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Till Human Voices Wake Us

Olivia Fernandez | Germany

Berlin, January 2021

Till Human Voices Wake Us is a project about mental health, isolation and the emotional void created by the pandemic.

Few cities symbolize urban void like Berlin. A city where the scars of each fall are visible through a sense of loss and emptiness in the urban landscape. Yet the negative space that once made Berlin sexy conveys a different feeling in the middle of a global pandemic. The narrative has changed. Hollowed spaces that were marks of history have become manifestations of the emotional emptiness created by the lockdown and social isolation. Left with hardly any distractions, the city and nature within it are my only escape. The voids become spaces that nurture memory and reflection. My daily strolls become melancholic hazy walks through the mind, and as I wander across the city, I let the empty spaces fill the vacuum left by loneliness.


Voids originate in what no longer exists and what doesn't exist yet. They are invisible history and unwritten future, a pause in the urban landscape, an opportunity to remember and to forget. I walked to the outskirts and crossed the city following the path that once divided it. In my quest for emptiness my relationship to the topography changed, and I started to better understand the discontinued narrative of Berlin. It made me think of my own narrative, of the story being written in such an uncomfortable time. In the midst of uncertainty there is an opportunity for change, a chance to deconstruct and rebuild and watch the discomfort become part of the landscape.


As I navigate through my own emotions, I think about others. As a society, we've been moving further towards isolation for years and our mental health has been suffering as a result. We are not meant to be isolated. With the pandemic, the sound of our emotions is louder and, for many, what was before barely manageable becomes unsustainable. Beyond stresses inherent in the illness itself, home-confinement and emotional isolation have alarming implications for mental health and social functioning. How will we emerge from this time and how long will it take for the marks left by the pandemic on our lives to fade away? Or are they just going to become part of our existence like urban voids became part of Berlin?

Olivia Fernandez



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