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16/03/2005

From the Feuilletons is a weekly overview of what's been happening in the German-language cultural pages and appears every Friday at 3 pm. CET.. Here a key to the German newspapers.

Süddeutsche Zeitung, 16.03.2005

Thomas Thiel worries that humanity could take advertising slogans for the newest Japanese or Korean robots seriously. Robots like Aibo, Asimo, Ubibot or Qrio are getting better mechanically, making them ideal for care of the sick and elderly. They also have human – or animal – personalities, say their inventors. Thiel admits that the robot "Qrio has an emotional appeal when he wobbles up on swaying knees, bows politely or quietly goes about his stretching exercises. And he needs to stretch, his last business trip was hectic: He delivered a speech on the 150th birthday of the Japan-American peace treaty in Washington, conducted the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra playing Beethoven's 5th Symphony, and danced a jig with Japanese pop icon Aya Matsuura on television. The robots promise fireworks of good humour to lonely singles and children with working parents. Qrio, the 24-hour good-time monster, uses words and gestures to express 'a feeling of intimacy'. And he is also just dying 'to be your friend'." For Thiel it is entirely possible that people believe this nonsense. "You only have to observe the relationship some drivers have with their cars to see that people are far better prepared for the robots' market launch than they are for their critical appraisal."

The parliamentarian Sergey Neverov and the Putin youth under their leader Vassily Yakemenko are standing up against the Bolshoi Theatre. They object to an opera by composer Leonid Desyatnikov and writer Vladimir Sorokin that was commissioned by the Bolshoi. "70 men marched before the Boshoi Theatre yelling 'Sorokin out of the Bolshoi' and 'Parliamentarians, protect Russia's most important stage from pornography!'" In 2002, the Putin youth charged Sorokin with pornography for his book "Blue Lard". Director Anatoly Iksanov was not too bothered by the protest: "The Bolshoi Theatre is grateful to Mr. Neverov for doing a little advertising for us, and we would like to mention that tickets are still available." The opera "Rosenthal's Children" will have its world premiere on March 23.


Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 16.03.2005

Regina Mönch reports on a ceremony at Berlin's Steinplatz, where members of the Turkish community commemorated the killing of the former Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha in 1921. The trial in Berlin of the Armenian assassin Solomon Teiliran became famous: "The judgement of 1921 is not undisputed. It caused a sensation all over the world, because it acknowledged Teiliran's desperation and said he was not criminally liable. At the same time it declared that the murdered victim, Pasha, was guilty of genocide. Pasha had been condemned to death in absentia in Istanbul in 1919 for the massacre of the Osmanian Armenians. One of the observers in the Berlin District Court in 1921 was law student Robert W. Kempner. He later wrote that 'for the first time in legal history the precept was acknowledged that foreign states can make charges of major human rights violations, especially genocide, without this being considered an intervention in domestic affairs.' Kempner, having been forced into exile by the Nazis, was later to serve as second chief prosecutor in the Nuremberg War Crimes Trials."


Neue Zürcher Zeitung, 16.03.2005

Karin Kneissl describes the rising status of the Berbers in the Algerian Kabylei, who are creating more and more room for themselves in the majority culture of Islamic Arabs. "The role that Islam plays in the day-to-day lives of Algerians doesn't seem to interest the secular Kabyls. They eat the wild boars that they have hunted and are increasingly conscious of their own independence. They don't want their traditions to be appropriated by Islam, they don't want to bring their children up in Arabic. They hold francophone culture in high esteem."

Alfred Zimmerlin has heard the world premiere of part three of Dieter Schnebel's extremely complex "Symphony X" at Berlin's MaerzMusik contemporary music festival, which took place from March 3 – 13. The festival is meant as a platform to reflect the diversity of contemporary works, including intermedial and non-European music. "Schnebel's 'Symphony X', a 'utopian operatic symphony in three acts', has taken many years to compose. The First two parts were premiered in Donaueschingen in 1992, and an entire recital would last more than four hours. For the Berlin performance, the first parts were cut by roughly an hour. Even so the sheer amplitude of the work was overwhelming. But it was also fascinating, from the first minute to the last."


Die Tageszeitung, 16.03.2005

In the ongoing trans-Channel ping-pong, J. Adam Tooze responds to Götz Aly's response to his critique of Aly's book "Hitler's Volkstaat". "Aly miscalculates because he thinks wrong. He obviously believes that national credits only become a burden when they have to be paid back. This is seen in his comment that 'the credit borrowed on German capital markets to fund the war' 'delayed' the 'burden on the German population with the objective of unloading these debts as soon as possible on the enslaved peoples' (...). The real costs of the war could not be 'delayed' by Hitler's regime. They accrued during the war and had to be borne, for the most part, by the German economy. Compensation was supposed to follow afterwards – not, as Aly suggests, during the war itself. Only after the war were the enormous war costs which had been carried exclusively by the Germans to be unloaded on the defeated populations of Europe. An intergenerational contract of another kind."


Frankfurter Rundschau, 16.03.2005

Silke Hohmann reports that Nicolaus Schafhausen, director of Frankfurt's Kunstverein gallery for contemporary art, will move to Cologne in the summer to develop a concept for a "Europäische Kunsthalle" (European art centre), which currently exists only as an idea and a hole in the ground. Schafhausen was born in 1965 in Dusseldorf, and became director of the Kunstverein six years ago. He turned "the classic institution for Sunday museum-goers into a place where the hard questions of globalisation and identity, urban development, faith and consumption are hammered out." He belongs to a younger generation of curators who have turned Frankfurt into one of the most exciting German cities for art in the last decade. "Schafhausen's departure is a loss for Frankfurt, but attributable to the same impulse that brought him here in the first place: the promising glitter of a hole."

The Berlin exhibition of the work of Günther Ueckers in Martin Gropius Bau has evoked a mixed reaction from Peter Iden. While admiring the the nail installations, staged "with bravado", Iden doesn't make much of the politically-motivated recent work, which reflects a concern for Navajo Indians, Russian forests and the like. "Uecker – the good man of Sichuan". Moreover, "many of these ambitious conceptualisations are missing the poetic insistence, the reflected precision and stylistic certainty of the artist's earlier years."

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