Et in Arcadia Ego
After WWII, the Allies gathered the ruins from an irreversibly demolished Berlin. The quest was not only a question of sanitation for rebuilding. Bits and pieces of scattered lives were transported to the forest Grünewald to be re-morphed into an enormous burial for Albert Speer’s correspondingly enormous base (in spe) for military training. It never fulfilled its original purpose yet it refused to cave in from several attempts with dynamite. Nazi Germany was now to be destroyed and buried once and for all. Trümmerfrauen, relatively unharmed by the traumas of war, were recruited to carry out the funeral ceremony. The rubble/grave/memorial/monument/pile of nothing/pile of everything was given the name Teufelsberg. Devil’s Mountain.
USA, with access to West Berlin, took the liberty to annex the gloomy hill when it turned out to be a location suitable for radio communication in general and the one-way communication of eavesdropping in particular. Thus, on German ruins covering a Nazi military complex, an American spy base was erected to map out the radio activity of their domain, within the radius of the DDR and in extent Soviet. After the fall of the Berlin Wall the equipment was tidied up and the base was abandoned.
Since then, a row of conspiracy theories considering what might have taken place at Teufelsberg have flourished alongside awkward forecastings. The city of Berlin seems to have given up on the site since the responsibility is shuffled around between different owners with different laymen with different approaches to hospitality. The hillsides have been used for various activities such as culturing wine, scout meetings, downhill skiing, raves and gold digging. David Lynch notoriously tried to buy the site with miscellaneous spiritual activities in mind. Nutella planned an experience centre in the footsteps of Willy Wonka. A graffiti gallery. A wild boar haven. In the end, it’s a castle in the sky built on ruins.
Public access has been limited to organised tours due to more or less believable stories about injuries and macabre deaths in the hostile terrain and the owner’s insight that one can make a profit out of the generic urban explorer. But the border between Teufelsberg and its surroundings is a truth with modification. The internet provides a range of intrusion - and escape plans. ”South side Sundays”, ”Main entrance nighttime” or ”Ask Hanfried”. The guards’ exhausted attempts to ward off the mob is seldom successful, letting eurotrash, tourists, punks and the average German practice their allemansrätt wherever it suits them. The triple barbed wire fence surrounding the area is with its many man-made openings merely a parody of a fence, screaming for vandalism.
The site is cursed to be resurrected and torn down ad infinitum. Natural - and moral entropy assimilates the once monumental base with Grünewald until human construction and natures dito no longer can be separated. In a catch 22, every exploiter contributes to its destruction. Every disposable picture taken at the site is another frame in the documentation of the death of the motif, slowly mouldering. Devil’s mountain in the middle of the Arcadian Grünewald.
Et in Arcadia Ego.
Before the post-history of an abandoned spy base, a history of a pile of gathered belongings and oncebelongings took place. For quite some time ruined lives, bathtubs, street signs, the occasional chiffonier stuck out of the ruins. The forest’s dubious inhabitant grave diggers practiced finders keepers and sold whatever they could lay their hands on at Berlin's postwar flea markets. Someone sold her own mother. Someone bought a hat unaware that the hat once belonged to the douchebag father he never met. Someone bought back his own teapot. Someone bought a bathtub after being reassured by the yellow toothed salesman of its damn fine DDR-quality. This someone would, an undefined quantity of time later, take a bath in that same bathtub in a hopeless attempt to cure a chronic insomnia.
Someone awoke one morning from uneasy dreams in an apartment block in Zehlendorf and realised that the dust in the room was really the sand in an hour glass. As time goes by, the space is filled up with eroded particles slowly burying any traces of acts played out therein. Someone had given up, and therefore found sitting in a fine DDR bathtub pretending to be a parentheses a very satisfying activity. The closest someone came to communication with the outer world was the reflection of a ferris wheel in the bathroom mirror. Someone tried to kill time by watching a TV-show following the DDR’s successful restoration of itself after the war, ashing in a homemade floating ashtray. The antenna pointing to the East gave a bad image but kept the TV experience free from the frequent sound and light noise that appeared when pointing to the West. The television apparatus was carefully tied to the bathtub edge. Safety first. Death-drive joined with fear may not be logic, but neither is melancholy.
Later that night, the storm of the century would break out.
The ground is full of iron oxides. Rumours say the water cistern in combination with the unrefined earth magnetically drags thunder storms into the territory. Someone seems to make use of these absurd conditions. At the very top of the 64 meters tall tower, right beneath the lightning conductor, someone has set up a now abandoned office. Someone has isolated from society to build what looks like some kind of radio device. Moulds, trash and completely incomprehensible notes in English are spread across the concrete floor. A rusty bathtub filled to the edge with rain water under one of the frequent holes in the ceiling. And in the middle of the chaos a cosmos placed on a pool table - a collection of deformed tin soldiers placed around a model with spherical shapes. ”The Battle of Teufelsberg” entitles a pile of papers. Someone seems to recreate a war not yet taken place in the history of So far. The radio device is an as complex as arbitrary assembly of recording devices, gordian wires and a crystal receiver that must have made Friedrich Jürgenson green with envy.
Whether someone ever got this mad-machine to work is beyond my horizon. I have the feeling I am exposing someone’s sanctuary for the sticky fingers of the public.