Freitag, 26. September 2008


Berlin maintains a healthy level of civic spontaneity. Eruptions of tongue-in-cheek creativity and a strong bond to the city. I stumbled across one of these acts this evening, an autonomous effort to clean a disused amphitheatre in Gorlitzer Park. The local authorities had kept a metal fence around the structure, which also incorporates a small stream, for ten years. Initial repairs were never taken out, allowing it to fall in to further state of direpair until it became a hazard.

It was gone sunset by the time I was there, a local DJ keeping the action going with a fairly dirty techno beat. The metal fence was open and the amphitheatre was not exactly full, but lively. People stood looking down from the top and up from the bottom, some danced and a few carried on busily cleaning.
The activists include Keller Parties, one of many organisers of spontaneous techno in the Berlin semi-underground. They had provided necessary low frequency flashing lighting and apolitical music to proclaim the proceedings. The amphitheatre, a kind of neo-aztec structure, shone like a post apocalyptic excavation site. After years of slumber, it was once again in focus. The rest of the park took a step back. There was an almost tribal atmosphere, not in the sense of dancing and chanting, but of reclamation. Passers stopped by in varying degrees of puzzlement. It was hard to tell how much cleaner the place was, but just to have it open seemed like enough, and its part of an ongoing project. The first session is shown in the video.

They are apparently doing all this without authorisation, but undoubtedly with full support of all locals and anyone who uses the park. The authorities would have absolutely no reason for stopping this, and should be relieved that someone is taking control of what appears to be a slight blot on German efficiency. Gorlitzer park is particularly abused, but many of Berlins public spaces could do with a little putzrave. Inevitabely, if scaled up, the idea becomes kitsch, but it is a real advert for the use of music in empowering some kind of collective interaction with our immediate envrionment. Reclaiming space.

The timing is slightly odd, it will require more cleaning next spring to clear away the leaves, but the amphitheatre will make a huge difference to the upper part of Gorlitzer. A temple for civic spontaneity.

update 27/09
Apparently police were awaiting the activists when they arrived. After initial refusal they realised the folly of their position and got the district mayor on the telephone. He authorised entry on to the central part of the site, which had been cleared during the previous operation. Nevertheless, the rest of the amphitheatre appeared cleaner the next day. Whilst a blot on efficiency, it certainly represents an admirable relaxation of German bureaucracy.

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