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A People’s Berlin: Mailboxes in Moabit


In Moabit, three mailboxes were placed at site-specific places: near the cornerstore which was a central and positive point for the community; on a ‘dangerous’ street near the offices of one of the Moabit Quartiers Management. The third was located  near the Neue Heimat bar, which allows its space to be used as a part-time refugee language exchange center. These three mailboxes were checked as an art performance—a daily morning bike ride, wearing a bright pink scarf. The color was an important signifier and unifier of the project.

A month later, disappointing results: two letters, only one handwritten, the other sent by email. Reflecting on it, this is most likely because of the weather. The question on the mailboxes in Moabit was targeted more towards migrants and refugees. In Berlin, the policy of the state and city assumes integration—through language and cultural norms. But people are rarely asked about how comfortable they actually feel in the city. These mailboxes tried to create a site for dialogue in people’s native language: English, German, Turkish, Arabic and Russia. Which were found to be the most dominant in the neighborhood. With only two mails, both from German speakers, it seems the tactic of participatory mapping to gather insights was more engaging and more interesting for the participants.

The mailboxes were installed with the help of Gustavo Sanromano from ZKU.

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