CHTO-Camille de Toledo, Autor, Künstler & Kurator
Damn it ! You ask me why I moved to Berlin ? There are so many reasons, I could write a whole novel actually. Surely also my three kids would enjoy it, since they asked, when we left lovely, elegant Paris a couple of years ago. And yet, I don’t know, it seems unnecessary to explain. You just have to live here for a while, I guess you get the answer then. Of course, there is the German language, that makes you feel like a Syrian refugee for a while, I mean, it kind of leaves you there, on the side-walk, under a rain of grammatical guilt. But, hey, who will not be a refugee in the future anyhow ?
So, Berlin might be the right place to start. And so, yes, there is also the winter and the light. I mean, living for six months, every year, in a cave or a « Keller », as my German friends would put it, looking for the damn plug to switch the light on, that does get on your nerves. But again, you might have some snow in the cave, and snow, well, helps you out, since it does bring a little light, a sweet whiteness into your life. And let me please refuse here the on-going comparison, Paris, Berlin, whatever, the snobbish, cynical, nineteenth century eternal beauty, full of barons and egotistic French geniuses, opposed to the raw, bearded, twenty-first century hipsters, those are all just absurd stereotypes. No, what gets you in Berlin is certainly something beyond the beard, beyond the German language and the long winter, something that has to do, yeah, let’s put it this way, with the « undefined », the yet-to-be-understood-where-the-fuck-do-are-we-?-Frage.
And that is a damn serious question, at least, I don’t know what is your goal, your own quest, but for me, that is an on-going one, trying to understand where do I belong, and what is my position, exactly, now, while I am writing, living, creating. I mean, when I hear the motives behind the Berlin pilgrimage, it is so disappointing. People talk about party, night and clubbing, but hey, wake up ! I mean, who are we ? Are we just fucking tourists, making indifference-as-long-as-I-can-dance a way of life? No, what I am looking for is something more existential, metaphysical if I may say so. Yes, by leaving Paris behind, I did make a statement. And that is, the bourgeois mode of existence is over, I mean, it is not over in terms of economic power, it is just over in terms of culture. And now, let’s just open our eyes. What is here ? What is this here that Berlin is ? For me, Berlin does not belong to Germany. It is suspended, somewhere, between past, present and future.
It is like a hub in itself. In the words of my good friend, Amen, it is a « time complex ». Now, let’s be frank, I am not wandering everyday, in the costume of Walter Benjamin through the streets of Charlottenburg, meditating on translation and hope and the mythical, Jewish regime of historicity, but yeah, it is part of it. A city is meaning. And Berlin carries these meanings. The separation, the history of the dead, the layers of the 20th century … I don’t know about you, but I do believe we live in search of meaning. And the compilation, the anthology, the hauntology that is Berlin is something. Now, and that would be my last input on that matter.
What are we aiming at ? I mean, as species, what do we want ? I have a pretty straightforward answer to this. And that is : leaving a sustainable world for my children, for the lives to come, for all that is to be. And that starts by stopping being those predatory pricks, using nature and forests and resources as if they were just Dinge to please our needs. Well, you feel it, here, the presence of nature, in this town. Trees, wolves, sometimes a fox, at night, crossing the street in front of your home. This makes a wider community of humans and non-humans. This is the wider community where I would like my children to grow up, to write their own stories…
Photo taken at Prenzlauer Berg, June 2016
© petrov ahner