Dear Mr. Ai Wei Wei, my dear colleague,
it was with great joy that I heard that you posted a text composed by me and hung up in the Blauer Salon at the former Kunsthaus Tacheles on Instagram. Let me use this opportunity to thank you for taking an interest. However, I think it is important to give you a little bit of background on what made this text plate necessary. Given your work as both an artist and dissident, I assume that the history behind these words that you took a photo of will interest you.
The words on the sign read “An exhibition on the Kunsthaus Tacheles concerning investment facts, and all the rest”. This was a reference to the exhibition “Neo-German Circumstances” that I had put together following the devastation of the Blauer Salon by security personnel and in the context of the expulsion of artists from the Tacheles in 2011/12, and which included rubble from this willful destruction. The trash that you were standing in the middle of when you took that Instagram photo was rubble left over from that exodus. Back then, private security – the same people that were guiding you around the former Tacheles – had invaded and illegally taken over the Blauer Salon, where the Belarus artist Alexander Rodin had been working at the time.
They slashed oil paintings, burned posters, urinated on sketch books and physically assaulted artists. Once the artists had won their court case, we were allowed to return to the Blauer Salon. I decided to declare the destruction, piles of trash and the smell of fecal matter as a work of art and gave it the title “Neo-German circumstances”. I am very happy that you still had the chance to see and document this exhibition today, almost five years later. But again, I want to make it clear to you that the people who were guiding you through the building were the exact same people who had expelled the ‘free’ and non-market-driven arts and artists from the exact same building – and using psychological and physical violence.
Especially the former State Secretary for Culture, Andre Schmitz, who had to resign after being convicted of tax fraud, has played a less-than-laudable role in the destruction of the Tacheles. Schmitz, who was at the forefront when it came to vilifying the art that had been produced at the Tacheles, now proudly poses in front of artworks that he himself had nothing but contempt for only a few years ago. I hope that you will also find this to be beyond what you can stand.
(Image: Andre Schmitz has no gag threshold at all and, it goes without saying, knows nothing about culture, not to mention art. The man that once killed the Tacheles, is now playing with the very same corpse. It would appear that necrophilia does have a psycho-pathological element to it…)
My dear Ai Wei Wei, I am happy to debate with you at any time and I hope that this letter doesn’t come across as too forward, and I also would like you to consider whether someone might not be trying to misuse you as a cover-clown to marketing this newly established quarter in the heart of Berlin. As a fellow artist, I appeal to your solidarity and your spirit of resistance: Are you maybe being used as an advertising mascot for a hyped-up real estate venture?
Combative greetings from a western dissident to an eastern dissident,
Martin L. Reiter
2017 ....[german version]
Tacheles-Quartier has to make do without Ai Wei Wei
Ai Wei Wei will not move into the former Tacheles. Writing letters clearly works. As reported in the Tagesspiegel of August 11th, 2017, the Chinese artist is not going to let himself be misused as the cover-clown of some marketing department. A wise choice. After all, who wants to be associated with a fake brand? Fraud through stolen names and concepts is not for everyone: No, it is a destructive, neo-liberal and violent strategy in this world-wide civil war that calls itself the ‘free market’.
Quote (Tagesspiegel of Aug. 11th 2017): …that is why, in this struggle with the investors, the District of Mitte tried their best to preserve the Tacheles as a cultural venue.
This is laid down in the development plan, along with a careful renovation. The legend of the transitory is to be conserved and the building is to remain, harking back to the wild times following the Germany Wende. How that is to be achieved has yet to be determined by the architects. Word is that the renovation will most likely not be completed before 2018 or 19.
The building’s floors are supposed to become a home for galleries, studios and artists’ workshops. There is also talk of a theater and an arthouse cinema. But all that PWR Development has been moved to announce is that “possible use concepts” are under consideration. The department of culture of the Berlin Senate is also not saying much. “We do not know if any at all, and if yes, which artists and institutions are being considered,” the spokesman Daniel Bartsch says. The cultural decision makers have no say in who the future tenants might be. That choice is squarely with the investor. /End quote
The Mitte District never really had that much to say concerning this dirty game surrounding the Kunsthaus Tacheles. The Department of Culture of the Berlin Senate, including its toothless senator for cultural affairs and later state secretary for culture has always played a duplicitous game in favour of antisocial and anticultural privatisation. This caused hundreds of millions in losses in sales revenues for the Berlin municipality and demonstrated to a keen but small audience how tax theft, and in consequence an illegal land grab, is to be achieved by a Mafia-style association of investors. The Social Democrats in particular proved to be more willing assistants than their more conservative co-actors on the political stage who come from that cesspool that is the right wing.
It goes without saying that cultural politicians – what a contradiction in terms – no longer have a say. Tax-funded and overpaid do-nothing-ers that they are, they yanked the city entrusted to them out from under the arses of the population and flogged it off for next to nothing.
So far, research has found a payment of only 16 million euros for the Tacheles site, but the proceeds from the sale to Fundus, the first investor, had been 150 million euros. So the political stakeholders have, without a care in the world, given away 134 million euros. No surprise then, that these wannabe-social democrats are on the decline – as they deserve to be. We might as well wallow around in the brown muck and revive nationalism as the cure-all political sedative.
The investor is the only one deciding who gets what. After the manslaughter against the Volksbühne, that shouldn’t come as a surprise. There will of course be the odd college dropout that went into cultural management for lack of other alternatives that will say “why not let them do their thing first and then criticize”. That is opportunistic bullshit. No, let’s not do that!
The Tacheles was irrevocably destroyed on September 9th, 2012. The artists and what this place was all about have dispersed into the world and are now actually quite successfully developing new concepts, both artistic and otherwise. The new quarter around the Tacheles is a bunch of bogus that no Ai Wei Wei is going to fall for.
The only way the Kunsthaus Tacheles could be reinvented, is if the height of the leases didn’t determine what went on there, and if the wheeling and dealing of the generation of mediocre but radical losers that had already made life hard for the original Tacheles was firmly shown the door. But before that happens, hell will freeze over and that garden gnome that is Martin Schulz will become the new German chancellor.
Kunsthaus Tacheles_UG – Always a step ahead.
Miss Sloane is a Hollywood movie from 2016. It deals with lobbyists, spin doctors, intrigues, manipulation of the economy and structural corruption.
Such is it to be human, both at a large and a small scale. The small stuff, that seemingly insignificant, non-earth-shaking small stuff, is what the following epistle is all about.
The former Kunsthaus Tacheles in Berlin Mitte is being renovated for over a year now. Completion and a re-opening are still far away, but Berliners – sorely tried from their Airport situation – have more than gotten used to it.
Project developers have been chipping away at how to market this piece of real estate for a long time. It is meant to be the emblem for the rise of a new city. Instead they engage in new-speak, and dress their ideas up in the latest anglo-buzzwords and go through (almost) all of the catch-phrases from the field of cultural management. A regression into NeoLib-speak, and a top-down culture struggle.
The former senator of culture, Andre “tax fraud” Schmitz, has even been moved to get Ei Wei Wei on board of this marketing vessel. But namedropping for the purposes of generating out-of-this-world rents has backfired. Ei Wei Wei is smart enough and too much of a dissident to fall for this kind of under-cultured stupidity.
Even the renovation of the former Tacheles is going at snail’s pace; those who originally established the Tacheles were able to have the graffiti protected as a historic monument under strict regulations. In contrast to the less strict protection of the building itself and the decision of the Berlin parliament from the early 1990s to protect the Kunsthaus as a ‘cultural location’ (whatever that might mean – even a multiplex cinema and a luxury toilet can be cultural locations), conserving the street art also helps to conserves some of the Tacheles’ identity.
Most of all, protecting the graffiti stands in the way of this branding-driven theft and the spin-doctoring in the service of cultural ideology. What to do(?), some developers might wonder. How do to make short-term profit optimisation look like art?
To answer that, Kunsthaus Tacheles_UG has some free and truly cynical advice: Why not start out with a grand Tacheles-exhibition? ‘Tacheles’ artists, a bunch of former gastronomes, frustrated former East German academics, neo-liberal re-hashers of culture and failed hedonists are a dime a dozen in Berlin.
All of the above have had, at some time, in some form, something to do with the Kunsthaus – if only by pissing in one of the stairwells. And most of them will have been corruptible at some point. And surely some photos, artworks or old posters can be found if you look hard enough. For the vernissage, best buy in a minor celebrity (from off of the telly or someone from the theatre) who will give the whole thing that nice touch of cheap glamour.
And to top it all off, of course, bring out a Tacheles book. The captions for the photographs can be had for free from Berlin’s cultural precariat. Add a pinch of media collaboration – and you’ve got yourselves a Tacheles-Show.
Those cultural managers that the first unsuccessful investor failed to bribe the first time around could now be re-instated as directors of the new Tacheles – which would nicely bring back the heady odour of those ‘wild’ 90s.
Meanwhile, the Kunsthaus Tacheles_UG has been busy with the Tacheles archives. Posters, flyers, programmes, media articles, minutes and files – all painstakingly accumulated by private individuals, are being catalogued since 2012. will they be collected into a book someday? Who can say??
Until that day comes, news, polemics and more are available at www.tacheles.de
translated by Malte Forstat in 2018 ...
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