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‘I kept a watchful eye on everything that struck me as distinctive [...].’
Victor Klemperer

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IN THE PHILOLOGIST'S GARDEN
Temporary art projects in Marzahner Promenade 2017 | ‘GrünRaum Marzahner Promenade’ | Berlin 2017

What is the relation between the city, nature, and human beings? Can the way in which plants are dealt with in the midst of a metropolitan area such as Marzahn in Berlin inspire local people to think about themselves, their life with other people, and about current political issues? Moreover, what role can contemporary art and philosophy play in this process?

Eleni Papaioannou, an artist based in Berlin, is installing a temporary garden on Victor-Klemperer-Platz, Marzahner Promenade, together with the landscape architect Anselm Bohley; their aim is to provide locals and other visitors with an opportunity for pause, reading and contemplation. The artist will be accompanying the installation ‘In the Philologist’s Garden’ with three in-situ performances.
Victor Klemperer’s book Language of the Third Reich: LTI: Lingua Tertii Imperii – first published in German as ‘LTI. Notizbuch eines Philologen’ (A philologist’s notebook) – and Plato’s view of gardens as spaces for philosophical debate provide the foundation for Papaioannou’s urban garden project and its plants, texts and performances.

The square in Marzahner Promenade is named after Victor Klemperer, a writer who studied the language of the National Socialists during the 1940s. Eleni Papaioannou has collected quotations from Klemperer’s book and daily newspapers covering topical political issues and debates. The artist will be installing numerous plant pots on benches on Victor-Klemperer-Platz and transforming them into temporary ‘plant furniture’ and ‘plant islands’. She also intends to attach selected quotes to each of the plants. Papaioannou does not make the exact sources of the quotations clear at first so as to encourage readers to think about and reflect on different political topics. In fact, it is not until the visitors read the flyer next to the benches that they discover the actual source of these phrases. The aim is to encourage visitors to ask themselves the following questions: Which quotes are applicable to current issues? To what extent are Victor Klemperer’s thoughts relevant in today’s society? How are issues such as xenophobia, fear of change, and religious fanaticism linguistically mediated via the press? And, how do we form our opinions?

Eleni Papaioannou will be accompanying her exploration of language, time and this particular space with three performances. During her performances, she uses white chalk and a stencil to write phrases on the pavement that allow for subjective interpretations and political reflection in all directions – ‘Fear’, ‘I believe in him’, and ‘Fanaticism is a virtue’. These words and phrases, like the plants in the garden, will change over time and due to the weather, before slowly disappearing.

Eleni Papaioannou’s project ‘In the Philologist’s Garden’ is specifically related to Victor-Klemperer-Platz and the issue of Klemperer’s contemporary and historical significance. Her project turns a public space in the city (the polis) into a space for political encounters and discussion by building diverse links between today’s political situation, history, European cultural history (antiquity) and the presence of the visitors and residents.

Dr Birgit Szepanski
for english: Simon Phillips

This project is taking place within the framework of the temporary art projects organised for the ‘GrünRaum Marzahner Promenade 2017’. This art competition is run by the Department of Economic and Urban Development at the District Office of Marzahn-Hellersdorf in cooperation with the Department of Culture – Gallery M. It is funded by the Bund-Länder Programm ‘Active Centres’.


Victor Klemperer, in: Victor Klemperer: LTI, Notizbuch eines Philologen, Stuttgart, 2010. Elke Fröhlich (ed). First published in 1947.

‘Gardens of philosophy’ are gardens that encourage contemplation and leisure in the broadest sense. The idea of gardens as places for philosophy goes back as far as Plato and his ‘Akademos’ garden, which was designed as an olive grove (in 385 BC).

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© Eleni Papaioannou, 2017 Fotos:Sofia Campos