(3) Heritage of Loss – The Power of Tubes

Vacuum tubes – still going strong at Industriesalon Schöneweide

Röhrensammlung 2

Visiting the vast display storeroom at Industriesalon Schöneweide is like entering a sculpture park: You are overwhelmed by the magnitude and strangeness of the objects. The display storeroom (‘Schaudepot’) with a mass of impressive exhibits tells the eventful and multilayered story of electrical engineering at Berlin-Treptow, of the first power plant producing alternating current here, of a cable plant and a transformer station – all of this in three various historical periods in German history. After the “Wende”, when Samsung shut down the place in 2009 and the collection of industrial artifacts from the 1980s was doomed for dumping, some courageous people succeeded in saving this incomparable industrial heritage and founded the Industriesalon Schöneweide as an industrial museum. The transfixed visitor from today’s transistor-based digital world may dwell and rummage at large here and, while doing so, discover the once so powerful kingdom of vacuum valves!

Röhrenparade 2

The (nearly) lost kingdom of vacuum tubes

Mostly, the vacuum tube has become obsolete in nowadays technology. Even if tubes are still used at microwave radio frequencies and special hi-fi audio systems sometimes, they have been replaced by an ultra-efficient transistor technology, without any evidence of a tube comeback –  except for  real audioheads who insist that tubes deliver better audio quality than transistors. So, during the last two decades vacuum tubes have become a cherished part of man’s industrial heritage. When looking at the schematic diagram of a vacuum valve, it’ll perhaps remind you of an illustration showing the interior of an Egyptian pyramid, complete with nicely coloured explanatory hieroglyphs, and in that way it reveals something of the complex process of developing and producing electron tubes on this industrial site.tubeworks

Eavesdropping onto industrial history at Schöneweide

Of course, everyone knows his lessons on batteries, tubes, transistors and the like, hours which proceeded sluggishly from current to voltage, from anode to cathode, from positive to negative and vice versa, out of the black box and back into. You had to accept the given facts and there was no point in mulling things over – that was meant for the chosen few who would get a job in some future electrochemical laboratory. AdobePhotoshopExpress_496070b7a36a48d68cfa158ad5be00b4

Halting in front of a bulky eavesdropping machine, you learn that it had been developed and used in the days of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) for spying on the enemy territory of the Federal Republic of Germany – from the top of GDR mountain Brocken (1.141 m). You look at the weathered photocopy showing the espionage station on the highest peak of the Harz mountain ranges and, yes, some sparks of long forgotten lessons come to mind: A vacuum tube is a device used to amplify and rectify electronic signals. Sure, in those days they needed tubes to spy from mountain heights. Current passing through the filament, or cathode (-), heats it up so that it knocks off electrons which have a negative charge.Why, oh, why? These electrons are attracted to the plate, or anode(+). A grid of wires between the filament and the plate is negative, repels the electrons and thus controls the current to the plate. In this process it will be able to amplify the voltage given to it. Control and miraculous precision!AdobePhotoshopExpress_385660b64f984c47a9b3e407d1d2c478

I take two steps back in the narrow corridor, which has led me to this amazing object, to take in the grandeur of the bulky spying machine. It speaks of a bold engineering spirit – ill-fitting to snoop on other people’s affairs but rather suitable to reach out across borders and exchange ideas on new technologies (like transistors, for example). A kind of “light bulb” moment makes me shake off the repelling spy v. spy stories, may they rest in silence. Instead, I can detect some of the former engineer’s mind in the exhibition and curiously turn to the rows of varied vacuum tubes: Here, the industrial, social and political heritage of a past era has become tangible and alive in a very human way!

 

Advertisements

(2) Heritage of Loss – A Microwave Brontosaurus

Local identity and collective memories

Industrial spaces witness the profound impact of technical activities on people’s socio-economic history and presence. The uniqueness of the heritage left over to future generations reveals a lot about the local process of industrial change. Somehow, each site carries the value of a specific local memory. It’s present not only in the industrial space and environmental background, but just the same in contents, mechanical or technical equipment, in the industrial landscape, its architecture and literature. The everyday lives of different groups of people are ‘recorded’ in the industrial heritage and since everyday life is necessarily attached to a certain place, a kind of local identity clings to the site, even if decades have passed. Some exhibits in the ‘working’ museum Industriesalon Schöneweide, the historical centre of a once large-scale, most modern electronics industry on the outskirts of Berlin, very strongly convey such collective memories and a feeling of local identity.

A Microwave Brontosaurus

Developed in the mid-sixties, this GDR (1) microwave oven was produced towards the end of the sixties. It turned out to be the only GDR prototype – just 140 microwaves ever left the production halls. They were used in restaurants and canteen kitchens.

Microwave Dinosaur

(1) GDR-German Democratic Republic

Using electron tubes in a microwave oven

The microwave oven was manufactured in a state-owned GDR enterprise, VEB Elektrowärme Sörnewitz. The bulky, head-high oven consists of a cooking cabinet and a large chamber for power supply. The electron tubes were produced at VEB Fernsehelektronik, a factory for television electronics.

How To Use My Microwave

Those were high-voltage rectifier tubes and magnetrons, initially being “by- products” of a GDR developing program for radar technology. The heat required is generated by the transformation of magnetic field energy into thermal energy within the food product to be heated or cooked.

Besucherzentrum Industriesalon Schöneweide e.V.,Reinbeckstr.9, 12459 Berlin

(1) Heritage of Loss

 

Industrial heritage – understanding loss and digging into future!

Industrie Luftschloss

Industrial sites shape landscapes into settlements and communities. Where there used to be nature, agriculture or wasteland you find buildings, plants, architecture, machinery, products, transport, housing – all of which develops like an island sputtered up from the ocean of man’s industrial and commercial instincts. An island that is projected into the future and based on change. If you visit abandoned plants and look at the material remains of former industries, you’ll often sense the massive loss which their decomposition means.

Industrie Kunstschlaf

On the vast site of former AEG Schöneweide in Berlin-Treptow, where on rural grounds the industrial empire of AEG rose and collapsed in the course of little more than a century, you may find a sleeping giant. He was left behind in the industrial detritus. In his sleep he looks decrepit and promising at the same time, being sheltered under a neatly painted inscription from our days. The lines “Gib der Kunst Raum, dann wird sich die Schönheit ihrer Seele frei entfalten” (1) sounds like the beginning of an elegy addressed to ancient Greek ruins. The words deny the reality of industrial collapse and instead speak of art, beauty and unfolding of souls. As if the strong sense of abandonment, which is still omnipresent here, has miraculously given way to a new space for people to get started again, differently.

(1) “Lend space to art so that it may unfold the beauty of its soul in freedom”

Industriegebiet Kaisersteg

The ruins of social change are unlikely to raise romantic outbursts as those from ancient days do, particularly not so in affluent modern societies. Maybe the reason lies in the anonymity of the relics. We don’t see the people who once worked the plant but disintegrating industrial material. Moreover, these industrial leftovers are a shameful reminder of social defeat. Adaptive re-use didn’t work out, abandonment became inevitable and now decay has taken over. But however “marooned in time, we should understand that ruins have a value” (2) so that they can remind future generations of a “common wealth” which brought about products, skills and knowledge just as well as work identification and social progress.
Kaisers Neue Kleider
So, there are riches in the detritus which the former industrial community has left behind. If the ruins stay, future generations will have the opportunity of digging for them. Obviously, there are enough people who know that they don’t need the deception of the emperor’s new clothes and who get started with genuinely new projects. Walking about on the former industrial sites of Schöneweide you get a feeling that although the past is not yet over some digging into the future has already begun.
Industrie Kunsthallen

 

Former industrial communities – “(…) these are the nameless people. Our job is to pierce their anonymity so that future generations may understand their extraordinary achievements.The future of these working places is in our hands; to preserve for posterity, to recycle for tomorrow,
or to leave alone so that future generations can make choices for themselves based on our prudence and their values and judgments. We have a choice over whether it is treasure or trash.” (3)
Neil Cossons, Industrial Heritage: Treasure or Trash, Abstract for TICCIH (2), (3)

Glimpses from a backyard

No-one coming_strong colour

St. Mary’s backyard is hibernating in faded colours, with some red flower heads left on a small Fuchsia and violet cabbage leaves in an oval metal tub. An empty terracotta amphora is, of course, no such thing as a Grecian urn but simply a fancy flower pot waiting for the next planting season. Still, the weathered tin can bears the looks of a “foster-child of silence and slow time”. While looking at the gardening remnants, the old church-stones, the climbing creeper, the black cast iron fence and the doorknob of the open gate I am transfixed in a kind of profane eternity: Here I am in St. Mary’s backyard!

Nobody enters, the world is kept outside. Once in while, a mini story is passing by like that…

Blue Cart_ coloured

… blue cart, drawn or pushed by an unseen hand and…

Cyclist Fast-coloured

…a hotfoot cyclist pushing the pedals …

Reading Lady_strong colour

… or a reading lady nearly bumping into a bluish shadow behind the creepers…

Tall Man_coloured

… but not coming across the tall man lost in thought who isn’t noticing…

hurried cyclists

… those two hurried fellows whooshing past!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Less Time In February

From gloss and glamour to loss and clamour …

The problem with handbags is the following: you overload! Overloading usually results in excessive digging, meaning that at crucial moments you are absolutely unable to come up with the object needed, as for example, your favourite lipstick. Rumour says that even feminists have been caught in the act of emptying the contents of their bags on a car roof or a tiny French bistro table. Needless to say that from both locations their handbag intimacies invariably slide or drop down to some grimy ground which will give any woman a serious fit. A jam-packed handbag is always prone to accidents as, e.g., by rupture of wafer-thin, fancy bag straps, by the breaking away of shiny snap hooks or the splitting open of glitzy metal rings. The effect is always the same, your handbag will drop down from your shoulder like a stone. Big drama! You need impro!

AdobePhotoshopExpress_496e589af66a4351a4de856a3b169bb8

Two ladies being at ease with jam-packed handbags  (Affordable Art)

 

When taking out my classic blue Life Handbag on a rainy Oxford day, a snap hook drama struck right on Broad Street. Bang! Solutions had to be found quickly! As clutching a well-packed handbag for longer than twenty minutes is unacceptable, I first tried sticky tape, which proved to be unsuitable and led to another clamorous downfall. After searching a number of shops in vain for something to fix the snap hook, a helpful shop assistent in a charming craft store finally found me some hellish Super Glu which I administered on the disfunctional hook very carefully while riding the Oxford Tube to London. In the process, I had to unpack the contents of my handbag on the empty neighbouring seat and – gosh- what freaky objects did I find in my handbag! And – gosh – where were all those unsuspiciuous objects I actully had supposed to dig up from the depth of my bag? I suddenly understood: My life chance of a ‘What-is-in-my-bag’ – photo event had come! And here we go.

1.

adobephotoshopexpress_bd64948808da4d2189322f73b9f21667.jpg

In the photo, from left to right: Din5 standard leather calendar 2015, favourite retractable pencil, pocket mirror from Bodleian Library shop, super glu for metal snap hooks, ancient Swiss knife with 3 functions, favourite blackberry-coloured lipstick, freaky, black plastic cutlery of uncertain origins Not in the photo: powder compact Le Blush Creme, umber pocket comb, all kinds of receipts, cards, tickets, snippets safely stored away in the calendar pockets

2.

adobephotoshopexpress_2dc4f1ef4ad64520b05bcc22cd1cd5f8.jpg

Not in the photo: Catweazle Club handout, lengthy novel on Kindle App, quality fountain pen  In the photo, clockwise: tablet PC, black leather case with two pockets for fountain pen, give-away promotional ballpen, turtoise shell fixing comb, snakeskin leather purse

A visual presentation of “Whatsinmybag” is a big challenge because those rather profane private belongings which are brought to daylight mostly lack gloss and glamour. So the way of arranging the profanities in the shooting is imperial. On my comfortable Oxford Tube the location was dominated by the wildly patterned orange seat covers, a circumstance I had to submit to and therefore embraced as a neo-realistic, anti-lifestyle message to the world. YES, no lying about the contents in my bag! YES, I crossed my fingers after writing the last sentence! YES, the objects lack gloss and glamour! YES, my bag tells you stories of loss and clamour! YES, the myth of my handbag is flamboyant! NO, I won’t share my secrets!

3.

adobephotoshopexpress_062b6d956f0b42a0bc21a426cc985ebb.jpg

Not in the photo: red-rimmed stylish glasses, smartphone in white case, little blue addressbook  In the photo, from left to right: soft casing for sunglasses, green cleaning cloth, present from Bodleian Library shop for a friend

 

(2) Timeless in January

Understanding handbags

Visions of Bags

Visions

Understanding what handbags mean to women is a complicated matter. You might compare handbags to the mystery of cats and adapt T.S. Eliot’s “The naming of cats”:

“The buying of handbags is a difficult matter,

It isn’t just a profane afterwork deed.

You may think it’s as simple as a rattle’s clatter,

But believe me, at least SEVEN  bags does a woman need!” 

Handbag_cool croco

Cool Reptile

In any case, handbags need to have the appeal of a hidden universe. If you want to understand handbags imagine a museum, preferably a private collector’s museum like Pitt Rivers in Oxford, and there you are with the elementary philosophy of a handbag.

Handbag_Pitt River

The Universal Bag

Impossible to foresee which unique objects will show up from the depths of your bag and unfathomable the variety of indispensable valuables you need to store!

Handbag_bling

Bling Mysteries

A good handbag will not only hold together your everyday universe but it will also go with you anywhere. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Day by day, you’ll sling your breathtaking, portable, private collection over your shoulder – or you’ll just clutch it with one hand – and off you go! You’re the director, the collector, the curator, the visitor, the doorman, the adorer and restorer – a fancy-free, footloose one-woman show.

Post Scriptum: Handbags are irreconcilably at odds with umbrellas. So you should better look for umbrella-carrying company on rainy days.

 

(1) Timeless in January

January

January and Willow TreeTaking a walk in January, I look at the world in wonder: Everything – except people – holds still and wants to be noticed. Like the frozen willow tree which is laid back against the icy surface of the lake similar to an artist’s naked model on a blue divan.Through the elfish branches and twigs of an alder tree with its hundreds of small, brown cones I look at a pale half-moon which is already up before sunset. The moon is moving slowly and time is sheltered in a winter capsule. No ticking away of time units, ducks keep silent, wind has long blown away the tiny seeds of the alder cones.

January has space and freedom.Those twelve months of the year are spread out before you like an uncharted continent to explore and to map out. Erlen und MondJanuary makes you imagine spring colours and speculate about weather reports of  summer days still to come. Where to travel, what to read and when to dance! Your unspoken plans meander from improving your finances or your wardrobe to refurnishing the kitchen and from there to getting hold of a ticket for a concert staging Sir Simon at the piano, accompanying his mezzo-soprano wife, yes, at the piano!

In January you will take out your opinionated ear plugs and be all ears to the world again – even to politicians and other prepotent people in charge. Again, it’s January unplugged!

But one day – most certainly the 22nd – all of a sudden and out of the blue, some chrono-addicted, unrelaxed, hyper-disciplined supermiser will stick a new year’s annual calendar right into my contemplative life and I’ll gasp: “God gracious, it’s January 22nd! Already!”

Suddenly, I will remember meeting my neighbour in the underground parking space and hear him answering to my new year wishes: “Don’t know about new year. To me it’s already over, had my birthday on January 1st!” Poor fellow citizen, to be confronted with his annual calendar right on the first day of January, year by year! No timeless moments in January, no unplanned visions of colour and change! Sommer Raupe

And while I am hastily scribbling down my overdue to-do list right into my brown leather agenda, eagerly restoring chronology of time, an image pops up in my mind. It’s showing what I had in my handbag when I rode the coach from Oxford to London. I saw, I considered, I whispered:

 

“Tell me, Chronos, when is the moment to write about women’s handbags and their contents?!

IF AT ALL, IN JANUARY! Hurry up!

 

 

 

 

(4) Let thy feet be set in midst of knowledge and try together!

British Museum – Let’s look into the future and share dreams!

Great Court_London

Every single one of the more than 5 million visitors who enter London’s British Museum each year, will set his feet on the marvellous white floor tiles of the inner courtyard.  Yet, he will not look down to the floor but lift his eyes to the incomparable grandeur of the Great Court and the shining glass-made sky above. His view is magically drawn to the two majestic staircases which graciously encircle the magnificent cylinder of the former Reading Room. Step by step, the stairs lead his eyes upwards to take in the kaleidoscopic light from the miraculous roof which spans the inner court like a giant sail in the wind. It’s more than a museum, it’s a unique public square and an irresistible cultural domain – open to all and to be used by everyone! When after a while of browsing and grazing the mesmerized visitor can finally spare some time to take a look at the floor, he may find in words what he has already sensed as a unifying idea of the Great Court and the British Museum:

“And let thy feet be set,

Millenniums hence,

In midst of knowledge…”  Tennyson

And let thy feet(2)

So, let thy feet…

And let thy feet(3)

…regardless of shape, size or gender of feet, color of toes, eventual smells,

In midst of barefoot in sandal

… regardless of origins or boldness of shoewear, strange behaviour of socks and tights,

Knowledge and hairy calves

… and even regardless of feet being overtopped by hairy calves,

Millenniums hence boots

… yes, let thy feet, millenniums hence…

Bet set in midst flowery lady

… be set in midst of knowledge!

At the very latest, people should start in 2016 – just one week hence – and set their minds firmly on respect of humanity and peace. And why not try and do it together: Happy New Year, particularly to the school children at Neve Shalom – Wahat-al-Salam!

(3) Cling and climb and stay together!

400 plants and Ivy is one!

As a countdown to its 400th anniversary in 2021, the University of Oxford Botanic Garden and Harcourt Arboretum is presenting 400 plants of scientific and cultural prominence. Since November 24th 2013 such a plant has been highlighted every week. Common Ivy, scientifically named Hedera Helix, was the plant last week (107). What a marvellous choice!

Oh Ivy

Hedera Helix, Common Ivy (to be read aloud)

Oh Ivy, you master of embrace!
You, hugging weather-beaten tree trunks,
Caressing shabby stonewalls and
Flattering faded fences.

We clip you from the rotting shed
And watch you metamorphose into festive decoration.
You take a solemn stance and cover, with eternal green,
A grave, a vault, a ruin and a littered backyard.

On winter and on summer days
You creep and climb and hold together
What time and waste has left:
A promise and a memory of blossom and decay.   (ch)

 

 

 

(2) Stay Together…

…and sing La Marseillaise!

The sunniest public event in the aftermath of the atrocious terrorist attacks on Paris has been the united singing of the national French anthem at Wembley Stadium, when thousands of French and English football fans (including Prince William) were belting out La Marseillaise together with the French and English national football teams – with a lot of gusto, unflagging confidence and good humour. In an outstanding joint effort people let the sun of friendship shine brightly at Wembley Stadium.

<span class='image-component__caption' itemprop="caption">The Wembley Stadium arch is lit up with the colours of the French flag before the International Friendly match between England and France.</span>

Shaun Botterill via Getty Images

Indeed, considerable efforts were needed to accomplish this heart-warming event. Get to know the words of the anthem, understand them and, biggest challenge of all, make the words sound French! I mean, it’s not god-given to a native English tongue to pronounce French words in a French way, is it? There’s a long tradition of learning French as a foreign language in the English speaking world, of course, and more than likely there are millions who have succeeded in doing so. But, this extremely extravagant French pronunciation is an encounter of the third kind – it  must surely have been concocted right during the Babylonian jumble of languages, obviously by some nasally gifted biblical scholars ! So, first and foremost, a legible phonetic transcription of the anthem was needed. But  would anybody be able to rip the French sounds from the freedom-spirited words of La Marseillaise? “Aux armes, citoyen” – “To arms, citizens” – how could anybody sound-doctor these eternal words of resistance into a good English read?! A case of mission impossible, I thought, an unfeasible feat to chip away  the phonological body from its orthographical sibling.That’s what I thought until, suddenly, out of the blue, a twitter message popped up: It was India Knight’s sweet-lettered soundtrack of the first verse and chorus of La Marseillaise. Here it is again, quoted for everybody to delight in:

And here it is, too, for private use to light up one’s low spirits (“Allons enfants…”) or for public use to stand together as citizens (“Marchons, marchons…”). As, for example, at this weekend’s Premier League matches when La Marseillaise is being played as a gesture of solidarity and remembrance. With 72 French players in the Premier League and its firm friendship to France it feels just right to hum along with the melody of the Marseillaise or even join in with the chorus: OZARM-uh, sit-waah-yen! Join in with the arms of friendship, citizens!