“Sei ruhig” (be calm) was stenciled on the walls inside the Auschwitz gas chambers.

Warum, die Frag ist oft zu mir ergangen, wählst du zum Gegenstand der Malerei so oft den Tod, Vergänglichkeit und Grab? Um ewig einst zu leben, muss man sich oft dem Tod ergeben.
Caspar David Friedrich

Käthe Niederkirchner died 351,360 seconds before the moment she would have been saved. That was the last day of April, 1945; she was then thirty-five, and murdered only 90 kilometers from where, in 1951, a street in Berlin would be named in her honor. Niederkirchnerstraße, which shares a corner with Wilhelmstraße, first appears on Berlin maps sixty years earlier, in 1891, as Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, named for Prince Albrecht of Prussia, son of King Friedrich Wilhelm III, who owned the Prinz-Albrecht-Palais on the corner of what was fated to become Niederkirchnerstraße and Wilhelmstraße.

On the same street, Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, the Martin-Gropius-Bau was inaugurated in 1891 as the Museum for Applied Arts, having been designed by Martin Gropius, the uncle of the founder of the Bauhaus, Walter Gropius. A proto-modern masterpiece, the building received an extension in 1905 – the Museum of Decorative Arts – which sits adjacent to the Martin-Gropius-Bau. It was in 1933, that the 1905 extension was quietly transformed into Gestapo headquarters; the wish of Hermann Göring.

Having been selected by the Concentration Camps Inspectorate, whose offices were within the 1905 extension, Niederkirchner was deported and died anonymously in Ravensbrück, just as she had arrived in Ravensbrück, the women’s concentration camp Heinrich Himmler originally envisioned.
Niederkirchner died on September 28, 1944, roughly 1.1 million seconds after she was born. 132,000 women passed through the gates of Ravensbrück, and when the Allies arrived in April, seventy-one years ago, 3,500 prisoners, more or less, began their lives as survivors. Much of the slave labor provided by the camp was sold to the German manufacturer Siemens & Halske. Käthe, whose crime was to have sympathized with the Communists before the war, only to become a member of the Communist Resistance against the Nazis, leaves one empathizing not only with her intrepidness, but wondering, why shouldn’t we momentarily join ranks with the spirit of those East German leaders who made their point with Niederkirchnerstraße?

What happens when historical events float free of their bibliographic and museum anchorings? “Symphony of a Missing Room” reflects on the museum as phenomenon, its tradition and its potential futures.
In the micro-universe of “Symphony” – individual past experiences persist over time akin to stars that, although dead lightyears ago, keep shining.

Lundahl & Seitl collect the experiences of an archive, of museums, one in counterpoint to the next, as if it were a symphony of imagination. This particular example, the Martin-Gropius-Bau, is a confabulation of memory, history and our character’s stories, concentrated along what was Prinz-Albrecht-Straße, creating the polyphonic passages of Lundahl & Seitl’s symphony of the history of imagination. And this, the way in which Lundahl & Seitl dissolve the archive of experiences past, allowing history to converge, and sometimes to collide with our embodied experience in the single moment of the now; well it is of course theatre, but it is the suspension of belief of a very rare kind where our embodied experience departs the present moment, reaching back across time re-making the history of Berlin, re-living the experience of Käthe, and re-crossing the ambitions of Walter and Heinrich …
The dramatic touch Lundahl & Seitl now bring, weaving together strands of mesmeric, contrapuntal narratives … narratives played against narratives, … narratives of passion against time, and, well, … there is hardly anything calming about the vivid experience with Lundahl & Seitl in the Martin-Gropius-Bau, as it plays itself out against death.

Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds and sweet airs that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometime voices
That, if I then had waked after long sleep,
Will make me sleep again; and then, in dreaming,
The clouds methought would open, and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked,
I cried to dream again.

The Tempest 3.2.148–156

Info & Tickets for “Immersion. Analogue Arts in the Digital Age

Lundahl & Seitl’s “Symphony of a Missing Room”, from 27 October to 20 November 2016 at Martin-Gropius-Bau.