July 3, 2009

Project 1: Reflection

The Woom Room… I ended up there because I was between homes upon my return to Berlin -- after visiting my first ever home in the states. I knew Fernelly decently and I was vaguely acquainted with some of the others, but I hadn't any true bonds yet established with this crew. Nonetheless, I was welcomed into the makeshift hostel that was Donaustraße 99.

It began with a meeting. There was a prompt as our focal point - Seduction & Consideration, and there was a date, May 29. The rest was to be determined. At this time, we were not yet a community. We all sort of discussed open ended possibilities for this collaboration at the end of the month, but no one yet knew what the others had to offer.

We discussed the idea of having workshops over the course of the month and so we held two formal ones: a discussion based around the concepts of masculinity and femininity and a figure drawing class where Paraic would stand in as our nude model. But these were only the workshops that we actually called so, because in reality there were workshops galore. All of which became just another part of the communication building and bonding process. We went on outings to abandoned houses, had weekend barbecues, and just normal life situations spent together on a day to day basis. And were there ever so many homemade dinners? I don't think one evening passed that I didn't find myself sharing a meal with at least 7 others, but more often up to 15 people. They say that it is imperative for the well-being of a family to share a meal together nightly, and clearly this rings true, because Ideenfabrik became a family...fast. A mini-UN, a microcosm: Germans, Californians, New Yorkers, Italians, British, French, Spanish, Mexicans, Norwegians, Swedish, Canadians - these people were at my 'table' daily.

It became something maybe only an idealist could dream of for the real world. But this was our real world and still is. Perhaps Utopia can only exist among a cross-section of society. And of course things were not entirely perfect; our tiny Utopia was by no means perfection. How can it be?

Often I found myself laughing at my life, wondering to myself (or perhaps out loud), when did I became such a hippy? I live in a fucking commune. But why is this idea considered to be so ridiculous anyway? Perhaps because people are so damn stubborn and unwilling to let go and really communicate with the people around them. If there is one thing that I have learned throughout my process in Berlin, it is that proper lines of communication are the key to, as Jess would say, a "Sweet Babe" life.

I thought about what outsiders would think when they saw some of our photos with all of us sleeping in piles and having shirtless-way-too-early-in-the-morning dance parties. The point is that any outsider must realize that this lifestyle, once interacted with, is just so contagious. Every single person that set foot into the black hole that was Ideenfabrik came out a little bit changed, but in the most positive way. Even for the ones that could only stay for a short time (this almost always included at least one overnight stay). Each person could feel the warmth and the open-mindedness that we had to offer. And so they too would feel compelled to contribute and never want to leave it. The community itself was Seduction & Consideration. It happened organically.

The culmination of our first project in the actual space combined Austellung (Exhibition) with Concert and Party. And WOW! Was there ever so much magic in the air as there was that night? The Austellung was just a marking point, merely a deadline in the middle of a process, but it was beautiful, for lack of a better word. (This word, probably due to language barriers, was thrown around the space incredibly frequently, but often was spot on). Everybody left the party with big smiles on their faces, but of course (we are in Berlin after all) very few left before sunrise, and most much after.

Post sunrise, probably about 30 of us (only about 5 had I truly known before this evening) were rolling around as a mere puddle of human beings within the 'woom' that Jess and I had fabricated. And yes fabricated is the perfect word: it was a pieced together whimsical, child's fort. Round and built with cloth; formed with umbrellas and lamps and a projection of a girl's shadow while using a sewing machine. The sounds of the sewing machine created a cadence in the background of the voices and music. Perhaps a heartbeat? But all together a feeling of domesticity. The video was a rhythm, a comforting, familiar rhythm. The space was filled with pillows and sub-levels of couches and mattresses, a perfectly organized disaster area of bodies.

And don't write it off just yet! Despite your probably perverse mind (or maybe just mine because I am the one defending this as I write), there was nothing sexual about any of this. Of course I'm sure there were people within this mass that were attracted to others (in fact I'm positive of It), but never once think that this communal slumber party atmosphere had anything to do with sex. It was quite the contrary, it naturally created a motherly, nurturing womb, and unless you are a Freudian analyst, you would realize that there is nothing sexual about this.

And then there was the living room, the performance space, formerly known as the dining room. This once red, orange, yellow, and flesh-colored room had undergone immense transformation. A travel through time and nearly 7 layers of wallpaper. The outer shell was of that typical Berlin aesthetic, textured and stucco-like. But it was worse then the typical texture with some sort of bizarre swirly flow to it. And than there were the ceiling tiles. They were adhered to a nice layer of mold and dust with a couple tiles ready to tumble down at any moment. They were geometric, old, discolored, and worse--styrofoam! Unaware of what lay beneath, one afternoon after a lunchtime salad, Elisa and I knew that all must be torn off. And we discovered such beautiful things beneath that first tear. It was the tops of trees. We ripped off more and more; we were so intrigued. It was a landscape, an American landscape, perhaps the Grand Tetons. Then came down some ceiling tiles to expose the plaster that lay beneath.

Once begun, the project could not be eradicated; there was no turning back. And oh was it laborious! I became obsessive. I thought of nothing else. I was compulsive about this space, and it didn't matter to me if no one was around to help me. It didn't matter that my muscles were aching and that my spine was contorting in strange positions becoming stiff and sore. I made it my business to expose the stories that were hiding beneath those suffocating outer layers. And when people decided to help, it just meant more help, and I was happy. And we found relics, gorgeous relics within each wall. In some cases I even found hairs. Hairs of people who labored over these ceilings and walls long before I had.

And people added to the newly exposed history with their own contributions of painting and drawing. Something I was at first hesitant to accept, but it worked in the end. The space continued to live and breath and so it only made sense that our hands not only set the old stories free but also added to them. Like the walls of Neanderthal's cave, we contributed to history with art. At times it was difficult to let go of my personal aesthetic for the benefit of collaboration. I found myself at times taking on a leadership role, but I realized that this should not make me simply a dictator (something that Communism often lends itself to), but instead a motivator. And it functioned, and the space breathed once again for it's inhabitants.


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