A documentary about consciousness? Yes, are you still okay? A film theme can hardly be more abstract, “invisible”. Because Frauke Sandig and Eric Black do not regard “consciousness” in their film as a thing or a property, but as a kind of space that people, animals and plants inhabit together (the directors’ attitude towards the inorganic is not entirely clear), the images are “Aware” is actually particularly beautiful. The earth can be seen from space, followed by some spectacular shots of nature, lots of water and (marine) animals. There is also a bit of visual hocus-pocus – if the invisible is to be made visible, directors like to use their bag of tricks.
In any case, the protagonists of the film are more impressive than the pictures. A renowned brain researcher is among them, who looks “from the outside” with an electron microscope and other highly technical means at the consciousness and comes to very similar findings as a Buddhist monk who explores it from the inside through meditation, so to speak. A psychopharmacologist drugs the participants in his studies, giving them magic mushrooms, and they have spiritual experiences that some find as meaningful as the birth of their first child. A plant researcher has proven that pea plants can “learn” and react to acoustic stimuli. Is it possible that not only animals are conscious (which many people have long suspected), but also plants? Ribwort, nettle and savory? What about protozoa? The coronavirus? Is everything made of one fabric? Or does consciousness stop somewhere?
The soul – of animals, humans or maybe something else – appears more and more often in the cinema as a “last frontier”, as the ultimate limit, beyond which curious documentarists are only too happy to look. In our notoriously individualistic present, speculation like the one this film makes is also very seductive. If everything is made of one fabric, no one is separated from the rest of the world, if nothing really goes away, then no one has to be lonely or fear death and ruin. As drinkable (and possibly spurious) this conclusion of the film and its protagonists sounds, it is by no means convenient. The plant researcher, for example, gave up a career as a marine biologist because she did not want to kill laboratory animals. And the philosophy professor, who as a participant in the Magic Mushroom study was able to cope better with the tragic death of his son, can hardly reconcile the spiritual insights gained from the intoxication with his grief and his “normal” academic thinking. Is the spiritual comfort a frosting for something unbearable, he wonders? In the end, everyone has to find the answer for themselves. In any case, the thoughts and insights of these people are stimulating. Martina Knoben
FS Blumm & Nils Frahm “2X1 = 4”
In order to weaken the nerd character, you can imagine the whole thing a bit archaic: two artists – the pianist Nils Frahm, one, the experimental musician FS Blumm the other – a tape recorder, very free, very improvised sessions, recorded very extensively. And then dragged the still raw material into the building (well, into the studio), where it was torn, cut, filleted and reassembled. Over and over again. Layers on, layers gone. Break out pieces, insert pieces. Tons of raw material. And then at the end a very playful, cozy, warm and really dark and beautiful dub instrumental record. “It was as if we were traveling with a combine harvester and then writing our names on a single grain,” says Blumm. And so the title, “2X1 = 4”, almost makes sense. Jakob Biazza
The opinions on the architecture of Heinz Bienefeld differ. While a visitor to the exhibition “Ancient Radical” in German Architecture Museum (DAM) noted succinctly “not impressed” in the visitor’s book in Frankfurt, another wishes that “Bienefeld would have built the cities with its houses”. It is all the more important that the DAM is dedicating an exhibition to the Krefeld architect after 20 years, but the former student of the master church builder Dominikus Böhm, who later also worked for his son Gottfried Böhm, slowly fell into oblivion. At least in the broad architectural community. Because the DAM, which is in the possession of the estate of Heinz Bienefeld (1926 – 1995), received more and more student inquiries about his work, especially from Belgium and the Netherlands. The man who designed simple, almost simple typologies from the building tradition out of exposed bricks and who drew his inspiration from antiquity and the Renaissance, is apparently again interested in young architects. Because times are becoming more conservative?
If you take a closer look at Bienefeld’s Pahde house from 1972, you are not entirely sure. The architectural historian Vittorio Magnago Lampugnani wrote that everything about the Pahde House was ordinary, but of an “exquisite ordinaryness”. One would even attest the design a humorous attitude. In any case, the distribution of the windows facing the street looks like a hidden message in the densely green facade of the bungalow, perhaps a line of verse. Postmodernism sends its regards. And even if Richard Neutra’s glamorous generosity is lacking, the building, which appears closed to the outside, almost defensive, opens inward with large glass surfaces and turns out to be a courtyard house.
Bienefeld’s attention to material and construction, to every little detail and component, is likely to be responsible for the fact that his buildings, predominantly churches and private houses, age so well. In times when the market swallows almost everything, no matter how bad the quality, because the return is still right, it is just as out of date as Bienefeld’s classic design language. Laura Weissmüller
It may have been a coincidence that the documentary “Afghanistan – the wounded land” was available in the Arte’s media library when the country suddenly came back into the public eye. It is curious that it can still be accessed until September 11th – the 20th anniversary of the 2001 attacks. Above all, the series, which was broadcast for the first time in 2020 and was awarded a Grimme Prize last week, is an outstanding and visually stunning appraisal of the developments that ultimately led to the renewed invasion of the Taliban in Kabul. Four episodes – “The Kingdom”, “The Soviet Army”, “Mujahideen and Taliban” and “The NATO Troops” – lead through the drama that has been unfolding in the Hindu Kush for decades. The raw material for a conceivable fifth episode is currently being captured by the cameras of the news broadcasters and countless smartphones. Moritz Baumstieger
Finally the night sky is stretching so clearly that you can enjoy the shine of the stars unhindered. And you can dream on in fantastic cinema worlds such as “ET” or “Star Wars”, as on the CD with elegant, refined arrangements for the rare combination of saxophone quartet and percussion. (Berlin Classics). There you can meet them lively and full of sound: the planets Uranus, Venus and Jupiter, as imagined by the English composer Gustav Holst. Or that exquisitely conjured vision “Claire de Lune”, which Claude Debussy once wrote for the piano. In addition, pieces from John Williams’ film music. The famous percussionist Alexei Gerassimez and the equally excellent Signum Saxophone Quartet offer all of this delicately exhausted and tonally balanced down to the last – a pleasure! Harald Eggebrecht