‘’THE FESTIVE WASSERGEIST OF BERLIN’’ in 2014 – A ParaPhotoJournalistic Meditation Into the World of Water of the German Capital
Text/Photoreportage: Spyros Chatzigiannis
The spirit of the water of Berlin flourished in this year’s Wasserfest in the German capital on the 23rd of August. A kaleidoscopic, phantasmagoric and particularly polymorphic celebration, organized by Berlin’s public water company, ”Berliner Wasserbetriebe”, gave the freshest and most refreshing analyses to the big question of managing the H2O source of life on a complex, polymorphic urban ecosystem like that of Berlin.
A colorful array of a hybrid of art – scientific stalls, installations, workshops and music stages took the 70% liquid part of our being into the next stage of its flexible state of being into the 21st century, Berlin – style. Young scientists, armed with lab-test tubes and sci-fi looking technological gadgets passed freely and openly their precious and open-minded scientific knowledge around water issues to the next generation of Berliners: the innumerable children who flooded with their curiosity, playfulness and improvised imaginary acts and questions the space of the Wasserfest of their city.
The classic superheroes of any child, the firefighters of Berlin’s fire brigade ( ‘’Feuerwehr’’) were there, sharing with their young fans the secrets of their legendary and life – saving vehicles. Artists and engineers set up small wonders of DIY water fountains, massive and futuristic – looking tubes with spinning spirals of energized and re-energized H2O molecules and, even, a bonsai – like archipelago where the children became fearless, land – based, captains of remote – controlled vessels.
The punk roots of Berlin were also present at the four main music stages. There the children were transformed into underage punks, donating their anarchic steps of their Berlinized childhood to the rest of the adult audience who watched their biological and spiritual offspring with pride and awe.
If the spirit of a city is, also, the spirit of its water then this festival was a fresh and clear reflection and demonstration of such a natural and urban state of mind. Or, in other words, a reflection of its ‘Wassergeist’. Moreover, Berlin’s Wasserfest was a big playground for adults. Technicians of the ‘’Berliner Wasserbetriebe’’ exhibited their old school weapons against the underground ‘’terrorists’’, like the roots of the trees of Berlin, which infiltrate the water pipes of the city, slowing down the free flow of the German capital’s raging, underground water. Such old school weapons and new school weapons (like a remote controlled robot) were exhibited alongside photographs and videos presenting and recording their ‘’anti-terrorist’’ water operations.
Moreover, food, from grilled fishes to the ‘flammkuchen’’ German version/remix of a pizza, and drinks, from masses of plastic glasses of free water to refreshing ‘’canals’’ of German beer were topping up the water system of the bodies of the fest’s visitors.
The jigsaw of the water festival of Berlin was complete with various games’ installations for children, like that of the real jigsaw of a colorful fish, to performing artists like a doll theatre/marionette performer and various other performers dressed up like a duckling ( the mascot of ‘’Berliner Wasserbetriebe’’), or, like a fish etc…
The city which, let’s not forget, has the nickname ‘’Spree Athen’’ had in its Wasserfest Greek and other international visitors and the festival’s location on the ‘’ufer’’ next to the river Spree of Berlin portrayed clearly the vital role that water played, is playing and will play in the long, conflict-ridden and dramatic historical DNA of the German metropolis.
As we were ready to depart from the festival a boat named ‘’BERLIN’’ carrying a group of musicians with their instruments stopped next to us on the ufer. The image of these modern worshippers of Apollo flowing on the mother of Berlin’s water, the river Spree, was a perfect metaphor for the ‘’Wassergeist’’ of Berlin in 2000 and 14. Culture, science and technology all became one in this H2O universe in the German capital.
The ‘’Wassergeist’’ of the city became, then, one massive, rich and particularly educational festival. Showing the way for other European cities on how to treat that most vital element of a city’s life: The culture, or cult – tour, of their water and the technological systems and the people which support the H2O’s flow into the labyrinth of modern urban life.
A key point which the American, NYC hip hop artist Mos Def proclaimed poignantly in 1999 in his song with the title ‘’New World Water’’. Fifteen years after the release of this seminal song from the American rapper, Mos Def’s prophetic words fit perfectly with the vision of the ‘’Wasserfest’’ festival that refreshed with its original, Made in Berlin ideas the concept of water management in a century where the accelerating current process of climate change will make the question of water the hottest topic around.
”Tell your crew use the H2 in wise amounts since
it’s the New World Water; and every drop counts
You can laugh and take it as a joke if you wanna
But it don’t rain for four weeks some summers
And it’s about to get real wild in the half
You be buying Evian just to take a fuckin bath
Heads is acting wild, sippin poor, puffin dank” (excerpt from the lyrics of the song ‘New World Water’ by Mos Def)
Berlin, like the lyrics of the visionary American rapper, has given its own vision and practical answers to this massively important issue. Its up to us now to learn our lessons from it. While letting the water to flow into our cities and veins with this multi-functional and practically effective H2O spirit, or, ‘’Wassergeist’’ of Berlin.