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New West Berlin – new artists in old buildings

What makes an exhibition good for me? As I am not an art-expert an exhibition often lives from side-effects that make the visit valueable like the direct contact to artists, interesting public or the location. Last weekend I went to an exhibition opening of an artist collective that showed their work in the building they used over the summer. The hole thing was close to my workplace in Kreuzberg and I got the invitation from a colleague.

When i arrived in the street I was not sure if I found the right place. Between the houses there was an field and in the back you could see old brick buildings. There are still some similar grounds left especially in the area close to Spree. The buildings were used by the industry and after the fall of the wall they didn’t get maintained. 15 years ago this old “ruines” started to attract artists and creative folks to use it as ateliers, studios, exhibition space.

The areal of buildings in Melchiorstrasse were used as … Inside the buildings you can still see some remains of the old use: space in the floor for the wheels, some floorparts that you could turn around. If you enter the main building you see many big doors that you could open to drive the big busses in and out. The main building has 6 floors. The ground floor is a big hall with two stairhouses on each small side. In the two upper floors that you could visit for the exhibition there are smaller rooms that they made in the last two month of getting of from a big corridor. I guess there must have been the administration, rest rooms and cloak rooms.

When I arrived there on friday night everyone seemed busy. There were only a few people in front of the building and in the main hall. The first strange fact I recognized that there was no light so you couldn’t see most of the art. The artists or organizers run around and could answer brievly my questions or welcomed me by passing by. One girl showed me the staircase and recommended me to have a look upstairs. In the staircase a photografer was busy choosing a selection of his pictures. His pictures showed self-portraits in different locations in Berlin: in a boat in the middle of a lake, at Brandenburg Gate and in the location itself. I made the effort to go their again during the daylight to take the pictures you see here; and also to visit the spots the photographer Julien from Marseille used for his shooting. His idea was to always show himself with a ton of colourful air balloons knotted to his long rasta-hair.

In the art areal he jumped from a junk car and you could imagine that the balloons carry him towards the ceiling where there was a hole in the roof. The artist played with the holes and unperfectness of the location. The pictures are also just funny and nice to look at.

On the next day I had the chance to talk to Julien briefly. He said that it was an old idea he realized in this series. For sure the location gave him inspiration too.

In the small rooms besides the coridor the artists occupied each a room for their individual work presentations. It was not the best art I have seen but still the individual design of each roomwas interesting to look at. I remember one more room where the artist expressed his ideas both with an animation and a story recorded on tape.

Some rooms were completly empty but you saw the grey walls where the colour surface peels off in a way that you see new interesting shapes and formations. One grey wall where the colours comes off reminds me on a big painted picture.

In another room you see inside a chaotic atelier scenery with lots of bits and pieces. Artists in all epochs liked to paint their own environment and show it to the public.

One more room I remember: an atelier scenery again but this time with odd “models” sitting on chairs: puppets, teddy bears. For what do they wait? The portraits on the wall show children but not in a way that they looked too serious. They looked like pictures of anchestors in non-colour white, black, grey. On the photographs I already described you see the vegetation around the building. When I went there the next day I was impressed by the vegetation around the buildings. The light green bushes reminded me on dshungeltrees. There is also a house called elephanthouse. In relation to its former use someone painted a big elephant on a gate.

For the party they used the small rooms where the officers looked out in the main hall. In the winter balconys they styled bars with piano and bar.

The future of the buildings is uncertain.

On the opening I could talk to the cultural manager of the project. One aim is to keep the building as long as possible for community use. The city is not the owner of the areal therefor the risc is high that it will removed like many old buildings before.

When I made pictures out of the window I could see one of the last occupied houses called “Köpie” just opposite and next to it luxury living houses. Instead of keeping the old structure, investors often decide to remove the hole venue and built new.

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