Tag Archives: Europe

Fridays for OUR future

“We’re on a planet. That has a problem. We’ve got to solve it, get involved. And do it now, now, now. We need to build a better future. And we need to start right now.” – Read that part again, with the melody of “Bella Ciao” in mind and imagine being surrounded by hundreds: then you’ll catch a glimpse of how a Fridays for Future protest looks and feels.


May 24: In more than 2000 cities (about 200 of them in Germany), young people once more took to the streets, to fight for climate justice. But I’m not writing this article to tell you to stop wasting food, go vegan, quit flying or whatsoever – not again! You’re old enough to know that you should change your lifestyle to help our environment. Instead, I’ll try to share the feeling of being surrounded by hundreds of people that fight for the same goal.

The demonstration

One of the demonstrations started on Friday at 11:30 in Kempten. Pupils from a range of about 50 km had come to protest. First, everything was quiet as we gathered. As you looked around, you tried to read the other signs. Those beautiful, sarcastic but also terrifying signs: One said: “This planet is getting hotter than young Leonardo DiCaprio!”, another one read: “Wake up Humans! You’re endangered, too!“. They’d have been funny, but as the topic is so relevant, they were simply sad and scary. You could already hear strident whistling everywhere. A lot of pupils had brought whistles and started to sing: “Wir sind hier! Wir sind laut, weil ihr uns die Zukunft klaut!” (We are here! We are loud! Because you’re stealing our future!) Everyone else joined. And it was getting louder. We wanted to make (fucking) noise. We wanted to be (fucking) heard. So we screamed our heads off.

As we started to walk, the one big chant developed into more smaller chants in smaller groups. We were followed by disapproving glances of people. But we didn’t care. I mean, why should we? They apparently don’t care about our future, so I don’t give a fuck if I jar on their nerves. After an hour of walking, we topped at a little square. And the speaker started to sing the recasted “Bella Ciao” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zemK3S79tpU). Then, he talked about the European Elections. And I would like to do the same thing now.

There’s no excuse for today!


I know as a student it might be hard to participate in those projects because of work or other obligations. But there is no possibly accepted excuse for not voting today. You can change the world. You can make a difference. You can make the difference this world needs so desperately. I plead you: Don’t let your vote be wasted because you are too lazy after a boozy night.

Author: Leyla Bayraktar

Picture: Ela Bayraktar

Embracing Unity (and Justice and Freedom)

Defining unity has become hard in a world that seems to be falling apart. Catalans have tried to vote in an independence referendum merely days after the Kurds, Québec’s autonomy is back on the table and Brexit is causing uproar, not only in the EU, but even more in the UK itself. And what if the Scots decide they’ve had it and become independent after all?

Unity out of divisionFahne_Riss

Germans, of all people, know about the inconveniences, and even dangers, of separation and partition. A mere one thousand five hundred years of regional reclusiveness were followed by only about seventy years of unity (and two World Wars) before the country was broken apart again. Of course, there’s a difference between forced partition and chosen self-government. But historically speaking, abandoning all the advantages of a unified state because of ethnic pride and regional patriotism has rarely stood the test of time.

When, in 1841, von Fallersleben wrote the text to the German national anthem, he addressed unity alongside justice and freedom in a democratic state. Now, however, elections as the very basis of democracy have come to show the fault lines that still exist throughout Germany. In the recent parliamentary election, thirteen percent voted for a party whose program exploits this lack of unity – a division based on current political matters both in Germany and the EU. The foundation of democracy is in imminent danger. As with the British people, it is our freedom that allows us to question the point of our unity.

Peace out of unity

In these disturbing times, it’s vital that Germans celebrate and embrace their unity, particularly on our twenty-seventh Tag der deutschen Einheit. This unity lies in diversity within the framework of a unified Europe, our key guarantee for peace, which in turn secures our territorial integrity. Germany, of course, was divided by brute force, which is a whole different story than Brexit or the movement for Catalonian independence. Unity just for the sake of it only leads to stagnation, if not regress.

Still, those who long for independence should challenge their motives. There are three questions to be answered: first of all, how bad is my current situation? Maybe, I’m just suffering from First World Problems. Second, is partition the solution to my problems? Or will they just continue on a regional level? And, finally, will I gain more than I lose? Sometimes, winning independence from a greater power threatens unity within.

Text: Angie Czygann & Niklas Schmidt
Picture: Angie Czygann

Fairies, sheep and solitude

So, burning out on those end-of-term exams? Struggling with your essays? Just sick of all the people crowding you each day, demanding your attention and generally being a bother? Well, how about just getting away from it all? Like, really far away?

To boldly go…

Iceland_2In recent years Iceland had been in the news a  few times, especially during the European Football Championship 2016, when as many as 10% of the nation’s total population visited France to cheer for their team and subsequently charmed the other nations with their jovial demeanor. This, in turn, caused a surging interest in Iceland, especially in vacations there. Even the author of this article, otherwise couchpotato extraordinaire, got interested and took a hiking trip on the island.

Iceland_1Small-town charm

Stepping off the plane in Reykjavíkurflugvöllur, Iceland’s main airport, the capital city of Reykjavik will spread out before you. A large town by conventional standards, it is nevertheless the bustling heart of the nation. But it’s really outside the “big city“ where you will first become aware just how vast and sparsely populated the country appears to be. Over one and a half times the size of Bavaria but with less than 3% of its population (of which around one third resides in the capital), most visitors from central Europe will be struck by the solitude one experiences even right outside the few population centres, let alone out in the wilderness.

Iceland_3

Entrance to another world

Between rocky outcroppings, hardy vegetation and sulfurous springs you’ll rarely see anything but free-roaming herds of bleating sheep and the occasional group of tiny horses. And you might well hike for hours on end without ever happening across another living being. No wonder this kind of environment causes the imagination to wander. Mystical beings supposedly inhabit the country in large numbers and their influence, it is said, can be seen and felt everywhere. There are rock formations that are giants’ bathtubs, cave entrances leading to elven kingdoms and ponds infested with lurking demons.

Sights to behold

Iceland_4

You might laugh at the superstition, but Iceland does go out of its way not to upset the Huldáfolk for fear of their displeasure, up to and including relocating entire roads and buildings. Unsurprisingly, this lends itself to an astoundingly pristine outdoors. It is no wonder much of HBO’s fabled Game of Thrones series was filmed in this enchanted landscape, since much of it looks like it was taken straight out of a fantasy novel, with active volcanoes and massive glaciers right next to each other and mountains sloping dramatically right into the ocean.

Language barrier? No such thing.

Interested yet? Well, should you consider a vacation there – don’t worry about communicating with those few locals you might meet. Reading this text shows you will have no issues in Iceland. Most Íslendingar (Icelanders) speak good to excellent English and quite a few, especially those from the younger generations, also speak German, French, Polish or Spanish.

Author & Pictures: Simon Benseler

Yorkshire

What did you think about the Twilight Franchise? Did you like it? Or was it too cheesy? As far as my vampirology knowledge goes, vampires are supposed to resemble demonic, sublime characters with a twisted romantic touch. But where does this misguided love theme in Coppola’s Dracula movie and the sinister notion of vampire films like Nosferatu come from? Well, it was the Irish author Bram Stoker who kicked it all off with his Gothic novel Dracula, in 1897. But where did he get his inspiration from?
Yorkshire_Dales_1

A northern English town called Whitby, located in Yorkshire, inspired Bram Stoker writing his novel Dracula. The weather conditions and the local dialect are worked into the novel and even the novel’s name itself – Dracula – derives from a book about Walachian and Moldavian history, which Stoker stumbled upon in Whitby.

Not only did Dracula put the town on the map internationally, but also well-known explorer Captain Cook acquired his early nautical skills in this Yorkshire town.

However, Yorkshire has more to offer than vampire-related trivia and nautical history. It was also home to the famous Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne. Emily’s novel Wuthering Heights, for instance, is regarded as an English masterpiece of the nineteenth century. The three lettered sisters lived in Haworth, which is one of many picturesque towns you can find all over Yorkshire. If you like cobblestone streets and dry-brick walls, you’ll get your money’s worth in the countryside of this northern English county.

Yorkshire_Dales_2

If you’re not too interested in vampires, sailors and classic literature,  don’t worry! Yorkshire has you covered. The county features three of the biggest cities in England, namely Leeds, Sheffield and Bradford. Leeds is considered to be among the top ten towns for live music and upcoming bands. Sheffield doesn’t make this list, however, even though both bands Pulp and Arctic Monkeys come from there, which tells you a bit about the quality we’re talking about.

If this doesn’t sound hot enough for you, visit Bradford, which was named “Curry Capital of Britain” for the sixth year in a row in  ????. Thanks to its many citizens of Indian descent, you can find the best and most original Curry in the UK here. Maybe spicy food isn’t your cup of tea, though; in this case you can always go for a hearty Yorkshire pudding – a traditional Sunday roast.

The historic town of York gives its name to the entire county, the already-mentioned pudding and it’s definitely worth a visit. Not only York, but also Leeds and Sheffield have tradition-steeped football and rugby clubs where you can experience authentic English passion. Luckily the football teams don’t compete in the Premier League at the moment, which makes buying a ticket more affordable and less mainstream.

And if none of these aspects intrigue you, you can still go for a hike and enjoy the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales.

 

Author & Pictures: Johann Beß

Na Ceiltigh in Éire

Fáilte. This was the first thing I read after my plane had landed at Dublin Airport. In Irish this means ‘Welcome’. I’d always known that the Irish had a language of their own, but I figured that they’d completely adopted English. But, of course, there’s still a lot that remains of the Gaelic language.

The origin of the Gaelic language

It’s assumed that around 600 B.C. the Celts, from Northern France, made their way to Ireland. Shortly after their arrival, the Celts mixed with the original inhabitants of the island and formed about 150 small kingdoms, in which the Druids, as mediators between the gods and the people, wielded power.

As the Celts didn’t have a writing system, all we know of them derives from archaeological findings. We also know that the Druids generally passed on their knowledge to the next generation orally. In this way, their secrets were kept. Later, the Celts invented an early medieval alphabet called Ogham – a simple form of writing only used by Druids. The inscriptions on tombs, for example, were the first records in the Irish language.

The Gaelic language today

Although the Celtic culture ceased to exist centuries ago, the Irish preserve their Celtic heritage by keeping their Gaelic language alive. Even though English is the dominant language, Irish is still an official language; in 2007 it became one of the twenty-four official languages in the European Union. Although only 1% of the Irish population actually speak the Celtic language at home, at least 30% say that they can or could speak it, but don’t. There are a few parts of the country called Gealtacht in which Irish is still the predominant language, most of which are located on the west coast. For example, the Aran Islands in County Galway, so tourists wouldn’t be able to communicate in English here.

Wegweiser_Gälisch
Irish in public and media

The Irish language is very present in today’s Ireland. Official signposting is not only in English but in Irish as well; legal texts have to be published in both languages and some official institutions only have Irish names, for example, the parliament is called An tOireachtas which basically just means ‘assembly’. And there are many radio stations and TV channels broadcasting only in Irish, but compared to the small number of speakers, there’s a huge variety of Irish literature in Irish.

Irish in the educational system

In schools, Irish is compulsory. As one of the official languages, everyone has to learn it, but most lessons are usually in English. There are a few schools called Gaelscoileanna in which Irish is the language of instruction. Thus, all subjects are taught in Irish.

Celtic heritage: the importance of the Gaelic language

The Gaelic language is of utmost importance for Ireland. The Irish identify with it; it’s part of their identity. For example, the Gaelic language distinguishes them from Northern Ireland and it increases their sense of solidarity.

Text and pictures: Aileen Reifenrath

An interview with Prof. Dr. Catriona Seth

Portrait

Could you please introduce yourself and your work?

I was lucky enough to be brought up in several different countries (England, Scotland, Switzerland, Venezuela and Belgium) and to go to university in the U.K. and in France. Until 18 months ago I worked in France, as a professor at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, which has a joint study programme with Augsburg, thanks to Rotraud von Kulessa, my colleague in Romanistik. I am now the Professor of French at Oxford, which is wonderful. I am a fellow of All Souls, a beautiful College in the centre of Oxford—and my study overlooks the iconic Radcliffe Camera.

Which role do languages play in your life?

As I was brought up speaking both French and English, languages are a way of life and a part of my identity. I also love learning new words and how they work or where they come from. I’m sorry not to have more occasions to speak some of the foreign languages I have studied—or picked up along the way. I’m happy that by spending time in Augsburg I am getting to practise some German.

What is your favourite book?

It would be impossible for me to choose a single book. A couple of French novels I find admirable are Laclos’ Liaisons dangereuses, which I have edited, and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary. I enjoy reading widely, fiction, poetry, but also non-fiction.

How did you develop your passion for literary studies?

I have always loved reading. I had some inspirational teachers at school. I really enjoy my job!

Could you please briefly explain your project (Transcultural European Literature) with Ms. Kulessa here in Augsburg?

Rotraud von Kulessa and I have worked together quite frequently. Our most recent venture is an anthology of Enlightenment texts about Europe (originally written in French, German, Spanish, Italian and English) which are freely downloadable.

We put the anthology together in French, very rapidly, for it to come out before the French elections. My colleagues and 121 students in Oxford have translated it into English and we managed to have it ready for the first anniversary of the Brexit referendum, which many of us consider to have been a very regrettable day for Great Britain and for Europe.  You can read The Idea of Europe. Enlightenment Perspectives free online here:

There will also be a German translation with the help of students from Augsburg.

Which topic have you worked on so far?

I have done a lot of work on the novel and poetry in the eighteenth century, but also on women’s memoirs. There is a cultural history aspect to some of my research: I have written on Marie Antoinette as a literary and historical figure, for example. I also have an interest in medical humanities and have looked at smallpox inoculation in the eighteenth century and its impact on mentalities.

What are your goals for your stay at the University of Augsburg?Uni_Aug_Logo_JFZ_RGB(1)

I’m looking forward to learning about how teaching is organised here. I enjoyed the Aktionstag called Gegen einfache Wahrheiten, which brought students and teaching staff together in a less formal way, to discuss wide-ranging social concerns, and involved engaging with the wider public.

What relevance does the work with the students have for you?

As I mentioned, I enjoy teaching. I always learn new things when preparing my classes. I enjoy the contact with the students, which is intellectually stimulating.

Why did you choose Augsburg for the guest professorship?

I was invited to Augsburg and am delighted to be here. I very much enjoy working with Rotraud von Kulessa. I am looking forward to looking into some of the bibliographical treasures in the Augsburg libraries. I also hope to visit some of the parts of Bavaria I do not know and to take advantage of the natural and cultural resources of this beautiful part of Europe.

 

Author: Janina Girschick, Andrea Schneider

Pictures:  Catriona Seth, Jakob-Fugger-Zentrum

Biennale Arte 2017

Il 13 Maggio scorso si è inauguara la 57° Biennale d’arte di Venezia.

L’esposizione internazionale più antica del mondo  – la prima fu inaugurata nel 1895 – deve il nome alla sua scadenza “biennale” (=ogni due anni). Quest’anno la mostra è firmata da una donna: Christine Macel, chief curator del Centre Pompidou di Parigi, che ha intitolato la sua Biennale  VIVA ARTE VIVA, per evidenziare la centralità dell’arte e della vita stessa degli artisti come strumento per comprendere il contemporaneo, al di là delle ideologie  (molto più centrali nelle edizioni precedenti).

Padiglione Centrale

 

I LUOGHI DELLA MOSTRA

L’esposizione (che terminerà il 26 novembre) si snoda, come da tradizione, in tre diverse aree: I) i Giardini, con i loro 29 padiglioni nazionali e con il grande Padiglione Centrale, II) l’Arsenale (annesso alla Biennale nel 1980), il vecchio complesso rinascimentale di cantieri, officine e depositi da cui usciva un tempo la flotta di Venezia, e III) il centro storico della città che, tra i palazzi delle sue calli, ospita i lavori di ulteriori nazioni. I padiglioni nazionali, 85 in tutto, sono tradizionalmente allestiti dai curatori dei paesi stessi, mentre le due mostre internazionali nelle cosiddette Corderie dell’Arsenale e al Padiglione Centrale dei Giardini, sono dirette dal curatore della Biennale (Christine Macel).

Nonostante per molti addetti ai lavori le partecipazioni nazionali siano un elemento anacronistico (nelle altre “biennali” del mondo queste distinzioni non esistono!), per lo spettatore la visita ai Giardini rimane l’esperienza più bella. I padiglioni storici della Biennale sono infatti immersi in un meraviglioso parco verde (una rarità a Venzia!). Lo spettatore, tra un padiglione e l’altro, può passeggiare lungo i viali di ghiaia, tra il verde della natura o sedersi su una comoda panchina a riflettere sulle opere viste …ed evitare il faticoso tour de force tipico delle grandi mostre!

AVZ_4661_FRANZ_ERHARD_WALTHER

 

I PREMI

Quest’anno il “leone d’oro” al miglior padiglione nazionale è andato al Padiglione Tedesco, con la performance Faust di Anne Imhof. Il padiglione, nella sua conformazione attuale, fu eretto durante il regime nazista: un particolare che gli artisti difficilmente possono ignorare.

Anne Imhof (Gießen, 1978) ha voluto richiamare le atmosfere cupe, violente e intimidatorie dei regimi fascisti rinchiudendo fuori dal padiglione, in una grande gabbia, dei cani doberman, il cui abbaiare insistente e minaccioso fa da sottofondo alle performances all’interno. Dentro al padiglione un gruppo di giovani si aggira tra le sale al ritmo di suoni digitali, improvvisando movimenti che evocano violenza, autoerotismo e rapporti sado-maso. L’interno dell’edificio è vuoto e asettico: un espediente che accresce ed esaspera ulteriormente nel visitatore la sensazione d’angoscia. Il pavimento delle sale è ricoperto da una pedana di vetro trasparente, al di sotto della quale si muovono altri performers, dando allo spettatore l’impressione di calpestarli.

Photo Andrea Avezzù - Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia

Ai giardini si trova anche una delle due sezioni curate da Christine Macel: il Padiglione centrale, con una parte delle opere dei 120 artisti selezionati.

Il biglietto della mostra permette l’accesso anche all’altro grande spazio (17.000 mq!) annesso alla Biennale: l’Arsenale, nelle cui Corderie si snoda la seconda (e principale) sezione dell’esposizione di Christine Macel. Per raggiungere l’Arsenale, dai Giardini si può prendere la navetta Giardini-Arsenale, il vaporetto n. 1, o fare una passeggiata di ca. 10-15 minuti lungo la laguna.

Quest’anno anche il “leone d’oro” di questa parte dell’esposizione, quello al migliore artista, è andato ad un tedesco: Franz Erhard Walther (Fulda, 1939) con le sue bellissime installazioni geometriche di stoffa colorata esposte all’Arsenale …. Insomma: quella del 2017 possiamo proprio definirla la “Biennale della Germania”!

 

Author: Francesca Talpo

Pictures:  Il Padiglione Centrale ai Giardini (©la Biennale di Venezia)

Le opere di Franz Erhard Walther alle Corderie dell’Arsenale (©la Biennale di Venezia)

L’Arsenale (©Photo Andrea Avezzù – Courtesy la Biennale di Venezia)