) began the intensive study of the Kant-Hegel Divide Facilitated Reading course with the following invitation, based on the recollection that the philosopher Immanuel Kant was so regular in his daily walks that the neighbors could set their clocks by him: Friends, please join me for a walk around the farm, and we will talk about this week’s reading. Here’s how two students reacted to the new and old in Berlin.
Susan Johnson: I was surprised by the reconstruction of pre-war Berlin buildings: the replicas, as well as the construction in East Berlin. Walking on a dense city street, one would never guess it had been an empty field only a dozen or so years back. At the same time, Berlin is a time capsule, with genuine remnants and on-going emotional reconnections. I had a continual sense of walking on several layers of existence. Berlin is a city of culture, rooted in the notion of subjectivity. That fact that we were studying Kant and Hegel heightened my access to this dimension.
Shadieh Mirmobiny: With Kant and Hegel in mind, I kept looking for historic buildings or signs of the Enlightenment. I realized when we were walking on the streets of Berlin that there were barely any buildings that showed any signs of history corresponding to what I had pictured in my mind. Our architecture tour guide pointed out that other than two buildings, everything had been built in the early nineties after the fall of the Berlin wall.
One of the most striking places I visited was a section of the Berlin Wall that is still standing; apparently, there are only a few locations in which one can find them. From a distance it appears riddled with dots and graffiti marks. Once I walked to take a closer look, I realized the layers and layers of dots are thousands and thousands of pieces of gum which created an organic kind of installation out of the cold piece of concrete. Wherever else that the wall had been removed, there were tracks on the streets made of bricks. It was moving to see that line where one can now walk on both sides.
Mentioning history, I am also reminded of the Boros Bunker house which was once a shelter during the bombing of Berlin in WWII (built by Karl Bonatz in 1943), and later a place to store fruits and vegetables for the East German government. It now houses a collection of diverse, contemporary art works in its maze-like spaces–once dark and gloomy, but now refurbished to look like a safe space for art work. The building itself is aesthetically significant as it is reminiscent of a Renaissance building.
What I saw made me think more about the Kant and Hegel divide as Berlin has come a long way in a short period of time from a place in which time stood still, to a place that is buzzing with art, artists, tourists, architectural projects, etc., signaling change and moving forward.