Schloss + Lock = Schlock

Having recently accepted German citizenship, writer and activist Priya Basil explores the Humboldt Forum from a deeply personal perspective through a short-form film essay. She delves into the question of what such a building, such a project, means for an understanding of the past and for belonging in the present. This much disputed, contested, celebrated monument now exists – but what exactly does it monumentalize?

The Humboldt Forum is, above all, a monument to capitalist decay. Germany’s ruling class has almost limitless resources — but it clearly has no vision for the world. As their system causes biblical floods, they have clearly given up hope for its future. So they invest in rockets, reflecting a nihilistic hedonism that dreams of a billionaires’ colony on Mars. This is reflected in an architecture that is nothing but despair, combing nostalgia for the aristocracy with the generic look of a shopping mall. (I really can’t overstate just how ugly this all is!) Yet they realise that most people find their aesthetics disgusting, so they hand over the central exhibition space to their critics, leaving nothing more than a cowardly mishmash.

– Nathaniel Flakin, “Colonialism, genocide and resistance: My visit to Humboldt Forum,” Exberliner, July 26, 2021

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