Esra Ersen

Zahiri und Batini

The intervention Zahiri und Batini on the Hansaplatz will take the form of a temporary installation comprised of four architectural forms made of pinewood: a house, a boot, a pulpit and a tower. These are makam, from the Arabic term for “a place where something is established”. The term is used to describe a place of mental or spiritual presence, like a state office or the stations of a pilgrimage. But makam is also the term used to describe the mood of a piece of Middle Eastern music. As archetypes, the four architectural forms can be read in multiple ways and resist being pinned down to any one categorization. In Arabic one speaks of zahiri, the visible, and batini, the invisible: the duality of external, visible meaning and internal, invisible meaning. Texts and drawings contain both a zahiri message and a batini message, some hidden content and impulse.

The history of the Hansaviertel is typical of German twentieth-century history. Between 1933 and 1945 a large section of the population living here were stripped of their rights, had their possessions stolen and were sent into exile. Others then moved into their apartments. During WWII the Hansaviertel was badly destroyed. The new Hansaviertel built in 1957 was not only praised for its formal design; the settlement also stood symbolically for the “free world” and served as an ambassador for the ideals of liberal society in the Western world.

One encounters a peculiar form of crisis at Hansaplatz. Two worlds converge in this place which – spatially at least – has few of the qualities of a traditional square, but is instead more of a “flowing space” with different zones: bordered by the viaduct of the S-Bahn on one side, transitioning smoothly into the park landscape of the Tiergarten, and intersected by streets which suggest a proximity to the city centre. A common feature of the residents of the architectural monuments of the new Hansaviertel was their above-average level of education. Yet ground-level space is dominated by the urban opposite: homeless people whose lives are often dictated by their addictions.

The crisis that manifests itself at Hansaplatz can be read as symptomatic of a much larger crisis, one characterized primarily through a lack of orientation. A contributing factor to this situation is the dominant mode of thought which believes one’s own values to be universal and self-evident. This individual civic absolutism creates an exclusion that runs counter to the desire to create a shared basis and integrate “the other”.

Researchers will be invited to the four makam, which form a temporary net of meanings and identities at Hansaplatz, to publicly talk about their work and about today and tomorrow. How can we imagine a mode of thinking that is capable of relinquishing self-proclaimed cultural superiority and create the conditions for successful communication? The selection of speakers and topics of discussion is oriented around the overarching theme of a new historical epoch: the moving forward, reverberation and echo of upheaval and technological renewal.