Skooter reporting 09/06/12
That early afternoon we met some Squats but according to what we heard, they get a bad knock in Britain, while in Berlin they were the creative engines that helped get the city back on its feet when the Wall came crushing. Today, they offer the visitor an exclusive way to exploit into the changing cultural life of the capital.
After reunification in 1990, there were hundreds of buildings lay neglected. Like for instance, the Kunsthaus Tacheles department store was used as a Nazi prison in WWII, it fell into bad shape under East German administration during the Cold War. It was slated for demolition after reunification before a group of artists moved in, converting its maze-like passageways and endless rooms and halls into studios, nightclubs, cafés, performance spaces and even a cinema.
One of the group’s founders, Martin Reiter, brings to mind how this area was reduced to rubble back then. It was very close to the Wall, on the East side, lined with military, he began. No-one thought of doing anything with it. In spite of that, in the midst of the developed world there were these spaces free, places where new things could happen, and artists from Berlin and internationally began to make them happen.
Today there is no sign of neglect; Tacheles is now bounded by designer stores, opulent arcades and marble mosaics. A massive arch marks its entrance and a winding staircase covered all over with paint spattered imagery and graffiti leads up five floors. Doors are left open, enticing the nosy into rooms packed with artistic projects: sculptures, paintings, huge pieces of machinery reshaped into twisted new forms. There’s a crowd of people here, some tourists (Tacheles gets around 400,000 a year), some partygoers who haven’t made their way home from the night before.
One of Martin Reiter’s co-founders at Tacheles, Jochen Sandig, encouraged renovating other discarded buildings in Berlin, including RADIALSYSTEM V, an imposing cultural center that opened on the banks of the River Spree in 2006. It was once a water pumping station, and now it became one of the city’s leading spaces for dance, concerts and contemporary art. Jochen, energetic and extroverted veteran of the city’s counterculture said, ‘I love abandoned spaces, and Berlin has a lot of them. Berlin has always been a city of poor people with big ideas.’
To be continued…