Leslie Kuo / Berlin
Coming to the residency, I had already been a foreign resident of Berlin for two years and felt at home in the German language and customs. But in Gropiusstadt, I became a freshly arrived foreigner all over again. I knew no one and had no introductions to the places and people, and felt lonely in the strange apartment floating fifteen stories up. Everything was different in the grocery store than in my part of Berlin; when I walked into a bar, all the regular patrons turned to look at the stranger in the doorway.
I tried to practice my usual artistic strategy for getting to know a place: walking or bicycling for hours with my camera and just looking at everything. Despite the winter weather, there were many people about, whether I walked in the Brandenburg fields to the south or in Gropiusstadt itself. But just walking and looking, I felt apart from them. I couldn't get a clear sense of the people, the place.
I found myself gravitating toward other foreigners in Gropiusstadt, visiting and revisiting the “Interkultureller Treffpunkt” where immigrant women meet to cook, make handcrafts and sing. I made chicken soup with them, taught an older woman to knit cables, was taught to fold an origami heart. I observed how they tried to help each other puzzle out the rules of German grammar and wondered how they could interest their German neighbors in joining them.
If I were to do a project in Gropiusstadt, it would be about my fellow Ausländer who shared soup with me, and it would connect their community to other people in Gropiusstadt.