Weird, strange, freaky, magical, playful – I think many of us living in Berlin can agree that such words perfectly describe some of the unique personalities that inhabit this city. This sentiment is also captured in 26-year-old artist Olga Ivanova’s rendition of the map of Berlin.
Ivanova’s alternative map is populated with mysterious little creatures enjoying themselves throughout the city. Looking at the map, I’m sure many of us will recognize our own Berlin adventures whether it’s queuing up for Berghain, enjoying a coffee with a friend, hanging out with some fellow weirdos you just met at Hermannplatz or skating along Tempelhofer Feld.
Originally from St. Petersburg, Russia, Ivanova has spent a lot of time hitchhiking and Couchsurfing in various cities throughout Europe and was captivated by the sense of freedom she felt in Berlin, a feeling that is certainly reflected in her drawings.
“I was just perplexed,” she said. “I was sitting like, ‘what is this place?’ It’s a great city to understand who you are and what you want because you can be everything and no one really judges you, which I love.”
The longer you explore the map the more you will find your own memories represented in the dreamlike cityscape and mischievous critters, some of which are even wearing black beanies.
“I like the creatures that are a bit unconventional – these are not necessarily the standard cute creatures,” Ivanova said, explaining her artistic choice. “These are all kinds of weirdos and it’s the beauty of the place.”
The map came to life last November when we were approaching our second lockdown and Berlin’s infamous winter started setting in. During this time, Ivanova said she was losing touch with what she loves about her practice, which was sharing her artwork with strangers on sunny days at Berlin’s markets and streets. However, creating the map has helped her find that connection again as people have been inspired by her illustrations online.
Ivanova wants her map to remind people of the magic and mystery of Berlin during a time when many of us have lost touch with this side of the city, especially as our adventures have been limited to staying in our homes.
“I hope for those who are still here and planning to stay here, I hope that it somehow helps to get through these times… and stay hopeful for the better days to come when we can enjoy the city at its fullest again,” Ivanova said.
photo: Peter Kagerer