Berlin’s mighty Hauptbahnhof, the largest railway station in Europe, embodies everything I expected of modern Germany. A soaring ribbed glass ceiling, somehow spotless, evokes old European grandeur. Underneath, a web of tracks and escalators whisks travelers from their croissants to their bullet trains with alarming efficiency.
Berlin’s trains used to go through the nearby Hamburger Bahnhof, now a contemporary art museum (or, in literal translation, Museum of the Present). A friend had recommended checking it out, but it was really the Guardian review of Carsten Holler’s ‘SOMA’ exhibition that caught my eye:
‘What could be more festive than spending a night locked in an art gallery with a dozen reindeer and a fridge full of psychedelic drugs?’
One might ask.
The Haupt- and Hamburgerbahnhof are minutes from each other on the malaise-suggesting Invalidenstraße. Unfortunately, my map-reading skills are about as functional as the Turkish justice system, and I somehow got lost – until, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a white colonnaded building with magic mushroom flags flying from the parapets.
Inside, the raw smell of reindeer dung and the spiderweb-meets-whale skeleton structure of the interior made me question, for a moment, if I wanted to stay. Apart from the mechanical sound or recorded birdsong, the hall was silent. I wondered if the reindeer – the centerpiece of exhibition – were alive or dead.
Suspended above the reindeer’s compound were two pairs of identical steel cages, each joined by a set of scales. Giant sculptures of mushrooms hovered, like ugly UFOs, in a central display.
I think it’s the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.