Redressing the Dog’s Head

During the Loving Berlin Festival in June, 2005, Swedish-born collective Knifeandfork initiated Hundekopf, a location-based narrative project utilizing SMS text-messaging to explore the experience of riding the Berlin Ringbahn (known colloquially as the Hundekopf, or dog’s head).

Dog Head Logo
Hundekopf logo; all images couresty Knifeandfork

How does this project relate to the symbolic significance attributed to the Ringbahn during the post-wall unification process? Given its developers’ references to terrorism and “big brother” surveillance techniques, does Hundekopf relate most specifically to the history of its locale, or does it engage with the problem of civil liberty on a less localized scale? I suspect a bit of both, but feel a certain tension here between the global and local while recognizing the problem of history (and its fetishization) as related to a city like Berlin.

Please visit Knifeandfork’s website for more documentation of the project, including a documentary video of the piece.

Map of Berlin’s BVG

A project description, via Glowlab:

In re-imagining Hundekopf as a resistance organization, Knifeandfork uses the Ringbahn as a literal vehicle to move between time and place in what has been dubbed a ‘hub-narrative’ structured through SMS text-messaging and a new form of location-based content delivery.

The creation of the piece was itself a performance, as it required deconstructing Berlin’s public transportation information through the BVG website in order to track individual trains. This potentially volatile act was accomplished conspicuously using another shared resource, the numerous open Wi-Fi networks in Berlin cafes. Given current concerns about terrorism, the tracking system was the object of much attention.

System complete, flyers were distributed to travelers on S-bahn platforms and throughout the city during the week of Loving Berlin bearing an invitation to the resistance. To accept, participants go to any Ringbahn platform and send the name of that stop to the project phone number as an SMS. In response, they receive an instruction to board a particular train which they can then ride around the complete route.

After every stop on the Ringbahn, participants received a transmission from “Hundekopf” central command, defining an elusive manifesto referencing their actual immediate surroundings. “Hundekopf”, as it turns out, is not an organization at all, but resistance through attention to the mundane, eschewing any culture-jamming or generation of new signifiers in favor of direct experience. Resistance is continuous, you are chasing your tail.


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Filed under Built Environment, Cartography, Contemporary Art, Visual Culture

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