Urban Habitat II Berlin 2013
By Diego Ferrari
‘On the 28th November 2014 I was invited by my friend Falk Hirdes to exhibit my photographic work as part of third programme of art events staged at his house and curated by him. In particular, Falk wanted me to deliver a talk to the guests about the production of and concepts evolving from the photographic work Urban Habitat II – Berlin 2013.
I developed this project with the help of filmmaker Lluís Andreu Obrador in collaboration with Berlin’s OKK gallery and a group of up and coming young Muslim rappers, Kingz of Kiez from the Wedding area of Berlin.
In this short written presentation I would like to explore the interrelationship between culture, society and individuals, one of distance but also shared identity among different social and ethnic groups in Berlin.
Home makes the person and the person makes the home.
Human dwellings are the place where we construct our intimate experiences, a space of free human actions and the site where we develop our subjective understanding of being in the world. As well a place were we evolve our sense of self, away from the gaze of others, the home is full of objects which attest to and mirror our particular persona, purpose and mentality.
Falk Hirdes decided to stage a social gathering that would double as an art exhibition and a private-public conversation. In my case, the exhibition provoked awareness among a largely middle-class audience of an established community of young musicians and poets who happen to be Muslim, and who are actively involved in shaping Berlin’s contemporary cultural social values. Cultural and ethnic difference is a charged issue in Berlin, where ethnic communities – often of first and second generation immigrants – are not as integrated into the fabric of the city and social infrastructure as in London, say.
The event in Falk’s home provided a platform for discussion not only of art, but of these issues – social exclusion, cultural and ethnic difference – and how to create a more plural society. Usually these discussions take place in social or public space: the university lecture theatre, the art gallery, in governmental debates and policy. Holding such an event in a private space inflects the public with the private, and vice versa. When we engage with such issues from the privacy and sanctity of the home, there is the potential for them to become more personalised, more part of our domestic lives than when they are staged in public space.
The private home/public gallery is of course a contradiction, but one which bears fruit. The home becomes a place of knowledge transfer, where the production and values of art are debated alongside the wider social and cultural pressures facing all of us today. In this sense the practice is a reinvention of the 19th Century Salon, where artists and writers gathered in private homes because there was no public space in which to house them.
In our case we discussed how the human body occupies space, but also transforms it through intention. Urbanism is increasingly becoming a way of life for more people, and as such, we need to engage with and explore this condition. Photography can be both a catalyst and a prism through which we can learn to see the world differently. It can improve self-awareness, promote the formation of a personal vision, and call into question the very nature of our surroundings and social values. In this way it can aid reflection in personal and social education.
My personal approach is to not only look at techniques of photography but to ask participants to create and define new meanings by using their own bodies in space. The photographs in this project depict the production of meaning in the hands of youth, exploring their city as they interact with social codes, from their own urban local neighbourhood to few selected iconic buildings, for example The House of World Cultures, The Neue National Gallery for modern art. These photographic interventions were structured by introducing three of the basic elements, Water, Air and Earth, as a way to respond in a form of a dialogue to their built environment and construct a different visual metaphor of how rappers are portraying themselves outside of the cordon of clichés surrounding Hip- Hop culture, and engaging with their city and urban realm at large.
I use this opportunity to thank Falk Hirdes for his inclination to exhibit Urban Habitat II Berlin 2013. Also I would like to thank Stefan Horn director of Urban Dialogues for his consistent support on organising aspects of this projects, as well Kingz of Kiez for their positive and creative attitude in developing the project. My special thanks are for the directors and organises of OKK/raum Gallery for making this project possible in collaboration with Kingz of Kiez.’
Diego Ferrari 2015