Misplaced Roots by Katja Vaghi

In Airports, Berlin, Performances, Workshops on February 3, 2019 at 5:45 pm

Misplaced Roots 

Concept and performance: Katja Vaghi

Location: landing stripe, Templehofer Feld, Berlin

Duration: 15 minutes

January 2018

Misplaced Roots is a solo performance that was created in the framework of Tanja Ostojić’s MISPLACED WOMEN? workshop unfolding in the range of public spaces in January 2018 in Berlin. I have found the discussions during Tanja Ostojić’s workshop especially interesting. Despite none of the participants were born and raised in Berlin, those discussions uncovered moving details of the city’s social fabric, from its history on both side of the wall to actual issues. It has surely brought the city closer.

I will start with a short description how this performance came about and add a few words of reflection about it.


Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

On the second day of the workshop, a group of us (Tanja Ostojić, Rhea Ramjohn, Alice Minervini, Sara Kramer, Ola Kozioł and myself) headed from the institution hosting the workshop, the Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, to our chosen performance site, Berlin Tempelhofer Feld. Berlin Tempelhof airport opened in 1927 and was one of the oldest functioning airports before its closure in 2008. Considered a highly influential place by many people in Berlin, it has now been repurposed into an unusual park, Tempelhofer Feld and recently also housed an emergency camp for refugees. In the surreal landscape offered by the landing stripes, people jog and walk dog, grill and play.

Group Interventions on the Way

Our performance started though with little interventions on the S-Bahn (train) to Tempelhofer Feld. In the first, four of us (Ola Kozioł, Tanja Ostojić, Rhea Ramjohn and myself) decided to ‘reclaim our space’ by sitting with our suitcases between our legs in reaction to that little nagging voice preaching how good socialized women should occupy a small space. This was followed my claiming even more space while searching my bag for my phone. We wanted to know where a particular spot of the airport was and I was looking to phone a friend. So, I deliberately choose to take the most absurd or voluminous things out of my bag, thus pilling books, gloves, a scarf and bright orange mandarins on the top of my suitcase in my hunt for my phone. This partial performance of Tanja’s set score did not impress the person seated next to me who continued reading his book, or the others in the carriage. I might have appeared a little eccentric but being Berlin, I was quite in the norm. Knowing your context is key. Still the situation highlighted another element, how we are always in a liminal space, always potentially on the verge of a performance. Each act is a potential subversive act depending on the place, extent and length of its performance.

tempelhof performance #7

Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Video-still: Sara Kramer

Group Intervention on the Tempelhof airport

At Tempelhof airport (with Tanja and Rhea) the three of us with suitcases produced a choreography of rolling suitcases. Three misplaced women, with their suitcases, walking on the landing strip to get on a flight that is no longer there.


Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Video-still: Sara Kramer

Misplaced Roots

I chose to perform Misplaced Roots in the middle of a landing stripe. I drag my suitcase away from the audience, heading nowhere and looking forlorn. This suitcase has accompanied me for seven years going back and forth from were I have been studying and then working and the place of where my emotions were, my family and my partner. I have rolled it for so long that one of the wheels is worn out. I then stop, take my coat off and open the suitcase. I try to squeeze myself in it. I am too big. My legs are out of it, as I clap myself together as a Swiss knife. I open the lid, try to put my legs in the suitcase as well, fail and fall with it backwards. I am now sitting with my back and the lid on the concrete and my legs on the suitcase. The temperature is far below zero. It is very cold. I try to use it as a cover to get some warmth from it. But it is not happening. There is no way that I am going to fit in it.


Katja Vaghi: Misplaced Roots, “Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin 2018. Photo: Tanja Ostojić

I feel restless, a body without a voice. I step out of the suitcase and take a white long skirt. I wear it, and sit back in the suitcase. I take an old broken shirt, turn it inside out and try to fit in one of these plastic bags for the security check commenting as I go: “You always have to squeeze your whole life inside these little bags”. It is funny how one grows attached to objects. Especially, when travelling a lot, one has certain rituals involving particular objects that make one feel at home. A friend of mine had a special cup. I have a suitcase. Many times I have lived out of this suitcase. It was literally my home. I then read aloud a definition of migration taken from wikipedia and the comments on how to approach and survive the procedure at the German Immigration Authorities (Ausländerbehörde Berlin). Finally, I read testimonies of people who had migrated from my region a century ago. I am a voluntary migrant but this does not mean I am less lonely when settling in a new place. I am still misplaced. I am still visited with feelings of loss and nostalgia. Each time one packs a suitcase to move, one brings one’s roots with it, hoping to find nurturing soil for them. I read the definition of ‘Spolia’ or the building stones that are repurposed for new constructions. These ‘homely’ objects, these spolia, are fragments of a previous life helping one grow roots in a new country. Finally, I close my performance as I started. I pack everything in the suitcase, put my coat on and continue walking towards nowhere. 


Katja Vaghi alternates theoretical reflections in written form to practical musing in the performing space. A dancer, choreographer, somatic practitioner and dance researcher, she holds a PhD in dance philosophy (University of Roehampton) and is an enthusiast improviser and site-specific performer. She is based in Berlin


Text written by: Katja Vaghi

Edited and first published by Tanja Ostojić, 2018-19 on the Misplaced Women? project Misplaced Women? project blog

This performance has been developed and performed for the first time in the frame of Misplaced Women? workshop led by Tanja Ostojić, in public spaces in Berlin, January 2018.

HD video-recording: Sara Kramer

Still from video: Sara Kramer

Photography: Tanja Ostojić

Misplaced Women? Berlin January 2018 was organised by: Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz, Berlin Weißensee. 


Please visit as well other contributions and posts from the same workshops:

Contribution by Mad Kate

Contribution by Rhea Ramjohn

Contribution by Hoang Tran Hieu Hanh

Contribution by Jiachen Xu and Evdoxia Stafylaraki

Contribution by LADY GABY

Contribution by Ola Kozioł

Contribution by Татьяна Bogacheva

Public Presentation of the Misplaced Women? Workshop, Berlin, January 2018

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