featherhouse in Berlin


On the 29th October 2009 Harriet and Constance ran away to Berlin for a few days, to take part in Decima Gallery’s rather wonderful Britain’s Rubbish exhibition on 73 Hasenheide, Kreuzberg, Berlin.

featherhouse was exhibiting a series of photo-collages entitled A REASON FOR BEING IN BERLIN, which were a mix of photos that Constance had taken when she was living in Berlin in the winter/spring of 1990, and photos that Harriet had taken when she was staying in Berlin in the summer of 2005. We then superimposed the illustration of an embracing couple from Penny Jordan’s book A Reason For Being on Constance’s photos, and Harriet re-enacted this embrace with her hunky manfriend Duncan McGonigle and superimposed this onto her photos.

Underneath the framed photos we had a pile of Mills and Boon paperbacks with postcard versions of the images neatly tucked into the book and sealed in envelopes, with “TAKE ME NOW, I’M FREE” written above. As soon as Harriet wrote this on the wall during the private view they were devoured.

Why this illustration you ask? Why give books away? A Reason For Being was the romance novel that publisher Mills and Boon decided to give away for free to East German women after the Berlin wall came down, an entire 750,000 translated copies no less.

We felt that somehow this had been a little unnoticed within stories of the wall, and if noticed then dismissed, no doubt seen as trashy fiction that had little effect in the grand political scheme of things – one Independent writer dismisses the books as “Liquid Narcotic”. But this genre of fiction gets read by millions of women worldwide and undoubtedly affects their perceptions of sex, relationships, men, family, careers, so it then follows that perhaps a woman’s experience and opinions on these things in turn are also a little dismissed.

We liked the idea that these books were seen as being dumped on the women in East Germany and the idea that you could give away romance for free and that romance will always be very much an important part of political dramas and we liked the apparent novelty of our mother/daughter collaboration but also that the way in which we connect with one another was reflected in the nostalgic nature of the work….

And of course we felt this all tied in rather nicely with the “Britain’s Rubbish” concept.

All in all, we had loadsa fun and it was also a perfect opportunity to meet up with one of Harriet’s partners in crime – Claudia Sarkany (aka Gloria Salami).

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