Last fall, in the wake of the Lab’s time in New York, I collected and shared one favorite memory from several people who had worked the Lab. The resulting post, “As We Move Forward, a Nostalgic Look Back,” turned out to be among my favorite ones from the New York Lab. The reason for this had (and has) everything to do with the nature of the Lab itself.
I’ve always seen the Lab’s narrative as operating on three levels. First, you have the overarching story of the project as it moves from city to city around the world—collecting ideas and lessons in one place, bringing them to another, and letting them develop further in a new context. Then you have the story of each individual city—of the Lab Team’s communal vision for the Lab’s time there, how it interacted with the context of the city itself, and the way that changed over the period of the Lab’s stay.
Underlying all of that is the third and possibly most important level: individual experience. One of the most beautiful things about the Lab is that everyone’s experience within it is different. As I wrote last time around, this is true for the audience, but it’s also true for those of us who have spent every waking hour beneath the Lab’s ceiling for weeks on end. The things we learn, the experiences we have, and the way we digest and use those experiences is different for every one of us. When we put those experiences together, it begins to paint a complex picture of reality. Just like a city, the Lab is defined by an indefinite mass of individual experience.
With this in mind, I decided once again to talk to some of those who made the Lab possible, and ask them to share the moments that will remain with them long after the Lab has departed for Mumbai. We’ll feature memories from one or two people every day this week, so come back tomorrow for more reflections on Berlin.
Today, thoughts on the Lab come from Kirsten Storz, Associate Public Programs Consultant:
“On a very rainy and cold Wednesday, we started Rachel’s programs with a day about cycling, and we had invited the group of women that participated in our cycling lessons to come to the Lab for a first get-together, theory lessons, and first balance training.
“As it was so wet and cold, we could not use the [bike course] that was set up, so we sat down with tea, coffee, and cake with the women, their facilitators, and Rachel and Maria, and talked about why they wanted to learn how to cycle and what their hopes were. It was a nice mix of languages: German, Turkish, Arabic and English. Some of the women told us they had already taken part in a course at the youth traffic schools (Jugendverkehrsschule) before, and they enjoyed it as a safe place to come to with their kids to learn something new and useful. Others mentioned independence and freedom as reasons for learning to cycle—also [it offers them a way] to spend more quality time with their families, to go on bike tours on the weekend, and to explore their city and surrounding areas a bit more.
“On one level, it was important to support and raise awareness for local initiatives that offer courses like this because learning how to cycle is being taken for granted in our society. It might make women feel embarrassed to admit they cannot cycle or to try learning it.
“But on another level, this course was important because we need places like this in our cities that offer safe learning environments and social spaces where we can share everyday knowledge and skills and experience ourselves and others as part of a social group.
“I loved this moment and the conversations with these women.”
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Photo: by Christine McLaren