It is a place where art meets the homeless. This is not something very surprising for our society, when it comes to artists and poverty, but to actually see how poverty is embedded into art, inside a strange building, I’d say it is quite peculiar.
The Kunsthaus Tacheles (Art House Tacheles) is an art center in Berlin, Germany, a large (9000 square meter) building on Oranienburger Straße in the district known as Mitte.
To be painfully honest with you, I’ve never been there, but this friend of mine, Andrei Ruse, who’s a young, talented writer was fascinated by the place and described his experience to me over a cup of coffee.
He said Tacheles is a place where you can find everything, and by that he means everything: from paintings, sculptures, graffiti, dancers, theatre to cinemas, cafes, workshops and exhibition places. Additionally, the artists provide you with some of their inspiration as well. They are allowed to use inspiration in order to create, being artists and all…
Tacheles has become an important part of the art, activist, exhibition and communication scenes in Berlin, although its detonation, hence demolition, was on the verge to take place in 1990. Fortunately, the group Künstlerinitative Tacheles occupied the building and prevented the demolition by registering the building as an historic place.
You can find more about the history of Tacheles here, as I’d like to give you Andrei’s experience.
Text adaptation in English from his personal blog.
“It smelled weird and the street was painted in an unfamiliar, mysterious red. In Germany, all the lines are straight and perfect, but not this street. This street was not even on the map we had taken from the hotel. It was something that I would never forget.
We stopped in front of a building, more like the remains of the building, it looked deserted. I told myself: “Well, that’s something new in Berlin.”
At the entrance there was a big dodgy guy, with his nose broken, smoking a cigarette. He asked us what we wanted, my friend explained him what we were looking for, gave him 50 cents not for the entrance, but for the cleaning and that was it. We walked in.
We climbed the stairs, feeling as if I was chocking, maybe it was because of the small fear growing inside me. Or maybe it was my anxiety in front of something new. Everywhere you could see posters, cartoons; some kind of paintings, graffiti, there wasn’t even a spot of uncovered wall. And again, a lot of red.
There was nothing on the first floor. Only tranquillity and colours. And some more paintings and graffiti. I didn’t know where to look, if there was something particular to see or I was only supposed to enjoy the atmosphere
You could have read on my lips and my friends’ what we were all asking ourselves: what is this place? And the atmosphere reminded me of Tarantino’s hostel, then I thought about the pill in Matrix and finally I found the best comparison: Sona prison from season 3 in Prison Break.
With every step I climbed, on the next floor, I was getting further and further from Berlin, vertically speaking. A pub, red lights, some armchairs and a few dodgy people were drinking, smoking, creating without even noticing us passing by.
I liked that. Everything seemed to be improvised. It looked as if the room had been empty ten minutes ago and in the next ten minutes it could have remained empty again, if it wished for that.
I had the feeling that things could change in an instant. I shut my eyes to check the reality and when I lifted my lids everything was born again. I didn’t make it up inside my head … like Sylvia Plath’s poem :)
Climbing to the next floor, the red had disappeared and a corridor opened. There were doors on both sides which led us into the artists’ rooms. The first one was a sculptor, the second one, a painter.
I was able to enter without any restrictions. Both of them were also living there, not just working there. So, among their own works of art, you could find an improvised bed or an armchair. You could analyse their paintings, touch their works and even buy them – some of them had prices, but they were all quite cheap! In the next room there were some Chinese guys and at the end of the corridor there was a big room with South American “Indians”.
You could find various more or less strange objects on the floor made of bone, litter; scorpions made of wire and beer lids, jewelry, earrings and a dream catcher on a table. It was pure madness, I was hypnotized and I didn’t want to leave that place ever again.
Then we went down the stairs in the courtyard or Wonderland, where several artists and homeless people were sharing a few square meters of land. They were creating and inventing on a background of good, underground music – a combination of drum n base, hip hop and alternative.
I was amazed by a huge black cat made of metal. There were also tents and some other improvised shelters made of car doors, trailers, barns etc. I could see debris and wood burning in coppers and people warming up near them. One was cutting with a flex, one was welding, another one was painting. It was smelling funny. But everywhere you looked you could see real art. Nonconformist, powerful art. And no rules.
I was shocked by the idea that I could do anything and that anything could have happened there. It was some kind of a small country within Berlin. “The world should look like this”, I told myself. And to bring a strong argument, I could have taken a paragraph from Miller, saying that we don’t need a single thing from all the today’s technology, but the freedom!
I walked inside a bar, designed as well from what people had found on the streets. A few wooden pillars, the metal walls and ceiling, a plastic front door. A guy was trying to play a huge instrument, while another was acting as the DJ. I ordered a beer and sat down at one of those improvised tables.
I was thinking, “this is how the world should look like. When will I be able to live in such a world?”
We became tourists again, less than 50 meters away there were the perfect corners, a shopping mall, and glamorous windows.
I realised I have experienced freedom for the first time in 24 years. And only for one hour or so. It tasted like the first chewing gum you ever put in your mouth. Do you remember that?”
This is Tacheles through Andrei’s eyes. Have you been there? Would be lovely to share your experience with us!
You can explore more images from Tacheles, Berlin here.