Freitag, 20. Juni 2008

How to get to know my neighbours

One night I came home, and the first thing that stroke me, was the fact, that a handsome guy I never saw before, offered me help with opening the maindoor of my house. That was the point, where I realised, that after four years living in that house, I don’t have any clue with whom I am sharing my house. I started to think about what is neighbourhood, and why I don’t have contact with my neighbours. So I decided to make a project on How to get to know my neighbours. The task I gave to myself was to think about strategies on how to get to know them and starting to work on that. The first aim I gave to myself was, that until the end of the first week working on that, I wanted to get managed sitting in a foreign kitchen in my house and sharing a coffee with one of my neighbours.

A List of Strategies
Possible tasks to myself:

1. Make a list of all people living in my house.

2. Photograph the house

This picture represent my housecommunity. Some of the doorsigns look older than others, so it seems obvious that behind these names people are existing, that live longer there than others. Some of the signs look improvised. Probably these are the people, that moved in later and maybe they are the more easy people in the house. So what often strikes me unvoluntary- clichees are true- so with that: first impression is most important, you already judge and give meaning by the first signs.

I remember photographing the doorbells felt a bit voyeuristic, but I wasn`t aware about it that time, that my home means to me my very private sphere. So I skipped the doubts and continuing my plans, cause i realised on the other side, that I am always reading traces about people in my everydaylife.

these bottles of water I found on the stairs in my house only two days later when I met the friendly stranger living in my house caring waterbottles with him. So was that a sign or coincidence?

3. Think about possible themes/ things that I have in common with my neighbours.
What problems are we sharing, what pleasures? Actually about what could I talk with them? Find out themes of the house!

I made a list of my neighbours , and what I already new from them, for instance there is a chinese doctor living underneath my flat, once he had problems with water coming down the walls and he thought it was my fault- I could go there and ask how that problem solved. or I could consult him as a chinese doctor.

A theme is the infrastructure around the house- where can you get nice food, nice bars, places to sit down, talk about places that change..

there was reastauration going on that time in the house, so this was actually a good theme to connect cause we both are sharing the house as a theme.- so what 's the theme of a house?- its beauty? It costs, strange ugly places within the house, its inhabitants? the other neighbours turned out to be a very good theme to talk about, when i finally met people- why people always love to talk about people so much? What mostly stroke me was the fact that there are myths of stories about inhabitants of the house still circulating after years. When i moved in that house suddenly my boyfriend realised that he had been here years before- it turned out that his brother used to live here before the wall broke down. So he told me stories i heard again when was tlaking with neighbours now after more then 10 years- but it was told as a secret- so sorry i cant tell the story here.

4. How to get in touch?
Think about situations where you could meet your neighbours by accident. Produce coincidences!
Hang out at the postboxes, very often people coming along , so this is the chance to say hello and have a small talk about the mass of advertisement and the best indian food imbiss round the corner. In fact i meet the most people of the house at the postboxes.

i could also stay in the backyard cleaning my bike- but actually i did it once and i didnt meet anyone...

5. Ask people how they got to know their neighbours. Investigate on the internet!

I found an article about the idea of an moving- in party, and about the details to prepare this event. - actually i could this and in autumn i was very motivated in doing so. But actually I didnt take time until now in realising it, and since begin of february a was again almost all the time outside my house, it somehow felt ridiculous in hopping home for a neighbourparty, when i am almost never there.

But another idea is to join a internetcommunity for example where people meet that are living near your place.I tried out this too, but when the first contacts arose, it was only guys around 50 years old and i didnt felt in the mood to answer them.
within the presentation of the project a guy told me that its great to have a balcony- so if you drop something on the balcony of your neighbour it might be funny and a reason to talk to him/her. -unfortunaly i dont have a balcony.

More Ideas?

6. Ring on the doors, say hello and that you want to get to know them. Hand out a present for them in order to show you are not aggressive, depressive or mad.
That is obviously the best to do. In fact people where irritated when I stood there saying: "hello I wonder who you are." But after the first shock people like that s.o. comes up to them just for the reason that you meant them as a person. But mostly they get sceptical - what does she want from me? Does she want to sell something , is she aggressively religious or just depressed? These thoughts and that skeptical moment was and is still quiet hard for me to stand. I try to think of it as something normal and let it behind me, but whenever i start moving towards strange people i have to push myself very hard going over this point. Mostly its worth doing though. I guess the discomfort comes from the fact that you are judged from the very first moment- and who likes beeing judged?

Some of the people where I rang the doorbell i didnt tell that i am doing a project and some i did. now its easier for me to meet the people that i straightly told that i am doing a project in getting to know my neighbours.

7. Bake a cake and bring some cake to the neighbours.

that was my most successful strategy getting to know my neighbours.

The trick was to put some cake on a plate bring it to the neighbours , and telling them that they can bring back the plate whenever they feel ready for it. So for sure you will have a second meeting.

What was very nice is that all the plates came back with something new on it- some also put on some cake for me, some combined it with other sweets, once it came back while i wasnt at home. the guy turned back again a day later , only to tell me that he liked it very much that i rang on his door.

8. How to dress- present yourself ringing on a neighbours door.
som people think the first 20 seconds are deciding the rest of a relation to other people.... after thinking a while about that i was a bit confused in my head about the question how do i want to appear to my neighbours.

9. If the straight way telling them that you want to get to know them doesn’t help, invent a person that should live in the house, that you want to find that person, cause you care for a parcel the postman handed to you.

my straight neighbour next door used to get a lot of parcel with a post delivery service, she was never at home wehen the postman rang but me. what happened was that at one point I had a more intensed relationship to the postman of my neighbour than to my neighbours. For that reason i had the idea with the invented parcel person. her interest for parcels gave me the hope to get in touch with her using a parcel.

But finally she moved out. A new girl moved in.

10. Find the guy with the Volvic Bottles. If you find him, refer to that moment you met him, people like when you remember them, perhaps he did the same, so you will like to hear he remember you. It’ll please you.

I never met this guy again...

11. Make a date at the Chinese-doctor working downstairs.
I couldnt help getting ill since i started the project while i was at home. But he to gets parcels from time to time, so we do have nice chatts on the door.

12. Go to the Computershop and be interested in doing a course in ten-finger writing.
there is something interesting going on. the computershop almost never was open, and when i came home after a longer working period he was gone, now there seems to move in some young people

13. Find out about the special knowledge of your neighbours. Ask them about their profession and their hobbies. Be interested in that, you might be surprised. Ask them to show or to teach you something.
while bringing up cake to my neighbours i got to know nina and björn. he is studiing something with housing management. This knowledge seems to very usefull in a neighbourhood. They where the first that invited me immediately for a coffee in their kitchen. They have a cute cat and I offered to babysit it. Nina gave me sweets for christmaspresent. I felt very good.

14. Finding out where Inga Fettig lives and bring the parcel to her place which the postman handed out to me. Try to talk to her at least 10 minutes on the door. Suggest to drink a coffee at the time. one day the postman left a parcel for inga on my door but she didnt came to fetch it. in fact I missed her, my boyfriend opened the door and I wasnt their when she came to fetch the parcel. So I walked over to her with cake again. It was at friday noon and she was cleaning her flat. She was so surprised that she let me in and drank a coffee with me. She too got a cat. We had a very nice talk and I asked her to come to the presentation of the project, she said yes, wrote it in her agenda and didnt come. For a while I was very disappointed, but then she came back with a selfmadecake on my plate, I was very charming. I dont meet her very often in the house. And I never went up to her again.

15. Invite people to your place
well my housingstyle is quiet chaotic. whenever someone comes up on my door i feel ashamed to invite people to that messy place.

and something I realised at one point while trying out these strategies. - I love my privacy. To ring on a foreign doorbell is something deeply intimate. To invite people is to direct a big play- you choose the setting, you choose the characters that should meet, you create a situation, and so you are prepared and control a situation . But if you just ring on a door spontanious as a neighbour nobody is prepared but you.

for example i rang on a door at noon with some cake. A guy opened the door, he was really irritated by me and the first sentence was- i am working at home- i didnt asked why he was at home or what he was doing at that time. So he made sure, that hes a working man, jusitfiing beeing at home at that time.

how can you do it a fair game? and where do we start to control situations- or do we get to know each other as much as we dont controll a situation?

16. Cook a soup for the neighbours, see what difference is between cake- and soupoffers.

17. Ask your neighbours to come to the presentation of your project.

18. Ask for help from your neighbours ( e.g. for baking a cake). Bring back a piece of cake on a plate , he will bring back the plate, so you will meet garantied three times!

19. Bring the common space of the house to live!
Play something in the main floor, animate people to join in . have coffee and cake with you to share.
I didnt dare doing so until now, because i would do it in my own house. I have the feeling i should now people a bit better before doing something like that.

20. Care for a better atmosphere in the house: Do something for the others in the house in the common spaces of the house. For e.g. put some flowers on the stairs.

21. Make yourself visible! Make music and dance in the yard of the house where people can watch you from their windows. Now they noticed you and can finally ask what the hell you where doing in the yard.
I had this plan- whenever I bring down the garbage i would sing loudly a song, people must notice me after a while

22. Do something together with your neighbours in the house to get to know your neighbours

Please continue the list!

5th of july, 2008
now after half a year from starting my project it didnt change too much in the house. Well I was very often out of my house within the last 6 month working in other towns. In a way Of course it got friendlier in my house, i have nice small talks when i meet some of the people in my house, but still i dont know everyone. The question arose if i really want to get to know everyone,or better what does it mean to me "getting to know someone" How far is my interest for the persons around my going ?When i started i had this desire not beeing isolated in a house where i live. But while working on that project I also realised that I use my home to recover myself. That i dont want to communicate all the time with everyone.

people block a lot of communication in their everydaylife to control situations. but i guess the lucky moment is the moment where something unexpected is happening.

in february i started a project where i squatted a waitingroom on a trainplattform. While doing it i very often thought about the situation standing in front of the doorbell of mey neighbour. Somehow these projects are very connected and i could go much further with meeting people. here is a descpription on the project. later on i will fill in some comments.


in the middle of platform 17/20 at Lichtenberger Station, Berlin, there`s an old waitingroom. Mondayclub17/20 is squatting this empty space. Until july Katja Fillmann is opening once or twice a month a salon. Every first monday of the month we are transforming this waitingroom into something else: a space filled with live for the travellers and neighbours of Lichtenberger Station inviting people to partizipate or just to observe.
mondayclub is a theatrical occupation of the social and geographic empty space in urban space, a free space where collective everydayriatuals( breakfast, dancing, wellnessroom...) meets artistic interventions, and bring the waitingroom into a different context.
A project of Katja Fillmann

supported by

Katja Schmidt, Viktor Scholz, Christine Rollar, Carolin Hochleichter, Beatrice Fleischlin, Lucia Schelling, Moritz Tittel, Michael Wetzlaff

1. Termin: Mo: 4. february , 06.00Uhr- 10.00Uhr: coffeedisco at platform 17/20
Between departure and arrival we are dancing with travellers into the monday morning. We are listening to the very special Mondaysongmenue and sharing a cup of coffee

people were quite irritated when i came up and invited them to come to the waitingroom with me for a coffee and listen to some music, many refused. It was very very cold and dark, but the waitingroom appeared as a beautiful surreal fata morgana with the a smell between coffee, pee and room freshener.
The Kiew-Express was 50 minutes late, that was
our adavantage. i had a very special talk with a 23 year old guy from kiew waiting for his wife. he explained how he get out of a criminal career and how he felt arriving in germany.
later on some people started to dance. on the picture beneath I met a group of Jevovah people coming from kiew on a mission journey coming from mallorca and building up a Jehovah community in Kiew. Spontanously a woman shared a package of praline with the other people waiting in the room. One russian woman stood for half an hour in the entrance of the room and only repeated the word "West Berlin" many many times.

A chinese guy working for 3 months in berlin tells his story and try to teach me some chinese. later on I am sitting together with a vietnam family on a bench sharing coffee. A night worker around 50 wants to hear harder music, I try to give my best, but its not enough for him.

2. Termin: 3. March, 06.00Uhr- 10.00Uhr: Zen Oase Lichtenberg
Relaxation at the microwaveshrine with our guests and a little tired smile for the people running through rush hour. two geishas presenting a teeceremony and inviting you for a massage on platform 17/20..

I found out a structure about when which people are arriving at the monadyclub: at 6.00h people stranded from the night, night workers, going home ar coming. later the worker, students rushing through the station. People coming to the kiew Express to fetch family and friends arriving on the patform, or people that exchange things at the train, sending or receiving things to or from Kiew. Then older people, people with children going to the countryside coming along.

I am meeting natascha, shes living with her husband in berlin for 3 years, she feels lonely and searching for friedns , shes fascinated for every asian stuff. i give her a handmassage and she is telling the story how she got to know her husband . In the end she gives me a little mirror as a present and wants to come back the next time.

tamara tells the story how she came to germany to marry a german guy without knowing him. first she only talked to christine, then she is telling us all her story.

Uwe, a puppetplayer, is very moved. he helps us spontanously to clean up the room, before he took a rest in the window laying down and having a nap. Lucia is having a long talk with him.

I am wearing a geishacostume- obviously i am making a good first impression- much more people start to talk with me.

3./4. Termin: 7. April: 6.00Uhr-10.00 Uhr und 16.00Uhr bis 18.00 Uhr: Книжная биржа обмена - Bookcrossing Lichtenberg
mondayclub is presenting a livingroom on platform 17/20. Sit down, and read a book...

people are coming back. YOu can talk about the last month. A group of canadian traveller starts to read out spontanously out of their diaries. A discussion starts between 3 russians about russian literature.

We start to build up a gallery, so that people can find themselfes again and share the memories of the older "cometogehter" in the mondayclub. Teroom is growing . evdery new event is keeping elements from the older ones, so that you can see what happened before.- we are producing a history of our space.

5./6. Termin Mo:5. Mai 6.00 Uhr – 10.00 uhr 1. Lichtenberger breakfasthelpline und 18.00 Uhr-20.00 uhr Dinner at the platform
we`ll treat you well, take a breakfast and drop in for a special diner cooked on platform 17/20

A lady drops in at 6.15h in the morning. shes on her way to her fatherwho stays in hospital. hes very ill. shes sharing her fears about him to die . i talk to her about my own fathers illness. why do strangers tell me these things?

On this days we never had so many people joining us. i guess its because sharing food is the easist and most pragmatic thing people like doing.

In the evening, when we cook the dinner people stay very long and a kind of table community is establishing in the waitingroom, people chatt with each other, or just sitting next to each other looking curiously around.
we share the best soljanka recipe

7. TerminMo: 2. juni: 6.00 Uhr –10.00 und 15.00uhr bis 18.00 Uhr – Aloha Sommer!
mondayclub is transforming into a beach, and you can make your first holidaypictures in this monday morning rushhours.
we invite people to produce their first holiday impressions . people could arrange themselves with props and i asked them where they would like to travel most. then i took photos and offered them to write a postcard pretending to be their "urlaubsbekanntschaft" some also liked me to have me on the photo as their holidayflirt- i enjoyed it.

7. Kicken was geht. We play tablesoccer with the traveller and watching the game from yesterday- germany against turkei. Also preparing for the game against austria

9. Termin: Freitag 4. Juli: Feierabend!: the firstLichtenberger streetmusicianfestival at platform 17/20
6.00 Uhr bis 10.00 Uhr warm up und konzert ab 19.00 uhr
before mondayclub is closing , we are inviting all the streetmusicians, hanging aroúnd in berlin underground for a festival.

Mondaclub 17/20 is presented within the project Bahnhof lichtenberg of theater an der Parkaue, berlin.
the railwaystation Berlin Lichtenberg was opened 1881 and longtime it was a very important traffic centre- " berlins door to the east", the secret mainstation of the DDR until the 80ties. Today Bahnhof Lichtenberg is one of the more unknown stations. mostly used for regional trains, a working place for bakers, traders as well as a place for homeless, an everyday place. With this panopticum the theatre is dealing. the theatre asked artists, theatre makers and photographers to make research on this place and realise projects placed within the station or dealing with the history of this place.