Traveling through the immigration point of the Bangalore airport and crossing the security check, crossing the borders of the Middle East and flying over eastern Europe, then finally landing on the Berlin airport runway and, once more - getting a crossover at the immigration checkpoint. This, in a nutshell, was an experience full of shakiness. An unknown feeling of being fearful - of the unnecessary questioning that could happen because of my color or my passport. It felt as if the borders from the nation-states had been extruded onto the skyline, and the aircraft was piercing through them all to reach Berlin. This shakiness and uncertain feeling were not just an episode of traveling to berlin but also part of my larger journey within the subcontinent till I landed this residency. I am aware of the fact of how fortunate and rare chance for a person of my identity tied to caste stratification within India to be part of this residency in Germany.
Having been received at the Berlin airport by the Lichtenburg Studio Director Uwe, we travelled to the studio in RE Bahn; the images that I witnessed immediately were a surplus of information and messages inscribed on the walls of Berlin. Despite having lived in New Delhi, Bangalore, and Ahmedabad previously - cities were marked by variations of colour; it was words and drawings that marked the skin of Berlin.
To allow a quick re-positioning of myself in the new landscape of Lichtenburg, I started the first day with a bicycle ride along the Frankfurt alle to Alexander Platz and then back to the Studio.
Having spent some days cycling around the Lichtenburg district and the areas surrounding it, what attracted me most was the Rummesldburg bay region.
I suppose it was because of my interests and engagement with the river basin of the Tungabhadra in the Deccan plateau of Southern India. But the remarkable thing about the water bodies is that they have always been places of attraction for life to prosper. Most civilizations flourished across riverbanks, for instance, around the Indus River in the case of the Harrapan Civilization in the sub-continent. It is a relaxation when we move around the water bodies; after all, we have already travelled from aquatic beings to terrestrial beings a few million years back.
Goethe institute Bangalore for supporting the residency.
Uwe Jonas, ------- for continued support during residency stay.
Prayas Abhinav ------- valuable feedback and support.
Leo de Munk -------for immense support in building the ladder
Namrath Murthy------ for 3D modeling and CAD help.
Annette Erlenwein------ for helping me to source the information around the Rummesldburg bay.
Chantal labinski -------for her constant support in explaining about berlin and helping install the ladder and photography.
Martin Löhr ------- from Kulturpalast Wedding International for helping in budling and installing the ladder
David and Werner from Neo kunst, Berlin. ------- for helping me to install the ladder
Prayas Abhinav ------- valuable feedback and support.
Abhishek Chaudhary------- for his valuable discussions during the project process
Site specific installation
Demolished buildings and debris around the bay.
The river spree not only cuts through the city of Berlin, but it is also a structural armature that Berlin city holds on to. On the edges of the Lichtenburg and Friedrichshain district, the river spree holds a vast water body in the form of a Bay, which has become an essential, recreational, and scenic beauty around the neighborhood—also attracting builders and investors to create housing around the bay region.
My interest in the landscape of the spree and the Rummesldburg bay led me to delve into stories from the times of the GDR times to today. On the 8th of June, I had a chance to meet local artists at a dinner party arranged at the studio, which allowed me to engage in a deeper conversation about the politics of the Bay landscape in the last three years.
I went through newspaper articles about the bay region, which allowed me to know about the forthcoming coral worlds, workspaces, and other apartments that could come up around the area. It has become a hot spot in attracting the concrete gold to build around the bay, with the motto of ‘my Bay my way.’
The discussions were continuously around the bay region’s recent construction activities, with in-person interviews with the people at the bay shore and a few site visits. The bay has also been under a lot of focus for the last few years because of intense, rapid development and the consequence of these changes in whole landscape.
around the bay.
carrying the artifiact around site. In image from left to right, David and Werner from Neo kunst, Berlin, Leo de Munk
and srinivas Harivanam.
Recalling the history of the breaking of fences and crossing over walls, with respect to the Berlin wall, has too much human suffering. But still, we are not free from these impenetrable walls, and borders are still present physically as well as deep-rooted barriers in the mindset and gaze. refer .  ‘Illegal’ Traveller: An Auto-Ethnography of Borders. By Shahram Khosravi
The intervention is the idea of a ladder that is in the action of breaking the fences around Rummesldburg bay, Berlin. It is a comment and antithesis to the larger border systems, boundaries, exclusions, and discriminations worldwide, which make human suffering possible. This site could have allowed for a culturally public-oriented open space - public spaces were always the spine of good communities; instead, massive real estate interests are driven by it. However, the interventions attempt to dispel the fence as a medium, which justifies the bifurcation by building costly condominiums and corporate buildings, flagging the possibilities of cultural space and social housing, and allowing the real estate price to rise.
The Ladder is constructed with softwood, and it’s nonfunctional with a wireframe body, just as an idea of erasing the borders. I see these fences as the manifestation of more extensive walls that are present to instill the social sorting of people because of Class, Caste, Race, Gender, and Geographical inequalities. The artifact holds a bright pink color to stand out in the landscape and avoid accidents for people walking on the pathway. The artifact installation took place twice; in our first attempt, we placed it beside the bench, which was empty and blocked due to the fencing [fig 10], and in the second attempt, we placed it facing the Bay.
In another intervention, I placed a note on the fence, allowing the passerby to have a look. The attached note asked for reconsideration via a comment, which occurs when a user seeks to permanently delete multiple items in a computer interface. I see this demolition and building of less accessible areas around the bay region as an indication of creating fortifications that instill social division.
Until now, the story was about the installation process and what drove me to install the object at the specific landscape site. But after installing the artifact, it was the reflections the following day, that I desired to know from the local crowd and the authorities. The locals and the people from the local neighborhood usually move here, for an evening stroll around the narrow path.
Interestingly, the kids were interested in the form of the wireframe that resembled a kind of a staircase structure and asked questions about its presence here. Also, some concerned neighborhood residents were getting the point and telling me they also have the fact I am questioning too.
The next day when I visited the site, the ladder was not in the form it was installed; but instead, it was deformed and demolished, and placed on the other side of the fence.
I then considered that this was the reply I had received from the construction authorities. But the deformed ladder still held the idea of breaking the fence; even in the state of its brokenness, one could see its ladder form.
When I visited the site after four days, a small piece of the ladder, consisting of 3 steps, had been placed vertically on the fence, signifying the possibility of still breaking the fence over the site. I assume this could have happened due to a few concerned residents who were interested in this topic that had placed it in that orientation. The note [fig 8] was removed after two days, and only the threads I used to attach it remained present on the fence. But after my residency, I could say I have focused on creating a line that is bisecting the wall and hope it continues to develop more lines to interlace collective solidarity and surface against all social stratification, division, and oppression leading to human suffering.
German environmental activists Letzte Generation had used a ladder to protest oil drilling from the Northern Sea. Activists protested by standing on the ladder, thus, the ladder became a protective shield for them to carry on with their demonstration without interruption by the police. The picture was taken at the protest site in front of the German Chancellery on my last day in Berlin before returning to Bangalore. [ July 9th,2022]
The Rummesldburg bay was also a carrier of several camps previously, of more than a hundred homeless people, but on one fine freezing midnight, everything was evacuated under the pretext of protection against the extreme cold, but now the site is covered with giant cranes and bulldozers working to build high-quality condominiums. Old housing apartments, which were housing clubs, social spaces, and DIY communities, were demolished and replaced, making way for spectacular structures with the interests of investors.The fencing has been applied on either side of the narrow pathway on the head of the U shape of Bay, also called as ‘Paul u Paul ufer”, named after a well know GDR movie ‘Die Legende von Pahul und Paula (1973)’ that was also filmed here. Nowadays, the U-shaped ‘Paul u Paul ufer’ is fenced for construction and the cleaning of the Rummesldburg bay water - a justification being that the water is contaminated by chemicals from wartime and not suitable for swimming.
Although there is a conversation between the local people and the government authorities about forced evacuation and construction, the presence of a fence around the place made me rethink the landscape. I was looking at the border in the larger context of the world we live in now, and from the cultural background from which I come.
The presence of my body and my identity around Berlin allowed me to experience how fences can also travel through the body and the mind - till it creates divisions. When I speak of the fence, I am alluding to all the social structures which create a divide in humanity because it signifies the Other, policing, hierarchy, and exclusion. Mainly, my concern is with regards to the deep-rooted caste system prevailing in the Indian subcontinent and the colonial gaze.
The manifold experiences and memories inscribed on my body – with caste-driven harrowing experiences in the subcontinent and the xenophobic gaze on my body bring about an impulsive rage. This rage drives me to think about dismantling the caste and colonial structures. This urge to break the systems lead me to choose the fence on Rummesldburg bay as a site for intervention. Also, eyeing the ongoing power politics - from the global context to the Indian sub-continent context, what is seen as standard is the divisions are backed by capitalist institutes and orthodox religious ideas. In this context, I see this gesture of erasure of barricades could be a way for me to contest these boundary enablers.