One of the most fascinating experiences in Europe has been the museums. We have seen some truly inspiring museums and exhibits. There is certainly terrific creativity in designing the space to house certain exhibits. A museum is more than a hall or building which houses exhibits or paintings or sculptures. According to us, a museum is also something that should ideally capture the essence of the exhibit. If it is a museum on nature, what better than to feel really immersed in it as we see the displays, if it is a museum on art, what better than to be almost transported into the artist’s mind?
We had been to the Jewish museum in Berlin. The Holocaust and the countless wars going on everywhere since ages have always left us feeling very sad. However, this museum had something on a completely different level when it came to the viewer associating with the exhibit / theme.
We walked into the museum, started seeing the exhibits which documented the life and events then, the cultural aspects, the finer details of the emotions at play and so on. As we walked, absorbed in silence, we entered a long dark corridor. From near the end of the corridor, we could hear a lot of rhythmic and yet aperiodic clanging noises, a disturbing, clanging noise which hurt the ears and which you wanted to stop even before knowing what it was. We entered the space and were not prepared for this. If you are planning to visit the museum sometime soon, please stop reading this now. Would like you to experience this in as unbiased a way as possible.
On the floor lay hundreds of circular iron discs. That, however, was not the surprising part. What disturbed us was their form – they were crude, and yet realistic cutouts of faces – 2 eyes and a mouth gaping open, faces frozen in a gloomy expression. These faces were an architectural expression of the people who have lost their lives in wars and violence all over. The exhibit encourages you to walk over this layer of faces, symbolizing, to us, the treading upon of the people. It was like walking over a pile of bodies. We don’t know personally the Jews who died, we don’t know their culture properly even after visiting museums and seeing films on them, and yet there was immense sadness, immense guilt. There was anger and confusion regarding the wars, the countless bloody wars, and the countless people who suffered directly and indirectly, physically, mentally, emotionally.
Initially, I was reluctant to walk on these ‘dead’ faces, but I wanted to be with them, almost as if I knew they would talk to me if I spent time with them. Hesitantly, I stepped over.
With each footstep, a metallic scream would emanate as the discs clanged against each other. I started seeing subtleties in the expressions – horror, shock, pain, despair, hopelessness, even peace. The varying sizes of the discs to me signified kids and adults; the difference in corrosion between discs seemed to signify different time scales. Heart wrenching stuff. The only question that arose was ‘Why’? Why do we fight, and kill and destroy? Why are we insecure and greedy and blind? Sadly, I could not find any answers. However, the importance of staying human, respecting each other, and the value of peace and freedom which we now take almost for granted was renewed.
A fantastic museum with one of the best displays we have seen so far. While so many leaves have fallen, hopefully, we will be wise enough and not repeat such horrific acts which do not befit the title of being humane.
Here is more information on the museum –> http://www.jmberlin.de/main/EN/01-Exhibitions/04-installations.php