No Escape

This week the expected (unexpectedly) happened. My twelfth tunnel in Berlin didn’t make its way through. Sent away twice and a fine for ‘damaging the lawn’. Even if it isn’t an enormous surprise this happened, it made me fairly sad. In the end the main mission of the dig is to be reaching the other side.

We set off at Tempelhof in the morning. The soil was very dry, it was going to be a harsh one. The location and framing were extremely pretty with many urban layers in the background. From the empty field to a cycling path to a highway to the S-bahn coming back and forth.


Photo credit: Video still by Eefje Vaghi

Tempelhof’s security guards arrived after about an hour of digging. The white van drove up to me before I’d even seen it. They told me to leave, it was strictly forbidden to dig even a couple of centimeters into the soil here. I could possibly encounter unpredicted leftovers from the war, like bombs or mines hidden beneath its surface. “Anywhere in Berlin but at Tempelhof you can dig.” They suggested me to go to a small park not far from our spot.

Last year when I dug at Tempelhof I definitely saw the white van circling around the field every two hours. But I was alone, had a spot in the middle of the huge field, and was able to hid in my hole. This time I had a camera woman with me with lots of equipment, we clearly were too obvious.



Photo credit: Video still by Eefje Vaghi

And so we went. With new hope I started tunnelling at Hasenheide. The soil was very doable and very soon I indulged in escapist feelings again. It went quick, and I felt secure. Within a few hours there was a hole of 0,80 in diameter and 1,20 meter deep and I already started making my underground way Westwards.

Totally unexpected we were enclosed by three security vans. I referred to the hopeful words of the previous security people, but it didn’t avail. I had to hand in my passport, pay a €35 fine for ‘destroying the grass’ and close the hole in order to get my documents back. Passer-by’s often ask if I got permission to do this. I always explain why I don’t. Going through the bureaucracy of papers and signatures would defeat the point. The main goal is exactly to escape the fixed structure. I am making a hole. It’s what animals do. It’s what children do. I am reconnecting with the simple experience of being, isn’t this normal and healthy? Why not use the public ground vertically, instead of going to the yoga center or gym.

People also often ask if it’s not claustrophobic in the tunnel. When I got hold back digging this time I indeed felt an immense claustrophobic feeling coming up. We live in a society in which every human action is controlled more and more, constantly remembered of what could go wrong. Too many regulations can only result in meaninglessness and homogeneity. Where do we want to go? The act of the digging, the experience of becoming part of the structure, not knowing what the soil will bring, is an unforgettable experience.
It is time to find deeper grounds.

Posted on June 9, 2015

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