‘Grosses Schauspielhaus, Berlin, 1985’

February 1, 2013 3:00 pm

Grosse Schauspielhaus

A theatre is photographed mid demolition. It’s a terrible loss to the arts. It’s the end of an icon. It’s just awful… or is it?

Statements like this could be easily forgiven if one does some light homework on the producer of this image. The photographer, Rjuyi Miyamoto, has risen to the top by documenting things getting knocked down. His series of demolitions and reconstructions share an appetite for destruction, much like his most renowned series, The Kobe Earthquake 1995. So why would I think any different about this photograph?

Well, because of what it depicts, or at least partially depicts. It’s a theatre – and in this simple piece of information on the photograph’s subject matter, redemption is found. For me this scene of the theatre’s destruction becomes an act of theatre in itself. Not just any ordinary show either, but an extravaganza capable of tearing the place to pieces. Truly it’s a show like no other; definitely it’s last, but also one of its greatest. People often make a point of mentioning that small yet delicate features can still be seen intact, namely the spiralling columns. They say this makes matters worse by teasing us with glimpses of how wonderful the building was and what it has been reduced to. I say it’s nowhere near as reduced as their argument. I find an ironic beauty in the similarity between these spiralling columns and the spirals along the length of a twist drill bit. A notable example of interior design becomes a foreboding doppelgänger to the kind of giant mechanics used to rip through it. Not only this, I also saw in the column the twirled pointed tutu of a ballet dancer that may have once danced across the stage.

Großes Schauspielhaus

The theatrics of life don’t stop once the curtain has dropped and the seats are vacant. Art has little regard for admission times. In its supposed weakest moment, when all the drama and the thrill was being murdered on the end of a drill, the theatre didn’t really go down without a fight. Miyamoto managed to capture not a scene of architectural execution, but a beautiful swan song. One last note louder than any orchestra, one last leap higher than any dancer was able to do and one last performance just as thrilling and dramatic as it had previously once housed. Above the whine of the drill and the dull blow of the hammer, the show went on.

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