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and scathing commentary

August 19, 1996

The Peace Tent's Intent


The first time that I discovered this tent perched in a rear corner of the Tacheles Skulpturgarten in Berlin, I responded like many other people I've seen since arriving, clustering and congealing at the entrance and then dipsersing. I stood there taking it in with a kind of wonder, this cozy and enchanting environment in which the quality of the light, space and music oozed out of its' opaque white fabric and stroked my attention. Hovering there, but feeling a bit awkward to enter, as if I was about to trample into someones' home, I turned instead to leave. So intimate is the environment that's created that many people hang at the edge of its' entrance peering in, uncertain about making that first commitment to step inside, perhaps because the ritual of taking off one's shoes at the entrance makes them feel as though they are leaving some security behind. It's just this quality of space and time that drew the people together who make the Peace Tent's presence happen. Perhaps it is because there are no walls and solid divisions, that people tend to relax their bodies and boundaries. Ever-present is this warmth that permeates the place, through candle light, plants, soft curves and flowing folds. The musical environment metamorphosis's from trance, to techno, ethnic sounds, to live music that takes place, either spontaneously or planned, among keyboard players, percussionists, guitarists, or whoever happens to be there offering his or her personal touch. A pair of house drums are ever-present.


Except for the intermittent vibration of the tram that runs by on Friedrichstrasse on the other side of a wall bordering the property before it curves onto Oranianburgerstrasse, one could easily forget that he is nestled in the middle of a thriving metropolis. People are asked to leave their alcoholic beverages behind at the entrance, maybe along with their harried distractions from daily life. Two of its' sides are open, one with a lattice screen opening to a field of tall grasses. The interior is carpeted with middle eastern tapestries and strewn with cushions creating maneuverable nesting places. I've seen people lounging horizontally, friends sitting together in circles talking among one another, families wandering in to check out the feel of the place, and people doing everything from playing cards to individuals sketching, juggling, dancing, writing, or peering around the space at others around them.


The host is ever-present but in no way obtrusive, walking around in his own robed dress as he moves among the guests offering watermelon or tea or welcoming people to come in at the door with a wave of his arm. The first time that I asked him about whether this tent was patterned after a Middle Eastern style, he answered that in fact tents are present in many cultures. Another of the gentlemen that is part of the 'family' of people they see themselves as being a part of, also born in Israel, was hesitant at first about pinning himself to a birthplace and hence cultural identity. And when I asked him a second time to pronounce his name, he said that it is not important. Perhaps the essence of a person is more potent than a label, or box we tend to put each other in, all of which seem to draw concrete borders and boundaries that separate people rather than welcoming them into one anothers' reach.


There's an intimacy that comes out of the rural feel of the atmosphere, or perhaps even the nomadic sense of it, having no solid borders. Lost there is the severe anonymity that is bred in populated places, where the proximity of people to others causes them to be even more distant from one another; and where the dominating theme of economics erects walls as well, dividing and separating people, as each strives for an ideal image that is cloaked on the outside of our beings. Judging by just the few times that I've been present there, where I've had planned meetings as well as spontaneous interactions, it seems to invite an openness and sympathy because of its' genuine feel and unique patronage. It's a gathering of people bound not by their individual sameness, but by the fact that these separate entities happen to be entering the same space at the same time. One local neighbor who frequents the place to just relax and hang out said to me, "it's really kind of a gift, this place, that I sometimes forget isn't always here".


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