|From the East Side Gallery - painted on the remains of the Berlin Wall|
It's simulation, of course. My one quibble with this work would be that it highlights, through its very celebration of diversity, the one area which intercultural practice has not yet embraced, namely class. However varied our backgrounds, they were all educated, middle-class professions - the sort of jobs that sit readily with language skills and international travel. We may have role-played refugees and starving people, but we did not encounter them - even though some of the former were right on the doorstep in Kreuzberg. I don't blame CRN for that at all - it's just something that has been preying on my mind for a while now.
It's to do with walls. Berlin, in many ways, is the symbol of an inclusive idealism - its notorious wall either demolished or making space for optimistic murals. But I have also recently seen Beirut, where there are deep, extreme economic divisions that accentuate cultural difference; and I have thought about those refugees' journey from Palestine, where there is still a literal wall dividing their people from their neighbours. I have also been in Belfast, where it was explained to me that the people are not yet ready for the "Peace Walls" to come down. And last summer we worked with refugees from the Western Sahara, where the occupying power, Morocco, has erected the longest wall in the world - and nobody in the West even talks about it.
I'm hugely grateful for the week in Berlin: and for the way it highlighted how very far there is to go.