About perception and truth

How do we see and know, and how perception is filtered by the lens of experience and beliefs.  This is what this project has really been about.  Exploration of this both in a small scale close personal way, but noting the parallels also on a larger scale.

As I discovered, listening to my sister, her recollection of specific events is often different to mine: although we were both present witnessing the same happening we brought different perspectives.  Asking my mother and grandfather to record their memories of the 30’s and 40’s was interesting as they brought their perspectives to the situation.  My grandfather was a young father at the time and had anxiety about the whole process.  He was upset that his recollection and my mother’s did not always co-incide, and part of the visit with him was being clear that this work was not about ‘discovering what really happened’ and passing some sort of judgement.  It is about listening and trying to make sense of why things are the way they are, with kindness and compassion so as to gather understanding.    My mother was a child, and is now remembering experiences which she preferred to forget, with a certain amount of anger and regret, at what happened to her and her much younger brother, and remorse for what she could have done differently to help her brother.  However, people make decisions in the context of what they know at that time, but without the luxury of a retrospectroscope.

In my family, as in most families, people will have done or said things that with hindsight they wish they had not.  To err is human.  And as a matter fact, to cover over your mistakes and wish them away is completely human as well.  My partner has often said to me “Denial is not just a river in Egypt”.  Tavris and Aronson explain all this beautifully in their book Mistakes Were Made (but not by me).  This is a book that sympathetically explains how sane and sensible people can get themselves into terrible messes, as a consequence of self-justification to minimise cognitive dissonance.

 Tavris and Aronson wrote the following passage in their introduction:

“Now between the conscious desire to fool others and unconscious self-justification to fool ourselves lies a fascinating grey area, patrolled by that unreliable, self-serving historian – memory.  Memories are often pruned and shaped by an ego-enhancing bias that blurs the edges of past events, softens culpability, and distorts what really happened.  ..  as the self – serving distortions of memory kick in and we forget or distort past events, we may come to believe our own lies little by little.  We know we did something wrong, but gradually we begin to think it wasn’t all our fault, and after all the situation was complex.  We start underestimating our own responsiblity, whittling away at it until it is amere shadow of its former hulking self.” (Tavris and Aronson pg 6)

The quote on the tablet is ‘And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free:’.  Is that right?  I am not sure the truth as pure facts is of much relevance to me in the context of this project.  I am much more interested in what were the influences that led to people doing the things they did.  Setting things in context.

It was put to me that the words on my tablet might have been more appropriately carved in stone or concrete, two very permanent materials, resonances of the 10 commandments written on two stone tablets given to Moses by God.  I have been thinking about this, but my perception of the truth in this context is that it is never ‘set in stone’, forever new information will come to light, changing the way in which old material is viewed.  And that that although learning the truth can bring healing and forgiveness, it can also lead to destruction, division, blame and judgment.  It can be a two edged blade, and a rusty blade.  For this reason I think a tablet made of casting powder, which is imperfect, inclined to flake off as the layers delaminate, has fissures, and at its core is held together internally by a bits of scrap wood, plastic plumbing tubes, copper ties, brass screws and a whole load of bits of stringy scrim is fitting.


Kaiser Wilhelm Gedächtnis Kirche

This is definitely going to be the last post about the Berlin trip.  There is the ruin of a large gothic church in the centre of what was formerly West Berlin, the church was destroyed in an air raid in 1943.  Beside it is a new hexagonal building made of concrete lattice work so that from the outside during the day it looks, frankly, rather ugly.  Inside it is a revelation, the whole church is made of incredibly deep strong coloured glass and is both delicate and beautiful.  Here are pictures of bothe the old and the new:

Dorothy Cross

In February 1999 Dorothy Cross repainted a lightship that was due to be scrapped with luminous paint and moored it in Dublin Bay where each night for a 3 hour period it would glow and fade.  It was in homage to the years of service made by these lightships and the men who served on them, now that they were all being decommissioned and replaced by permanent marker buoys.

Anselm Reyle

In the Sammlung Boros Bunker were several works by Anselm Reyle where he had taken an object and transformed simply by putting it in a gallery and repainting it, for example there were 3 bales of straw painted silver in the middle of a room.

This work below is called Heuwagen by Reyle done in 2003.  In the gallery it was dsiplayed in a darker room with relatively low lighting so the fluorescent yellow paint showed up strongly.  It reminded me of a brilliant work by Irish artist Dorothy Cross called Ghost Ship from 1999. 

The photo on this page is from http://www.sammlung-boros.de/.

Kris Martin

For Whom.. 2008

This work by Kris Martin hangs over the entrance desk inside the Sammlung Boros Bunker Gallery, swinging continuously, but silently as it has had its clapper removed.  I found it most creepy.  Having been to Holocaust Museum, and then learning all about the Berlin Wall and the communist regime, and people being silenced, surpressed and terminated, seeing this bell tolling silently felt very disturbing.

The photo is from http://www.sammlung-boros.de/

Kitty Kraus

This piece below was described as being by a very young new artist.  It is called Ohne Titel 2008, but as a lot of pieces are called that I suspect it means ‘untitled’!

This was beautiful, exhibited in a small room, it is a collection of boxes made by mirrors facing inwards and leaning against each other and unsecured in place with a light bulb inside.  Prior to installation the artist had thought up the idea but not tested it out at all, so to start with the mirrors were too fragile and the light bulbs too powerful, so they kept breaking and need ing to be repaired.

The photo is from http://www.sammlung-boros.de


We weren’t allowed to take photos in the Sammlung Boros Bunker, and there were no little title cards by the works of art, and the tour guide spoke with a strong accent so I didn’t catch the names, but there were several works there that I really liked.  Now I have had a chance to study the website I realise they are almost all by the same artist..Olafur Eliasson.

Below is Berlin Colour Sphere, 1995.  It was hanging in a white room with nothing else present, but the whole room was bathed in lovely warm colours.

Another that I really liked was called Konvex/Konkav.  It appeaed to be a huge circular mirror hanging on the wall with some kind of piston in a tube underneath it, and a perception that the picture in the mirror might be subtly changing.  It turns out that it is an air pump/suction below and the mirror is made of foil so moving in and out, gently breathing.

The last piece I shall include here, although there are others is this one called Ohne Titel 1997, and actually it looked much stronger in the bunker where it was hanging alone in its own tall ceilinged white room than it does in the photo below.  A simple installation of a fan turned on and hanging on a long lead from the ceiling, the thrust from the fan made it act like free floating propeller driving itself randomly around the room, and responding to the drafts made by people coming and going changing the aerodynamics of the space.

The photos are from http://www.sammlung-boros.de