Treffpunkt: Berlin

T E X T   P U B L I S H E D   O N   O C C A S I O N   O F 

‘T R E F F P U N K T: B E R L I N’  E X H I B I T I O N   A T  

A R K E N   M U S E U M   O F   M O D E R N   A R T,   C O P E N H A G E N


We have a semi-detached relationship with Berlin. We both live here and our studio is here, but work tends to take us elsewhere. We often discuss our longing to get back to Berlin, but it’s a longing for a place we’re only beginning to get to know after 2 years of ‘being based’ here.

Berlin’s often breathlessly hyped in magazines as being ‘creative’, ‘diverse’ and ‘dynamic’. But for us part of the city’s quality is that it’s empty, underused and lethargic. This underuse opens up a great deal of space, both physically and mentally. Our own work hovers around absence, and in this respect there’s much to be learned from Berlin, a city whose absences are particularly loaded. We work on Alexanderplatz, one of the city’s many bizarrely overscaled voids, alongside which the absence of the Palast der Republik is still very present.  The lawn that has replaced the GDR building is suspiciously green by Berlin standards, revealing it as a site of vying phantoms. Now is a particularly surreal time, as alongside the lawn and excavated foundations of the Stadtschloss there’s a 1:1 mockup of part of the proposed reconstruction of the Prussian Palace, showing the project up as pastiche, with its bare backside of exposed steel frame and breezeblocks.  This mix of excavated ruins, airbrushed lawns and awkward reconstruction carries much of what we’ve found inspiring in Berlin.

The dense vertical structure of our City of the (Re)Orientated stands in contrast to Berlin’s empty, open spaces. But an analogy could be drawn between the two cities’ divided qualities. In our project the city is split between its networked, shifting spaces and its hermetically sealed institutions. Part of Berlin’s dynamism comes from city authorities’ permissive stance towards spontaneous events, temporary occupations and political activism. There’s no doubt that this light regulatory touch is being eroded by market forces and gentrification, but the tradition is still strong. It can therefore be surprising to step into pockets in Berlin where the grip of corporate and institutional regulation on public space is suddenly tight; Potsdamer Platz and and the museum island being two cases in point.

Building City of the (Re)Orientated raised the issue for us of how much any city is a city of ideas, as much as a city of concrete and tarmac. Moving to a city means associating yourself with an idea of that city and all its myriad of neural connections. There’s something enormously pretentious about saying that one is ‘an artist based in Berlin’, because the city’s name carries cultural value that may have little to do with everyday life here. Nevertheless, moving has been an exciting experience because it’s enabled us to start inhabiting the ‘idea’ of Berlin, at the same time as getting in touch with the city’s gaps, awkwardness, lethargy and grime.

View  project: