Walking through walls with Bram Esser

Picture by Gabriella Seeman
Text by Lisa Kosak and pictures by Gabriella Seeman

What better way to start your usual Saturday morning, but by a B_Tour around the Plattenbauten of bleak Lichtenberg ? Our guide for this urban Ausflug was Bram Esser, a philosopher who defines himself as an explorer of the everyday – a fact which was verified quickly enough.

B_Tours is a platform collaborating with artists who create tours that rethink storytelling and suggest innovative, experimental approaches to the conventional format of a guided tour. In parallel to this regular programmation, public panels invite the audience to engage in a discussion about current urban issues with experts in the field. For the third year now, they take over Berlin in the course of a weekend to show us the perks of our exciting city. This year's theme in Berlin is "Re-Placing the Periphery". Hence, all the tours presented address and question, in their own way, that concept of "periphery", be it in its geographical, social, economic or cultural meaning.
As an introductory speech to his tour, Bram Esser told us about the tactics of "walking through walls", a phrase coined by Eyal Weizman, which is a strategy involving a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare. And we got to the heart of that matter in a very intense and direct way.

Our small group was lead through the complex maze of Plattenbauten in Lichtenberg. Typical of East Germany, these prefabricated massive buildings were designed, according to the communist ideal, to free the houses from the bourgeoisie and, therefore, help people living in them get more modernist ideas. Starting off in the basements of a former public building then turned into a squat, our oblivious guide took us through a sacrificial altar, the 'Made in China' River (understand : the labyrinthic alleys of the Dong Xuan Center), to finish by running out of an industrial complex. In between, our tour was agremented by comments and additions of some locals, wondering what – on earth – we were all doing, exploring this neighbourghood.

As the presentation of the tour warned us, boring was never so exciting ! Go see for yourself tomorrow :
B_TOURS, international festival of urban tours, 26.06.-28.06.2015 in Berlin. Find the whole program here

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