Sarah Kanning - Long Night of Ideas

Long Night of Ideas

With its “Long Night of Ideas”, the German Federal Foreign Office is hosting art, culture and discussions at 15 selected venues in Berlin – ranging from the Maxim Gorki Theatre to the Tresor Techno club.
by Sarah Kanning and Clara Krug

The basses boom away in the former boiler house of the power plant in Berlin’s Mitte district. The beats bounce back off the thick walls and the floor vibrates. The renowned Tresor Techno club is almost empty this Thursday night just before 10 p.m., and the only people to be seen are a group of young Berlin citizens standing behind the DJ decks. A blonde woman cautiously turns a few of the dials and examines a vinyl LP. “Perhaps this one next?” she asks the DJ standing at her side. He checks it out, nods and smiles. Because tonight the Tresor club is running workshops with young DJs; “New Faces” is an event offered as part of the Long Night of Ideas that the Federal Foreign Office is hosting as part of its “Moving People” three-day education forum which runs from 13-15 April 2016 in Berlin.

Countless young folk are flocking to the 15 venues round town, to participate in guided tours of museums and in debates, to attend performances, film shows and lectures, and to immerse themselves briefly in the flair of a city of culture.

This evening, the Maxim Gorki Theatre has opened its doors for a discussion with visitors on the task of culture and theatre in an age of social change. To this end, the theatre is presenting the play “Common Ground” by its director, Israeli Yael Ronen. She developed the piece together with seven actors: a German, an Israeli and five natives of Yugoslavia who fled the war in the former Yugoslavia and headed for Germany from Belgrade and Sarajevo, Zagreb and Novi Sad. In the play they search for their common ground. They argue over concepts such as guilt and atonement, forgiveness and forgetting. “Conflicts such as these are also present on the ground in Berlin. Which is why they are also our conflicts,” comments head dramaturg Ludwig Haugk after the performance. He believes that one of the key tasks of the Gorki Theatre is to kindle discussion on precisely such bones of contention by placing such topics firmly on the stage. “After all, we are an artistic venue and reflect society,” Haugk continues.

Learning playfully

The event on “Digital Worlds (of Games)” at Deutsches Technikmuseum is also closely bound up with current social issues. Digital games form an indispensable part of everyday life for an ever greater number of people. As a result they are becoming ever more important in socio-political terms. Can they also make a contribution to education? The participants in the panel discussion concur that there is certainly great potential for this. And all those interested can find out for themselves: Various “creative gaming stations” and the exhibition “The Net” encourage visitors to explore, try things out – and game away.

At Neues Museum on the Museum Island things centre on the question of “beauty”. Three curators simultaneously lead small groups on guided tours of their respective part of the exhibition and in part by means of schematic models use the bust of Nefertiti, the chief consort of King Akhenaton, to explain why the unfinished can be so stimulating and how subjective any concept of beauty is. “With these tours we want to demonstrate that beauty is relative and is closely connected to the respective angle or perspective,” says Matthias Henkel, Member of the Board of the International Museum Council, which did all the thinking behind the Long Night of Ideas. “And foreign cultural relations and education policy must always address what is or seems foreign – it’s a topic we must tackle consciously but also discuss and debate.”

Space for new ideas

To abandon established ideas and make space for new ones is also the theme at the “Silent Green” cultural quarter, where SAVVY Contemporary invited everyone to attend performances, lectures and artistic interventions right through to 6 a.m. “Abandoning your own privileges is an important step here as it denotes the beginning of an ethical relationship to the Other,” is the underlying idea driving the event. Using washtubs, ironing boards and white paint, an artist presents the proverbial money laundering – she first washes the dollar bills before hanging them up to dry. Another artist uses lipstick rather than pigment to paint the outlines of a landscape on white walls.

Our dependence on Google and the associated immense volumes of data that are stored, rendering us all as good as transparent, is something the curators of the exhibition on “Nervous Systems/Data Detox” at Haus der Kulturen der Welt discussed with the audience. While it was once the relationship between humans and machines that left us nervous and uncertain, today it is Big Data that impacts on our behaviour, how we see ourselves and the image of society we have, the exhibition suggests. The organizers provide an antidote, arranging a data-detox workshop by the name of Google Diet.

by Sarah Kanning and Clara Krug