A lively conversation centered on how new cultural interventions are transforming cultural life in Berlin.

Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin
Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Deutsches Haus at NYU will present a conversation between Bernd Scherer, the Director of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (the House of World Cultures) in Berlin, and Prof. Ulrich Baer (NYU's Vice Provost for Faculty, Arts, Humanities, and Diversity), Prof. Manthia Diawara (Professor of Comparative Literature, Africana Studies), and Prof. Nick Mirzoeff (Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication), exploring how new cultural interventions are transforming cultural life in Berlin. The conversation will be moderated by Prof. Arjun Appadurai (Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication).

Free and open to the public, this event will be held on Tuesday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. at Deutsches Haus, 42 Washington Mews, New York, N.Y. (enter the Mews from University Place). If you would like to attend this event, please send an email to deutscheshaus.rsvp@nyu.edu. As space at Deutsches Haus is limited, please arrive ten minutes prior to the event to ensure you get a good seat.

Berlin was the centerpiece of the Cold War. It was only after 1989 that the city began to play a major role, lodged firmly between Eastern and Western Europe. In spite of its political importance and increasing economic significance (over the past two years, more start-ups were founded there than in London) it remains an evolving city – many spaces remain undefined. It is this aspect, which attracts many creatives from across the globe, as they become part of an urban experiment. Berlin’s housing market is still characterized by reasonable rents, when compared to other western cities, making the city an affordable place for the creative middle class. Berlin has a unique cultural and academic infrastructure, financed to a large extent by the federal state and the city itself. The House of World Cultures is a cultural institution funded by the federal government and operating in the vibrant artistic and academic context of the city of Berlin. In the last six years the House of World Cultures has significantly transformed itself from an institution which represented non-western art into an institution which creates ideas in the making. This new cultural praxis of the HKW is informed by the insight that we find ourselves in a situation of deep transformation, requiring new strategies and concepts for knowledge production, and the re-calibration of academic institutions.

In the arts, the destabilization of the natural object world leads to a deep questioning of the representational role of art, challenging the art market on the one hand, and the classical museum on the other. More and more artists have begun to develop research-based practices in order to devise new aesthetical languages that are in closer connection with transforming realities. Finally, in the city of Berlin there are hundreds of social and cultural initiatives, which advocate new modes of living, thereby producing new forms of knowledge quite often in digital contact with other cities around the world.

Bernd M. Scherer is director of Haus der Kulturen der Welt. The philosopher and author of several publications came to the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in 2006. His theoretical work focuses on aesthetics, philosophy of language, semiotics and international cultural exchange. He has curated and co-curated several cultural and art projects, such as Agua - Wasser, Über Lebenskunst, The Anthropocene Project and recently 100 Years of Now. Since January 2011, he has also been teaching at the Institute for European Ethnology, Humboldt- Universität, Berlin. Amongst many publications he recently co-edited the four volume book Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain Vapor Ray. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, London, England, 2014, 2015.

Arjun Appadurai is Paulette Goddard Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU. He is the author, most recently, of Banking on Words: The Failure of Language in the Age of Derivative Finance (Chicago). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and will be a Visiting Professor at Humboldt University in Berlin in 2016-17.

Ulrich Baer received his Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from Yale University in 1995, and has been teaching at NYU since 1996. His books include: Remnants of Song: Trauma and the Experience of Modernity in Charles Baudelaire and Paul Celan (2000), Spectral Evidence: The Photography of Trauma (2002), 110 Stories: New York Writes After September 11 (editor; 2002), Letters on Life: The Wisdom of Rainer Maria Rilke (editor and translator; 2005; translated into Portuguese, German and Greek), and The Rilke Alphabet (in German; 2006). He regularly teaches on the poetics of witnessing, 19th and 20th century poetry, the history and theory of photography, a team-taught seminar (with Professor Shelley Rice) on archives, photography, and cultural memory, and a Freshman Honors Seminar on Photography as a Global Language. He has published widely on literary representations and historical testimonies of the Holocaust; on Rilke and Celan; on the history and theory of photography, and on contemporary art.

Manthia Diawara has been published widely on the topic of film and literature of the Black Diaspora. He is the author of Black-American Cinema: Aesthetics and Spectatorship (1993), African Cinema: Politics and Culture (1992), and In Search of Africa (1998). Manthia Diawara has collaborated with celebrated author Ngûgî wa Thiong’o in making the documentary Sembène: The Making of African Cinema (1994), and directed the German-produced documentary Rouch In Reverse (1995). Diawara’s filmography also includes Bamako Sigi-Kan (2003), an intimate look at his hometown. Dr. Diawara is also Director of NYU’s Institute of Afro-American Affairs and Director of the Africana Studies Program. A native of Mali, he received his education in France and later traveled to the United States for his university studies. He has taught at the University of California at Santa Barbara and the University of Pennsylvania.

Nicholas Mirzoeff is Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. He is one of the founders of the academic discipline of visual culture in books like An Introduction to Visual Culture (1999/2009) and The Visual Culture Reader (1998/2002/2012). He is currently Deputy Director of the International Association for Visual Culture and organized its first conference in 2012. Since 2013, he has been Visiting Professor of Visual Culture at Middlesex University, London. His book The Right to Look: A Counterhistory of Visuality (2011) won the Anne Friedberg Award for Innovative Scholarship from the Society of Cinema and Media Studies in 2013. In 2015 his most recent book How To See The World was published by Pelican in the UK.

Press Contact

Robert Polner
Robert Polner
(212) 998-2337