|Test Dig No.1 (2011-)|
|Documentation of excavation Berlin-Kreuzberg 2011, 35mm color slides|
|Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum, Test Dig No. 1, Berlin, Opening Dec 4, 2011:|
|In 2004, the Berlin Senate commissioned a report on the status of the former "anti-fascist protection rampart," in which it was observed that the control areas around the wall had been left free and now were home to what was called "spontaneous vegetation in the emptiness of the former death strip." Gardeners call them "volunteers" - plant life that grows up of it's own accord - and in the area just north of Nordbanhof one can still get a sense of this "spontaneity."|
This strip of wildness down the center of the city has grown smaller and smaller in recent years. But there seems to be little or no urban or civic planning involved in this development, leading some urbanists to call these areas "The New Death Strip," as the used-car lots, discount grocery stores, and now condominium developments are established with little broader vision of history or even the future. Paradoxically, because the new structures seem to erase or void the historical and political symbolism of such sites, new buildings full of people seem to actually diminish rather than add.
Skulpturenpark Berlin_Zentrum has, perhaps uniquely, insisted through practice on a kind of cultivation of this "dead zone." But their working area has grown smaller and smaller, increasingly surrounded by new housing developments.
Against this backdrop, as the city grows up around him, almost overnight, Erik Smith has gone digging. Along a line of different kinds of excavations by Smith, this practice unearthed a structure below the surface: a partial staircase that he has followed down while it has emerged upwards. While the new buildings accumulate, another architecture was produced by Smith, upwards and downwards simultaneously.
Ash, soot, and ruins where local history and world history meet frequently: which particular fire, particular burial, particular inhabitant and their particular position, function, politics. Not far from where Smith is building, the main symbolic spaces, buildings and scultpures of German nationalism, and all that brings to mind, are being rebuilt.
I asked Smith if he would go to an archive and make that kind of research - old maps, old records - and he said he would, at some point - a point that keeps being pushed back into the future. Nietzsche wrote of the principle of a limited horizon - a space established in which one is not responsible to answer all questions, to all perspectives, and by holding some questions away, one can learn something else. In this way, perhaps we can understand that the process of discovery made in situ, with physical persistence has it's own status, and that knowing the "facts" might not help such a kind of discovery, but only interrupt it.
That (now withering) wild streak down the heart of the city was not only a symbol of some possibility, but a still shifting fragment, a question continually posed. In this case, on the ground, Smith has pried out and held open such a window of uncovering, as if the mechanics of revelation and experience of possibility were not only linked, but could in fact be the basis for their preservation.