Donnerstag, 15. Januar 2009

frozen platz

The Russians haven't been making themselves popular in 2009. Cold winds have been blowing in from the East, metaphorically and literally, causing pipes across Europe to freeze up, metaphorically and literally. The taps at nurbn headquarters have been running red. Berlin's ageing water system coughing up the rust of recent history.

A welcome side-effect of this meteo-political cold snap was the freezing over of Kreuzberg's Urban Hafen last weekend. Stumbling across it unexpectedly on Saturday revealed groups of skaters and sledders who had obviously been waiting for this, claiming the new territory for themselves as they carved signatures into the ice. The rest stood by, unsure as to the stability of this temporary surface. Occasionaly some would skitter across on two to four limbs, dodging skaters and imaginary cracks, reaching for the other side of the canal just because of the novelty factor.

Ice tells a great story. Two types, one opaque and the other totally transparent, pressed against each other at either bank. In places the clear ice forced fjords and harbours into the milky ice, and in others islands of white hovered eerily in the sea of glass. The clear ice, which presumably thawed and quickly refroze into juxtaposition, was a display case of moments. Leaves hung cryogenically in the middle, whilst others flowed past below. Cracks belied the effects of gravity. Patterns traced the path of metal. Brilliant jellyfish clung to impact points, capturing and visualising explosions of energy. The entire surface was a palimpset, a long exposure. Strange sounds swept through the space, the skaters left whispers that travelled through the ice, the ice wobbled and occasionally groaned. But it didn't break.

A day later the secret was out. The clear surface was criss-crossed. Large groups of people were now exploring the transient public space. Many more groups of people, it should be noted, than would be exploring any similarly sized public space on any similar day in Berlin. Many more were the impromptu conversations and encounters also. People had a new common ground, as fleeting as it might be.

This week the Russians switched the pipes back on and turned the fan back off. Our magical frozen Platz has moved on and should soon be spilling out in to the North Sea, where its stories will gradually fall to bed.

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