The City as Subject: Public Art and Urban Discourse in Berlin – a book by Carolyn Loeb

We are happy to spread the word about a recently published book by one of our own members, Carolyn S. Loeb, Associate Professor Emerita in Art and Architectural History in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University.


In her new book, The City as Subject, Dr. Loeb examines specific bodies of public art in Berlin—murals painted in West Berlin in the 1970s and 1980s, street art and public sculpture from the period after reunification, and the official Memorial to the Berlin Wall at Bernauer Strasse—to explore how public artworks reflect the historical memories of the city even as they enter a broader discourse about how the urban space is inhabited.


Loeb identifies key elements—network, ground plane, and void—present in Berlin public art and memorials. She traces an implicit network, for example, in the memorials to destroyed synagogues found at intervals across the city. She notes the many plaques and commemorative stones embedded at the ground plane; and she observes the varying treatment of interstitial spaces across the city, from the firewalls left standing after the war to the now preserved void left by the Wall at Bernauer Strasse.


Yet this generously illustrated book (with 46 color plates and 34 black and white photos) is more than an explication of public art and memorials in Berlin. Loeb is on a search not only for the layers of history but also for “liberatory possibilities” that can be found among the sites and art objects she examines. She cites Henri Lefebvre, who describes the city as “an oeuvre, a work in which all its citizens participate.” Thus the city as subject of these artworks is also the subject of Loeb’s own inquiry, as she asks: What practices, vocabularies and strategies are employed here? How have materials, structural fragments, and vacant areas been used to reveal history, challenge gentrification, retrieve abandoned spaces, and ultimately, allow urban life to flourish?

— Carolyn Prescott


The City as Subject, Public Art and Urban Discourse in Berlin, by Carolyn Loeb
First published in Great Britain, Bloomsbury Visual Arts, Bloomsbury Publishing Pic, Copyright 2022

March 7th Stammtisch will be via Zoom. Join us!

Our regular first-Thursday-of-the-month Stammtisch, on March 7th, one week from today, will be via Zoom again. This will give us a chance to see and talk to AVAers who are not in Berlin right now. 
Here is the Zoom link for our next regular AVA first-Thursday-of-the-month Stammtisch on March 7th at 8:00 PM Berlin time, 2:00 PM Eastern: Join us. 
(If you are new to Zoom, you can download the Zoom software for free here: Make sure that you can use Zoom properly before the Stammtisch.

A Note from the Chair —

     Americans who live abroad may wonder why they should join an American political group if they don’t live in the United States. Shouldn’t we be concerned with the politics of the country where we live? Can’t we express our political opinions with international groups like Amnesty International or Greenpeace? Can’t we take part in U.S. politics by donating to candidates in races in the United States, or by writing letters and signing petitions as individuals? Yes, yes, and yes. 

      Yet many of us want to get together to clarify and discuss the issues that concern us. And some of us have found such a forum here in Berlin with American Voices Abroad. Independent of political parties and party lines, AVA provides an opportunity to think about issues more deeply and share information about them. If we’re lucky, our discussions lead to a sense of community and connection to the world. And if we’re very lucky, the discussions may even lead to action: demonstrations, public letters, cooperative actions with other groups.

     Our history: Two groups of anti-war Americans planning to march from opposite ends of Berlin’s biggest Iraq war demonstration on February 15, 2003, got wind of each other and arranged to meet in the middle. Needless to say, this proved to be an impossible endeavour in the crowd of 500,000 people—but find each other we did, if not that afternoon. Originally we called ourselves Americans in Berlin Against the War. Conversations and meetings then led to the creation of American Voices Abroad Berlin or AVA for short.

     By now, over 20 years later, we can say that AVA offers the forum that we wanted and the community that grew out of it. We hope that you will join us at our Stammtisch on the first Thursday of every month, usually face-to-face but now and then via Zoom. There will be a lot to talk about and a lot of things to do in 2024.

 —Ann Wertheimer, Chair, American Voices Abroad Berlin

AVA joins thousands at the Reichstag on February 3rd to affirm democracy and reject the AfD

February 3rd Day of Action—We are the Firewall!


WHEN:  Saturday, February 3, 13:00

WHERE:  Around the Reichstag


For solidarity and respect; against hate and aggression

For justice and tolerance; against division

For a society that leaves no one behind, for human dignity; against exclusion

For self-determination and humanity, for human rights for all; against racism, antisemitism, and other forms of group-based misanthropy

WHO WILL BE THERE:  As of 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 31, 2024, participating organizations numbered 1,352. Among them are GEW Berlin, Flüchtlingsrat Berlin, Chaos Computer Club, Seebrücke Berlin, Berliner Wassertisch, Verein Papageiensiedlung, Pro Asyl, Deutscher Caritasverband, Brot für die Welt, ver.di, Deutscher Mieterbund, Humanistische Union, Begine —Treffpunkt für Kultur für Frauen, Attac. Click on the link below for a full list.


Rally for Reproductive Justice—Photographs

Keep Abortion Legal
Rally on Pariser Platz in front of the U.S. Embassy and the Brandenburg Gate
Keep Abortion Legal — Photo above by Karen Axelrad. Click on the link to see more photos by Karen Axelrad.
Scroll down to see photos taken by Bonnie Woods: Photos © X Bonnie Woods, 2022.

Responding to a recently leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutional right to abortion, the Berlin section of Democrats Abroad organized a protest rally on May 14th at 2 p.m. at the U.S. Embassy. The leak indicated that a majority of the court plans to de facto abolish the right to abortion established almost 50 years ago by Roe versus Wade. AVA members joined Democrats Abroad Berlin to protest this decision, as thousands of people in cities all across America also gathered to stand up for reproductive justice, access to health care, and choice.

Daisy, the Dog-Democrat

Ukraine Solidarity Rally — Photographs from along the demonstration route

The Ukraine Solidarity Rally held in Berlin on February 27th was reportedly attended by more than 100,000 people, some AVA members among them. Karen Axelrad took photos around the Siegelsäule (see one of her photos below and go to to see more), while Bonnie Woods was covering the other end of the demonstration near the Brandenburg Gate, Reichstag and Holocaust Memorial (Bonnie’s photos shown here below).

More Photos from Karen Axelrad here on Flickr:

Photos from Bonnie Woods on this page below:

Ukrainian and Russian are two different languages, but their word for “Peace” is the same.
In German and Russian: “NO WAR”
In Ukrainian: “Long Live the Ukraine!”
Mother and Son: In Hebrew and Ukrainian [loose translation] “Fck Putin!!”
Two demonstrators on their way to the peace march on Bus #165
Ukrainian demonstrator at the Berlin Holocaust Memorial. “Hands Off!”
In Ukrainian: “Putin – War Criminal!”
Ukrainian flag colors, planned attire
Sign by a young designer, Tiergarten, Berlin
With the Reichstag as background, “We Are the Ukraine”
A demonstrator from a Georgian group
Family group, in Russian and Ukrainian: “No War, Hands Off Ukraine, Fck Putin, Stop Russian Aggression”

Photos from the November 7th “Count Every Vote” Rally at the Brandenburg Gate