Trümmer Geographies

Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
Publication Type:
Journal Article
Performance Research: a journal of the performing arts, 2015, 20 (3), pp. 75 - 82
Issue Date:
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The article explores ruination and human geography by focusing on the vast rubble hill of Teufelsberg (Devils Mountain). Located in Berlin's outer district of Wilmersdorf, Teufelsberg was constructed in the aftermath of World War II from the remnants of buildings destroyed during the air war on the city. This article focuses on the Trümmerfrauen (‘Rubble Women’), children and men who ‘shifted’ the rubble of Berlin's destroyed urbanity to its burial at Teufelsberg. Noticing the different ways in which Teufelsberg rewrites the city yet appears like any other hill prompts a question: what opportunities would arise in attempting to rediscover the buried city of Berlin? To answer this question is to first recognize that Teufelsberg and present day Berlin share a landscape bound by geography; the unearthing of one leads to the unearthing of the other. To uncover this partnership between the labour of the Trümmerfrauen, the rubble and burial, presupposes a rethinking of the human and material forms that lie buried at Teufelsberg. Using a speculative logic, the article draws on various concepts of ruination from Richard Pogue Harrison's humic foundation in burial practices, Jacques Derrida's self-ruining in self-portraiture painting, Albert Speer's theory of ruins and W.G. Sebald's self-anaesthesia in order to open up new possibilities of thinking around Berlin and ruination post World War II. References are made throughout the article to a selection of black and white photographs drawn from the Berlin Landesarchiv (City Archive). The photographs are important as they evidence Berlin's destruction in the immediate aftermath of the war and graphically depict the Trümmerfrauen, children and men who worked in the ruins of their city. By referencing these images, the aim is to re-establish Teufelsberg's physical yet hidden presence of ruination and burial as an extension of the present day city of Berlin.
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