In November 2016 I spent one short week in Berlin. I went to visit friends and explore Berlin’s realities. Building my traveling and city experiences in mostly southern European destination, the low sky and fairly empty spaces of Berlin stroke me. I wanted to grasp Berlin’s character.
During my stay, I spoke to several people; I asked them to imagine Berlin as if it were a person; who would it be, what would they be doing, what kind of clothes would s/he be wearing? Is it she or he, or maybe without a gender? With Berlin, as a person, would you have a conversation, what would you say? What do you smell, hear and see? …
When people start imagining their city as a person, I see a new connection happening. Narrators re-discover themselves in a new physically and timely framed shape.
Discovering different Berlins as people, and through people, the city’s character becomes intensely alive. It shows different perspectives, it makes us understand the noise or loud absence of it; maybe we even learn to embrace it – embrace all the dark alleys, rainy thoughts in them. Berlin as a person can appear as a carefree girl, sensitive man, genderless human. He smokes in the kitchen of his friends, he listens to Rufus Wainwright… He takes the pain, and takes the life! Electric is his future, under the rainbow flag! Berlin is not all pretty; it’s to be always and again re-discovered…
The following illustrated stories/poems are part of the above mentioned interviews. The original transcriptions were forwarded to different European artists, some of them knew Berlin, some not, but most of them didn’t know the narrators who imagined the city as a person. Illustrations and poems are being made into postcards and are published on the blog, facebook and Instagram: cityasaperson (https://www.facebook.com/cityasaperson/). To see how Berlin is connected to other places and people in this project, click on this interactive Kumu map: https://embed.kumu.io/84adea6333bd13e8298da46ea7c62c0c
When I imagine Berlin as a person, I see kitchen full of people who are smoking cigarettes and after going to bars and clubs. Berlin would be one of them, and it would be a man. He is slightly pathetic, kind of bachelor. He is in his 40’s but he wants to be young. That makes him just childish. Berlin and me, we might see each other and exchange hey and hello, but mostly I am just observing him. What I see is a person who doesn’t live with his heart, who has no courage to change. He’s got a career in business, journalism or marketing, but he’s not thrilled with it.
He might be carrying a bag with him, inside a book, maybe some mainstream novel. But he is very practical, he carries his phone and mp3 player and a jacket for when it gets cold.
Something… is missing there, it’s as if that life is not really his, it’s as if his life is empty. Why doesn’t he just “do it in his way”, why doesn’t he really start living his life? Instead I can only sense winter, and I only see him static, like a rock or almost concrete…
Narrator: Fergus from UK
Illustrator: Romina Cristi from Chile, based in UK
Earth is all around, like this greenery and water too. I go close to the water, close to the canal. And the lakes. Although the sea is quite distant.
Berlin… I see her in the evening. I go to meet Berlin for a beer once in a while, after work. And it all starts there. And that’s far as I can remember there… She grabs me quite a lot, but I still don’t feel like I’m caught.
Some people say it’s poor and sexy. It teases you every day, it makes you move and it keeps you busy. Berlin is a complicated girlfriend, it’s not easy, but it’s also very enticing and exciting and there is always things to discover in this personality.
Narrator: Ricardo from Portugal
Illustrator: Vera Ziegler from Germany
It’s a mix
of everything –
but also freedom
There’s too much
of everything –
There’s no peace
like the tube;
police alarms and
Many times I
stayed in one corner
(the sun was shining
and the rain was falling)
I lit my cigarette
Coming and going
Between shit and piss
coffee and roses
and telling stories
Of different worlds
Narrator: Domenico from Germany
Illustrator: Luka Dundur from Croatia