Nell’aqua nell’aria, 2003

When I first visited Milan to have a look at the space of Monica de Cardenas, I asked one of her assistants if there was a swimming pool nearby. It was hot, and I love swimming. I was stunned when she replied: “But you don’t really want to go there. There are all these Moroccans and the poor people!”

In Berlin, the swimming pools are usually like a little oasis of coexistence: in Prinzenbad in Kreuzberg you will find Turkish boys trying to impress the bathing beauties, right next to gay boys trying to impress each other. People take off nearly all of their clothes[1], and when they enjoy the sun or splash into the water they are just like any other animal that enjoys a nice sunny day, without giving anything too much thought.[2]

As a painter I was quite naturally attracted to this opportunity to paint semi-naked bodies without having to hire models and force them into unnatural poses; but I also wanted to show this kind of abandon, of simple being that I had experienced so often.

I showed three paintings with Turkish or Arab boys, and two with Mecklenburg teenage girls about to jump into one of the lovely lakes that surround Berlin.

[1] Not more clothes than in China, but more than in Thailand. Actually one of my first ideas, which I still might try to do, would have been a painting of a small sandy spot on the island in the lake Liepnitz-See, which is about a 30-minute drive from Berlin. It is a real Watteau love island: surrounded by forests and the still and clean water of the lake. You can either take a ferry (but you have to walk around the lake to get there), or you can swim over. It’s not an official beach of any kind but if it was, it would be a nudist beach. East Germans have always been very fond of ‘FKK’ (free body culture), and I frequently found that my American or English friends were shocked or puzzled by the elderly man dangling their private parts in front of you, trying to open the picnic box.
[2] I also did three videos about three different swimming pools in Berlin: Prinzenbad; the one in Humboldhain, which is mostly frequented by Turkish people from Wedding; and the one in Pankow, where I live. Pankow used to be an East German part of Berlin, and in the first years that I lived there, the swimming pool was frequented mostly by East German families. It gradually changed; when I filmed it, it was a venue for East Berlin teenagers; now each year you see more foreign-looking faces.


Rajeev Balasubramanyam and Antje Majewski: The Sea, 2003
Nell’aqua nell’aria, Galleria Monica de Cardenas, Milan, Italy  / 2003
Hemma Schmutz, Caroline Schneider (Ed.), Antje Majewski: My Very Gestures, Salzburger Kunstverein und Sternberg Press, Salzburg, Berlin, New York, 2008