On ‚Chronicle of a Place –
Cultural Education for People Living in Refugee Camps‘
Interview by Martina Pachaly

Jenny Brockmann: Chronicle of a Place

Background of the Exhibition – An Interview with Jenny Brockmann
by Martina Pachaly

Martina Pachaly: How did you come up with the idea of doing this project with people from refugee camps?

Jenny Brockmann: I have been pursuing the art project ‚Chronicle of a Place‘ for several years. It is a performance-installation project for which I travelled to Istanbul, New York and Tel Aviv in quest of finding traces of German emigrants in these cities and worked on a description of the location by means of drawings, photography, collages, collection of materials and weather data. When I was invited by Stromnetz GmbH in 2015 to develop a project for cultural education out of my artistic practice, it was natural for me to expand the project ‚Chronicle of a Place‘ and to include people who immigrated here. I developed a project of cultural education for people from refugee camps in Berlin. The plan was to go on two excursions during the project week, one to the Botanical Garden, the other one to Plänterwald, a Berlin forest, and after, to draw what was seen and experienced, to develop forms from that, to be made into spray stencils and to be transferred to junction boxes in public space.

Martina Pachaly: How did you come into contact? Did you just go to a camp and ask who would be willing to participate?

Jenny Brockmann: Altogether, I was able to offer five project weeks in 2016. During these, I collaborated with four different camps throughout the city of Berlin. Agreement with the camp’s main persons responsible and collaboration with social pedagogues or teachers on site, who already were in touch with the residents and and had knowledge of the infrastructure in the camp, was important here. In some cases, I implemented the project with closed groups, such as study groups. To some extent, other residents, who became aware of the project through already participating cohabitants, were allowed to join.Translators and helpers associated with the camps accompanied the projects. Each camp’s respective direction supported us by having rooms and other things provided for them, thus making our work easier.

Martina Pachaly: What particular experiences did you gather while dealing with people who are refugees?

Jenny Brockmann: On the first day of the project, we always went to the Botanical Garden in search for plants from the Middle East. The Botanical Garden, with its beautifully designed and equipped conservatories, enables us to become immersed in another world. To many, drawing showed a new possibility for expression. The excursion to Plänterwald on our second field trip day always had something special. The tranquility that emanates from this piece of nature surprisingly found in the middle of Berlin influenced everybody. In my experience, most people, despite having a shelter here, are still fleeing. They still are terrified of persecution, they worry about relatives and friends they had to leave in the war zone and waiting for the necessary papers to work and live independently in Germany is grueling. Life is unstable and insecure and can uncover bottomless pits under their feet at any time, be it due to news from home or news on site. The project gave the opportunity to escape from this troubled everyday life and become acquainted with the city in the way that people from Berlin experience it every day. I received lots of warmth and thanks as a feedback to this exchange.