To be honest, I’m in denial that my time in Germany has come to an end. That is probably why it has taken me so long to write this blog post. But as I sit in my new dorm room (as Knowlton Housefellow!), I decided now would be an appropriate time to reflect back on my internship in Berlin.
First, Berlin is absolutely amazing for multiple reasons: dining diversity, budding diverse lifestyles, and the art and architecture scene. Since my CISLA proposal focuses on art as activism, Berlin was the perfect place to collect research. My homebase (aka internship) was Prachtwerk, a small art, music, and coworking space located in the Neukölln district. During my internship, I organized the art gallery events assisted with the music events, drafted contracts, attended meetings, and sent out offers to potential clients. One of the most memorable events I helped with was the conscious dance party.
If you’ve never attended a conscious dance party, then that is something you should put on your bucket list immediately. Simply, it is a mix of meditation and dancing. Dance becomes a medium to celebrate, heal, and transform. The DJ starts with meditation and then the beat slowly transforms to something more electronic, or techno in Berlin’s case. The dancer should feel grounded and connected with themselves and should be able to explore their emotional and physical wellbeing. It may sound confusing but once you get started, it’s a lot of fun.
After attending and helping out with a couple of the events at my internship, I was tasked with creating an event about a social issue in Berlin. My boss asked me to produce an event about gentrification in Berlin for the end of the internship. Therefore, when I was not running other arts events or drafting contracts or attending meetings, I was planning my event. Planning my event took a huge chunk of time and was exhausting but also one of the most exciting parts of my internship. I reached out to Quartiersmanagement (local neighborhood government), Universität der Künste Berlin (Berlin University of the Arts), and Neukölln artists.
I decided the event would highlight the effects of gentrification in Neukölln and Prachtwerk would act as a space for discussion and social action. Therefore, I invited Quartiersmanagement as a resource to discuss incidents and solutions with local residents while having local artists share their perspective on gentrification. Sascha Boldt, a hybrid installation artist, created a piece incorporating the broken window theory and graffiti from the neighborhood. I decided to use sound art as background noise in the gallery. I had personal stories of housing crises from Haunted Landlord, a German art group that “haunts” landlords with evicted-tenant horror stories.
We also had Carsten Lisecki, a student from Universität der Künste Berlin, showcase his documentary, Spreediame, about art’s role in gentrification in Berlin. I enjoyed adding this film to the event because it gave an unique perspective on artist’s role in gentrification. The film argued that “arts districts” have become a fancy way of saying “displacement”. An opening of an art gallery could cause concern over the potential for property values to skyrocket, and as more affluent investors and residents move in, the need for longstanding residents to relocate increases, despite living there for generations.
The last part of the event was my favorite part. I recruited a well-known hip-hop/rapper from Berlin named Beatyov. This artist specializes in creating music about gentrification in Berlin. He engages the crowd by having the audience shout out words that relate to gentrification. I’ve never seen anything like this and so I was inspired by his passion to bring justice to social issues.
Many people of different ages, social classes, and political backgrounds attended the event. Despite having long nights and some complications (like a last minute cancel!), I was proud that I was able to create this event in German. This is something that I would have never imagined myself doing and I am so grateful for all of the support from my internship. I was also really grateful to have CISLA support this event and my internship this summer in Berlin. It is definitely a summer that I will never forget. Bis später Berlin!