Voided Void: The Libeskind Jewish Museum - Berlin, Germany
While visiting Berlin with family, I was lucky enough to visit Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum. In a nondescript corner of the building, I had a near-religious experience of space. Here, I attempt to recount my experience of space.
An unmarked door swings outward into silence.
Away from the comfort of the brightly lit corridor, I peered into a blackness - not quite darkness - that threatened to swallow me whole. Lingering at the threshold, I craned my head into the void in search of the answer to an unknown question - but all that responded were the shadowy silhouettes floating in the corners of my eye. I stepped forward, but some never did.
My companions who entered alongside me faded into faint figures - shadows that blended into the texture of the pale concrete walls. As I blinked, hoping that my eyes might quickly adjust to the space, I found no distinction between eyes open or closed. Voices echoed and surrounded me from the corridor but once the door swung shut, with a gentle click, the familiar world faded into silence. In the back of my mind, I wondered if this was right.
A slight wind cut through my thin black sweater - aided by the negative heat radiated by the concrete perimeter. Maybe I shouldn't have checked my coat.
With hands outstretched I reached into blackness, feeling for walls that I knew must lie beyond. The concrete was smooth to my mind, but pockets of roughness told my hands otherwise as they sent tendrils of ice into my blood and nerves. I turned; leaning with my back against the wall, I become a part of the space - a figure of the past: an observer. My gaze tilted upward, to the sliver of light that hung in the air with darkness stretching beyond. As the wetness of my breath escaped from my mask and fogged up my glasses, the light transformed into a shimmering, ethereal halo. Annoyed, I took them off, wiping the glass on the soft fabric of my sweater. My knees bent to the earth and like a prayer to the beyond, I pointed my camera to the light hoping to immortalize even a moment of this experience. My eyes had adjusted to the blackness by now and the sliver of light began to radiate around the room - gently reflecting off the cold concrete walls and casting a light shadow, darker than the space I entered.
The sounds of the city above were foreign and distorted; the calming rumble of the metro that brought me back and forth on my daily commute was now a stranger’s sound - a cry: wistful, pleading, wavering. Making my way around the space, my footsteps echoed no matter how lightly I tread.
Every so often the door swung open on unwelcome intervals and the yellow light of the corridor spilled into the room, sending the darkness fleeing. I began to hate the light - as it disrupted the entity that I'd become. Shadowy figures hung around the entryway, their heads peering into the space and their bodies hesitating. One shrugged and entered, while the other pulled back. Those that chose to enter typically stayed huddled in the center, seeking solace in the unseen company of the many. The space beyond remained foreign as they typically left after less than a minute - before their eyes could even adjust.
The door closes with a gentle click, keeping the light at bay.
When it came time to leave, the wash of light brought the world back to me - the sounds, the warmth, the noise, the everything. But the normal world somehow felt foreign - no longer a part of me. I no longer felt welcome.
Who are these spaces for? Who do they influence, what do they do, when people don’t even want to enter?
Memory Void (in progress).
I thought it was a dining table at first. The sound of clinking of silverware and glasses at a school cafeteria, but just a little bit more rhythmic. Walking through the gallery, I took in the photographs - gazing upon one which had a whiteness that blended the ground and sky, torn asunder by textures of darkness. The whiteness of the twigs, sticks, and straws tore the blackness apart into a disjoint and scrambled scene, yet somehow it remained as one. The clinking remained in the background as I immersed myself in the scenes, the poses, the questions, and the meanings. Drawn to not what the image tells you, but rather what it asks of you.
The memory void consists of a jagged cut in the core of the building, with the ground made up of thousands of metal faces. The clinking came from the footsteps of people walking.
A floodlight shines from above, reflecting off the metallic faces that cover the ground. The metal shifts under your feet and faces peer at you from both below and above. The ringing fills your ears and permeates you just like the cold, and the sound follows you out.
There are only so many buildings that can make you feel, and you realize that this - this is architecture.