Oliver Miller (American, born 1972)

Oliver Miller Documentation of Dr. Pong, 2001–ongoing Collection of the Artist
Oliver Miller
Documentation of Dr. Pong,
Collection of the Artist

Trained as an architect and artist, Oliver Miller builds functional environments of social collectivity and historical reflection in post–Wall Berlin. He first visited the city in 1993 while crisscrossing Europe by train. Amidst the swirling currents of historical change, Berlin’s sites of mundane transformation and its subtle pockmarks particularly intrigued him. Returning to Berlin in the early 2000s, Miller began holding unsanctioned ping-pong parties in abandoned spaces in the former East Berlin, a common practice amidst other cultural activations in forlorn ruins and unoccupied structures. Under the moniker “Dr. Pong,” Miller fused theory and his architectural training with an intervention into the evolving landscape of the city. Setting up shop in an abandoned grocery store near the former Wall on Eberswalder Strasse in Prenzlauer Berg, he marked the entrance for those in the know with a makeshift sign on the door, using vinyl letters from an American hardware store. After gaining a sizable following, Miller decided to remain in Berlin full-time as an expatriate. He eventually applied for a business license and gained the lease to the Dr. Pong property. Miller views his negotiation of German bureaucracy in the Wende period as part of his creative process. He notes, “Speaking German is for me a game and an experiment, a game that I want to win at, but an experiment I expect to learn the truth from through a process of trial and error.” Miller continues to live in Berlin, where Dr. Pong remains a cultural mainstay, currently located within footsteps of the popular Mauerpark flea market. In 2010, Miller extended his own work on post-Wall Berlin in a special issue of the architectural journal Disko, co-edited with Daniel Schwaag and Ian Warner. The trio focuses on the area of the “new death strip” in a series of critical essays on the infamous and now redeveloped middle fault line of the city—a study in the overlay of historical haunting and newly sprouted architecture (some spectacular, some banal) in the former death strip of the Berlin Wall.

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