As part of the exhibition ‘Actions Against Borders #1 Breaking Point’ by visual artist and performer Marta Lodola, with whom I collaborated with during this research project (in cooperation with GAP Gathering Around Performance and CASA Contemporary Art Showcase Athens) a selection of my photographs, texts and quotes where generously displayed at the organ of critical arts in Berlin-Wedding in October 2018: A very pleasant result and ending (for the time being at least) of this project about the present in/visible bordering dynamics on Berlin’s stage.
To quote from its conclusion:
“On the stage of urban space Berlin, multiple interwoven visible and invisible dynamics are present that border and order the large variety of actors involved in the spectacle that is currently performed on this stage. These dynamics, between east and west, centre and periphery, old and new, poor and rich, are created, facilitated and sustained by a complex assemblage of working mechanisms hidden behind the stage that flow into each other and assist each other. Together, these dynamics and their working mechanisms are a danger to Berlin’s still existing charm and to those people residing in the city that do not have the money to buy their ‘right to the city’. Through both, increasingly outsourcing of tasks that were formerly executed by the city itself and through increasingly selling city-owned space to investors for new development projects, third party actors, often with economic interests, get more say in the city. This further complicates the amount of- and the relation between the actors on the city’s stage. Rather than living with each other, they increasingly live side by side and the contact between them decreases.
Often, this spectacle remains unnoticed; most attention on Berlin’s stage goes to its memory culture or to the ‘cool Kieze’ of the beloved centre, that both have become increasingly commodified and prioritised. Therefore, a way has to be found to shed light on this stage as a whole, to make the spectacle visible and to deconstruct what is happening both on and behind it. Creative practices have proven to be such a way that can shed light and deconstruct. They can figure, in a sense, as the lighting technicians of the spectacle. With the special light that they shed on the stage they will let some of the actors stand still ‘for at least one little moment’ to look at the stage, the city, in its totality, to see or even encounter those actors that are not the middle of the prioritised and commodified attention.
Should Berlin be named ‘the capital of freedom’ because it is the place where we have learned that ‘walls are never a good idea’? Does the absence of the physical division by walls naturally mean the freedom ‘in every conceivable dimension’? Those were the questions I asked myself when I encountered the beBerlin billboard on the first day and I was just about to delve into this research project. ‘Done with walls’, yes indeed, and that is certainly something to be proud of. However, opposing the ‘walled’ past and the ‘free’ present hides not only the fact that the past wall has its clear effects up until today and furthermore, that there are other dividing lines present in contemporary urban space Berlin which take on many different forms. For the complex spectacle on the stage named ‘Berlin’ consists of more than what is visible or what can be told in words. It is something that can be felt through being there, through flâneuring on the stage with open senses and through telling stories, opinions and experiences deriving from different places of the city. As Mexican poet and writer Octavio Paz formulates it beautifully:
‘…cities are as poems, you cannot reduce the poem to its meaning or to its material properties – for instance, sound – the poem is more than a text, more than a texture…'”
Below are some more photographs from the exhibition