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News from the Datscha-Radio Garden

Text: Gabi Schaffner

Concrete pig4Datscha Radio: Courtesy Karl Heinz Jeron

“Merde – C’est une belle chose” – the radiophonic opening of our second radio day began with a quote from Alfred Jarry and a contemplation of this special mass by the artist Kerry Morrison. Her text “Body Garden Experiment” describes intercontinental transportation of seeds, the body as a catalyst for multiplication and dispersal: “Clearly, my body waste was not entirely waste material. It had fecundity.”

Datscha Radio17’s “New Symbioses”, in their combination of food, biology, radio(making), ecology and experiment, continued to take on new forms throughout the day. In contemplating the day’s essence, the thought surfaces as to whether or not a radio day can be envisaged as a body. On this elongated, partly winding, partly translucent body which spreads via radio waves across the garden and into the world, there are openings and enates, there are dish-like hollows where tomatoes are stacked next to fishes, and there are tentacles equipped with LEDs emitting the most diverse signals. This body is not human and it is not garden. It is not a breed – not by nature – and it is not a system. Four examples of our symbiotic broadcasting body must suffice to highlight the day’s events.

Raymond Brouwers from Urban Street Forest reaches the Datscha just in time for Carte Verte. It should be clear to us, says Raymond, that our (Western) lifestyle devours landscapes elsewhere, it robs them of water, energy and resources. In the unification of vertical city greening and reforestation, for every urban tree planted, so is another one in areas threatened by desertification. His “One Tour Tree Forest” tour will take him throughout Europe this winter, where he will scout out new buildings for greenification.

The home of symbiosis is the interstice. There it thrives, there it makes its connections: between the buildings of the city, between the continents, between the material and the immaterial, between human and machine. In its semi-opaque depths, hidden in the vibrant folds of its existence, question and answer, wonder, fallacy and fact become one. What could knowledge and learning mean in the future?

After a moment of hesitation, and an effort to imitate a moth, our radio body takes on the shape of orchid blossoms. The broadcast “Hidden elements: reciprocal knowledges” by Shanti Suki Osman and Kate Donovan evolves into circular vortexes of talk – interrupted every so often by a “wow” – about the communication of nonhuman garden dwellers. There are species of orchids that mimic the body of female wasps in order to attract the appropriate pollination partner.  Others, in turn, are able to create a sound that resembles the frequency of potential prey insects…

A couple of hours later: A long, thin black cable winds out of a knife’s handle, disappears into the inscrutable tangle on the table and ends up at a keyboard and an assortment of switches. Kasia Justka’s “Singing kitchen” performance merges cutlery and gadgetry, music and electronics into continually new improvised soundscapes.

New Symbioses: Do they require our faculties of imagination? Do they need their own invention? Or could it suffice to translate what already exists into ever-new oscillations? Is not radio itself a symbiotic source of communication and a ‘world receiver’?
By the end of the day the channels of the Datscha Radio body open up for breakfast at the other end of the world. We broadcast yet we don’t: Sophea Lerner’s “Saturday Night Breakfast” from Sydney is streamed onto our server whilst we sit down in the nightly garden to finish off the remains of the tomato salad and listen. New seeds for mind and body!

Gabi Schaffner

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It took a while to cook: our documentation of the fabulous 5-day August festival in 2017… but here it is! Both (Cake and booklet) were served on occasion of my “traditional” winter BBQ in the Datscha garden.
Much time was dedicated to lighting the fire bin (damp wood !), eating cake and drinking hot apple cider… next to browsing through 40 bilingual pages packed with individual essays and stories, images and graphics.

At the party our time was equally divided between trying to light the fire bin, eating cake, browsing through the  booklet while drinking Hessian hot apple cider… no time for photos! 

Fortunatly at least Valie Djordjevic shot a few: Thank you!!!
(Übersetzung folgt)


Genau: Fr. Schaffner und der Baum

Tiger/all girls berlin int. & radio artist Antje Vowinckel

Intense talks: Rafik Will & Helen Thein

All DR artists are invited to get their copy in print… if you didn’t manage now, you can have a view online on: https://www.academia.edu/35787807/Datscha_Radio_2017_Plots_and_Prophecies._Gardening_in_the_anthropocene

Or: contact me or come and fetch your copy at the wood ruff punch party  (that’s May then…). Please understand
that we don’t have the means to send those booklets via snail mail.

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Text: Gabi Schaffner

When we tilt our heads to gaze at the sky, we do so for various reasons: to count the stars, to let our eyes wander through the blue, to dream towards the clouds. Gardeners, however, like to check the weather. The dream of a reliably predictable future resonates with the actions and passions of weather forecasts. And why not? The world does consist of resonant frequencies.  And consequently of radio…

Under the title “Plots and Prophecies – Parzellenprognosen” Datscha Radio 17 broadcast 24/7 from the 25th – 29th August straight from an allotment garden and out into the world. The process of radio making – otherwise quite a hidden event – becomes transparent in the Datscha’s winter garden. Creative, interdisciplinary and open to everybody, Datscha Radio17 transformed the privacy of the garden into a public space for art and communication. Aligned with the length of the festival, the radio makers, artists and guests focused on five subject areas.

Our first day’s central point was the garden as a palladium of political and territorial relationships. The history of garden culture(s) and their associated metaphors of power and the body were re-established from the first minute on with the choir of the Hidden Stories Singers. Next to current issues about sustainable food production and ecological start-ups, naturally the “New Symbioses” of the second day were dedicated to outdoor-cooking and its hermaphroditic connection to the staged concerts and performances.

What will our living worlds look like in future perfect? “Biotopes in Future Perfect” combined science, performance and art into a “radio-active” kaleidoscope that continued to glow in subtle colours even long after sundown.

On the fourth day, artists, guests and the Datscha team addressed the theme of “Bees and Birds”,  – starting with current developments in Berlin urban gardening, to insider knowledge on cuckoos, and live music for the resident slug population.

The last day of the festival was reserved for dark matter: the soil, deceleration, the immersion into the unknown and with it, of course, the imaginary garden.

Just as radio waves spread simultaneously in all directions, Datscha Radio17’s spectrum resonated beyond conventional formats and forms. More than 40 international sound gardeners and radio makers responded to our open call and took part in the programme. Additionally, an “International Garden Radio Listening Club” invited the listeners to parallel listening parties.
And so the radio days grew organically by themselves; there were parallels and reflections, sequels and surprises, constants and mysteries. For instance, the New Zealand poet Hans Kellet continually held conversations in the neighbouring gardens and transformed them into poems.  What can be considered a real mystery though, were the “Greenhouse Emissions” – a plant language translation machine first introduced by Kate Donovan and Ryan McFadyen – that were broadcast on three days of the festival.

While we worked together in our greenhouse of plots and prophecies, the techné of radio increasingly transformed into organic communication. The future – doesn’t it rather lie in the resonating frequencies of the here and now and their materiality? In roaming the (radio) garden, day by day new perspectives began to open up. Rarely did they disclose a view of ‘the whole’, they led us rather onto selected paths and trails… just like this publication.

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Text: Shanti Suki Osman

It was intentionally poignant that we opened Datscha Radio17 with the Hidden Stories Singers performing an updated version of a suffragette song and Gerri Gribi’s “We Say No” from 1991. Replacing occasional heteronormative imagery with trans-inclusive and intersectional scenarios, the group consciously cultivated and made space for biodiversity – in the garden, in our stories and as an underlying structure for the radio shows to come.
The Datscha garden as a space for historically and locally connected politics was exemplified by a wide range of guests and contributors that day, starting with the two-hour “Midday Discussion” about the future of the local garden colony “Einigkeit e. V.” Yet there are aspects of “political gardening” that usually evade the typically white, western and male gaze.

The broadcast “Hidden Garden Stories” presented “Die Gärtnerei”, a city garden and meeting place in Berlin-Neukölln where newcomers and people in the neighbourhood come together, quite literally, to grow something new. Situated in front of a cemetery, nestled between the sounds of police cars and aeroplanes, the founders explained their aim to transform this space into a land of the living – humanising it with new plant life, new people and new stories.

But how do we bring together these different knowledges and make it all work? In “Composer’s Garden” we heard how, in Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro’s project “Hydra Plantation Radio”, the vibrations of specific plants were turned into sounds. These plants, that the colonisers brought over to Germany to replant and serve as decoration, survived. Like people, the plants cross-pollinated, adapted and learnt how to persevere. Like people, the plants were demonised and seen as a threat. As Nathalie discussed in her interview, the plants became testimonies to the African women who witnessed the plants being stolen from them. This “living archive” of plants moves us away from those existing in institutions and museums, making space for new narratives and making the invisible visible.

“Hidden Garden Stories” also featured Jessica Lauren Elizabeth Taylor’s “Mutter Erde”, which traces matriarchal lineages, ancestry and memory. With little knowledge of her own mother’s mother, Taylor invited other black femmes to explore, archive and re-tell their family stories in the one place she knew was relevant to their green thumbed matriarchs – the garden. As with Nathalie’s plants, and the community of the Gärtnerei, there is unknown and undocumented trauma. Despite the drone of the bees and the scratching of the shovel, there is a silence – and these various gardens seek to make room for these stories to finally be heard.

Datscha Radio17’s first day explored still more contemporary garden (his)stories, such as the onomatopoetic “Schwarz-Weiß-Gärten” of Dirk Hülstrunk and the philosophies of landscape and Baroque gardens with Katrin Schröder. Here again, stories well embedded in the past rose to the top soil.

Why is the garden the place to grow futures from imagined pasts? Berlin is scrambling with its past, present and future. The rise of the right wing displays the apparent amnesia of some of the country’s voting population – whilst its marginalised communities are reaching into their heritages and pasts to get perspective and strength for the future. Where else but in the garden can simultaneously existing lived experiences be made audible and at the same time, somehow be kept safe from harm?



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Dear Friends of Radio and (Spanish!)Gardening,

Here comes an invitation and <strong>Open Call</strong> on behalf of my upcoming “Radio Gardening” residency at the Media Lab in <strong>Madrid</strong> in late February. Feel invited to contribute, discuss, comment and/or share.

You’ll find more info here:Convocatoria colaboración Datscha-Radio

For those (including myself) who want/need/dream of learning Spanish the In-Sonora team made a fine translation of our Datscha Radio 17 festival documentation… enjoy :)
Plus: All the while you will notice that we are restructuring this site. The work at the audio archive is in full swing, we are sorting blog entries and are still looking forward (!) to create a picture gallery about the past festival. Yet, all gardening requires its own time in space and season…

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Out soon: Datscha Radio’s festival documentation “Plots and Prophecies”! And of course we’ll gather in the garden to celebrate :)

The booklet features five essays by the editors, each offering her personal perspective on radio, gardening and the topic of the day; author Rafik Will contributed a most insightful article on the event as it bloomed during those five days in August and there is poetry by our garden resident artist Hans Kellett.

Plenty of photos and illustrations too, and the best of it: It is bilingual! And hello, Artists and Supporters: get your free copies! If you can, straight from the garden party at the 28th!


We are looking forward to seeing you there –  let us know if you can make it: info@datscharadio.de

P.S. Last but not least: The audio archive is on its way into the digital universe. The first of our three audio casts “Midday Discussions”, edited by Niki Matita,  is available here: https://www.mixcloud.com/minimatika/datscha-radio-17-diskussion-am-mittag-zukunft-des-schrebergartens-niki-matita-g%C3%A4ste/

More shows will soon appear here (Thanks to Valeria Merlini!): https://www.mixcloud.com/datscharadio17/





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We are waiting for snow… and preparing for a couple of quiet days. Datscha Radio wishes you a Happy X-mas and a flowering and fruitful Happy New Year!

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Foto: Gabi Schaffner

18:30 Uhr: Die Stunde, in der sich das Grün der Pflanzen und das Rot der Erde zu einem weichen, stumpfen Grau in der regenfeuchten Luft verweben. Aus den Schatten breiten sich tiefere Schatten aus und knapp 10 Minuten später steht die Landschaft nurmehr als hingetuschter Schattenriss vorm Auge.

Das Gurukula Botanic Santuary (GBS) liegt eine Stunde Fahrt mit dem Jeep vom Dörfchen Manantavady entfernt und zwei Stunden von dem Dorfstädchen Palmatta, wo mich der Busfahrer auf dem Hinweg im Stockdunklem 4 Uhr morgens abgesetzt hatte. Das Gebiet gehört den Ghat Mountains der Provinz Kerala, 350 km südwestlich von Bangalore. Gurukula bedeutet die „Familie der Lehrer“ – abgeleitet von dem Wort „Guru“ für Lehrer. Der Gründer des GBS, Wolfgang Theuerkauf, allerdings sah die Natur an sich als Lehrerin an… und so meint Gurukula hier “die Familie Natur”.

Hier einige Ansichten des wundersamen Ortes:

Wolfgang Theuerkauf war kein ausgebildeter Gärtner oder gar Biologe als er sich Anfang der 70 (von Berlin kommend!) als knapp 23-jähriger sich auf ein Stück Land in den Bergen Keralas zurückzog um dort seine Arbeit als Bewahrer der Flora des Regenwalds zu beginnen. Als einer der Ersten war er von der Wichtigkeit der „kleinen Pflanzen“ und der mit Irenen verbundenen Mikroklimata überzeugt. Während in den benachbarten Gebieten abgeholzt wurde, erntete er aus Astgabeln- und Löchern, von Stämmen und Stümpfen zahllose Exemplare denen er in seinem „Sanktuarium“ liebevoll ein neue Heimat gab.

Theuerkauf starb im November 2014 und bis heute ist in den deutschen Medien sehr sehr wenig über ihn und die 40 Jahre seines Lebens zu lesen, die er der Rettung bedrohter Pflanzen widmete. Das ist verblüffend, aber nicht vollkommen überraschend. Bis heute agiert das GBS in Sachen Medien zurückhaltend; einem Team des National Geographic wurde sogar untersagt, die Organisation namentlich zu erwähnen. Es sei „nicht die Art von Publicity, die sie wollten“, bemerkt die leitende Direktorin Subrabha Seshan kritisch.

Zentrum des botanischen Paradieses ist ein Gebäudekomplex, der sich auf verschlungenen Wegen über kleine Terrassen  in  wundersam vollendeter zärtlicher Balance zwischen Wildnis und Kultur hinstreckt: Das Hauptgebäude birgt einen gusseisernem Herd groß wie ein Hexenhaus an der Stirnseite der Halle und wurde – wie die meisten anderen Häuser auch – von Wolfgang Theuerkauf in Zusammenarbeit mit einem Schweizer Architekten gebaut. Stufen und Wege tiefer kommen schlichte Schlafräume, ein Badehaus mit Balsaminen geschmückten Dach, Toilettenhäuschen (Steinboden!), und immer wieder durchschossen von den Topologien gärtnerischer Tätigkeit: Gelbschwarz gestreifte Wasserschläuche winden sich wie träge Schlangen über Wege, Plätze und die in Stein gehauenen Stufen entlang überdachter Beete und Stellplätze für Töpfe. Jede Terrasse hat ihren Wasseranschluss stehen in handgemauerten steinernen Becken mit Abfluss, die sowohl der Trinkwasserversorgung dienen als auch dem Abspülen schlammiger Sandalen.

Galerie Workspaces:

Ich bin vom ersten Augenblick an berührt und beeindruckt von der unübersehbaren Sorgfalt und Liebe, die dem Regenwaldgarten von GBS sein Gefüge und seine Aura verleihen. Jede einzelne Pflanze ist sichtbar an ihren Ort gesetzt und mit passenden Gefährten umgeben. Jeder Baumfarn, jede Orchidee ist mit Schnüren gesichert an ihren Baum gewöhnt worden, bis sie dort eigenständigen Halt fand. An jeder Ecke finden sich architektonische Konstrukte aus porösen und moos- oder farnbewachsenen Ziegelsteinen, die prächtigen Nestfarnen oder außerordentlich behäbigen Bromelien Wurzelhalt geben. Unter Dächern aus hellem Wellplastik stehen ungezählte Töpfe mit Ablegern verschiedener Pflanzenfamilien: Anthurien (Flamingopflanzen), Arums, Bromelien und eine Unzahl an Impatiens wächst unter und zwischen Bäumen, Baumfarnen und Beeten.

Unvermeidlich: Die Galerie der Blumen!

Kompost wird von den GärtnerInnen selbst hergestellt, ebenso wird auch altes Plastik recycled und als Untersatz für Töpfe genutzt. Wegen des Regens umhüllt von Plastikplanen in abenteuerlichsten Farbkombinationen und in Gummistiefeln wegen der Erdegel arbeiten die GärtnerInnen von morgens 8 bis ca. 17 Uhr abends. Viele kommen aus den umliegenden Dörfern, alle haben einen gärtnerischen Hintergrund und bringen lokales Wissen um Planzkultur und und Botanik mit. Sie lächeln wenn ich vorüber gehe, mit meiner Kamera und meinem Rekorder, sie sind nicht weniger schüchtern als ich, auch wenn einige durchaus  Englisch sprechen.
Angeschlagen von meiner Klimaschockerkältung lehne ich lange Stunden auf den Stuhl auf meiner Veranda und bewundere ihre Unverdrossenheit und die erfinderische Praxis, mit der eintache Planen mit neonfarbenen Pluderhosen und geblümten Kurtis in Kombinationen gebracht werden können, die jeden Modemacher auf den Champs Elysees vor Neid erblassen lassen würden.

Gurukula gardeners. Foto: Gabi Schaffner

Mit Hereinbruch der Dunkelheit beginnen die Baumfrösche mit ihren sonderbaren Lauten: Es klingt hell, hohl und hölzern. Ein bisschen so wie diese Klanghölzer, die man eher Unbegabten im Musikunterricht in der vierten Klasse zum Mitklappern gegeben hat. Im Teich hinter dem Haus öffnet eine Seerose ihren Kelch. Das Interview, das ich mit Subrabha Seshan, gestern, am 16. September 2017 geführt habe, steckt in meinem Rekorder… und kommt demnächst auch auf den Blog. Bis dahin: Sternenstille.

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