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Zurückbleiben bitte: Mapping Traces of (Post)coloniality in Berlin's Quotidian Landscapes

Julianne Chua

The coloniality of surveillance is embedded in our everyday lives. Although this top-down gaze is pervasive and omnipresent, it exists as a silent form of systemic violence. Historically, enslavers have utilized surveillance technologies such as map-making, census-taking, enumeration, observation, labeling, categorizing, profiling and fingerprinting to manage, police and control populations and territories under the guise of order, safety or development. Such disciplinary tools and strategies, although presented as neutral, factual and objective, contain implicit biases that delineate and reinforce power dynamics along racialized or gendered lines. Contemporary modes of surveillance and supervision do not exist in a vacuum, and are underpinned by prior enforcements of colonial or imperial power. These inextricable ties reenact practices of discrimination, subjugation and oppression as convenient means to protect not people, but hierarchies.  How can we use the body as a device to draw attention to the invisible power structures that surround us? What kinds of subliminal borders exist within an U-Bahn station that functions on an honor system? “Zurückbleiben bitte” is a site-specific performance that reflects upon and responds to the Leopoldplatz U-Bahn station in Wedding during its centennial. Taking Michel de Certeau’s concept of “forests of gestures” and Michel Foucault’s notion of the panoptic as points of departure, artists Anouk Vollmer and Julianne Chua utilize ephemeral objects, somatic practices, and counter-surveillance measures to question the ubiquity of surveillance technologies amidst quotidian landscapes. Through a choreography of performative gestures that “multiply the possibilities” of mirrors, the work explores the body as a medium to question power imbalances, unsettle boundaries between imposed categories of public and private spaces, and reinsert the self in atomized, anonymous spaces. In doing so, the artists complicate gender binaries and systemic modes of observation, biopolitics and control linked to coloniality, thus rendering visible structures within the space.   I will present interim findings from participating in the SoSe 2023 X-Tutorial “Site-Specific Post-colonial Practice” led by Marina Resende Santos and Jakob Wirth, and photographic documentation of our intervention, which was part of the festival “Orient Station: Public Interventions in the Postcolonial Everyday“ held in Wedding on 22 July 2023.