WG Stories: A Creative Little Micro Cosmos

With a six-pack of beer I arrived at the WG located right between Schöneberg and Kreuzberg. The door opened and four people were standing in front of me and smiling curiously: Lina, Stephen, Ben and Eduardo. Who is this random girl that wanted to come into our flat and talk to us?

We sat down in the kitchen, the beers were opened and the cigarettes lit. Once again, I was in a flat where the main language was English. “I am actually from the species that is threatened of extinction: a real Berliner,” Ben said smiling and continued, “my ex-fiancé and now good friend, sub rented her room to Stephen while traveling. Lina is her cousin, and some day, Eduardo just popped up. He never left. Now he is her fiancé.”

I looked surprised at them. “You two? How?” Lina, whose positive energy and laughter left an impression on me, answered with humor: “A year ago he came to Berlin for one week or two. He was persuasive, so now I have to marry him.”

“Do it quick,” Ben said to Eduardo, “Minds change, you know.”
When you as a stranger have the privilege of entering a group’s private life you rapidly start seeing characters and the different roles that people have. Ben was always quick with fun comments; he was definitely a guy one wants to have in a group. That kind of guy that all sitcoms also need, someone does or says something and snap!- there is a comment on it.

It all sounded like a dream: Eduardo and Lina were going to marry on an island in the Caribbean, by the beach as Eduardo had family there.  “The whole point of leaving and marrying there is skipping Berlin’s winter.” We all agreed, Berlin’s winter is not a reason for staying here, or as I would like to quote Lina: “From New Years until the first of May, where the big party is, there is just emptiness. That period is… ugly shit.” True that.

“In New Mexico, there is always sun. It never rained. It is just sunny, even through the winter.” Stephen was from Albuquerque and spoke calm and slow, it was pleasant listening to him.
“Why did you come here then?”

“Because Berlin is the place to be,” he laughed. “No, I took the famous Euro trip when I was younger. When I finished university, I really had nothing to do there, so I just moved. During the trip we had the most fun here so we said why not? The famous American saying “why not!?” It turned out that Berlin was super affordable and when I got here just everything started working and lining up. So I stayed.” He is a graphic designer.

Lina agreed, “ I always say that universe provides in Berlin.”

The kitchen and bathroom of the flat were very typical of Berlin, they were both oblong: narrow and elongated. Whilst sipping on my beer I noticed Eduardo’s tattoos, I had never before seen tattoos like that. Red and black lines and a dab of color decorated his arms. It was rather a piece of art than a typical tattoo with a symbol, picture or text. And guess who was its creator: Lina.
“I paint. Then I use elements from my painting for the tattoos. I don’t do normal tattoos.
I love abstract, illustrative and very graphical strong designs,” she continued. I was impressed.
“Did you start making tattoos in Berlin?”

“Yeah. It is actually why I moved here- to start tattooing, because in Croatia it was not possible like this. And it happened, because… universe provides!
“Why was it not possible in Croatia?”

“Because the tattoo scene and art scene in Croatia is generally a very closed and small community.”  She explained to me that she was not able to work in Croatia as freely as she is able to work in Berlin “Therefore I left, I did not want to go the normal path of a classic tattoo artist who has to work with the typical and realistic tattoos for ten or twenty years.”

We started a longer discussion about tattoos in general- about them being addictive, about almost everyone having one nowadays.

Ben was one of the few not having any. “Well, I like what I see on other people, but not on myself. I thought about this often, why I am not tattooed and I think it has to do something with making decisions. Eduardo is more the type of person that asks: “why not?” and I am more the type that asks “why?!” I think that is why I have been stuck here for 35 years now.

I would not know what picture, word or sentence I would like to have on my body forever.”
Lina:  “What about ‘make a decision’?”
Eduardo:  “Or the question “why not?!””
Ben: “Or “inhale” and “exhale.””
We laughed.

“Funny enough, now that I live and work here, Croatians love and want my tattoos” Lina paused. “But I don’t want to go back. It was just the negativity of people that got to me there. I felt trapped and could not be creative, people kept on asking me why I was doing this, why I was trying to become an artist, you know. And when I came here, it took me a few months until I was able to get away from this way of thinking. It had influenced me.  Then I just started painting and drawing. Yeah, I just drew. From that point on, everything started to happen.”

The people you are surrounded by unquestionably have a huge impact on your life. And Lina underlined that with her story: the mentality around you can change your future. If she had not taken the step to get out of Croatia, perhaps she would not have been able to eternalize her artwork on other people’s bodies.

As Ben called it, they had a little “creative micro-cosmos” in their WG. He told me about some evenings where you could hear music coming out of one room, 3D-projections in another and in the third Eduardo and Lina were painting.

“Whatever you do, in Berlin, people support you, especially in the art scene. They give you a chance to work on your project. People support each other, have projects together and exchange ideas. It is amazing.”

I had ended up in a very artistic and inspiring WG. We went over to Eduardo and Lina’s room and first, I could not find any words to it, besides repeatedly saying “wow.” The walls of the room were full of colorful artwork. So many emotions were expressed in them that it took me a while to sit down without looking around constantly.
“Do you ever paint together?”
Lina: “We would fight.”
Eduardo: “It could be great.”
Lina: “We have very different style. I hate yellow for example. And he loves it.”
Eduardo: “I do love yellow.”

And I loved their flat. When I got out of the apartment and they closed the door behind me, I heard them screaming and laughing. Whilst walking down the stairs of the old building I also started laughing and felt full of positive energy and inspiration.
Have you met Berlin? He is so artistic!

Endnote: If you are interested in the artwork of Stephen, Lina and Eduardo: check out these links!
Stephen Bontly
Eduardo Sancamillo
Lina Artwork

By Aylin Sarica

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