Wastelands as experimental fields: a journey through Berlin

This talk traces the histories, contemporary forms, and prospective future of wasteland spaces in Berlin. To counter a utilitarian or financial speculative perspective that renders ostensibly empty sites ahistorical and devoid of human and nonhuman life, the talk recovers a range of artistic, activist and scientific experiments that have valorised wastelands as lived and inhabited spaces. Wastelands are vital cultural and ecological zones that have sparked a counter-aesthetic of urban space and concomitant political efforts to protect these sites as public space, often against corporate and municipal interests. With intensifying financial interests in Berlin, the protection of wasteland spaces for public life is becoming increasingly difficult. The talk concludes by questioning the efficacy of current nature conservation policies and other political tools to counter the rapid loss of wasteland spaces in Berlin.