Miriam Songster /New York
During a two-week
stay in March my initial project idea was an intervention related to the building
that includes the Pilotprojekt flat. I would cover every fluorescent bulb in
the two entry breezeways with pink theater gels. This would create something
pretty that everyone could enjoy, and would complement the changes that renters
have been making to the inside of their flats in order to create a more “homey”
environment out of an architecture that prioritized functionality over traditional
This plan didn’t come to fruition but others did.
Background: Gropiusstadt has 26,000 residents, including growing Turkish and Russian minorities. True to Gropius' original plan, the area has many parks, bicycle paths and walkways. Sounds of birdsong and children predominate.
Wild Kingdom introduced “foreign” sounds (birds, monkeys, baboons, elk) into various public locations. I used a bicycle to transport the sound and disguise its source (hiding an mp3 player and speakers inside a shopping bag strapped to the bike rack). After parking the bike I'd play the recording and wait for people to pass by.
The audio played for 10-minute intervals in five locations, beginning at 1:30 on a sunny Saturday afternoon. About 200 people passed within potential earshot. Approximately 20% were on bicycles and about 80% of those on foot were with companions. A few were using cell phones or wearing earphones. The presence of the foreign sounds was detected twice. The elk’s mating call was found to be very amusing.
Background: I’ve always liked dogs, and Gropiusstadt has lots of them. I thought of photographing residents with their dogs, but I’m not a photographer so the artistic merit of the project seemed doubtful. But I couldn’t get the idea out of my head so I just started doing it. During my “test run” all 3 people refused. Then I had to do it, because I realized that it wasn’t about the dogs at all.
I walked around the neighborhood for 2 hours on Saturday morning. Approaching people with dogs I asked if they spoke English and then attempted to ask if I could photograph their dog (“den Hund”) for an art project (“Kunstprojekt”). I handed them a postcard explaining this in German and offering to mail or email them the photos.
Of 13 people encountered, 11 allowed me to take photos, 9 gave me their contact info, and 2 declined to participate. One person asked if they had to pay for the photos (they did not). Photos and a thank-you note were sent to whoever provided an address.
Background: The building designs differ throughout Gropiusstadt, but within each grouping of similar buildings the exterior wall treatments are identical. This consistency is also found in the one high-rise designed by Gropius himself, where every porch in the approximately 250-unit building is painted yellow.
While living in this building I replaced the yellow porch paint with red.