The graffiti are utterly pure in their imagination of human existence; like the Bible, the graffiti are an enumeration of generations, so linear that each successive generation is instantly forgotten: they evanesce, and are transplanted upon, by the following generation. (Stephen Barber, Fragments of a European City)
The driver stops the tram, walks into the carriage, picks a puppy off a seat and throws it onto the floor, then restarts the tram without saying a word.
Small talk is rare in this city – but words are seen all over the walls; people stamp their identities on every surface, the meaning changing as words are defaced, layered, replaced. The only graffiti that lasts is that right at the top, out of most’s reach – safe until the building is demolished. There is no permanence.
Graffitied identities are exerting themselves onto the city, an attempt to own the landscape, to take some control over the continuous demolition and rebuilding. This city is in love with destruction, with its own constant devastation; our pathway through the streets changes by the day. The past is disrupted; Berlin’s history is rewritten. The walls don’t stay still for long enough for us to see the bullet holes embedded within them.
Graffiti links streets, creates patterns. It is a reply to the silent bullying of ticket officers and government organisations. Deface the walls and the seats of the U-bahn to draw a face on the faceless.
On the entrance to Gorlitzer station, in huge letters:
‘The BND fucks the baby away’
I was shown around a commune in Friedrichshain. There were several women sporting moustaches and checked shirts ‘they’re transitioning’, I was told.
In the toilet was a poster filled with photos of men to avoid – ‘Nazis’.
– A silent message, never spoken but stamped onto walls and posters all over the East. I didn’t expect to find war embedded in the walls of Berlin.
Finding the underground performance venues tended to involve walking up graffitied stairwells, knocking on doors that might not have been doors, and following someone into a room, a cupboard, a corridor or a warehouse that for one night was venue. All the performances outside of the main theatres were ‘site specific’.
Chloe and I went to K77, (Kastanienallee 77) ..it was our first visit to the venue, at night, no lights, no signs…
We walked through a courtyard, found a doorstep, rang a bell, followed a skinny man up the stairs and into a small room filled with dancers hurtling at each other in silence. Contact improvisation tends to be characterised by people rolling around on the floor in slow motion; this was very different. Highly trained bodies were throwing themselves into the air, and being caught, or falling into the floor like water. Ingo Reulecke, our dance teacher at ‘Ernst Busch’, was the most fluid of all – a dead man dancing, all bones and sorrow.
Words from the walls…
My name is:
protest/stereo/antisocial/stalker/zombie/shit one/dude of the hallway
1 million miles
1 million styles
Buy stuff/DNA/no cry/Berlin bless us/crazy bitches/not ere/
we eat food imported from malnourished nations
there’s a smoky love that knows the way
I am so bored in Copenhagen/Chicago
steak spinning/stop the earth/don’t tear me down/
1 million miles
1 million styles
I lived in Berlin for three months in 2006, (as part of my degree at Dartington) and went to see performances most nights. I recently found my notes from the time so thought I’d post a couple of extracts. The next one will be about visiting the ‘United Kingdom’ – a piece by Felix Ruckert ‘performed’ at the Tacheles.