<body><script type="text/javascript"> function setAttributeOnload(object, attribute, val) { if(window.addEventListener) { window.addEventListener('load', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }, false); } else { window.attachEvent('onload', function(){ object[attribute] = val; }); } } </script> <div id="navbar-iframe-container"></div> <script type="text/javascript" src="https://apis.google.com/js/plusone.js"></script> <script type="text/javascript"> gapi.load("gapi.iframes:gapi.iframes.style.bubble", function() { if (gapi.iframes && gapi.iframes.getContext) { gapi.iframes.getContext().openChild({ url: 'https://www.blogger.com/navbar.g?targetBlogID\x3d23378503\x26blogName\x3dMapping+Lucy\x26publishMode\x3dPUBLISH_MODE_BLOGSPOT\x26navbarType\x3dSILVER\x26layoutType\x3dCLASSIC\x26searchRoot\x3dhttp://mappinglucy.blogspot.com/search\x26blogLocale\x3den_US\x26v\x3d2\x26homepageUrl\x3dhttp://mappinglucy.blogspot.com/\x26vt\x3d-2615119418876819971', where: document.getElementById("navbar-iframe-container"), id: "navbar-iframe" }); } }); </script>

Dolmusch X-press unfolded.....

Tuesday, May 23, 2006
.....as a fragmented and energetic series of events experienced at different times in different ways by many different people. I’m still not quite sure exactly what it was that took place…..which could be the point.

Apart from helping at the Bordergames workshop……..I dressed as a travel agent and gave out information in flawless English at the Reiseburo // went on an ‘unofficial’ teenager tour of Kreuzberg, which ended with a rap battle in parking garage // consumed many sausages and beer at the scaffolds of Exyzt, which projected video from a camera on a helium balloon above it // danced at an endless round of parties which migrated nightly between the different ‘hotspots’ on scraps of public land along the Dolmusch route.

Dolmusch Collage

I’m uncertain how you might measure the success of the project: by the number of people who experienced it? whether they had a good time? whether they learnt something new about their city? by the range of people that came together to make it happen? the fact that it pissed off the taxi monopoly in Kreuzberg? that the Green party now wants to run a Dolmusch system to the new train station in the centre of the city?

RE: Bordergames. A number of promising contacts were made with people connected to youth clubs and educational initiatives in the city so that BorderGames Berlin is generally considered to be a work-in-progress. Still, there should be something to download off the Internet in a couple of weeks here. More importantly I am a celebrity in Berlin (see below for more details). I’m not sure what the article says as my German is still pretty weak, nor can I remember what I was so surprised by on the computer screen.

Lucy Newspaper

The Dolmusch process opened up some interesting questions for me as well as introducing me to some catchy jargon like ‘urban software’ and ‘performance architects’. Paradoxically after a year of obsessing over design processes which more effectively engage social and political ‘immaterial’ issues I found myself slightly disappointed by the material content of the project. But particularly now it’s over and life is ‘back to normal’ I’m appreciating what an invigorating network of exchange I was part of for two weeks.

Meanwhile I have transferred to working for a few days on another raumlabor project, involving shockhorror, CAD work and office hours at the office in Almstadtstrasse. This experience feels a lot more familiar. The project is a quirky installation for a cultural congress in Frankfurt - a series of almost-cube, moveable, adaptable structures for hosting films, talks, club nights, kids activities - fun but definitely ‘off-topic’.

I’ve also enjoyed two family visits that inched me out into areas of Berlin not yet explored. Activities divided neatly between museums (Mum) and shopping (Hattie).

Reichstag Panorama

Also of Note // DesignMai (so-hip-it-hurts design exhibit……limited content further obscured by……a hazy fog of uptempofusionbeats and fruity beer) // Belle and Sebastian concert! Yey! filled me with an overwhelming sense of well-being // ‘Fantastic Norway’: exhibit about some Norwegian architects who took a red caravan around small towns in Norway, from which they served waffles and coffee and engaged people in dialogues about the future of their towns. The exhibit was definitely presenting their working method (anthropology meets architecture) rather than any output……so it will be interesting to see what develops in the near future.

I also got the chance to look around and hear the history of K-77, a commune which was first squatted in the 1990’s through a theatrical intervention (this confusion between squatting and art allowed them to buy the time they needed to negotiate with the local authorities). The government eventually paid for 80% of the renovation work………the wonderful days of the welfare state! Fifteen years later the house is a cosy warren of earthern walls and endless doorways. In both the communes I’ve seen here the most inspiring aspects have been the communal spaces – big generous kitchens with giant dinner tables, yoga studios with sprung wooden floors, collective libraries carved out of lofts, roof terraces and alternative performance and film spaces at street level.

K-77 Commune

I also discovered that the street with the slightly eccentric buildings I biked past most days in Kreuzberg form a veritable starchitect gallery of Koolhaas, Eisenman, Hedjuk,Abrahim, Rossi and Sauerbruch Hutton. Hmmmm, what a well-trained eye I have. Not to mention I found out I live round the corner from an Alvaro Siza housing block, complete with some telltale curves, an odd column and a kindergarten covered in grafitti….telltale of course once all the details were pointed out to me.

And in Terms of What’s Next: Stalker, the group in Rome I’m meant to be joining next week are not responding to my most recent emails! Anyone know how else to contact them? And otherwise PLAN B. Options include staying in Berlin where there is plenty more fertile ground to mine. Please leave suggestions in the comments section. In the meantime I wanted to try and cross paths with a couple of other architecture collectives here. One is Pankof Bank. I sent the usual email out into the ether to find out that one of its members is a fellow Cambridge alumni, Sam Causer!

BorderGames arrives in Berlin…….

Monday, May 08, 2006
…..and it was my task to lay out the ‘red carpet’ and make all the necessary arrangements before they (“the Spanish People”) arrived. This entailed making a flyer…..making a workshop space…..and then this week running around Kreuzberg gathering cables, batteries and other technological confetti that usually malfunctioned to ensure the thwarting of a smooth start.

Berlin BorderGames 01

What is BorderGames? Make-Your-Own Computer Game software developed by Jorde, Javier and David (aka Fiambrera Obrera), three part-time activist-artists of varying levels of humour and intensity, connected by their anti-capitalist sentiments and an interest in community practices with a resolutely anti-do-gooder attitude. BorderGames turns users into producers, presenting the opportunity to construct a computer game using your own neighbourhood, friends and enemies. Representations of daily life experiences are navigated through a series of dialogues with multiple choice answers and a specific goal in mind. In the case of the Madrid game it was developed with a group of Moroccan teenagers who were in the country illegally. Thus the central theme of the game is to acquire papers that allowed you to work in Spain. To do so you have to negotiate the challenges of the police, potential employers and youth educators along the way.

The software is essentially a tool of political representation for those whose voices are rarely heard on public platforms. The character who introduces the game comments that the user will find real stories very different to the narratives of politicians distributed through media channels. I realised some of my own biases when I played the game - how come the youth educator in fact turned out to be bad guy, who despite good intentions perhaps ended up increasing the chances of my deportation? Likewise I was confused by the fact that all of the multiple choice options for interactions with the police ended up in a brick falling on my head and the game being over. Nor in fact was there any certain way at all to get papers - all conversational routes end with the falling brick even after you have finally managed to acquire a temporary set of papers. I realised of course that the game follows not the logic of the average computer game formula but the real experiences of the teenagers.

The Kreuzberg workshop is taking place in a ground-floor storefront under a large housing block in Kottbusser Tor. Our design challenge was to make a ‘teenager-friendly’ space for the workshop that didn’t resemble an internet café or a new media office (think of an ensemble of chairs, tables and computers in an otherwise bare room) for under $100, with access also to MDF, wood, paint, a lime green carpet and a series of shipping pallet ‘seats’ of varying shapes and sizes. We (Martin, another Raumlabor intern and me) constructed what you can see in the photos below – signage using the graphics of the flyer including oversized letters, a good deal of yellow and black caution tape (borders…..) and a basic asymmetrical wood ‘auditorium’ structure.

Berlin BorderGames 02

This week’s activities have centred around familiarising the kids with the concept of the game and walking around the neighbourhood with them to collect interviews and photographs of places and people of significance in their lives. The next stage is to assemble dialogues of typical interactions between them and the characters they decide to include in the game.

I have been impressed by Fiambrera Obrera’s practicing of what they preach. They are insistent that the development of the game should happen on the terms of the kids rather than them imposing a structure. In other words the process and methods shift with each new location and group of participants. Previously they have worked with a fixed group of illegal immigrants between the ages of 16 and 18. Here in Kreuzberg they have found a situation where because of the location of the space opposite a playground almost all of the participants are under 12 and with varying and unpredictable levels of commitment to the work. They are mostly of Turkish origin, legal residents and with consciences consumed more with soccer (boys) and animal stories (girls) than politics. Thus the methods have morphed to accommodate this flux and working includes as much football playing as it does time in front of the computer. After the first week it seems that the ‘Kotti’ game is more likely to be a patchwork ensemble of stories centred on the housing block that crosses Adalbertstrasse (where our workshop is taking place)/the problem of a lost football and the encountering of various figures in order to recoup it (uncle in a kebab shop, punk, policeman etc)/the assembling of a ‘dreamteam’ football league made up of characters from the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile interesting gender differences manifest themselves in the opportunities to draw – girls invariably make escapist worlds of flowers, clouds and princesses while the boys territorially ‘tag’ their names and neighbourhood gang (the number ‘36’, the old postcode for the area). I have been very impressed by the self-confidence of kids interviewing and photographing friends and strangers to be characters in their game and the beautiful video footage shot by some of the older girls. At the end of one week we have some dialogues, a range of stories and histories with accompanying photographs, a 3D computer model of Kottbusser Tor thus far Madrid characters in it and some video interviews.

Berlin BorderGames 03

And then after every workshop we find a spot to consume beer and Turkish meat and reflect, and the Spanish entertain us with stories of their other projects which include rethinking various aspects of pornography and shoplifting, all littered with references to ‘relational aesthetics’ and ‘performative theory’. Insightful indeed!

Dolmusch Xpress...

Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Berlin Dolmusch Sign

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’.

Berlin Dolmusch Xpress Map

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.

In Berlin the streets are strangely airy......

.....and it seems like every other conversation includes the reference “…..and then the wall came down”. In fact I should only speak for Kreuzberg, the area of the city in which I’m living and working, because I have barely left it since I arrived two weeks ago. Apparently this is normal behaviour for a ‘Kreuzberger’, although to fit into the broadest demographic category I would be Turkish and own a kebab shop. The donor kebab, which I never embraced through my undergraduate years, has now assumed central importance in my daily consumption, along with a disproportionate amount of bread-things from German bakeries. So my biggest problem here so far is stomach pains…..that and not being able to speak the language. In fact general communication breakdowns on all fronts – internet cafes line every street here, full of fluorescent lights and booths full of teenagers looking at porn, but barely a wireless internet café anywhere where you can take your own laptop. Meanwhile the apartment I’m staying in boasts a relic from a previous age – dial-up, to which I seem unable to connect.

When I biked to ‘work’ today (this is possibly the best biking city I’ve been in, the pavements are so wide that you happily share them with pedestrians and every other street is cobbled, so cars drive slowly making that pleasant European sound of tyres bumping over uneven surfaces) the streets were eerily empty save for a couple of large ‘Vive la Revolution’ banners swinging over the streets. Police cars were beginning to line up in preparation for the May 1st festivities (or riots…depending on whose description you listen to). I was working most of the day but when I rode back after the ‘premiere party’ of the project I’m involved with (bratwurst in a bun and beers you had to pay for), the same streets were packed with the sounds of reggae and hip hop, a mixture of mohican-ed punks, hipsters and Turkish teenagers cruising up and down the streets. Every now and then a group of green shielded-helmeted Polizei would charge down the street in what was apparently more of a ritualised dance than any kind of genuine confrontation. That hadn’t stopped the authorities organising close to fifty police vans lining the streets all the way home to Gorlitzer Park, which was pumping out techno music in the pitch dark from the old railway station in the middle of it.

Berlin Revolution Banner

Berlin Graffiti Protest

My apartment is on Wrangelstrasse, which boasts a range of Kreuzberg delights: kebab shops, bakeries, tele-internet cafes, dirty-couch bars and working mens clubs full of old Turkish men. It is hard to see into these for all the cigarette smoke but then that seems to be the case for most of Berlin where everyone smokes like a chimney. A strange contrast to living in the uber-health conscious Berkeley. I am also around the corner from what is surely the most popular ice cream shop in the city: there are still people queuing there at 2am in the freezing cold. The apartment has wooden floors and high ceiling and big windows onto the street. It also has two roommates - a tuba and French horn player - and two crazy cats. I saved Charlie’s life a couple of nights ago after he squeezed his head into a bag of catfood, got stuck and proceeded to crash around the house in a suffocating panic with the bag over his head.

Berlin Painted Building

Berlin Man on

In a funny way Berlin has begun to renew my faith and energy for city living after three years post-Alabama of fantasising about the freedom and possibilities of a rural existence. This city is teeming with cheap places to live and outlets for creative energy. As Markus of Raumlabor put it – “here it’s possible to renovate an apartment that the government will pay for, rent an office for nothing and put a sign on the door calling yourself an experimental artist”. Most people I have met so far seem to be doing more or less that. I heard an British musician on the radio (Noel Gallagher possibly??) the other day who had just moved to Berlin. He described the city as ‘psychologically spacious’, which is precisely the feeling that I get being here.