Shaking hands with Zorba the Greek and Reagan from the Exorcist, with the knowledge that Queen Elizabeth is in the crowd and the prospect that Princess Aura from Flash Gordon will be landing in Berlin tomorrow, created a surreal yet exciting beginning to New Life Berlin Festival. The “Fictive Days” (one of the many participatory projects that make up the festival) characters slowly evolving into their roles, mingling with the crowd, stood outside an old slightly rundown building peering into what once was a shop front, now the ‘New Life Shop,’ with windows and doors removed. And whilst the darkness crept over and night began to take hold, the purpose of our stay, Nathan Peter’s radiantly lit Eminent Domain, began to become more and more apparent.

After a couple of hours of mingling and getting our bearings, a couple of the Open Dialogues writers and I decided to make our move and investigate this artwork that stands in such a prominent position as the opening night’s main attraction. Stepping up and stepping over the wandering artists we progressed into the light and into the spotlight. Standing in the ‘shop’ we were presented with a back wall covered in tinfoil. Layered advertisement posters showed the recent history of Berlin imprinted over itself. Eminent Domain genuinely represents the contemporary idea of Berlin: “Today’s Berlin has become somewhat of a clichéd tagline… young, creative and raw.”(Carson Chan) and this is what we initially see from the outside looking in. A new-rave/techno/80s-inspired silver flattened disco ball with bright fluorescent circles shining out were my first impressions from a distance. Moving closer, it is visible that Peter had drilled these holes with a purpose; choosing to reveal the past, thus indicating that only as time is spent within Berlin do you start to appreciate the amount of time needed to truly gain a personal experience and intimate connection with the city.

The occasional orange spray-painted spheres and an irrational pattern of holes of various sizes were what initially intrigued me about Eminent Domain. From reading about the work afterwards, I learnt that these patterns are the artist’s attempt to create his own new landscape of Berlin. Peters’ understanding of the city as he feels it. His own intimate city. This pattern, created and inspired by merging the old paintings such as Cole’s Hudson River, Friedrich’s Capuchin Mountains or even the ruins of old Tacheles. This is a complete parallel to each and every artist’s life in Berlin; whether they are native or immigrant, each artist is forcibly launched into recognising Berlin’s history and past within their inspiration. In this way, Eminent Domain both mirrored New Life Berlin’s artists and participants physically, as the aluminium foil blurrily reflected them, whilst also mirroring the motives and themes of the festival: transnational community, participation and intervention, and artistic responsibility.

Looking out into the darkness from inside the shop, I realised that we had instantly become part of the piece; the audience outside watching us ‘on stage’ in the bright lights. Voyeurism to the extent that as you stand and look closely at the work, you are also being looked at within it. I slowly turned around to realise that I was also being physically captured in time within Eminent Domain; the festival’s photographer was snapping us within it; forcing me to thus begin my own intimate relationship with Berlin. It may only be my second visit to this city, but slowly I am building up my personal, intimate, imagined and perfected subjective impression of it as each hour ticks by.

Alexandria Clark is a freelance writer and artist based in the UK, and is also a member of the Nottingham based artist group TETHER.

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