Berlin is littered with abandoned buildings, but you can rarely find them in the city center anymore. The last one’s are either immediately sold to the biggest investor – a process that has been going on for a while – or used as temporary space. But not by artists, makeshift ravers or cultural programs.
They’re used by commercial pop-up stores and companies who capitalize on the aesthetic of rundown, forgotten spaces.
This phenomena, an urban praxis that was already quite established when I moved to Berlin 8 years ago, evokes two questions minimum. First: what draws people to abandoned places? And second: why is it important to recognize the capitalist infiltration for what it is?
Claudio already talked about the subject on iHeartBerlin in context of The Vacancy. In fact, his article made me go and visit the exhibition. The Vacancy was an exhibition placed in an old, rundown hostel in Mitte, by the Galerie Crone and ZeitMagazine. It was set out to be a temporary use of the facility before it is renovated again. 33 artist have prepared pieces specifically for this exhibition.
Claudio moves on to discuss the consequences of temporary uses for the real estate market. As opposed to the myth of ghost houses that aren’t sold well for their bleak past, an inbetween-gallery like this could definitely have the potential to leave a good review with the future investors, rapidly pouring more oil into the gentrification fire. Well, there might be some truth to that, but the game is over in Mitte anyway. That’s the nature of things. When Tacheles closed – and don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t a particularly big fan of Tacheles, but I did recognize it’s cultural and historical value for Berlin – we all knew that central Berlin was lost to money. And that was okay as long as we had the rest of the city.
I must say, the concept of The Vacancy had me thinking about something else, namely about how much the experience of art has become more important than the art itself. There was no guidance to the pieces exhibited, which is okay and fairly common; but the whole thing reminded me more of a mediocre UdK Rundgang. I’m saying this with no intention to hide my lack of knowledge about art. I’m not discussing the quality of the pieces, I’m just saying the medium of the exhibition was more exciting and probably drew more people in than the art itself, proving again how much “living in the city” is nowadays a hunt for aesthetically new experiences rather than fulfilling interests. But, as Nico wisely realized, all of the pieces had something to do with decay and thus were super in sync with the whole concept.
Besides, I wonder how much sense it makes to call it an “temporary use” if the whole reason of abandoning it was to create the illusion of spontaneity and wild urban aesthetic. But where’s the difference between the illusion and the “real thing”?