Archive for October, 2008

Machines for living

Much as I love Tacheles and the like, the idealist in me is always faintly disappointed by how rarely what’s inside really uses the building.

I’m a true believer in the idea that the buildings around us shape our emotions and our behaviour. So I fantasize that the folks involved in our social centres, housing projects and squats – often impressively creative and energetic people – might manage to shape the buildings around their dreams.

They might achieve something similar to the sensation when you are inside the Jewish Museum, or how a church or a supermarket concentrates your attention on a single purpose. Except this would be made on the cheap, from papier-mache and offcuts of wood and old beer-bottles – all somehow contributing to make the atmosphere non-hierarchical, or queer-friendly, or revolutionary, or whatever.

Overblown as that may sound, I’ve no doubt that somewhere in Berlin, somebody is doing something along these lines. I just don’t know where; do you?

To keep this from being entirely speculative, let me mention Karmanoia as one place decorated with uninhibited creativity. Most obviously impressive is the labyrinth, two floors filled with twisty passages, all different in their colours and textures and atmosphere. The rest of the building – used as a cafe, as a space for music and theatre, and doubtless for much else – has reconfigured and redecorated itself almost every time I visit. Presumably there was human intervention along the way, but it feels as though the building simply has a life of its own.


Part of Millennium Mythology by Tacheles regular Alexander Rodin

Part of 'Millennium Mythology' by Tacheles regular Alexander Rodin.

The prospect of Tacheles being demolished is somehow both inevitable and unthinkable.

Inevitable because in any battle between money and art, money wins. Unthinkable because Tacheles is a focal-point for so much, that I can’t imagine what would fill the gap if it went. Sure, the artists will find other places, the parties move on. Foreign tourists will turn up, look in confusion at a building site, and be picked off by the commercial tour operators. But all of it together, the whole unstable combination of dismal and excellent? Once that goes, it’s gone for good.

For all Tacheles’ faults – the dirt (a cleaner there once earnestly explained to me how he viewed pissing in the stairwells as a form of artistic expression), the in-fighting, the omnipresent drug-pushers – it’s the best we’ve got. I don’t know how to help Tacheles keep going: the legal battles are for insiders, mass demonstrations are more uplifting than effective. I hope somebody does, though.


I discovered some new music for myself tonight – the radio had it playing somewhere. :-)

The band is called Jazzanova (from Berlin, of course) with a song called “So far from home” (ft. Phonte). Been listening to all the samples on iTunes and Myspace and so far it’s pretty cool, easy going, Jazz-Soul-Freestyle, great lyrics. So good I had to google the lyrics from the radio for half an hour before I figured out the band name and the album.

If you want to peak, check out the review on okayplayer, they also have a little mp3 player which has the very same song in it which I heard tonight. More music is on Jazzanova’s myspace.

Berlin im Licht

The now-closing Berlin Illuminiert festival is, as hauptstadtblog says, more impressive as photography than in person. Still more entertaining is how over-excited Berliners got 80 years ago, at the first big Berlin light festival. As one wrote, in terms worthy of a loved-up glowstick-waving raver:  Berlin is modern, modern through its light…Paris is like a city of varying shades of grey. Berlin is a single block of light. And there was sound, too:

After the phenomenal success of Die Dreigroschenoper in the summer of 1928, Kurt Weill found himself the toast of Berlin. Indeed, so popular was Weill that he was hired to provide a song for the Berlin im Licht festival in October. That a festival organized by a utility company to celebrate the wonders of electrical lighting in Berlin would hire the composer of the anti-capitalist Dreigroschenoper demonstrates the height of Weill’s celebrity. Weill responded with a tiny, slow fox trot of a song with cheerfully banal lyrics by Weill himself extolling the glories of Berlin im Licht (Berlin in Light). The song is completely forgettable, utterly ephemeral, and absolutely perfect for the occasion.

All of which makes me feel terribly dull, in my inability to get worked up over lights shining on buildings.

Flickr, naturally, has more photos than you could ever want.

Gentrifying Alex

The TAZ reports on a councillor’s personal crusade to get rid of the groups of punks gather around Alexanderplatz every weekend. Or at least, he’s trying to ban alcohol there, and I doubt many will stick around without those omnipresent bottles of Sternburg.

It’s always seemed like a nice scene to me, one that goes back in some form all the way to the GDR times (*). Appropriately incongruous, a bunch of scruffy kids in black, between the 700-year-old Marienkirche and the ugly-but-really-effin-huge Fernsehturm. You’ve got the dogs on strings, the emo fringes, the Japan-obsessed girls, the goths in their fuck-me boots and OTT eyeliner, before they all head off to Kopi or Potse or K17, or wherever it is they go now.

Maybe not everybody’s piece of cake – although the TAZ’s vox-pop doesn’t find much outrage – but mostly harmless, and certainly livelier than just another corner of badly-kept park that isn’t doing much. Personally, I’m irrationally fond of them, and I’ll be sad if they get gentrified out of existence. I’m half-tempted to blame this planned ban on the fact that if, like this councillor, you have the name Ephraim Gothe, you’ll end up either loving goths or hating them.

In other loitering-on-the-street news, it looks like outside heaters are going to be banned from January. Glad I’m not a smoker…

* As I understand it, this was something similar to Harajuku Bridge in Tokyo, a place where teenagers gathered in their fanciest clothes to show off at the tourists. Just with the added complication of the Stasi keeping tabs on the whole thing. Oddly, I can’t find much about this online, so maybe I’m imagining the entire thing.

Distant suburbs

Cities leave footprints far larger than their physical borders; there’s usually a whole hinterland dedicated to feeding the city, housing its commuting workers, resentfully dreaming of the place. Sometimes it seems to cover an entire country: London and Paris have near-total dominance over the cultures and economies of England and France. But Berlin? No – Berlin is too young and small and poor, Germany is too decentralized, the Wall messed things up too long.

Then along comes Tobias Rapp, to point out that sprawl isn’t always that simple

Berlin’s suburbs are no longer in Brandenburg, but in Europe – in Venice, Barcelona or Leeds. Tourists have become the fourth pillar of our nightlive, alongide the Ossis, the gays and the Mittis. They’re also scarily well-informed: if a new illegal club opens up, the next month it’ll have a write-up in one of the in-flight magazines” [from the current Zitty, not online]

I’d say the clubs themselves, more than Ryanair, are responsible for this. Tresor, Berghain and Watergate all run their own record labels; globetrotting DJs boost Berlin’s reputations wherever they stop off. But Rapp is (as usual) spot-on with the rest; it’s the neverending airlift of clubbers, the backpackers, and Erasmus students that keeps Berlin’s nightlife afloat. Better to have commuters playing here and workng elsewhere than the opposite, right?

Rapp calls these visitors the Easyjetset, and is finishing up a book about them and Berlin’s clubs. I can’t wait to read it; almost everything he writes has something interesting to say.

After the games

After plenty of debate, it looks like Hertha won’t be building themselves a new home ground. That means the Olympiastadion gets to continue unchanged for a few more years.

Other parts of the olympic infrastructure haven’t been so lucky: parts of the olympic village, for instance, have been gutted by fire; much of the rest is abandoned or decaying. Sad, but it does make for some impressive pictures.

More on the history of the village here.

[and yes, I’m the new guy here. Hi, everybody!]


Barcamp Berlin3

18th/19th October, 2008

Deutsche Telekom AG
Französische Straße 33a-c
10117 Berlin


More infos!

Terms of use | Privacy Policy | Content: Creative Commons | Site and Design © 2009 | Metroblogging ® and Metblogs ® are registered trademarks of Bode Media, Inc.