Helmut Kohl’s new friend, Mr President Mikhal Gorbatchev, embraced the little German girl that brought flowers to him and held it up. The crowd of people on the West German market place was applauding euphorically. The picture on TV transmitted the strong image of the beginning of a new era into my grandmother’s kitchen. All of us were moved strongly. For a moment I – an eleven year old boy then – held on my breath.
We grew up in the time of great projects: The end of the post war order opened an outlet both for making great things and for dreaming. I was still a child when Helmut Kohl showed Gorbatchev the villages and market places of his home, fourteen years old, when he built up his ‘unified Germany in a unified Europe’, fourteen, when George Bush set up the ‘new world order’ in the deserts of Kuwait and fifteen when the Soviet Union collapsed in favour of Boris Yeltsin’s independent Russia.
In the centre of everything stood Berlin. No longer the delicate front city of the cold war order and drunk of the state of historic euphoria, the city saw itself metamorphosing into an urban Acadia of a coming Golden Age. Great times for great men, who wanted to leave some visible marks of themselves to the posterity: Great times for bold local politicians, who made use of the chance to reshape the city’s face in a single election period.
Great times also for urban planners who planned and built euphorically for a population expected to redouble during the coming two decades. The centre of the city mutated into a landscape of endless construction sides and deep on the bottom of the excavations grew an unknown but glorious future…
Ten years later, 25 years old: The great time for great projects is over. Definitely. Houses and offices built for the expected millions of new Berliners are empty, since they never arrived. The construction desert is gone expect to a few remaining excavations. We occupied the buildings which grew out of the mysterious dark. But where we expected to find the great glorious future we only found sterile shopping malls and office spaces. Drawing plans and visiting construction sides makes fun, but the results can be disappointing.
Since we have learnt that in the best case things will end with a shopping mall, we became sceptic about the great projects of our great men. And even if something would turn out to be well made: In plotkistic terms success stories (smiling faces, happy families, proud politicians…) wouldn’t really make up a lot of interesting material. More interesting are the moments of failure: As more fantastic a project is, as more fantastic will be the failing!
Different variations of failing are the raw line which goes through this issue of Plotki. Our main focus is not the moment of failing, but the relationship between idea and result: The corrosion of a little girl’s dream by the power of reality, moments of self-deception, the fears to fail and the changing (failing?) meaning of political symbols and ceremonies. Another association are hidden positive aspects failing contains. Failing as a chance! As a chance to gain insight, as the proof for the vital imperfection of our being and as a condition for our life to be exciting. Something of this option is also captured in the pages following.
Back to Berlin, the capital of failed projects. As I said: We are fed up by great projects. We miss the open spaces in the centre which are now covered by offices houses of concrete and glass. Discovering the secrets of the borrows farer off, which are still untouched by any great projects, we find places, where the (still inspiring) spirit of projects is still in the air. In some borrows of the city it is almost a question of good behaviour to have some interesting projects going. The projects developed in backyards of run down houses are tiny. We like them since their failing or succeeding won’t change much. Plotki is one of them and a great alternative to long speeches about international understanding.
But be aware, great projects are striking back: Since the budget of Berlin had been ruined by the great projects (of the great men?) in the Nineties, the city stands at the incline to bankruptcy. One of the victims are the universities, where the project tutorial program had been devoted to the cutting list. Without the support of the university, Plotki is going to sail into dumpy waters. But hopefully somehow we’ll manage not to fail.