So what does Berlin smell like?
By Monica Bonvicini

The summer of 2020 smells of spray paint, carried by the fan through the warm air of my studio in billows; accompanying the acrid smell of the aerosols are the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, the tragic trigger of the Black Lives Matter campaign, the upcoming presidential elections in the USA, and also the question of how the world will go on. Will anything change? And have our own concerns caused us to forget about the refugees, wars, and the environment?

Here in the grounds of the Uferhallen, where many artists have had their workspaces for years and even decades, there is always someone standing around to exchange ideas with. As a workspace for artists, this location is under threat—not because of a single event, but because of the rising returns from the real estate sector that are leaving their mark all over Berlin.

The turmoil of the world congregates in my studio. I listen to music loudly, I read, I talk to people on my laptop via Zoom, I give tutorials to students all over the world. I collect quotations from books that I take off the shelf and from books that I have never found time to read. This has resulted in me creating rather a lot of drawings in just a short period of time, filling walls and bringing together all the harshness of reality in colors that are somewhat unusual for me. A pink or orange cloud covers everything in the studio.

The American poet Gregory Corso was able to find a smell for many cities—but he could not name one for Berlin. So what does Berlin smell like? It is certainly not a fine smell that floats loftily above everything, but one that also incorporates the smell of the ground, a multifaceted symphony. Berlin smells like the fresh wind that drives away last night’s sweat. Despite all the adverse circumstances, it is bright and full of zest. That is why we are here. Because it always keeps going. This is Berlin.

Monica Bonvicini (*1965, Venice) is an Italian artist living in Berlin since 1986. Her studio is located at Uferhallen in Berlin-Wedding.