One of the notions constantly present among our lives is Home. Throughout our bodies, nations and actual houses, we try to find a perfect way to settle, to be happy. Heather McKee, director of the HomeBase Project Berlin tells us how she found that happiness.
I sing. I sing because I am happy. I am comfortable, at home. It took me a long time in order to find that peace, that happiness. I was a like a military baby, I moved roughly ten times in my youth, to several countries. I grew up in Germany from when I was nine until fifteen and then went to live back in the United States. I always felt connected to Germany and my two sisters and I always knew we would come back here. We were lucky enough to be bicultural and bilingual and felt a constant need to enjoy it the much as we can. One by one, we all moved to Germany, in order to feel at home.
But what is exactly feeling at Home? It has several layers, and all have to be combined in order for you to feel truly comfortable with yourself and the world. Your first home is your body. You have to take care of it. Not in todays market sense where the body as figure is pushed to extremes but rather in an intimate relation with it. Your skin is the wall, your organs and hollows are the different rooms. A living organism is like a perfect home where nothing has to be taken out. Every little part has a function, is involved in a greater process. If you can’t be present in your body, you’ll never be able to be present in the greater world in any way. I have a way to check how I feel – my singing. When my voice is coming straight from my heart, I know that everything is all right, that I feel good, part of the world. During the most unhealthy parts of my life, I was not singing at all. Now I don’t know how I could do without it. To sing or to perform anything with passion and presence you have to have intention, you have to mean it. A Home without intentions is a hot mess and your body does not escape from that rule.
The language you speak, the way you behave, the way the world is behaving around you, all those countless details are the very key for a good Home. I came back to Germany and in Berlin I met the founder, Anat Litwin, of the HomeBase Project, and an innovative arts organization which was already active in New York. I was always dreaming of the place I could finally settle in. Where I could allow myself to stay. The place would have to feel magical. This project is based in an old brewery in Pankow. Artists come during the residency period and merge their bedroom and studio. The place they live is also the place they work in. Together, we explore the notion of Home where everyone comes with a different background and is ready to share it with the rest. It feels like a family, an extravagant one. Each of us has passion and he’s willing to give, to share. What we construct here, in spite of art is constructing our cocoon, a place of healing and development, our way of life that can be new and independent from everything we know outside, yet we also strive to connect.
It reminded me of the happy time with my family when, as a young kid, we would go on holidays in a mini-van, ‘Red Delicious.’ This clunk of metal was like a true home for me, I grew up in it looking through the window and seeing the land going further and further. It was the one consistent structure in my life. Home is sharing memories, and my sisters and I won’t forget the ones we had with Red Delicious.
In Homebase, I live and work with creative, open-minded and laid-back people. We host dinners, parties and exhibitions. We have certain programs that help to build a community. We are around fifteen living and working with one bath and one kitchen, we have our own spaces but most of it is common. We see each other in our pajamas, we catch wind of everyone’s relationships, all those normal community activities initiate a will for knowing and sharing with other people. The sense of community is so much bigger. We took an abandoned space and turned it into a place of exchange. We are enlivening this space until they tear it down and build closed off single family condominiums. There will be no room for the HB family. I believe people thrive and connect through open space. The more open the space is, the better. As we know in Berlin, building more walls does not bring happiness to the people.
Home is also about having habits, rituals and rhythm. Every Wednesday, everyone eats together at the same table. Everytime the office setting gets tense, we throw on some music and dance. Every evening I stand on my head to reset my world. Many nights I sing behind closed doors and it seeps out and into the long long hallway, an invisible audience, listening, us sharing a moment together. Those moments are truly the ones that make a basis for your identity, for the construction of oneself. Today I think I found that happiness I was dreaming of in Red Delicious, the blue print of a home on which to build.