I definitely hoped that working for people this year would give my project some useful structure. I’m not sure I anticipated this would mean working flat out every day from the moment I put my bags down but this is what I’ve been doing here. In fact I’ve arrived at an exciting high-energy time, today being the launch of the DOLMUSCH X-PRESS project, a two week performance/installation/infrastructure project. It is a collaboration between Raumlabor, the group I’m working for, Peanutz Architekten (a group that I conveniently meant to look up during my time here) and the Hau Theater, a series of three theatres in Kreuzberg. And unbelievably it also includes installations by Exyzt, the French group that were in my initial Branner proposal (I only found this when I arrived!) as well as a Spanish artist group ‘Fiambrera Obrera’ (meaning sausage/corpse lunchbox or something, sausage and corpse being the same word in Spanish apparently….) whose part of the project I have been contributing to for the last two weeks. And the whole project is coming together via a sprawling network of Berlin artists, theatre people, students, carpenters and eccentrics who all seemed to have worked with each other in one capacity or another before.
The project coincides with a theatre festival and is an intriguing and humourous blend of performance, architecture, art and transport whose disciplinary boundaries are hard to delineate. ‘Dolmusch’ is a Turkish word describing the private taxis in Istanbul and elsewhere that cram ten or twelve passengers into one minibus along fixed routes. The project plays off a concept of encouraging people to travel through the city in different ways for the next two weeks and in doing so to perhaps shift or heighten perceptions of the city in which they live as well as provoke a critical perspective on the current transport options (my interpretation....?!). So the ‘performance’ is three new public transport routes through Kreuzberg that intersect at five or six locations throughout the neighbourhood. One is a private taxi service, boasting ten or more private drivers with their own cars including a goa trance DJ, a magician, a radio talkshow host and the mayor of Kreuzberg. They follow a fixed path, in one direction along the route of a highway that was planned in the sixties (but successfully opposed) and then back wiggling ‘around the houses’. Then two horse-pulled carriages will carry people along what was their main thoroughfare over a century ago and a water taxi will transport passengers along the canal which is currently monopolised by the ‘tourist boat mafia’.
At each intersection some kind of installation is taking place, complimenting or exaggerating aspects of the transport routes. Across these you can find the ‘Dead End Country Club’, where you can mix your own country music, ‘Hippology’ seminars on the anatomy and psychology of horses, puppet videos about the history of experimental housing along one of the routes, a Reiseburo (travel agency) with actor-receptionists, tours of the neighbourhood by teenagers which include ‘tagging’ your own wall, a mini kiosk-cinema, a model of Kreuzberg composed of old furniture collected off the streets and a ‘Kochstudio’ at the HauEins theatre - a spoof celebrity cooking show in the theatre with teams which include rappers from Kreuzberg – and last but not least the project I’ve been working on – the opportunity for teenagers to make their own videogame in Kottbusser Tor (one area of the Kreuzberg) featuring their own friends, enemies and places of particular significance.
Because I’ve been working on this one part of it I have almost no idea what’s going on in the other parts apart from crossing paths with people painting signs and looking stressed (and the group meetings conducted exclusively in German!). It’s hard to tell whether the project will have any coherence, located as it is in different parts of Kreuzberg and composed of a really quite loose range of activities, or whether the experience of it will be at all as powerful as the concept is when it is presented as a whole on paper. In the meantime it is pretty intriguing to get to grips with the extraordinary range of people that are connected to the project, from traditional horse breeders commuting in from farms seventy kilometres outside the city to the baggy-trousered Kreuzberg rappers to the uber-intellectual Spanish artists who have been alternately drinking espressos and siesta-ing since they arrived yesterday. Ragna, a planning student who has worked with Raumlabor several times, describes their projects as ‘snowballs’, constantly emerging structures which grow and change as different people get involved and each add their own unique set of stories, connections and perspectives.