“Berlin is becoming gentrified,” wrote Le Républicain Lorrain, “Berlin says farewell to bohemian artists,” said Le Point, and, according to Art Media Agency, it was “the end of an era” …
The closure of the famous Berlin art squat Tacheles, (september 4, 2012), by the authorities of a city increasingly dominated by property and finance, was a sad moment for anyone who believes art can offer alternative visions of the world.
In these days I’ve often spoken whit a dear friend about this topic and the new era and changes for the future in this city that i love so much. Zuleika, my friend, studied for a long time the architecture, the evolution of urbanism in Berlin and discovered unknown places of the city. (She also organizes tours very interesting that several times I have followed with Berlino Explorer).
Tacheles was one of many buildings in east Berlin that hovered between semi-collapse and unfinished building site. After the Berlin wall had come down, it was taken over by artists, who called TACHELES, Yiddish for “straight talk”. The building contained studios and workshops, a nightclub, and a cinema. In its courtyard you saw surreal sculptures of missiles and tanks made from scrap metal created apocalyptic mayhem. Inside, bars had been carved out of cavernous space that seemed to go on forever. It was a meeting place for the city’s artists and subversives that had the atmosphere of some legendary, mythic avant garde of the past.
The new generation of young people will not be able to relish in Berlin this mood. Even though the Tacheles lost its free and non-commercial spirit some time ago, Berlin lost the trademark of alternative culture in its heart. Lets hope that Berlin will still keep some spaces of free art and not just regrets that they have none any more once they are all gone.
The city is indeed undergoing massive gentrification, but it’s not a new phenomenon. When the Euro was introduced in the early 2000′s, owners doubled the rent, forcing families into exile in the poorer suburbs. It left space for investors, bohemian artists and other creative types to move in.
Talking with Zuleika I asked her: “and then what happened?” She invited me in marzhan and explains me what is the MAP. Tachels has a new structure, place (Alte Börse di Marzahn) and a new project for the future: The Mobile Atelier Project (MAP) that has the goal of focusing on gentrification and uses it to create an alternative way of thinking free space: making the concept of nomadisation a letimotiv of creation.
For understanding better what the Tacheles was really and the soul of its artists I advise you a docu-film: THE LAST DAYS OF TACHELES by the director Stefano Casertano, that touched me because you will see the true spirit of these artists. He had the opportunity to live and follow them for a whole year (not so easy to get), then through their emotions, disappointments a journey towards new hope (maybe!).
I recommended it because the thing that struck me was a poetic and imagery that reminded me to the characters of Ermanno Olmi movies. His characters and cinema always move to represent something is going to disappear (the end of a homeless man in “The Legend of the Holy Drinker”, and the end of civilization in Lombardia in “The Tree of Wooden Clogs”) through an humanist vision, where human being is at the center of his vision, but not to do social criticism but simply to dig into the intimacy of his characters. I’ve seen the same on the movie The last days of Tacheles: simply the soul of these artists closely with their fears, disappointments and ideals. This docu-film inhabit a strong humanist space. Note: a wonderful piano soudtrack by Maya Stern enriches the film.
Not surprisingly Olmi started his career as a documentarist.
I’m a creative worker (or also artist for somebody, but It’s a word that really I don’t love so much) and the last part of Casertano’s docu-film, where you can see the great disillusion of the Tacheles artists the days before the closing, really moved me. I don’t know if everyone can understand, but It’s s really a tear heart to see the dismantling of a place where you spent half of your life, your ideals and beliefs.
The movie premiere will be in Rome, 22 march at the RIFF FESTIVAL.
I don’t think Tacheles will even be mentioned in history books of art because it did not produce any “great artists” or “iconic works”. But It was an experiment in the power of imagination. May it be restless in memory.