Visiting Berlin you were unable to escape the past. Every discussion incorporated the past; how do people interact with the past? What do people feel about the past? And how does Berlin remember the past? Something questioned within: FLASH OF REMEMBERANCE OR GUILT (VOA5, 2017). As I struggled to articulate my first impressions, illustrated by the image below, I realised something was missing from my experience; an understanding of the present and the ‘New Berlin’.
With this in mind I noticed three symbols of Berlins present; bikes, trees and political sticker art. They began to resonate with me, developing my understanding of Berlin’s identity today. The video below provides a glimpse into my experience and understanding of Berlin today, through the use of images and soundscapes that I encountered and collected.
Whilst taking in Berlin’s past I was abruptly brought back to the present by the ringing of bicycle bells behind me, exemplified through the video and image below displaying my experience of the cities bike culture. The use of bikes is juxtaposed to the cities restricted past; as you learn about the divided history you look up and see the freedom of
the present (Large, 2001). Even at memorials people were learning about the restricted past, whilst utilising the freedom of the present. The extensive network of bicycle lanes created to support the bike culture gives the city space a sense of freedom (Griffiths and Maile, 2014). The bike culture is incorporated within the tourist industry with rental bikes available outside many hotels, signifying how it has become part of Berlin’s identity today (Griffiths and Maile, 2014). Overloaded bike racks outside apartments across Berlin confirmed how it places centrally in the lives of Berliners today and the unification of the city (Kennedy, 2017). Bikes aided my understanding of Berlin today and the ‘New Berlin’, by displaying the strong feeling of freedom and movement throughout the city, so juxtaposed to its past and my imagined geographies of the city.
Trees fill Berlin from memorials to residential areas and were interwoven into my experience of the city by providing a sense of resurrection to Berlin (Jones and Cloke, 2002), illustrated through the image below. Whilst many of the trees were part of
the past they play a role in ‘New Berlin’ as they can symbolise the regrowth of Berlin through the reconstruction of the tree landscape (Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, 2017). Tree landscapes such as those in Berlin can be bound with many powerful cultural constructions due to their strong material and symbolic character (Jones and Cloke, 2002). Maintaining the tree landscape as it was before World War Two displays how the city has healed and grown into a new place whilst not hiding its past (Jones and Cloke, 2002). Today a tree numbering system has been adopted citywide, combining the city, a far cry from the past (Environment, Transport and Climate Protection, 2017).
Political sticker art:
The city is a canvas for political sticker art, something recorded by blogger Stickerkitty (StickerKitty, 2011). On every surface, you find the political ideologies of ‘New Berlin’, illustrated in the images below. Covering many political issues from national and trans-national identity to right-wing extremism, gentrification, surveillance and capitalism, the political freedom and geopolitical stand of the city is clear to see (Tedford, 2017). Contemporary sticker art against surveillance shows how the city stands strong against modern political concerns similar to those of the past, such as the strict surveillance of East Berlin (StickerKitty, 2011).
Berlin today to me:
Berlin is a complex multicultural city that cannot be defined simply (Griffiths and Maile, 2014).These three aspects displayed in the image below, to me encapsulate ‘New Berlin’. They
combine to display the political, liberal and natural space I encountered that gave me my clear understanding of the city today. The combination of bikes, trees and sticker art, work together to display the identity and political stand of the city, as the free and unified city it is today (Kennedy, 2017). They provide a symbolic image of how far Berlin has evolved, to become a city in which its people are free in their movement’s, views and healed from the past. Each of these elements played a part in the past but it is the new attitude that links these elements to ‘New Berlin’, such as creating a culture revolved around free movement, protecting the tree landscapes and the allowance and continued use of sticker art (Griffiths, D. and Maile,2014). However, it is important to consider the possible staging of ‘New Berlin’ something discussed within Clean Pavements Vs Rebellious Walls: Reinventing Berlin’s Reputation (Johnson, 2017). ‘New Berlin’ may have developed due to the interplay between place marketing and place making in contemporary urban governance (Colomb,2012), questioning, how real is ‘New Berlin’?
Suggested Further Reading:
Colomb, C. (2012). Staging the New Berlin. 1st ed. London: Routledge.
Environment, Transport and Climate Protection (2017). City Trees. Available at: http://www.stadtentwicklung.berlin.de/umwelt/stadtgruen/stadtbaeume/en/schutz_pflege/index.shtml [Accessed 19 May 2017].
Griffiths, D. and Maile, S. (2014). ‘Britons in Berlin: Imagined Cityscapes, Affective Encounters and the Cultivation of the Self’, in: M. Benson and N. Osbaldiston, ed., Understanding Lifestyle Migration Theoretical Approaches to Migration and the Quest for a Better Way of Life, 1st ed. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan, pp.139-159.
Johnson, E. (2017). ‘Clean Pavements Vs Rebellious Walls: Reinventing Berlin’s Reputation’, Tracing Geopolitics in the Urban Landscape, 8 May. Available at: https://leicesterberlinfieldtrip.wordpress.com/2017/05/08/clean-pavements-vs-rebellious-walls-reinventing-berlins-reputation/ [Accessed 8 May 2017].
Jones, O. and Cloke, P. (2002). Tree cultures: the place of trees and trees in their place. 1st ed. Oxford: Berg.
Kennedy, S. (2017). Bike city: Berlin: Community unification. Treadlie, (20), pp.74-80.
Large, D. (2001). Berlin. 1st ed. London: Penguin.
StickerKitty (2011). ‘Surveillance, monitoring, and control stickers in Berlin’, StickerKitty, 3 January. Available at: https://stickerkitty.com/2011/01/03/surveillance-monitoring-and-control-stickers/ [Accessed 19 May 2017].
Tedford, C. (2017). Takin’ It to the Streets and Stickin’ It to the Man: Contemporary Sticker Art as Social and Political Protest. A11.cgpublisher.com. Available at: http://a11.cgpublisher.com/proposals/143/index_html [Accessed 19 May 2017].
VOA5 (2017). ‘Flash of Remembrance or Guilt?’, Tracing Geopolitics in the Urban Landscape, 7 May. Available at: https://leicesterberlinfieldtrip.wordpress.com/2017/05/07/flash-of-remembrance-or-guilt/ [Accessed 7 May 2017].