Tracing circumstantial magic in the city of Berlin.
Words by Izabela Łęska & artwork by Izabela Łęska
I took a series of walks in the city of Berlin. I go out into the city and I let the city’s rhythm guide my direction.. I savor the act of walking itself and I record the exact course of each walk. This results in a linear image, which takes on the form of an urban drawing.
I am tempted by the city, which at specific points in space and time spits out subtle signs: becoming a source of subjective symbols and hints. . This process manifests a personal mythology, appearing in a form of specific choices, preferences and decisions.
I appeal to the surrealist concept of an objective coincidence. The decision to pursue something, even something very elusive, gives vent to the inner impulses that coexist with the reality. I trace the magie circonstancielle – circumstantial magic.
‘The drawing faithfully follows the walk. The line grows with each elementary decision (to go left, to go right, to follow someone) becoming a decisive moment directly influencing the final piece. I may be inspired by a man, a piece of trash on the sidewalk, a word spoken in a foreign language.
21 352 steps
The acorns are falling from the trees onto my head. Pasewalker Strasse. A passive walker. Empty shops, abandoned bars are like space that laughs at people. Ha ha ha, I have thrown you away from here! I remember the names of some streets, I pass the others without being able to remember them. When I encounter a familiar place, I turn quickly in the opposite direction in order to learn something new. I find my way to the beach volleyball pitch. I am surprised that the gate is opened. I enter through one gate, I exit through the other. Some couple walks barefoot on the sand, they have arranged a holiday imitation for themselves. I learn some of the German words. Fleich. Meat. I think it’s wonderful – to relocate.
23 173 steps
Heavy traffic, a lot of exhaust fumes and lots of sun. All people seem to leave their bikes very freely in the streets and I am always worried about mine. It works like a filter on your eyes. There’s something you don’t see, and then suddenly you start seeing it. I can choose what I will pay my attention to now and see just that. For example building bricks. People’s shoes, their noses. I pass a lady who has her hands folded as if in a prayer. I follow her for a while. She begins to clap and again returns to the same arrangement of her hands. A bell rings at school. It feel so good not to be obligated to respond to it. Some guy is reciting something in German and says good morning to me, an ambulance passes by. On the sidewalks there are small gardens sometimes – with sunflowers, tomatoes, pumpkins. I collect the first chestnuts this year from the street, some of them have drifted by bikes, some by trams, I collect the ones that are left. A lot of beautiful people pass me. An ambulance again. I read the names of all the streets on my way.
8 815 steps
Flohmarkt in Mauerpark. I let the crowd carry me. A whole galaxy of colors and scents. Spectacular! I feel very happy. I think that to fall in love with someone in a big city is a real challenge. I listen to the karaoke.
9 771 steps
My friend came up once with the title for his first forthcoming book – Pockets full of chestnuts. I have a whole backpack of chestnuts. Across the city there are many trolleys from supermarkets. You could go with one of them through the city just like in the store and put in it what you find on your way. The river and the swans, one of them heavily flips its wings and sort of jumps on the surface of the water. A street of the Grimm Brothers. On the street clock it’s 10:43. I am waiting until it changes to 44. In front of me there’s a big roundabout, I pass four crosswalks in a row. Suddenly I recognize the square where I was five years ago. I suppose I have a good memory for places. I’m trying to make an old mechanism on the street work. It does work! The water falls and I wash my hands. A lady who is wearing the same shoes as mine is passing me. I’m fascinated by bicycles that were abandoned in the city, some have broken wheels, stolen frames, sometimes only the lock is left. My dad told me yesterday about the concept of the random walk. Apparently it is possible to mathematically solve the probability with which one goes through the city, and that each of us would do pretty much the same.
16 300 steps
I reach Eisenman’s monument. The power of simplicity, tingling in the back of my head. I’m here in a labyrinth and I walk only in straight lines. I absolutely don’t believe that everyone could go through here in a similar way! I eat a crêpe with sugar, for the same one but few hundred meters closer to the city center I would pay a lot more. On a passage one of the traffic lights elements is hanging so that it’s impossible to see whether it’s green already. I wander between big, tall buildings. It’s a bit chilly today. Streets with female names – Charlotte, Hannah. I imagine how they might look like. I watch wedding dresses, I trample autumn leaves and listen to the rustling. In a park someone is madly swinging on a swing. I find a whole town of allotments, it’s another labyrinth. On the path I have a small meeting with a squirrel.
8 137 steps
With G. in an art gallery, we climb ladders. It is a pity that this height difference will not be registered.
5 717 steps
It is somehow very nice in here. A police booth. We land on an evening dance tango party. I walk under a huge willow tree. With T. we observe how the homeless are stealing a sack of potatoes exposed before the store. Streets begins to be wreathed by dusk. Lots of shops with beautiful displays, but I think that the new untouched things seem to be somehow disgusting.
I am today in a district where my mother spent a month. A twin story in another time. I watch reddish apples on the trees. Strasse 42. Someone probably ran out of ideas for street names. I find that some of the streets in the city are duplicated. Pasewalker Strasse already was already there.