28. Maerz, 2009
12 Uhr, Rotes Rathaus
If you didn’t think about working the following weekend (6th – 7th December, 2008) — well here is your chance to hack away anyway!
We hereby invite you to the first DevHouseBerlin!
The idea is to hack and work away on whatever it is you’re working on and to show people what it is that you’re doing and why it’s so super awesome. It’s not required to be a geek to come, but a strong affinity for computers and software should be helpful when you spend the weekend in an office with a bunch of crazy people.
This week, the BBC have been playing daily extracts from (mostly English) fiction about Berlin. It’s all available to listen online for the next few days. The pieces are:
- Berlin Diary (Winter 1932-33) by Christopher Isherwood
- Camera Obscura by Judith Hermann
- Funeral in Berlin by Len Deighton
- The Wall by Anna Funder
- The Mural At Frau Krauser’s by James Hopkin
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.
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.
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.
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 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!]