Video clips on »Berliner Fenster«
Audio essay, 14 and 15 August, 18 September
on 14 August: U8 station Franz-Neumann-Platz
on 15 August: U8 station Leinestrasse
on 18 September: U8 station Leinestrasse
Please rsvp to: kunst-im-untergrund[at]ngbk.de
PHILINE PUFFER’S work is shown on the »Berliner Fenster« screens in the form of video clips made using online comments and ratings of Berlin underground stations collected from Google. The users express themselves very differently: casual, humorous, dissatisfied. The short clips are intended to blend inconspicuously with the advertising, event announcements, weather forecasts and local news that form the usual content of the in-train info-screens on Berlin’s underground network.
The work highlights the way our physical experience of reality has become inextricably intertwined with virtual reality. It comes as no surprise that physically accessible places can also be found online, where they are monetized as part of the Big Data economy. For every review or rating posted online, as well as for photos and videos shared, Google awards points. As so-called »Local Guides« those with a Google account can reach several different levels, collecting points that can then be converted into various benefits.
Stations are often viewed as neutral, functional places or even as non-places – spaces of transit created to be used for a limited time of passage only. The absence of organic social relationships and a shared history constitutes the nature of such spaces. In view of this supposed neutrality, a personal rating appears absurd and bizarre. If someone thought a specific station was bad, based on such reviews, would they choose a different station, even if it was less convenient for them? Probably not – unless they felt extremely unsafe or very uncomfortable.
As a result, there is more to these seemingly insignificant reviews than immediately meets the eye. The sometimes surprising comments reflect current social, political and economic trends: Who feels they belong where? Who is allowed to do what where? Who feels how where? For some people, the fact that drugs can be bought at a given underground station is worth a five-star review, while others object and give just one star. In the same way, certain hygienic conditions strike one reviewer as intolerable, while others see them as »typically Berlin«.
These subjective opinions, methodically collected and catalogued by Puffer, reveal tensions in relation to class, gender and accessibility. Which possibilities and scope for action would be opened up if such utterances had the potential to change our city?
PHILINE PUFFER (born 1985 in Berlin) studied architecture and lives and works in Berlin. Her artistic practice currently focuses on the interrelatedness of digital and urban spaces.