1. A sunny afternoon
One week before the opening I went there with mini cd’s in my rucksack, and a big roll of tape. I was dressed for Sundays. The covers of the minicds were brown/black like autumn leaves in the falling night and white/grey which reminded of the bright USA-optimism of the fifties, also because there was a picture on it of a something that looked like a vintage fridge, the one a freshly chosen dairy queen would win after her election, or maybe freshly wed couples would get one for free in those days.
To me the little things were giant pixels in the word I had to write on the window: BERLIN. It took me a while to get the N right, but in the end it was there, clean and out of place, but also naiv and optimistic, almost a self-portrait.
While attaching pixel after pixel I had noticed the little sidewalk traffic, mostly young Turkish girls with or without a head scarf passing by in groups of three or four, all of them attentively not paying attention to my activities, to make sure that not one motion went unobserved. Run down neighbors made sure to maintain their “don’t talk to me” face. Newer neuköllners showed a glance of recognition. Once the word ‘BERLIN’ was readable, it got read. At the other side of the road a man shouted ferociously at a woman in her parked car.
2. After the rains
A few days later I came back to tell I wouldn’t bring the other cd’s right away, but also to have a look at the package from Krakow and judge the cd’s by their color. The word BERLIN on the window was unrecognizable. Almost all of the pixels had fallen of.
Adrian had the car of his housemate whom he had to bring to the hospital early in the morning. It was a fine sunny day for moving. The Emserstrasse is a very empty street. Luckily enough, it is wide and has big trees, and enough houses with a bourgeois façade from the ‘those were the days’-years. In Berlin I very often try to spot the places destroyed by bombs, which is easy in Mitte, but not overhere. Overhere, which is Emserstrasse near Tempelhof, it looks very much like history in the making. The people who live here and walk the streets here will be replaced by the kind of people depicted, yet also designed in presentation sheets and advertisements. We carried the boxes across the street. Hardly a car passed by. Petrol is expensive these days. The Hermannstrasse at one end seems a portal to another world, a world that moves. The other end of Emserstrasse is a green wall of plants. Behind it is a sports park. I have to find out if Tasmania Berlin used to play its home games there.
4. The day of the opening
It was sunny again. The day before I had covered one half of the floor of the first room. When I woke up my intuition told me to get 25 cd’s out of the left, middle and right part, and put them elsewhere. As a result the pattern became more caleidoscopic.
We worked together: Oscar covered the floor with cardboard, I followed with the cd’s. Oscar’s precautiousness was out of concern for the surface of the floor. It would also rob the installation of its loud cracks. All was ready way before the first visitors were supposed to come. I even had time to redo the BERLIN word.
I made dinner. Pasta with tomatoe sauce for me and a young girl on a visit from Amsterdam who reminded me a lot of Silvia Kristel. She liked her spaghetti with onions. I didn’t and since it was my idea to cook…
While cooking Oscar came into the kitchen. There were two persons in the gallery and he didn’t understand them.
I went. Two young Turks had walked in. A red haired one with a square face who looked as if he saw water burning. The other one looked as if he had died yesterday. He had a metal bridge over his nose and two very black eyes, black as in what you get if a fist hits it hard and more then once. The guy must have gained consciousness again pretty recently. He didn’t say a word , just looked. The other guy talked the way you talk when you are suspicious and also the way you talk when you know you can parasite on somebody else’s good behaviour, like mine. What was this place, what are we doing here, and what is here ( the kitchen, it is private). You can come back at seven. Then he said something very peculiar: ” I just say one word: orgies. I have an eye for that. ” He walked away a few meters and asked if it wasn’t a waste to cover the floor with new cd’s? I smiled and said yes. At the door the guy who had just raised from the grave turned and made a little round carefully driving his shoes into the cd-’s to make sure he would destroy them. Meanwhile he watched me. I thought this kid is so bleeding stupid you would need a baseball bratt to hit all that stupidity out of his head. At the same time I thought you sucker you are doing precisely what I want. I felt some disappointment that the cd’s didn’t crack louder, and thought of his skull.
5. The Exhibition
At the opening hour Michal came walking across the street. He lives in the Praha neighborhood of Warsaw, which looks a bit like Neukölln. This was a global village visit at its best. We took some chairs, a bottle of Lokomotiv beer each and talked. The evening was still a few shadow lengths away.
To cartographs the first visitors must have set sparkles of delight, a little bonfire to celebrate the naval explorers. We sat with our back to the south. Who ever came from the right, eventually arrived from the East. And those three were all from Australia. Okay, one of them lived near Sonnenallee, but the couple was a genuine visiting pair. They had travelled half the world to visit BERLIN. No wonder they had brought a recorder. A little small talk later two girls rushed in from the left: South Americans. The hello,hello was very short, but long enough to spot the recorder. I started to dream about re-mixes that soon would sail the digital oceans.
Angie came with her dog. She is American. Americans express immediately their delight. So did Angie. She liked it very much to actually walk on CD’s, thought it was a great feeling. “May I jump?’ The toe nails of her dog went tick tick tick.
A young boy stood at the entrance. He watched the Cd floor. “Krass” he said. That is the word most Germans use when they forget to say “cool.” How many Cd’s … wow.. how much time to put them on the floor? …. krass .. and why? I convinced him to enter and walk on it. He accepted the invitation, to be polite.
At ten o’clock just enough people had come and left ( some of them showed the thumbs up sign ) to turn BERLIN into a minor succes. The next day I wanted to be there again at seven o’clock. My little television showed the quarter finale match of the female football world championships between Brasil and USA. I couldn’t leave Marta and arrived at the gallery just before ten. I was told that it was almost impossible to use your skateboard on the CD floor. Someone had come back to buy six CD’s.
6. Goodbye BERLIN
An advice given to a friend of mine brings it to the point. She was told that it would be better for her to leave Berlin, and go to London or New York. In Berlin she would never get the recognition for her art that she deserved. The visiting friend stated that Berlin was a city of losers.
For our kind of sound Berlin is without a point of reference.There is no venue (with a budget) you can visit on whatever day of the week, no matter what the programme offers.
People who come to Berlin are attracted by the low rents and the (dance)club scene. The street I live in has seen a major change with new bars and small galleries opening at the rate of one a month. Even from a short distance all the people who flock in look the same. Probably I could connect to each one of them on facebook, join the virtual ghetto and receive an update about their lives every five minutes. But I am not a facebook luser.
I don’t notice that experimental musicians from around the world want to move to Berlin because they can play three times per month at Sowieso, in a program alongside to singersongwriters and children’s theatre. The so-called echtzeitmusicians play very often and occupy a lot of stages, but nothing of high international standard developes out of it. Yet they get a lot of visibility. One could almost think that while nothing is going on nothing else is going on either.
This city is great for riding your bicycle. If you want to find fundings for your ideas you need the skills of an accountant and a manager at the same time. Accountants and managers are not the best artists or curators I’d say. A fancy flyer is almost a guarantee for a waste of time, money and energy, an evening better spend at home.
BERLIN was a protest, an experiment with a political and an aesthetical side to it. I would love to do it again, not necessarily with BERLIN as a title. DATA could be an other one. But for such an exhibition I would need a lot of data burned on Cdr. It would be great to have people walk on and destroy their digital memory. I am not the only person who recognizes the force of forgetting or the even greater force of transforming memories into stories or works of art. It is through this quality of inventing and re-inventing that civilisation rolls on.