B_Tours Berlin Festival: Interview with artist Rasmus Therkildsen

We’re proud to announce our partnership with B_Tours Berlin, the international Festival of Urban Tours taking place from 26.06.-28.06.2015 throughout the city. This year’s theme is Re-Placing the Periphery, and in this context we’re exclusively presenting an interview with artist Rasmus Therkildsen (DNK/GER) of Dönerkind. His tour Eat the Wall explores the no man’s land between east and west Berlin. Parts of this formerly marginal, controlled, lifeless place are now transformed into green paths crossing the center of the city where wild herbs, sprouts and plants grow. During this tour the audience will taste these urban greens, learn tips on how to use them and hear stories from Berliners who lived on both sides of the wall. The tour will be followed by a communal meal based on the vegetal treasures collected on the tour.

by_Dönerkind: Bodil Sofie Espersen (DNK), Rasmus Therkildsen (DNK/GER)
The tour will take place on 27.06. 11 am – 2pm and 4:30-7:30pm. More info here and here

B_Tour: So how does one ‘eat the wall’?  
RT: Eat the wall started because we were doing a project at the no mans land and I noticed berries, fruits etc growing there – in a way a metaphor for life conquering the death strip.  Since I’ve been teaching in Germany I’ve been looking for ways to teach about the divided Berlin that aren’t about visiting museum, that are more tangible.  You might not expect to go out for a walk and learn about the wall or the cold war but then you learn anyway.  Also, I was fascinated by what you can find and what you can eat in the city.  There are a lot of plants that I didn’t know were edible or could be used –  who would have thought.

B_Tour: What is the significance of the tour’s route?  Could such a tour work in another context?
RT: I might be able to divide the tour in 3 different parts and reasons why I chose that route.  The first part refers to where I actually lived the 2nd time I came back to Berlin, that was my vantage point. So I chose that part for personal reasons.  Another part I chose for practical reasons – because the locations are central. The wall is 150 kilometres and there are better places to discover than this central location.  But I wanted people to be able to discover something new in what they already know, to revisit the locations and I also wanted to show them that there is ‘hidden learning’ process, even for non experts – as I wasn’t  an expert when I started doing this.  And finally, I wanted to end the tour at a place that connects strongly with the history of the Berlin Wall, where one person was shot.

B_Tour: You are part of Dönerkind, which provides sustainable educational experiences.  Could you explain your approach to the term ‘sustainable’ and why you think it’s important?
RT: When we plan these projects we plan based on historical data and also very much through meeting people, talking to people who lived in the area pre and post the wall, listening to their stories, getting an idea of how the fall of the wall has actually affected people’s lives.  Still, it feels like a periphery in the sense that some of the housing is being renovated but that there are still many social issues. People still identify with either west or east and still see the area as sort of no mans land. The only people who actually visit the former no mans land and foraging for herbs etc. are non-Germans. Possibly because the space is actually defined as a through route for bicycles. And so this project is also about redefining this space. It was interesting to speak to people who lived with the wall – and their non-spectacular way of dealing with the wall, or ignoring it.

B_Tour: Do people try the herbs?
RT: A couple of times – we try very seasonal food so everyone has a different food experience.  However, elderflower fans will be pleased – I prepared an elderflower drink in advance because it won’t be there anymore by the end of June. In winter we try different foods – and schnapps.

B_Tour: Have you worked with taste before?  If so, what are your thoughts on the way people react to taste, and how the strategy of engaging with people’s tastebuds changes the way they react to a space.
RT: Taste makes people discover that what we ride past can actually be eaten. What we want to achieve is to make people realise that this historic place can be used and experienced in different ways.  Apart from the practicality of being able to add some great ingredients to a salad, the whole approach is about combining a slow pace of learning with something that’s easy to fit into everybody’s life.

B_Tour: Travelling along the route of the wall you are inevitably walking side by side with history.  How important is it for you to maintain contact with history, and is there a significance to the consumption of newly grown (albeit maybe polluted) forms of sustenance in a place where the past is so immediate still?  
RT: Bit of both – it is important to maintain contact with history but also to make something new. When making something new it is important to me to keep history in mind and to use it as part of sustainable educational meetings with it.  It is beautiful that this former no mans land is alive and growing in new ways.  25 years ago the wall was sprayed heavily with chemicals in order to deny anything from living there.  Nowadays you can actually eat  most of the food. Around the memorial chapel on Bernauer Strasse they planted rye – I tested it and found that it’s fine.

B_Tour: You organise tours through Berlin where the destinations are Döner shops or street art rather than u-bahn stations or tourist hotspots.  What is the value, for you, of creating these new decentred networks?
RT: When you teach in the city you can only structure your teaching so much because it’s always changing, with buildings being knocked down and all.  At the wall there are no buildings to change but you feel the flow of time and you feel how hostile, cold and inedible. the area is at certain times. So the tour is also about a physical encounter.

Tickets for B-Tours Festival are available online here or at the festival hub at Prachtwerk, Ganghoferstraße 2, 12043 Berlin.
Prices: 1 B_Tour 9 € / 3 B_Tours 21 € / 5 B_Tours 30 €
Discount for students: 1 B_Tour 7 € / 3 B_Tours 18 € / 5 B_Tours 25 €
Check out their website for more information.

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