This is what I pay my license fee for. 6Music has an audio tour of Ian Curtis’s favourite hangouts in Berlin.
Tagged: berlin Toggle Comment Threads | Keyboard Shortcuts
Here he talks with Laurie Lee (and Iain Sinclair and Sophie Watson of the OU) about cites and how they relate to the past. Gingerly in Berlin, brazenly in New York.
Here he speaks more generally about cities, with Will Self and Doreen Massey.
Thanks to my old friend Sami Haapavaara (himself Porvoo’s answer to William Eggleston) for directing me towards the work of Russian photographer Sergey Larenkov. I like his work a lot. His basic premise is simple enough: artist travels to various European cities – Berlin, Vienna, Leningrad – and revisits the precise locations of old war photographs and then reshoots the image from the same spot. The results, once merged, are as beautiful as they are haunting.
The 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall. So far nothing has beaten the New York Times’s excellent interactive feature on the route of the Berliner Mauer (thanks Chris). The way you can slide between the images of then and now is one of the most inspired uses of interactivity I think I’ve ever seen on a newspaper website. It is distinctive because it has an almost Victorian slowness to it, like the kind of end-of-the-pier attraction you only ever come across in museums, these days.
Other coverage of note (I’ll hopefully add more later): Jana Scholze, writing in Icon Magazine, on the final demolition of another symbol of post-war Berlin. The Palast Der Republik (above) doubled as the DDR’s parliament building and, I kid you not, a discotheque.
“The “Palace of the Republic” was somehow the anti-symbol of the socialist reality while at the same time representing the ideals and visions of its people. The modernist glass and steel box by architect Heinz Graffunder seemed to represent a young country confidently looking into its future. True to its name, it was a house for the people. Its open doors and easy accessibility signified the intended audience: everyone, the whole republic. It was a place to go, to meet, to spend time. Not surprisingly, many visitors to the Palast seemed unaware of its main function: it was the seat of the DDR’s parliament.”
Also worth looking at is Timothy Garton Ash, writing in the Guardian, on the precise moment the cold war ended:
The first frontier crossing to be opened was at Bornholmerstrasse, on a bridge that goes over the S-Bahn, the overground city railway. My friend Werner Krätschell, a pastor of the East German protestant church which did much to shelter the East German opposition, was among the early ones to come across. It was soon after 11pm. The frontier guards put a stamp in his ID card, across his photograph. He checked with them that he could come back.
No, they replied, that stamp means you are emigrating permanently. He had left two young children at home, so he tried to turn round his car, to go back. But just as he was trying to turn round, in the narrow frontier crossing leading on to the bridge, a frontier soldier came running up and shouted to his colleague: “Comrade, a new order! They can come back.” So Werner drove on into the west.
There’s an inspired post over at Berlin’s Click Opera about the “Berlinification” of cities around the world. The post cites the UK government’s emergency measures to distribute thousands of grants to people who find creative uses for vacant shops as evidence of this emerging trend. Such a move – if successful – they argue should create a creative flourishing or the arts and culture, as happened to Berlin after the fall of the wall:
“Since it’s a global recession, I also like to think Berlin has now become a sort of template for cities all over the world. Whereas we might once have looked like a museum of crusty subcultures past their sell-by date, this city now looks like the future of Tokyo, the future of London, and the future of New York. We’re your best-case scenario, guys, your optimal recessionary outcome. Everything else is dystopia, Escape-From-New-York stuff.”
Two found items while googling on the Paris Bar in Berlin. Firstly, the above painting of the Paris Bar by Martin Kippenberger from 1993. Kippenberger donated his art collection to the cafe for the painting. The collection remains, although the painting of the cafe itself is now owned by Charles Saatchi.
Secondly, this infamous Rolling Stone interview from October 1979: Chris Hodenfield interviews Iggy Pop in the Paris Bar. Iggy gets so drunk he ends up rolling around on the ice in the street outside.
“My last night in Berlin I waited for Iggy Pop in the Paris Bar, a subdued green room holding a few green souls. They had all stepped right out of Van Gogh’s The Absinth Drinkers. It was real art if you could tolerate it. And so has been much of Iggy’s music.
“I thought about Iggy and Bowie. Bowie moved gracefully, half-hidden, British, almost snobbish, always impressive. Onstage, he holds himself taut as a bow drawn by an arrow, and the audience waits for the release. Iggy Pop is sullen, graceless, original, willing, street smart, naive, American, seemingly doomed, but resilient, strong as a horse.”
I recently visited the cafe and liked it a lot. There were no absinth drinkers at the bar, it’s far more glamorous now, but it did retain an air of bohemian bliss, thanks largely to Kippenberger’s art collection that is crammed into every nook (including photographs of Sarah Lucas and Yves Saint Lauren).
The gentrification of east Berlin is now in full swing pricing out the bohemians that made the quarters of the “new east” so unique. As a result Kreuzberg, the eastern district of the former west Berlin, is thriving. This once Turkish enclave is now as trendy as Mitte and Prenzlaurberg where a decade ago. I’ve just returned from there and I loved it. My friend Daniel West showed my the area around Oranienstrasse. We ate schwarmas at the excellent Maroush (above left) which were the best I’ve tasted outside the middle east; sipped cocktails at San Remo Upfamor (above right) and downed a few glasses of the local pilsner at Luzia, a converted Butcher’s shop, where to my delight they actually played some old Iggy Pop.
Both Iggy Pop and David Bowie both frequented Kreuzberg in the late seventies, often to attend the legendary club SO36, which remains open. Today the area east of Moritzplatz, down towards Kottbusser Tor is redolent of those heady days. Artful graffiti sits alongside designer shops and surviving examples of the district’s working class roots. There’s also a palpable lack of anything too corporate (aside from a branch of Spa) and an admirable collection of old fishmongers, button stores and a delightful shop selling objects made by the blind: all wooden cabinets and baskets and brushes.
Kreuzburg remains a place of punks and graffiti and politicalisation (I saw handbills enblazened with signs shouting Stop Gentrification!) and it’s also home to many communities of gays and Turks – trendies and crusties – thinkers and drinkers. A great big mix of everything that makes Berlin such a great city in my opinion.
Templehof International Airport, site of the Berlin airlift and arguably the most classically beautiful airport (despite its dark origins) in the world is set to close this October. I for one will be a little sad as, although UK flights haven’t flown there for some time, it was one of the places i used to fly into when i started travelling to Berlin. Although tainted by the Nazis, and used to be a Zeppelin station, Templehof always for me spoke of the 50s. It was also small, under-commercialised and fantastically located, just south of Kreuzberg. It also didnt’ have the usual style gates that stick out like spokes, just one sweeping curve that opened onto the runway, in the way you imagine airports to be in your dreams
Berlin, wrote Alexandra Richie, changes identities like a snake sloughing its skin. So a renaissance in the western half of the city seems only inevitable, after almost two decades of focus on the east. The last few months has seen the re-opening of Hotel Ellington (which served the Bauhaus, Isherwood, jazz age hipsters, then the post-war cronners and GIs and then krautrock renegades Bowie and Iggy Pop before falling into disrepair) … now Gridskipper turns its hyperactive attention towards the long overlooked forgotton wards of the west. It reads: “lifeboats of literati are once again dropping anchor in Wilmersdorf’s sleepy harbor. Their return has inspired a fresh wave of mouthwatering eateries and breathed new life into the old standards.”
The New York Times agrees: It recently wrote: “Partly as a backlash against the over-hyped East, West Berlin’s glamour is slowly returning, in the form of new galleries and revitalized Bowie-era restaurants and hotels.”