Michael Zheng

On the first day of my residency at the Lichtenberg Studios, I went out in the rain to take a walk in the streets. The rain turned out to be too heavy for the walk. I seeked shelter at a bar. As soon as I entered the bar, I heard an aggressive female voice yelling at me, in German which I didn’t understand. The woman who was yelling at me also gesticulated wildly, pointing at the door. While I didn’t understand what she was saying, I could feel the aggression and almost anger in her voice.

A man on the side finally said something to me in English, which eventually resulted in our friendship. His name is Bernd, a local resident of Lichtenberg. Through Bernd’s explanation, I understood that the woman was just trying to tell me to come in and close the door.

The jarring discrepancy between what was said and how it was received by me was shocking. It seemed to have transcended the typical misunderstanding due to cultural/language difference. Since then, I had been going to the bar almost daily, trying to make acquaintance with Bernd, the woman (Mandy) and the rest of the people who frequent the bar (which seemed to be populated with mostly working class folks, though it was allegedly the gathering place of neo-Nazis.)

Eventually, I managed to re-enact the episode several times, first with Mandy herself and me; then I invited two actors to re-enact it; and I also reversed the roles of Mandy and myself in a third version of the re-enactment. Each re-enactment surprisingly told a very different story.

Bernds version

re-enactment 1

re-enactment 2

re-enactment 3


September, 2011