Between May and October 2017, I developed ACTIONS AGAINST BORDERS #1 BREAKING POINT in Berlin. In Berlin, the practice of walking, interviewing and recoding took place for 32 days and from between 2 to 4 hours per day.
I decided to walk through both the West and the East sides of the former Berlin Wall (more specifically the districts of Neukölln, Mitte and Pankow) in order to incorporate the map of the previously divided city into my conceptual framework.
I chose Berlin as the starting point for this project because it struck me as a place that still holds an old scar of Europe's past divisions i.e. The Berlin Wall. The Berlin Wall, built in 1961 during the Cold War, still stands as symbol of separation. It furthermore represents the fact that physical boarders are still a part of our social memory.
The period of liberation following the fall of the Berlin Wall has been remembered as a time synonymous with values of hospitality and freedom. These values have continued into the present-day city and Berlin since has been fertile ground for initiatives of self-organisation and house-projects. It is still today the place of destination for many newcomers looking to start a new life.
However, despite the developments of the past 20 years and the reformation of the city, the old borders between East and West still endure. In many previous border areas communities are still divided.
While Berlin's City Centre is a well known tourist destination, as soon as we move to more peripheral areas of Berlin we discover something more obscure. Here we find a multiplicity of invisible borders and unrecorded living situations formed during the Cold War and the years following the reunification. Many undeclared zones still exist within this enormous urban fabric and around every corner lies something undiscovered.
Whilst working in the Berlin's Neukölln district, I had the opportunity to collaborate with Katinka Schlette. Schlette is a German anthropologist and human geographer who's research focuses on borders within Berlin's urban space and how Berlin's surrounding artistic contexts provide potentials for the deconstruction of these borders. Her research project takes place within the framework of the Master's program of Human Geography (with a specialization on ‘Europe: Borders, Identity and Governance’). She completed this program at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, The Netherlands.
Schlette's research was realised in the project “Pictures and Research Presentation” which was featured as part of the project exhibition in OKK-Organ Kritischer Kunst. While this exhibition exhibited, one weekend was dedicated to a series of presentations, screenings and a panel discussion from various artists and researchers, all of whom are currently working on border dynamics. This weekend event featured: “The Wrong Side Of The Fence” a talk from Simona Bonardi (IT/CH), “Flüchtlingsgespräche” Berlin 2016, HD, 25 Min, screening the work of and discussion from Nicole König und Wolfgang Thies (DE), “The voice from Gaza” presentation by Rami Majed Balawi (Gaza Strip), “Present Borders in Border-Memoryland Berlin, Contemporary in/visible b/ordering dynamics and creative border deconstruction in an urban space” presentation by Katinka Schlette (NL).
ph Otto Karl Kamal