Imagining me growing up in a similar situation
I was thinking of the fact that this could easily have been my childhood, in the 90s, as that was the time when the first wave of emmigrants left Romania (after the fall of communism). I actually have a friend that spent his childhood (from 4 to 7 years old in a place for refugees in Germany) and was interesting that he told me that despite his parents adapting very hard to this kind of communal life and to Germany (they decided to go back to Romania in the end), he was really happy and he wanted to stay.
Probably I would have been as happy as back home. I remembered that in the summer we did the same thing, going out and playing all day in front of our building with all the other kids.
I was also thinking how I would have behaved if I would have come here as an adult. Probably I would have oscilated between being here all the time (but sticking to my room mostly) and being out all the time. But that’s just me, I do that at home too.
Being at home, feeling at home somewhere depends very much of the past. Everything is filtered by the type of things you consider to be the norm. I think that for the people who used to live in a house with a garden and a yard, this yard here is a substitution of their garden or front yard or the park they met their friends or neigbours. The more you are dependable mentally of the old ways the more you are trying to change the current enviroment to resemble the past. It is a fine balance between you adapting to the place and trying to adapt the place to your needs. And the ones that don’t fall on one extreme or another get more chances.
My observations from the point of view of the container
There are people who are just passing by and people who like to stay here more than everywhere else in Berlin.
The kids don’t need to speak the same language, they can play or fight regardless of that. The kids just take things as they are and have fun with them.
People tend to stick to their favorite spots: same bench, same part of the yard, same people in the cafe, same people playing ping pong. There isn’t much variation or it’s not that obvious for me to perceive it.
My emotions fluctuated between feeling a part of this place and being somehow just somebody from the outside, an observer. I think I tried to express this ambivalence in the drawings, being an outsider and being a part of the community, even if it’s just for a short time.
I sometimes forgot, while being here, that it’s just temporary.
What I mostly did was to try to notice the way I felt in regard to what I was doing and to register the habits, the routines that goes around here. Because I think that when you can develop a routine it means that you become comfortable with a place. Repetability and familiarity are really important for the human mind. That’s why most people use the same ways to go to work and the same shops and the same parks and the same restaurants because usually only when you are taking a vacation you explore new things. I’m talking about the majority of people, of course there are exceptions.
First I thought that not being able to speak German means that I won’t be able to form any type of opinions and in the end to develop a narative for my project. But then I decided that I have to include this reality, this handicap of mine into my work. And to start working from this perspective. To just observ and to have a conversation only when it feels natural, not forced. Can I understand anything from just looking and drawing? Can I show and say anything relevant after? (that remains to be judged by others but I think I can). And also, including me and how I felt during this process, I think it makes it more honest. Even if it’s not as comprehensive.
On watching and being watched at the same time
One of the most chalenging things but also one that made this residency, this experience, even more valuable and insightfull for me was the fact that I was aware that I’m surrounded by everybody. That I am new here. That my purpose is unclear and maybe suspicious?
As the weeks passed people just got used with the container and me (as a part of the container) and noticed me less I think. And I became more comfortable of letting the door open when I was inside (but still using the curtain as a door). Or maybe is the way around, I got used to being here and didn’t notice anymore that I am an odity.
I tried to show what I am doing here and draw on this little table, outside and in the cafe but I was imediatly surrounded by the kids so that was a sort of fail. I had to go back to my old habits and draw inside.
Then the kids started asking me to draw them and that became “my second job” as you said it so well :)))
I think for them it was interesting the process of drawing them, the idea, not the result itself.
I don’t know if any of them will keep my drawing or even put it on his wall.
That made me ask myself that old question: I am the one to determine if what I do is art (anything can be art?) or the receiver/viewer?
So I was confronted with “What is art? Do these drawings need to be a reproduction of reality? Can I somehow make the kids accept that my subjective eye and my questionable skills can do something more interesting that simply reproducing a photo?”
And I think the kids were confronted with “Why doesn’t she draw faster? Why doesn’t she draw me on a bigger paper? What do I do now whith this piece of paper?”
They also teached me a new word “malern” 🙂