Funky Berlin: The Elusive Pö
How often do you look out the windows when riding the U-Bahn? I did all the time when I first moved to Berlin. I remember when I first saw it – bright, turquoise green letters painted on a yellow-orange wall – “Ich bin Pö." Who is Pö?
I realized that she isn’t easy to find. After some searching, I found and spoke with Robert Smith, a friend of Pö’s who works at a gallery and is also a graffiti writer:
“We want our work to be publicly visible. We want it to be out there, seen and noticed by people, but we want to also maintain our freedom of movement and our sense of anonymity."
I immediately became interested in Pö and her work. Why did she introduce herself to the city with “Ich bin Pö,” yet almost nothing is on the public record? Why did she plaster yellow bottoms throughout Berlin? Why all the secrecy?
Robert explains, “This is all very serious. It's very science fiction. It's very mechanical and technical. For something like Pö to come along, which is a lot more immediate, friendly, experimental and playful, it immediately stands out, I think."
"When she got to Germany, she discovers that 'Pö' is a reference to the bottom. It’s not quite a slang term, but it’s playful, like the English words 'butt' or 'bum,' rather than [something] serious or offensive. She thinks this is absolutely delightful and sets about creating 150 bottoms – varying degrees of sizes and hairiness." says Robert.
It took me a few weeks before I came into contact with Robert. It took him six months and a little bit of luck before he met Pö.
"The way I met Pö is because she finally came to my gallery and tagged the sign of it. I saw her doing it, and she started running away. I managed to flag her down and tell her I didn’t mind that she had just tagged my sign, because I was so delighted to be able to meet her. And so, that was, yeah, that was how I managed to find Pö," says Robert.
I was still sending emails and receiving no response from Pö.
"We did an exhibition with Pö at a gallery space that I was running last year, and we had maybe over 100 people there. One of the first things I said to the other people that were helping with the exhibition is, 'This is Pö. Forget what Pö looks like. If anybody in the exhibition asks you who Pö is, you say she isn't here.'"
I found out that Pö is not in Berlin, and hasn’t been for about a year. I am still hoping for a response from her.
"And so, by graffiti maintaining itself as purely the image that is on the walls and less about, you know, who is doing it in the very specific case of what the person’s identity is - I think that’s really important," explains Robert.
The colors of “Ich bin Pö” have dulled and many yellow bottoms are gone. Will Pö return to Berlin? Maybe, someday.
Funky Berlin is student radio and podcasts from The CIEE Global Institute Berlin that captures the voices, sounds and stories of this vibrant city at the crossroads of Europe and the World.
Giving voice, listening and cross-cultural learning drive, Funky Berlin's mission is to connect and share amongst diverse cultures and generations.
Funky Berlin students learn research, reporting and digital production skills and produce stories in state-of-the-art studios at the CIEE Global Media Center located in Kreuzberg.