Tacheles is threatened and the very same week, a new art squat makes the scene by hosting an exhibition of 28 independent artists. The amount of people willing to make the trek out to Weisensee for an exhibition on a Thursday night probably spoke to the social skills of the artists involved in Things Fall Apart but it also symbolized the void that Tacheles' virtual closure has left in Berlin's non-commercial arts scenes.
Artist Benjamin Spalding (who, despite having the most British name I've ever come across, is actually an American expat) summed up the Weisensee collective's approach when he told me that his work should, "ideally, make people stop in their everyday lives and take an extra minute to think." Installation art is not about preserving a piece for the future, he says, it is about "going into to areas and using the materials that I find to build things" for ordinary people to engage with. Although his work is in a gallery Ben's philosophy is one which underlies much of the art found in Berlin's streets.
Ben's contribution to 'Things Fall Apart' was a darkly cool altar that dominated one of the gallery's side rooms, like a Christian-pagan chapel from a freer time in prehistory.
Ben: "I always imagine myself hacking through a very deep, dark, purple forest and coming across different signs and decoding them."
The second artist I spoke to, Dorothée Recker, walked me through a cool montage of paintings that looked airbrushed, though they weren't. She had arranged them so that elements of each painting blended into the one above it, creating a visual arc. She explained the story arc behind them as well: "This one is a self portrait, and this is the sky; this is the boy I used to love; this is a dead cat that was outside my house in France; this is the sky again..." The gaps between these apparently random tidbits were filled in with visual continuity, as you can see below:
The several hundred other people who came to this exhibition formed a large part of it, too. Like so many last-minute additions to the various installations, they came dressed to complement the colourful bazaar of paintings, sculptures and found art.
Events like Things Fall Apart shouldn't really be called exhibitions at all because actually, they are convergence points for the living, breathing community that is Berlin's non-commercial arts scene. To the outside observer, a gallery like Weisensee might seem to have sprung up out of nowhere. Some might even be tempted to conclude that places like this are transient or built on hype - a cultural flash-in-the-pan. In reality, the Berlin art scene's ability to disassemble and then re-assemble itself anywhere at relatively short notice is a testament to its cohesiveness as a community. And that is something that doesn't come together overnight. It takes years to build. Corporate investors like those who now own Tacheles, fail to understand that community is something money cannot buy.
Things Fall Apart is on until Sunday. ECC Atelierhaus should be around a bit longer than that but just to be on the safe side, check it out soon!
Words © Alexia E. Elliott