Otto Karvonen /Helsinki

Ausländer 2002, Gropiusstadt Berlin

The location was Gropiusstadt, Berlin, an area surrounding and a bus stop next to the subway station Lipschitzallee. During the rush–hours in the morning and afternoon the spot is crowded with people who are scattered around the square between the bus stop and the subway station, waiting for the bus or standing in the traffic lights. Apparently in order to avoid contact with other people they are standing in about 1,5–meter distance to each other, occupying a large area of the square.

The piece consisted of words painted with stencils and chalk paint on the ground. Next to each word were arrows pointing at some direction. The words were scattered loosely around the area where people are usually standing. The words were written in German; following list shows the words translated in English: model citizen, outsider, future, stranger, foreigner, friend, innocent, disguised, ordinary, peculiar, German, perfect, guilty, unpredictable, righteous, original, beautiful, rich, normal, fanatic, Russian, Turkish, organized, free.
Most of the words appeared several times on the ground.

The words were painted with chalk paint which was washed away by rain afterwards. I kept restoring the words for one week, adding new ones when the former ones had faded. After one week I left the words to the forces of nature.

An important part of the piece was the painting action. I was performing the act
two times on the location, each action taking approximately one hour. During the action I was wearing a shirt with the text "foreigner" on the back.

Extract from the project diary

“… I recognized a certain tone of voice that indicated a primary concern about the legitimacy of such action. One middle-aged man was asking really concerned if I have a permission for what I'm doing. When I replied that I had a permission of the police he was satisfied and became very friendly. Then there was this old man who made a big scene out of the words. He was just going around reading the words aloud, like explaining the work to the others standing there. He went on somehow like this: "Who is normal, who is foreigner, who is rich - that's a good question, let's see, what would I be... strange, decent, everything..." He was the audience one always dreams of.
Then there was this one man who was observing my action for half an hour. When I was painting the word "Ausländer" (foreigner) he came and told me that what I did was very good, especially the "Ausländer". He continued telling that there were a lot of neo-nazis living in the neighborhood. Not really seeing the point of his remark I just told him I'm not one of them and I don't even have the word in my selection. I thought that he was somehow concerned about my safety or so, but when this guy departed, he waved me with a victory-sign with his fingers and said "see you, Kamerad!" And just the day before I was told that the word Kamerad is frequently used by the right-wing fellows. Well, this is what happens…”