NEU-YORK is a cautionary meditation, suggesting what the local geographical reality might have been like had victorious Nazis succeeded in bringing the Third Reich across the Atlantic Ocean in 1945. At the same time it is an exploration of psychological transport, place, displacement and memory. This re-imagining of the city plays with comparison and misrecognition, exploring the coexistence of past and present, fiction and reality.
A four-color lithographic map, printed in an edition of 20, NEU-YORK is an obsessive exercise in cartography with a "horrifying counterfactual proposition" I have recreated an accurate map of Manhattan, circa 1939 (with no post-War developments like Lincoln Center), by scanning in several vintage maps and then digitally manipulating them first erasing all Jewish stars representing synagogues and then removing all the street and location names, replacing them (following my own invented system of naming) with street and location names taken from actual Berlin maps of the same period, ultimately imposing 1939 Berlin on 1939 Manhattan in an historical juxtaposition/overlay. I chose paper and ink colors that would replicate the tones of an old map.
NEU-YORK takes the concept of "unbuilt landscape" to an extreme, moving beyond the architecture of individual structures towards a fantastical psycho-geographical projection of environmental and urban planning. And, while a historic document a diagrammatic street map is the inspiration for the project it is also the end result: A pseudo-historical artifact presenting an imaginary landscape which remains two-dimensional yet offers a distinctly visceral psychological topography in its representation of an invented space.
In this ironic linking of the two cities I know most intimately I am proposing a city in which I would not, in fact, be allowed to exist. Yet NEU-YORK is paradoxically an homage to the German language my father's mother tongue which I also speak fluently and the poetic aspects of the German culture, the very same culture that German and Austrian Jews rightfully identified as their own, and which might have been mine to embrace had the historical continuum not been broken.
The Hudson River is the Havel; the East River the Spree. The Statue of Liberty is the Siegessäule. The Brandenburger Tor stands at Columbus Circle. Tiergarten (Central Park), with the Reichstag (the Metropolitan Museum of Art) stationed at its edge, contains the Wannsee lake and smaller bodies of water (including a goldfish pond); a sailing club, as well as several playgrounds and areas for sport including the Reichssportfeld designated location of marathons and athletic meets. Nearby is the Pergamon Museum (Museum of Natural History). The Zoologischer Garten (Central Park Zoo) stands at the park's south east corner. Times Square is Potsdamer Platz; Herald Square is Alexander Platz. Pennsylvania Station is Bahnhof Friedrichstrasse, Grand Central Terminal is Anhalter Bahnhof; the subways are worked out accordingly.
I created a system for naming all the streets and districts. The avenues are all "Kaiserlich and Königlich" named after kaisers and kings; Fifth Avenue is Kurfürstendamm, Broadway Friedrichstrasse, etc.
All the numbered cross streets have names. The streets above 14th Street are named in clusters following a certain invented order. Flanking Tiergarten, east and west, all street names refer to the natural world: On the Upper West Side the streets are named after birds (Kanarien Weg), wildflowers (Jasmine Weg), plants, grains and herbs; on the Upper East Side after flowers (Glockenblumen Strasse), trees, wild animals (Ottern Weg) and wild birds.
Richard Wagner Strasse runs near to where Lincoln Center would have been. South of that are streets named after other German composers (no German-Jewish ones among them), names associated with operas (Tannhäuser Strasse, Niebelungen Weg), and old Teutonic German first names (Elfreide, Fridolin, Waltraud, Willibald Strasse). On the East Side, proceeding south from the park, the streets are named after foreign cities (Budapester Strasse, Sansibar Strasse), German Rivers (Oder, Elbe, Main) and German cities and towns (Nürnburger Strasse, Dusseldorfer Strasse). Adolf Hitler Platz, Hermann Göring Strasse, and Horst Wessel Platz can indeed be found but one must look for them.
Below 14th Street I have reproduced whole Berlin neighborhoods in sections sometimes block for block. Often I match neighborhoods for their character names from Berlin's Financial District are used in the Wall Street area; the streets of Savigny Platz and environs (named after German philosophers, poets, writers and inventors) are used around Washington Square Park and Greenwich Village; street names in the Seaport area retain their maritime flavor.
There are puns here and there Spring Street is Frühling (Spring) Strasse the surrounding streets are therefore called Winter, Sommer and Herbst (Autumn) Strasse. On the Lower East Side Heimat Strasse is next to Rotdorn Weg, Schwarzdorn Weg and Weissdorn Weg (Red Thorn Way, Black Thorn Way and White Thorn Way) a subtle reference to the colors of the Nazi flag. Some name choices are onomatopoetic: Mott Street is Motz Strasse; Mulberry Street is Meyerbeer Strasse. In some cases the name is a direct (or close) translation Bischof Strasse (Rector Street). At other times I make a kind of association Kloster (Convent) Strasse (Maiden Lane), or Monbijou Strasse (Pearl Street). When there was a Berlin street name matching the Manhattan one (Wall, Elizabeth, Thomas and Park Streets) nothing was changed.
New Jersey, all of it, is now the Grünewald forest. The Potsdamer Brücke (Brooklyn Bridge) links NEU-YORK to Potsdam (Brooklyn) and the Spandauer Brücke (59th Street Bridge) crosses over Pfaueninsel, 'peacock island', (Roosevelt Island) into Spandau (Queens).
An INDEX is provided, showing the original Manhattan street names and their Berlin-centric replacements in both German to English and English to German including translations of German words.
An adjunct project (in progress) is HOTELS IN NEU-YORK, a guidebook to lodging. In this fabricated hotel directory I take graphic elements from actual tourist advertisements found in a 1935 German travel atlas, also using the original hotel names: Park Hotel faces the Tiergarten, Hotel Wagner is on the Richard Wagner Strasse; the placement of the various buildings corresponds logically to the layout of my invented city.
MELISSA GOULD (MeGo)