Maria Thereza Alves

Recipes for Survival
Seeing you

Wake for Berlin


Wake for Berlin, 1999 – 2001


Wake for Berlin was originally made in 2000 for Berlin which was under going intensive urban renewal. With so many construction sites the city is freed from historical movement points. Once the asphalt and stones have been removed the exposed earth contains layers of potential seeds - some centuries old. I dug under the city to find out what was there and researched what events could have potentially contributed to seeds arriving in any one particular site.

Wake is an attempt by a resident of a city to create a public forum at an individual level for active investigations and participation of our place within a space while considering all its possibilities, which history might limit. Investigations of the history of the earth of the site were conducted reflecting the botanical possibilities of the site, while at the same time extending and integrating other possible events and situations, which normally would not be part of a botanical study.

All the seeds in the soil are comprised not only of the above-ground vegetation but also of the seeds to be found below ground, constituting in botanical terms a seed bank, which contains dormant and non-dormant seeds. “Although seeds seem to be dead, they are in fact alive and can remain vital in soil for decades, and even hundreds of years in a state of dormancy” writes the botanist Dr. Heli Jutila. Wake is a search for these seeds and how they might have arrived at the site.

Samples of earth were collected from 17 sites in Berlin:

Charlottenstrasse 33/Französische Strasse 42-44
Voss Strasse /Behrenstrasse
Methfesselstrasse 28-48
Unter den Linden
Schorlemerallee/Engler Alle
Leipziger Platz 11/Leipziger Strasse 1
Platz der Republik
Lehrter Stadtbahnhof
Gleisdreieck Güterbahnhof
Anhalter Bahnhof

The dormant seeds were given a chance to germinate.

An engineer asked me of what use is the historical investigations I made for us today? I think to most of us perhaps none unless it becomes part of our stories. Stories, whether contemporary or not, we need – since they involve our decision of what is of importance. Facts do not speak for themselves at times, but stories do, since we know they involve the perspective of an individual. (In consideration of these attempts of finding the stories, I have not included references and footnotes which would then change the nature of the project.) We tell stories to each other to exchange information, discuss events, and evaluate how to proceed in situations we find ourselves in. I see Wake as a story that we have involved ourselves in simply by walking around Berlin. Each step links us to mini-stories of a passer-by, or of a bird flitting from a bush to a rooftop, perhaps on its way to Africa from Siberia.

Wake for Berlin is not only about extending historical or botanical evidences of Berlin to a more encompassing reality but a daily witnessing of our stories.

Wake for Berlin has never been exhibited in its entirety.

If you wish more material about Wake for Berlin, the history and the specific plants of the investigated sites contact Studio Alves

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