#DevelopingNewEncounterProjects – The 2020 Medienwerkstatt Encounters Kick-Off Workshop

Sarah Fichtner, translated from German by Joanna Mitchell

photos and videos by Ina Schebler

Inspiration and exchange, new ideas, creativity, good mood, having fun, networking and collaboration – these are only a few of the keywords that remained in the group room of the Mittelpunktbibliothek Berlin-Schöneberg after the kick-off workshop participants had left. For the participants of the workshop on March 7th 2020, these were terms that characterised the workshop, phrases which embodied their personal experiences. Rather than staying confined to flipchart paper, these buzzwords took on a tangible presence during the workshop – lingering in the air, waiting to be carried further -after the Corona pandemic.

The 17 attendees were a mix of familiar faces from the Encounters network and complete newcomers. For some, who had last met on the other side of the world and since lost touch with one another, this was an unexpected reunion (made possible by Medienwerkstatt Encounters ?). What united all participants was a common interest in working creatively with others and telling stories using different media. Some were there to present and further develop their own concept for a workshop, event or series of talks originally conceived within the Encounters framework. Others took part in this development process, gave critical feedback, shared their technical expertise, offered their support for the practical implementation and – best of all, in my opinion – provided a lot of positive responses!

And so time flew by: groups formed and re-formed, racking their brains amidst the clattering of coffee cups and the scribbling of pens across paper. As different languages mixed and intermingled, problems were identified and solutions offered. At the end of this process, the new developments of Encounter projects were presented: a workshop on urban gardening, planned for April but now postponed in the library gardens in Marienfelde and Tempelhof; the highly anticipated performance Encounters Incomprehensible Reading Hour on April 30th in Schöneberg; a podcast project developed by a group of Berlin-based queer activists from Turkey; a performance workshop planned for August entitled Trust Your Body, as well as the forum Talking Taboos, which was equipped with new inputs and impulses.

We remain curious for what will follow – after all, this was just the kick-off! In view of the current quarantine, we are all the more looking forward to the many encounter projects that await us in the period thereafter.

The workshop concluded with a network made up of woolen thread, whose individual strands represented the past, present and future connections between individual participants (note to self: next time, invest in better wool. Better resources strengthen the network. However, dealing with entanglements and knots also requires practise and patience – just like in real life).