Born in Berlin, 2012
The idea of the project was for the artist’s daughter to be born in Berlin. The process of ‘planting’ Rosa into the German cultural and historical soil was documented in the film – from the confrontation of the pregnant body with the Nazi-era architecture, through Rosa’s birth in the Charité hospital, to the burial of the placenta in front of the Reichstag.
Born in Berlin explored both the personal and the political dimensions of this decision. The historically charged locations in the city like the swampy shore of Teufelssee, the swimming pool at the Olympic Stadium or the lawn in front of the Reichstag were juxtaposed with the helplessness and vulnerability of the body. The newborn baby was a symbolic gift for the city, a potential for change, a new beginning able to transcend historical traumas. The intimacy of Super 8 film saturated the story with warmth, while also creating an emotional distance. The essence of the project lay in the importance of one’s place of birth, both as a personal decision and a biopolitical fact. Born in Berlin marked the beginning of Rosa’s life and inevitably changed her biography. It remains an open-ended narrative.
Excerpts from the 7th Berlin Biennale newspaper: Berlin is a special state of mind. It is a city which cannot bear its history, which does all it can to live exclusively in the present, to delight in itself in the incomparable Berlin air and style. Berlin refuses to be naked, to expose its wounds or its painful side after the years of war and the post-war trauma. It desires to be an important cultural capital, elegant, cold and modern. To achieve that it uses architecture, art and sophisticated designs. It is becoming overgrown with fantastic buildings, it displays outstanding artists and presents remarkably attractive designs. Simultaneously, alternative art scenes are continually appearing, which is only a counterpoint to its smooth surface. If this was the only face of Berlin, it would not be the place for Rosa. However, all my senses tell me that Berlin is unable to deal with itself. Like a middle-aged man, good-looking, well-dressed, but at the same time worn out after years of suffering from a chronic disease that climaxed years back. Exhausted not only by what it has been through, but also with the attempts to verbalize it, the lack of language, the following complications and the amount of painkillers it needs to take daily. The disease has left wrinkles and bumps. Some parts of its body are totally dead.
Here begins my strong, tough and unambiguous relationship with the city. I want to see those dead places, I want to touch them. I want Rosa to appear there. Pregnant women live doubly. I have a feeling that this additional life, the tiny vibrating body inside me, is the only obvious answer I can find to this deadness. There is no need for any extra explanations except for the simple contrast of the living versus the dead, or what used to be dead. That is why the very presence of Rosa, is in itself a kind of description, appendix, footnote, comment and statement of a standpoint.
Commissioned by 7th Berlin Biennale
Curators: Artur Żmijewski, Joanna Warsza, Voina
Co-produced by: 7th Berlin Biennale and Żak | Branicka Foundation
Supported by: the Foundation for German-Polish Cooperation and the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation
Project manager: Zdravka Bajović
Producer: Przemek Kondraciuk
Cinematography: Andrew Dixon, Sławomir Bergański, Joanna Rajkowska,
Editors: Lech Molski, Marcelina Górka, Joanna Rajkowska
Sound: Ernest Gaweł
Visual effects: Marzena Nehrebecka
Special thanks to: Artur Żmijewski for his care and attention and to everyone who helped us in bringing Rosa into this world, especially Zdravka Bajović and Andriana Angeli, the midwife. And, of course, Asia Żak and Monika Branicka for their motherly wings and coffee.