Trümmer Geographies

Trümmer Geographies
Journal Article 2015
Performance Research, Journal of the performing arts, 20 (3), 75-82. doi:10.1080/13528165.2015.1055083

With my heavy 16mm Bolex camera in hand, I clamber up the hill, trip and then fall over protruding bricks and fragments of concrete and steel. I am attempting to film the remnants of a city buried more than 70 years ago. My climb over the hill is a walking over 25 million cubic meters of rubble or approximately 15,000 buildings that lie buried beneath its surface. My attempt is to capture through film the hill that was constructed to shoulder the ruination of a city and its people–human geography over humic foundations. In some respects this is a tragic walk. Falling over the ruination of invisible buildings forms part of that tragedy. I am a part in my film, kneading the surface of the buried city through a connection with my body.

I imagine my film being some type of x-ray of the hill to reveal what lies below its surface. Yet, the film will show only what I see; dirt, grass, shrubs, trees–bits of rubble.
The site of my walk, the hill I have been filming, is Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain). Located in Berlin’s outer western district of Wilmersdorf, Teufelsberg is the exemplar of ruination of the city and its people who erected it. Constructed from the rubble of bombed-out buildings destroyed during World War Two, Teufelsberg marks the ground for a collective consciousness on the one hand and on the other, a ground for forgetting. Even though what lies under the surface is invisible to the naked eye, Teufelsberg combines ruination and geography–connecting to the human practices of burial throughout the ages. Built from 1946–1966 and rising to 120 meters, Teufelsberg transforms the destruction of Berlin into a swollen landscape–filled with the physical remnants of its past urbanity.

This research emerges from an interdisciplinary field of performance, theatre and architecture. Through archaeology, geography and self-amnesia the article explores a hill. The hill, Teufelsberg (Devil’s Mountain) located in Berlin’s outer western district of Wilmersdorf is created from the rubble of approximately 15,000 bombed-out buildings from the air war on the city (1942-1945) during the Second World War. Teufelsberg forms a physical reconfiguration of Berlin’s urban material pre- 1942 and offers a reconceptualization of the city’s former occupants through ruination.