Vong Phaonphanit and Claire Oboussier

Atopia

1997

Collaborative book. Vong Phaophanit and Claire Oboussier

Berliner Kunstlerprogram / DAAD

ISBN 3-893557-109-4

~

 

 S. sleeping hand

 

Mysteriously, the lift makes an autonomous

daily dawn descent of all floors of the building

stopping, empty, at each. The lift is a daily

aesthetic experience – I yearn for it as I write.

 

~

 

C. with apple

 

At Nollendorfplatz U-Bahn hundreds of

transient fingers have gouged at the blackened

putty surrounding a window on the platform.

These myriad prints cease at the height of

human reach and over time have merged to

form a glutinous, choppy mash. Do some

travellers pass through each day and add to

this protean creation? Does the gesture

become part of some  nameless ritual as they

wait for their morning or evening train? Sitting

in the U-Bahn, as I think of these marks,

I become aware of the traces of human bodies

everywhere – worn patches on the floor where

feet have repeatedly rested or shuffled,

threadbare areas on arm rests where fingers

have toyed or elbows rubbed, the grotesque

balding spots on the back of the seats where heads

have pressed and turned. For an instant there

is a poignancy to these persist vestiges left

by human bodies, often collectively, on an

impercipient, benumbed world.

 

~

 

Lift (with sellotape), Helmstedterstrasse

 

Berlin is the most unlikely Atopia, weighed

down as it is by the poisonous lead of its

history, inexorably determined in some many

hearts. But perhaps it is precisely this surfeit

of meaning, the festering wound of its real

events that, paradoxically, makes Berlin open

to Atopia. Its chaos of unresolved narratives,

its sites of unspeakable truths – perhaps Atopia

requires a backdrop such as this.

 

~

 

S. eye watching television

 

In searing August heat we drive past acres of

public housing to the other of Berlin’s two zoos –

the Tierpark. The largest urban green space we

have ever encountered is peppered with the

tiniest bird cages. No more than a few feet

square they boarder the paths like sentry posts.

In one, a perfectly still owl stares stoically

through us. We know he sees us. He knows we

know he sees us. I think of the old lady. “Why is

he in there?” (S). They see us without looking

at us these birds. Out there, we are the wildlife,

free to roam while they observe us from their

urban habitats. In the Tierpark I remember the ice

cream as warm. I remember the stench of the

hippos and the day as perfect.

 

~

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