Angles Berlin is a narrative arts project that seeks to build bridges between communities by creatively documenting the ways life is lived in urban space today. The Angles collective aims to catalyze inclusive urban spaces through participatory storytelling and multi-medium art practices to engage with diverse communities and break down barriers.
Last Friday was the first meeting for the Angles Berlin group in 2019 – a cozy meeting at the NION Base, accompanied by a selection of red wines and home-baked cookies. The perfect motivators to get anyone to leave their house during a harsh Berlin winter’s night.
Meetings usually involve hosting a guest presenter which can be artists, writers or scholars from all walks of life. This time around, Angles Berlin hosted Agata, an expert in immigration studies and a professor at Bardt College in Berlin. She is of Polish background, living in Schöneberg for 13 years and has a special interest in urban encounters. Tonight’s listeners introduced themselves and paint a picture of a curious diversity, ranging from accountants, architects to video artists and students.
English, the language of the new gentrifiers?
This evening, we wanted to explore what it means for people who work creatively to speak or not speak English–how does language act as a means of exclusion? Agata’s way of capturing the listeners’ attention was one of a kind. Her research findings and explanations were coloured with sociologist’s names that took me right back to a bunch of seminars I had to endure in gradschool. This time around, they finally sparked my interest to listen more closely.
The main focus quickly became the areas of Neukölln and Kreuzberg and the significant change in population of recent times – expat enclaves as the new very visible (and audible) gentrifiers. A topic that becomes immediately guilt-inducing: living in your apartment near Maybachufer and feeling all smug about yourself when people tell you about their boring lives back in your German hometown. Here I am, living closely tied in with the (English-speaking) expat community in Neukölln, and it is not like you’d know I’m German, depending on who you’d encounter me with. English is the language of the new gentrifiers, and I am fluent.
Racism against English speakers in Berlin
Following Agata’s thorough presentation, we created an open space to share personal stories of experienced racism against English speakers, which all of us are, regardless of whether it’s our first or second language. As a German native, the stories were baffling: Berliners seem to say the darndest things, ranging from landlords privately rallying for the AfD by the doorstep or older people getting enraged over expats taking old people’s pensions away. The art collective uses these discussions to harvest new ideas for future story telling events. It’s a great way of quickly gauging how difficult a topic is, how people talk about it and to find a way to open the topic up for an audience. Within the group, people will volunteer to work on a certain side of the topic and craft a story of their own. Lots of great ideas where shared and quite a few members immediately got inspired and had great ideas on possible ways to tell an interesting story.
We’re excited to see what stories will be told in the future and I’ll definitely be back for another meeting soon! Also, don’t miss the opportunity to check out the upcoming „Three Stories in Berlin“ event by Angles: Berlin, on February 2nd!
All pictures taken by Lê Hoàng Gia. Thank you <3