19 Oct Goodbye
No. 1, Jalan Langgak Golf, 55000 KL was the address for the Goethe-Institut Malaysia, the official German cultural organisation outside of Germany, since 1963. The building was specially designed in the Bauhaus style and is equipped with a cultural office, an admin office, a library, a media centre, exam rooms & classrooms which saw students of all racial and religious backgrounds come and go for 45 years. The building which looks more like a detached house was decommissioned in 2008 due to new earthquake regulations set up by the European Union which the Institute had to abide to.
“The “old” Goethe-Institut – as we call it – was the host of thousands of language students, many artists and other guests for decades. It was shelter and gave room for discussions. Many artists believe in the power of the arts. For them education and culture are of utmost importance on the way to democracy and participation. For them art is not naïve, it is there to serve the people in order to bring about change, to question klichees and to give perspective.”
-Rolf Stehle (Director of the Goethe-Institut Malaysia)
Still owned by the German state, the house was left at its empty state for 7 years, but is now currently in the process of being sold, it was only a matter of months until the key to the house was passed on to its new owners. As Kuala Lumpur transforms into a bustling metropolis, it was almost certain that the house will be knocked down and replaced with something newer, something fancier and something taller.
“Goodbye” is the title of this series of photos in honour of the building, the house, in how it left a mark on thousands of students & artists, in how it promoted freedom of speech & democracy, in how it blurred the lines between race & religion and in how it celebrated art & different perspectives.
Rolf Stehle dedicated a poem to the house and the people who worked here, a poem by the Austrian poet Friederike Mayröcker entitled “Was Brauchst Du – What Do You Need?”
was brauchst du
was brauchst du? einen Baum ein Haus zu
ermessen wie groß wie klein das Leben als Mensch
wie groß wie klein wenn du aufblickst zur Krone
dich verlierst in grüner üppiger Schönheit
wie groß wie klein bedenkst du wie kurz
dein Leben vergleichst du es mit dem Leben der Bäume
du brauchst einen Baum du brauchst ein Haus
keines für dich allein nur einen Winkel ein Dach
zu sitzen zu denken zu schlafen zu träumen
zu schreiben zu schweigen zu sehen den Freund
die Gestirne das Gras die Blume den Himmel
what do you need
what do you need? a tree a house to
gauge how great how small our human life
how great how small when you look up to the top of the tree
and get lost in the lush luxuriant green
how great how small when you think how short
your life compared with the life of trees
you need a tree you need a house
not all for yourself just a corner a roof
to sit to think to sleep to dream
to write to be silent to see your friend
the stars grass flower sky
Translated by Rosmarie Waldrop
During my time at the house, the building spoke of its stories and whispered of its experiences. To the architect in me, it was a tingling sensation, enough to make me return to the house to honour it in the only way I know best, a series of photos to wish goodbye to the “Ghost of the house”. Special thanks to Rolf Stehle for the permission to honour the house, David Ngui for time spent setting up the space, Louise Yow for the creating beautiful dance movements, Jack Kek and Kwang Tung Dance Company for the loan on the costume.