Review: #mysharedspace [Berlin]

Review: #mysharedspace [Berlin]

#mysharedspace is an immersive project by Larissa Jenne, Christina Schelhas, Salomé Klein, Emilia Giertler, Alexander Hector and Ezra Azmon. It was shown at Schaubude Berlin from 6.1.-15.1.2022.

I am lead to the rear entrance of the Schaubude, past the staircase leading up to a doctor’s office. I enter the apartment alone. In my pocket is the handwritten letter that I was handed just minutes ago. It is an invitation to me personally – it has my name on it – to use the apartment, get a drink from the fridge or make myself comfortable in the bathtub or the bed. From the very start, #mysharedspace reminds me of the experience of couchsurfing, or perhaps the first meeting of an online date. It is an immersive experience of our relationships with people who are still unknown, but who quickly become familiar because they merge with one’s own fantasies, one’s own lusts, one’s own fears. But for now, I seem to be completely alone in this place. It is the dirty plates in the sink, the many empty bottles standing around and the pressed flowers I find in a book that bring the apartment to life. Who is this person I am sharing this space with? Were these bottles part of a boozy party, or witnesses of sad and lonely drinking?

Soon, I notice small glass containers on the shelves and in the cupboards. They contain mysterious things: stones, buttons, coins, and rings. All of these are memories. As soon as you begin to occupy yourself with them, trying to elicit their stories, a cupboard door opens. A small creature dwells in this miniature world, collecting the visitors’ memories. It is played by the hand of a hidden performer, with its head on one fingertip, while the other fingers serve as limbs. The creature lets me open a jar and the memories it stored are released. And in turn, it asks for a private memory of mine – and to touch my skin, perhaps, please? A demand for intimacy, which catches me by surprise, and I hesitate: How much of myself do I share, do I leave here, with this strange creature? “What happens in #mysharedspace stays in #mysharedspace”, I was told upon entering the apartment. But where do I set my own boundaries?

Such experiences of intimacy and the testing of personal boundaries continue throughout the apartment’s other nooks and crannies. An Indian sex researcher, knowledgeable but utterly inexperienced in the techniques described in the Kama Sutra, appears within one of the cupboards as another small puppet figure. He starts an online chat with me, about touching, massages, and female sexuality – in a completely analogue way. In the bedroom, an octopus lies on a white bed. The large figure, inside of which one can guess the performer, is pensively handling its tentacles. A game begins between the two of us, to sound out boundaries: Am I invited to come closer, and how close do I want to come? What kind of touch is allowed, and what is rejected? Are my attempts at physical interaction reciprocated, even escalated?

In the end, it is left to each individual entering this apartment – apparently abandoned by the tenant but populated by many beings –  to decide for themselves how far the game goes, what forms of sensuality are allowed and what they or the octopus figure shy away from. For me, #mysharedspace brought up memories of past encounters with other people – in person or online – where I had my boundaries tested or overstepped. Addressing explicitly sexual themes and matters of intimacy, the performance can be a challenging experience for some visitors. But it is also a safe space, where boundaries are respected and I am at freedom to end an interaction, close the cupboard doors or leave a room whenever I please. Instead, I felt a strange sense of comfort in this apartment, that invited me to explore and reflect upon its absent inhabitants as much as on myself.

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