Why did you apply?
Mainly because I love new adventures and have been interested in seeing Berlin for a long time. I knew I’d be in Europe for two months as an Emily Harvey Foundation fellow, so I decided to apply.
When did you come?
I was there from January 9-12, 2012.
What did you do in Berlin?
Initially I intended to stay in the Hemingway room and work on poetry. But since I’d never been to Berlin and Prenzlauerberg is so fascinating, instead I did a lot of exploring on foot. I found a memorial and segments of the wall (truly amazing) and visited a museum in what had been a school before the war. There were several videos on exhibit – one in particular that really intrigued me of a female artist filmed in her East Berlin apartment, the interior of which had not been updated. The apartment showed evidence of neglect and hard times, and gave the sense of how bleak residents’ existences were during the occupation. Also in the exhibit was a very powerful assemblage art piece – an old rusted birdcage with two female figures inside. Both, wearing torn and faded clothing, stare straight at the viewer. One sits in a broken chair, while the other is splayed out on the floor of the birdcage. For ‘doll’ figures, their expressions were surprisingly authentic and tragic. I’d love to know more about the piece and who the artist is/was.
On a much lighter note, I sat for a long time one morning in a cafe around the corner from the Hemingway room/apartment and watched as pram after pram rolled by, as well as many young parents with bundled-up toddlers on bicycles. Everywhere it seemed there were young parents and healthy, happy children. A youngish father in the cafe had his little one propped up on the table facing him. They seemed truly engaged in an interesting conversation. The kind you might have with a peer. I noticed a similar situation in a corner pub one evening. A mother came in with an adorable little girl of maybe ten who was all dressed up. They sat next to each other on bar stools having what seemed to be a fascinating conversation. The mother looked sincerely interested in what her daughter was saying. These encounters struck me as being indicative of the kind of wonderfully responsible, optimistic and committed young people are living in East Berlin. In that neighborhood, I also noticed a conspicuous lack of middle-aged and older folks, and it occurred to me that perhaps living there is too hard for those with firsthand memories of earlier times.
What did you think of the program?
The program is fabulous. The generosity of time and space in Berlin is a gift. I doubt I’d have been able to spend time there otherwise, and what I saw of Berlin has left a lasting impression. I’ve been thinking of ways to offer a similar short term residency in Taos. The exchange of ideas and broadening of views that come with these kinds of programs is immeasurable.
What did you work on whilst in berlin?
While walking the streets, I took over a hundred photos, and afterward realized that many of these were of old wooden doors leading to apartments. So in the end, this is what I chose to make my project about.
Truly, I enjoyed every minute of being in Berlin. It was a rare treat to spend time in your beautiful apartment, and I thoroughly enjoyed the stimulating conversation at the dinner party. In talking to your friends, it became clear that there is an energy and commitment among the young residents in restoring Prenzlauerberg’s reputation as a mecca for artists, thinkers and intellectuals. It was a privilege to witness this.
conclusion- Berlin (or at least Prenzlauerberg) is: undergoing an exciting transformation, and is a city that belongs to the young.