B_Tours 2015: Berlin and Leipzig

Last updated: 31 July 2018

2017 update: interesting post on how participation works

This year’s walking inspiration from Germany – see posts on B_Tour Berlin and Belgrade in 2014. Twitter: @b_tour_festival | Facebook.

B_Tour Berlin, now described as “a new hybrid form of public art that provide locals with a new perspective of their city and an opportunity to experience it differently”, ran from 26-28 June, with the theme of Re-placing the periphery. 

First up, B_Talk #1 around the festival theme:

The terms “center” and “periphery” are conceptual constructs denoting not only geographical but social, economic and cultural formations. Representatives of artistic and academic institutions will illustrate the challenges these conceptual constructs bear and present their approaches to creating new and thought-provoking conceptualizations of contemporary spaces. Which are their approaches to the problematization of the terms “periphery” and “center” and why is this extremely relevant to every and any city inhabitant?

Presented in cooperation with Ogino Knauss, who run a Re-centering Periphery project, working with VJing as a technique for creating open narratives and developing creative and critical ways to observe, describe and perform the city.

Come in, Vestegnen and Udkantsdanmark!

Next, B_Talk #2 on  Touristification! New ideas for sustainable tourism:

Museum tours, “underground” or “alternative” tours and traditional sightseeing have become common day practices in most urban environments. This panel will investigate the more nuanced effects of tourism on the city. How does tourism and touristification impact spaces, people and local culture? B_Talk #2 will look at the ways in which tourism can become a more sustainable practice and what could be the role of artistic interventions in redefining and challenging touristic practices.

This is of interest due to the increasing #touristification of Copenhagen, lapped up on all sides at the moment, but fashions change. Plus is there an element of benign ‘Nordicism’ at play? I don’t identify with this fairy tale city, nor does much of the imagery reflect the two thirds of the population who don’t live in the capital (back to B_Talk #1). See too Leipzig’s Hipster Walk (below) – lovely Leipzig has now made it as far as the Guardian’s Alternative Europe series.

See this Barcelona story and Nana Rebhan’s documentary Welcome Goodbye:

15 tours in Berlin, including:

  • Eat the wall – foraging on bikes with two Danes who have MAs in Rhetoric and German Studies from KU
  • Mapping stories on the Ringbahn – “during a 37.5 km journey participants are invited to share their personal memories of, and imagined fantasies about, the stops along the way; these intimate offerings will determine the route of the tour and will be collected and edited into a textual atlas of the city”
  • Plattenbautour (review) – “The ‘Plattenbau’ has a bad reputation. It is perceived as anonymous and boring. The names of individual Plattenbauten seem almost scientific – PH16, WBS70, M10, Q3A –  yet people live in them and call these strange architectural forms home. How do people turn concrete jungles into liveable spaces? What are the small scale, but crucial, techniques they use to bend the alienating into something familiar?…Boring was never so exciting.”
  • A sesnsual expedition to urban voids –  the hidden magic of linear district heating pipes, abandoned industrial landmarks and community gardens within GDR housing blocks
  • Shadow – seen this before, several times; “After a brief exchange of text messages at the beginning of the tour, the participant will find themselves setting out on an adventure in the footsteps of a stranger. At the end there will be a meeting and a surprise. Bring an open mind, curiosity and a phone.”

No B_Tour Belgrade this year, but instead we have B_Tour Leipzig in cooperation with Tanzarchiv Leipzig, from 2-12 July with the theme of movement in urban space, reflecting on current perspectives of city development and stories of public spaces in Leipzig.

13 tours, including, although pretty much all of them are inspiring:

  • Ghost Tracks: Karl-Heine-Straße – the hidden tracks of the urban space, traces left in the present by ghosts from the past and the future; the audience is led through the so called “booming districts“ of Plagwitz and Lindenau via a GPS-based audio tour
  • Kaufhaus Ury – performative installation, reconstructing the ground plans of what was once Leipzig’s biggest department store owned by a Jewish family
  • Hipster Walk – some people call Leipzig ”the better Berlin“ while others have used the terms ”Hypezig” and ”Likezig”; the walk brings a literary, ironic perspective to the notion and status of ”hype” districts and streets which no longer lie on the periphery of public awareness; available via Talk Walks
  • The Living Boundary – “The airport is the ultimate symbol of the modern world. It is an inbetween space that represents the contemporary hunger for speed and information. Kursdorf is an island of memories, nostalgia and dreams hidden behind the highway noise barrier at the edge of the Leipzig/Halle Airport.”
  • The Monday Walks – follows the Leipzig Montagsdemos of 1989 on the city Ring; audio tour, based on interviews with eyewitnesses aimed at triggering the imagination of participants about how urban spaces can be re-appropriated as public sphere, for the expression of democratic rights and as a place of political action
  • Nightwalkers – follow the traces of countless workers in the former industrial area of Lindenau
  • Phonorama – self guided tour through the Clara-Zetkin-Park, where the Sächsisch-Thüringische Industrie- und Gewerbeausstellung took place in 1897
  • Silent Walk – cross the Waldstraßen district, once the main Jewish quarter of the city

Also four B_talks, on art and activism (3 July), urban sounds and imaginary spaces (4 July), creative capital(ism) (8 July) and tracing histories of public space in Leipzig (12 July), not tweeted.

Finally, B_events in Leipzig include a workshop entitled Traces of walking: creating an imaginary sound book of Leipzig, with noTours, augmented aurality:

Jewish wildlife recording pioneer Ludwig Koch made a ‘sound book’ of Leipzig mid 1930s which was intentionally destroyed in WWII. We recreate this sound book (imaginary maps, urban interventions and site-specific soundscapes) retracing Koch’s paths through the city and his urban and natural recordings, inspired by his memoires. Participants are introduced to methods of artistic and sound walking and field recording, using noTours, a free online editor, to create their own sound walks.


CPH.dk: Copenhagen Airport

What could be more emblematic of a country than its airport? After over a year without flying I’m blowing my saintly ecological footprint (vegetarian public transport user with district heating) in two trips in December. So let’s take a look at Copenhagen Airport, also known as CPH.dk.

On the island of Amager and a stone’s throw (15 mins drive) from here, but with no local train on Amager the usual way to get from a to b is via c, ie by going into town and out again. Flinging the journey into Rejseplanen (“where will you go?”) and knocking out trains reveals an obvious bus and metro option I’ve never considered – bus to Frederiksberg, metro to the airport. Same price, takes slightly longer, but feels marginally more sensible and avoids central station hell. (Bus to Frederiksberg is actually one of my favourite zone anomalies. The bus stop, and several before it, is in zone 1, but walk across the road to the metro station and you are still in zone 2 and can travel several stops further. Go further, pay less.) Or maybe I’ll just cadge a lift in the dog taxi off my partner. (Update: how about a third option with two changes – buses to Ørestad, rail to the airport?)

You can read about the airport’s history on the CPH.dk site, some pretty basic English errors going on there. Founded in 1925, a new terminal, designed by Vilhelm Lauritzen, was completed in 1939. Seen from above apparently it’s the shape of an aircraft wing (pics), but aren’t they all. In use only until 1960, in 1999 the building was moved the 3.8km to Vilhelm Lauritzen Allé 2, where it is now used for VIP arrivals, conferences etc. It’s listed and regarded as “a masterpiece of Nordic functionalism and international modernism”.

When you arrive at CPH.dk you certainly know you are in Scandinavia. A booklet I found somewhere celebrates the opening of Finger D in 2001, the first part of a proposed Terminal 4, and the train station. The aim is for a ren og rolig (clean and calm) airport, simple and functional. It’s a good taster of the prevailing minimalist style for new arrivals, as is the station, which seems to have its own microclimate and exists in a permanent cold, dark and grey state. All in all, not really somewhere you’d want to linger, and rather different from Heathrow, with its lary carpets and dire warnings against rabies.

Bypassing the land of passion and luxury (duty free; who thought that up, such a misnomer for anything vaguely Scandi), shops with nothing to buy and over-priced eating opportunities (could it all possibly be a metaphor?) there are a number of artworks which may be a better way of passing your time:

  • Terminal 1 – dates from 1969 and is for domestic flights; worth a look for Robert Jacobsen’s iron sculpture of Pegasus (1993) just outside and Freddy Fraek’s AbNorma (1989) at Gate 6
  • Terminal 2 – originally from 1960 but has seen a lot of rebuilding; the home of budget airlines with fewer artistic interventions, but by the car park building is Henrik Starcke’s sculpture De Fire Vinde (the four winds) from 1964
  • 2014-12-12 14.08.55

    the girls keeping an eye on things

    Terminal 3 – from 1998, used by SAS and its more pricey friends:

    • at the top of the escalator as you pass to security is Hanne Varming’s bronze Pigerne i lufthavnen from 1999 casting an eye over the people struggling with the self check-in machines, just a little folkelig but a nice touch
    • Finger A – glass frieze of flying people, horses and centaurs by Frans Widerberg and 8.9m diameter mosaic of a labyrinth in marble and granite in the rotunda by Jørn Larsen, both from 1998
    • Finger C – built for non-Schengen passengers in 2001, on two levels with a balcony, lots of daylight and a Jens-Flemming Sørensen fountain
    • Finger D – at Gate D2 there are glass birds designed by Faroese Trondur Patursson in 2001
  • chairs:
    • in the arrivals area designed by Poul Kjærholm
    • Hans Wegner’s lufthavnsstole from 1960 can be seen throughout, with a modernised version from the beginning of the 1990s in Finger C; also in Finger C are Jen Ammundsen’s chairs from 1978; blue, taller, corrugated effect
    • main chairs these days are Twin (resting; more blue) and Partout (upright) by Johnny Sørensen and Rud Thygesen from 1995/6
    • in the lounge area on the second floor of Terminal 2 are a few Take off chairs by Thomas Alken, yet more blue with a matching foot stool
  • the floor – uses merbau and jatoba (me neither) from plantations in South East Asia and the Windies, aimed at lending a warmer effect to all that steel and glass
  • outside restaurant A Hereford Beefstouw there’s a large bronze bull designed by Janis Strupulis in 1996, an artwork and not just an advertising gimmick…he also offers two salmon which can be seen in the Seafood Bar
  • NEW spotted in January 2015, classic Københavner grøn benches in the baggage reclaim area, and in April 2016 even as a #copenhagenbench meme – see my photo

Back on the ground, my 2001 booklet has of course been overtaken by events, not least the opening of the aptly named budget Finger F, or CPH Go, in 2010. No aesthetic niceties here, there’s  even horrors! a linoleum floor. Likewise my destination, Edinburgh, has changed since I was last there just over two years ago. The security area, admittedly too small to accommodate the levels of traffic the city now attracts, has been transformed into all nine circles of hell as part of a £25 million extension. And there’s a tram into town!


Bruno de Wachter walks round airports:

The airport cuts a hole in the landscape. That’s why it is represented as a shaded surface on the map…In order to describe an airport, you have to draw a circle around it. Walking transforms a line on the map into a discovery. In order to discover an airport, you have to walk around it.

He hasn’t done CPH yet, but in 2005 Gåastand took a stroll around the perimeter. Certainly the walk to the cheap car park gives an idea of the scale of the operation, spreading across what remains of old Amager like a virus.

Update: Diamond Geezer has upped the ante by walking the Heathrow flightpath (map | LHR operations). A bit of speedy research has unearthed CPH’s area & runway systems, which boldly states that “aircraft approaches and take-offs mainly taking place offshore” (it doesn’t feel like that when walking in Kastrup) and a section on noise.

But airports have a special appeal as well, existing between time and place as a non-place everyone by definition wants to leave, and where there are few people who aren’t on the time schemes of somewhere else. In A week at the airport Alain de Botton, writer in residence at Heathrow, describes airports as “imaginative centres of our civilisation”, while in The global soul Pico Iyer, living “for a while” at LAX, says:

Airports are both a city’s business card and its handshake…like little dolls within the larger dolls of the city…a gift store with culture shock, the product of a mixed marriage between a border crossing and a shopping mall.

And from Edgelands: “Plane-spotting, unlike trainspotting, is a quintessentially edgelands pastime. As boys growing up in the Seventies, we remember the thrill of visiting an airport. But we never flew.” In my family, we went to the restaurant. See Manchester Airport’s Runway Visitor Park, and, on another level, Tempelhof (psychogeography | story).

Copenhagen Airport, immortalised in song by Annette Heick in 2007, the same year that Scooch flew the flag for the UK:


Gåafstand’s State of Exception

State of Exception/Undtagelsestilstand from Gåafstand, part of Copenhagen Art Week, explored the world of international diplomacy, embassies and the legal exceptions which apply on their enclosed territories. I had planned to go, but being home alone with the beags all weekend even I couldn’t face three walks in one day. Lightweight! Luckily there was a review in Information, plus a report by Gåaftstand.

Charlotte Bagger Brandt of Råderum, curator of Copenhagen Art Week, gave Information the rationale for their guided tours: public space is more than just a space, it’s also a political space for personal expression. A walk can be an intervention, with all its participants contributing to the knowledge the work creates. By walking and thinking together one is part of a creative process. Urban space is both a physical and a mental space created by our thoughts and glances. When you walk you relate yourself physically to the space in a conscious way. She didn’t mention the soul moving at three miles an hour, but still.

During the walk Palle Roslyng-Jensen (Saxo Institut) threw in some pearls on the history of Copenhagen’s embassy quarter, for example that the British and Spanish embassy buildings were built by gullaschbaroner during the First World War, and that the American embassy, opened in 1954, followed Bauhaus principles. The British embassy, the stronghold of the Nazis during the Second World War, is today one of the most fortified – I can confirm this. Arriving just outside office hours to pick up my new passport I felt like I was in an episode from The Americans. Embassies are both islands and oases – a reception at the Belgian embassy in April was a cultural shot in the arm.

The tour followed Ho Chi Minh Sti, a path between Lipkesgade and Bergensgade forming a shortcut from Kastelsvej to Kristianiagade, originally conceived as a boulevard. Dubbed thus during demos at the American Embassy in 1970, the path was also used by diplomats to go discreetly from one embassy to the other during assorted international crises in the 1980s. The tour finished at Kastellet, where Nis Rømer explored the philosophical background to states of exception as defined by Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt, who saw dictatorship as the purest form of legitimised power. States of exception can also be found in the contemporary Danish state, in particular in the practice of surveillance and monitoring in (undefined) states of war.

In one of those coincidences you can’t plan for, created by the plethora of events in Copenhagen over the summer, the Danish army was celebrating its 400th anniversary at the fountain, so Nis spoke in front of a physical background of tanks and armoured personnel carriers, plus the inevitable øl og pølser. The city showing its layers again.

Wish I’d gone…on a more mundane level I’m interested in issues of semi-private space as states of exception, and frequently reflect on no dogs signs on streets, at shopping centres, as a metaphor for this. Dogs on leash only signs, however, are more likely to be ignored.

At the last Still Walking festival in Birmingham Danielle Blackburn led a loiter, testing the boundaries of access to public space, encountered on the Copenhagen walk with its green metro fences and a newly built wall in a graveyard necessitating a new route.

Byens Hegn, unadorned (photo: Din By)

Gåaftstand is a walking group organised by artists Nis Rømer and Pia Rönicke (profile | ugens kunstner). The blog has posts from 2005-13, with translations on Walking Distance from 2005-10. HEART! We’ve covered many of the same places, such as: airport | Albertslund | Amager | Djursholm (SE) | Indre By (esp on surveillance) | Nokken | Prøvestenen & Refshaleøen | Sydhavn


2011: Nokken | Nokken: hvad er det?


2009: three walks inspired by Denmark’s anti-terror legislation and its relation to the judicial, the legislative and the executive powers: Present the evidence Intelligence – dvs surveillance/CCTV The architecture of anti-terror – see report. På dansk: Fremfør beviset | Efterretninger & Anti-terrorens arkitektur.

2008: The scene of the crime | Gerningsstedet & announcement (Sydhavn)