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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: 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. 

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