Meaning Making Through Subjective Connections

by Sinem Cerrah


What would be the first feeling about Berlin for the one who had never lived there? Would she love it? Or hate it? Maybe nothing. She might find it beautiful, or influential, or exhausting, or dreary. Maybe too contemporary! Let’s change the question a little bit: What would be a connection between Berlin and the one who doesn’t live in it? Where would possible connections come from? Finding the answers to these questions was the main challenge that I faced when I was preparing for the Berlin Walking Tour Project with the Reinwardt Academy. Before my first visit, five years ago, Berlin was an influential city for contemporary architectural production, in my personal expertise. For example, the Jewish Museum, Berlin Philharmonic, DG Bank etc. Thus, my first visit and my connection with Berlin was framed by buildings with the following architects’ names: Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Daniel Libeskind… After five years, I was challenged to add a societal and historical aspect to this connection. But is it possible to find any connection through a history and a society with which I have never been involved? If yes, what could it be?

Diving into the history of Berlin… Well, its most known stories are generally dark and painful. Berlin has been a stage at many times for realizing various desires: desire for being more and more powerful.; desire for being strong; desire for control. Desire for separation. Desire for unification. Desire for change. Different lives, different desires. Diving into the details… The points in time after the wall fell, the time for redrawing Berlin. Rebuilding the system, works, neighborhoods. Demolishing and building. A small group of artists in Berlin did not agree with the “design”. They believed in an alternative one, and had the courage to realize it. They occupied a building to save it from demolishment, and named it “Tacheles”, which means “plain, honest, straightforward talk” in Yiddish.  After a while, they were no longer a small group, but a community for realizing every kind of artistic discussion and implementation, and for realizing the desire for freedom of expression. I started to trace the Tacheles artists, but after a while I pulled up my head and asked myself: Why am I diving into this particular story?

Once upon a time, an urban plan “appeared” for the busiest point in Istanbul. One of its offerings is: reconstructing an old building in a place where a park resides in the present. A small group of people in Istanbul did not agree with the “design”. They believed that they needed a park more than a building. They occupied the park to save it from demolition. After a while, they were no longer a small group, but a community for realizing every kind of discussion and implementation: realizing the desire for freedom of expression. My memory meticulously kept this story, and unconsciously brought me to the Tacheles story. It presents many overlaps between different histories. By diving into more stories, more links became apparent in different levels, and even in their endings: both still exist, but in different contexts.

With every new connection, Tacheles becomes more and more a “place” than a name. I started to have feelings toward Tacheles Kunsthaus, even though I have never touched its walls. Impressive for its creativity and solidarity, and sorrowful for its dissolution. But what would happen if I really faced the Tacheles Kunsthaus? Would these feelings change with the experience? Further, what would be the response of different people when I share these feelings? Could they share the same ideas and feelings? To answer these questions, I ran after clues by conducting a walking tour around the Tacheles Kunsthaus site with ten people with different backgrounds. In my experience, my sorrow became stronger by witnessing the removal of the marks that the artists made. My ten friends’ feelings, written on cards that I gave them, resonated with my sorrow: disappointment, bemusement, sadness…

It seems that, it could be possible that subjective feelings become shared.

And I didn’t stop asking questions. We, as a people who have never lived in Tacheles, feel the sorrow of its dissolution. But, what would the artists of Tacheles feel? Would they share this sorrow? I started to dive into after-life of Tacheles Kunsthaus. Well… It is not vivacious as it was before, but it is still colorful. Framed by the outer walls of a hotel, it is much smaller: timid, but still encouraging. Tim, the artist that I encountered in that particular time in that place, felt my sorrow, but didn’t share it. He emphasized only on one thing, “Change! Everything is gonna change, nothing gonna stop that.” He presented a new feeling for dissolving: hope, a reason for rebirth. Then I realized that subjective experiences can also be a cause for revealing different feelings. They can be contradictory or supportive, but at the end they all complement each other: the meaning, the value becomes sum of various feelings, and its subjectivity ensures the sustainability of “us”.