Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pt. 7 Who Kills Mitte?

In far away Germany I managed to find something that was as familiar as home. My host took me through some of the areas that had some nice old buildings. Since reunification Berlin has been rapidly filling in the empty spaces and renewing as much as they can. (Which is what prompted this, which we initially thought was a bit of snarky graffiti-

-which reads, "What, no house here yet?" or something like that. Turns out, it was guerilla advertising for a chat website...ah well...

In fact it's hard to find a place in Berlin where there isn't some sort of building going on.

(that photo really happened because moments prior I had concluded erroneously that Berlin didn't have pigeons. I swear it posed.)

The construction in some of these formerly East Berlin districts has created some familiar juxtapositions.

This building had been filled with squatter artists in the years following reunification. In a time when the rest of Berlin was draining out of the area and no one was investing, the artists started to stage their own renewal. The glass on the building was apparently new. Now, after they've invested into making the place interesting, the money is coming back.

So now this-

is next to this-

Much like those of us here on Treasure Island, or like the hippies and artists who founded Sausalito's floating home community, or of my former home Santa Cruz, the poor and artistic who made unwanted districts desirable essentially waiting to be shoved out by the rich.

There is a courtyard that embodies both the artistic spirit of Mitte and the encroaching commercialism. It's covered in graffiti-


was behind one of these sculptures-

-which for a Euro would do a dance-

And a very Banksy stencil, though I don't know enough to tell if it was Banksy himself or not-

UPDATE: As it turns out, the artist's name is right there for me to see, it's Alias, and he contributed much of the art in the courtyard.

But all of this is making way for tourist stores and boutique shops like the Ampelmann Store (which I have to say I made a specific visit to) and this amusingly named restaurant-

Artists will ask themselves forever-

But the artists of Mitte know the answer to this one-

"People's Luxury"

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