On 27 and 28 August 2016, in summer temperatures of over 32 degrees, several thousand visitors turned out for the Federal Foreign Office’s Open House. They informed themselves about foreign policy by taking a look behind the scenes and dropped in at the office of Federal Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier. We talked to visitors about why they came to the Foreign Office and what impressed them most.
Mario Postel, 27, political science student in Berlin
I study political science at the Otto Suhr Institute at the Freie Universität Berlin. International relations interest me, and the Open House at the Foreign Office is a unique opportunity to look at the building, the rooms and the Minister’s office. It’s extremely interesting to be able to take a look behind the scenes. What most impressed me was the Bismarck-Saal, where once the SED party bosses used to hold meetings.
Jarmila Fröhlich from Berlin, samba percussion band Bloco Explosão
We drummed Brazilian rhythms in front of the Foreign Office and gave the visitors a treat. The Foreign Office invited us. The idea was that we should attract interested people. Our percussion group, Bloco Explosão, is at the “Carnival of Cultures” almost every year. At the Open Hose we began drumming shortly after nine o’clock. There weren’t many visitors yet, but the mood was relaxed. I’m the only Brazilian in our drum band. I’ve lived in berlin for 25 years.
Shira Majoni, a musician from Israel and Yamen Saadi, a musician from the Palestinian territories, Barenboim-Said Academy Berlin
I met Yamen Saadi when he was ten or eleven-years-old – we’ve made music together since then. Today I’m 26-years-old and in the next semester will study at the Barenboim-Said Academy. I play viola. In the last few days we’ve rehearsed a lot; the appearance at the Foreign Office was the first with this group. We didn’t have time to explore the Foreign Office ourselves; it was “strictly business”. The Barenboim-Said Academy links music to academic teaching for young people from the Middle East. We have music courses like music theory and the theory of harmony, but also courses in philosophy, literature and history. This is a concept for the future.
I’m 19-years-old, come from Nazareth and study at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin. Since 2007 I’ve been playing violin in the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. At the Open House we performed a Beethoven quartet; that was really fun.
Kerstin Honeit, artist in the “AArtist in Residence” programme
In my studio on the roof of the Foreign office there’s a coming and going – it’s a sort of performance in itself. I work a lot with history, with historical overlay. This has to do with the Foreign Office, but even more with the site where the Berlin City Palace will be built and the Humboldt Forum accommodated. It’s great of course to find contemporary witnesses here and get into conversations with them. Today I cast some people and exchanged numbers with them. The studio rooms here are perfect for my research, not only because I have the construction site constantly in view, but also because art needs room for thinking – and I have that here! The move to my small studio one and half months from now will be hard for me.
Ulla Wahrheit, pensioner, has lived in Berlin for 50 years
I’ve often been in the Foreign Office; I can’t remember when we started going there. But the excursion this time to the roof terrace was a first – a lovely premiere! In the studio rooms we saw the artist Kerstin Honeit, who showed us a video installation that was very interesting. The Open House is a great idea. But you always plan to see too much and then manage to see only a fraction of it. It’s nice that the Open House is often an occasion to inspire friends to visit us here in Berlin. We succeeded this time and brought with us friends from Essen.
Pictures & interviews: Sarah Kanning