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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.

A People’s Berlin: Discussion at the Werkstadt

A small group of participants joined Shriya and Cordula at the Werkstadt on Emser Strasse to review the process and point of the mailbox. To put it into context as participatory arts research for DIY place-making. The questions they asked us were mostly practical ones, which made us analyze the process. As it turns out, mailboxes are a great complaint format, but are not the best to create a discussion. It seems that no one who left mail actually came to talk about what they wrote, even though we removed the mailbox and replaced it with a sign about the event. From the point of view of analyzing behavior, it shows that the act of writing and offering a solution or pointing out a problem is generally the extent to which people want to get involved in transforming their environment. To be motivated to attend a discussion was an entirely different type of urban ‘activist’ personality-either students, researchers or those simply interested in why this art project was being conducted. Nice conversations, nonetheless, and we got to share Partizaning projects and artefacts from Moscow in connection with Berlin.

A People’s Berlin: Public Mailbox 1 in Neukolln

In January 2014, the first Partizaning mailbox in Berlin was installed on Emster Strasse, outside of a small local cafe. The street was picked for its prominence in the neighborhood, and also for the ease of checking for letters. The goal of installing the mailbox was to get people from Neukolln to express how they feel about changes in their neighborhoods, defined as ‘improvements’. It was also to test our tactic—would people write letters? What might they leave there? What would they say and what issues would come up?

The project was done in collaboration with Cordula Gdaniec.


A People’s Berlin: Psychogeographic Mapping in Moabit v. 1

Moabit is a fascinating ‘island’, and inner-city of Berlin. It is the site of a new ‘partizaning’ research in the city. Most interesting is its fairly large (almost 50%) migrant population; and, the fact that industrial spaces in the district have been changing slowly over time. There is a strong connection between memory, change and transformation in this district. There are many overlooked voices and spaces in the district, and what was most striking is how segregated life seemed to be. What and were you socialized divided up by age, language, occupation and culture. Although questions about spatial changes are more visible in the ‘gentrifying’ areas of Neukolln or Kruezberg, Moabit has been filled with an anticipation that ‘things ARE going to change.’ In any case, the discussion about gentrification and gentrifying has happened enough in Belin. This project sought to explore the concept of home and the experience of migrants and refugees. Through participatory public space mapping and mailbox surveying, the goal was to create a people’s ethnography of the neighborhood. One that accounted for their stories, their perceptions of change and how they adapt the built environments to meet their needs. As a first step, in mid-December, a prototype map of the area was made on duct tape. People visiting or living in Moabit were Invited to share their knowledge and experience based on different emotions related to different spaces. The map is less about being an output, and more of a process. It continues to evolve as people leave their  mark on it. 



Блог лаборатории Партизанинга