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 at 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? It encapsulated a truth about the Lab itself: 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 Berlin Lab come from Luke Abiol, Photographer, and Karsten Michael Drohsel, Co-Leader of weekly tour/workshop Mobile University Berlin:
“I have two moments. The first moment was a pretty serious one for me with Mirko Zardini, the architect. He had a talk about actions and interventions in the cityscape being just as important as creating physical structures, and how these actions can really define a city, more than infrastructure can. . . . Well, my focus [as a photographer] is urban landscape for most of my personal projects, but there’s a project I’m working on right now going back to the neighborhoods where I grew up in San Francisco [and] documenting areas where gun violence has occurred.
“Every time I go back to San Francisco to visit, I run into a few handfuls of people who I grew up with that have either been evicted or had friends and close family and relatives murdered due to the depression that hit because of the super rapid development, drug-related things, gang-related things. It’s all so interconnected. So [Zardini] was saying that these interventions in the city have a positive effect, but I was connecting it to my project and thinking about actions taking place within a population having a really negative effect and these things . . . also defining the city. It kind of closed that gap for me.
“The second moment was getting to box over in the garden here with Arne. He had a wooden post with a cushion on it, and a plank underneath that you had to balance on. I was supposed to be photographing the sport program and I ended up actually taking part. . . . The Lab, the environment here is super conducive to me just putting my camera down and jumping in and saying, well actually, I’m really interested in this talk so maybe I have some input into this dialogue . . . . There were so many moments where I wished I wasn’t scheduled so I could just come and involve myself in a workshop or discussion.
Karsten Michael Drohsel
“I unfortunately can’t exactly put a date on my beautiful moment. However, it was the moment when the whole resentment and unhealthy discussion [in reaction to] the Lab ebbed away and was capsized by a constructive togetherness and cooperation.
“So many beautiful moments followed that, where people debated with each other on the same level and actively discussed, argued, and through that took care of our common good, our city, and the possibilities they hold.
“The Lab acted as the catalyst that set this into motion. It brought Berliners (and those who feel like Berliners) into a controversial discussion about whom the city belongs to, who has what kind of access, and rights, and how we want to and can govern or execute those rights.
“The decision to bring the Lab to Berlin despite the difficulties it experienced earlier on meant that it was not easy to get away from this discussion. Such a decision polarizes, and demands that we examine the argument and bring it into debate. As a result, the Lab was not just present in Pfefferberg, but rather in the entire city— in many evenings, at many tables, and in many conversations. In that way, it will also continue to have an effect: as the subject of interviews, conversations, and arguments. And that gives me peace of mind, because as long as we can debate our future with one another, we have one.”
. . .
Photos: by Christine McLaren