September 5, 2012

Do you like this?

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

This is the way the world ends

Not with a bang but a whimper.

      - TS. Eliot, “The Hollow Men”

And then there was nothing. Yesterday morning the police and private security hammered the final nails into the coffin of the majestically ramshackle, gloriously stinking, beautifully ugly last man standing of the formerly radical, squatted cultural hub that was Mitte. They shut the doors on a building that sums up the clash between the old and the new in Berlin, and in the end most of us simply allowed it to happen.

So, Kunsthaus Tacheles has finally slipped away. In time it will become a hotel or a shopping centre, but for years to come it will still be receiving thousands of tourists, bemusedly looking around, listening for the throbbing hum of a building that summed up why so many people came to Berlin in the first place (or at least it was for me).

They will wonder where the dealers have gone – that is the first thing they will notice – but then they will see just another bland building surrounded by cheap cocktail bars, crappy restaurants and a line on both sides of Oranienburgerstraße of tired looking, pneumatic hookers hoping that the stag do’s will still come around this end of town.

That throbbing hum will be replaced by the tick-tick-tick of Berlin becoming the same as every other city in the western world. Maybe you hated the place; maybe you thought the tourists needed encouragement to see more to the city than anti-McDonalds slogans and empty bottles of Pilsator. Maybe you were fighting against the Schloss, or the new airport or media-spree. Maybe, like much of the city, you just didn’t care – and that is also fine.

It didn’t end with a bang, more a shrug of the shoulders, a tired drooping of the head. It ended with a whimper.

This is mostly written out of guilt. I had been a part of the building for years, was lucky enough to see what was great about the old place, and not just the clichés that have, admittedly, put off a larger part of the city from supporting it. But I stand by my assertion that it was vital. It was a school for artists from around the world. It was unique, but like so many others, I took it for granted.

I wasn’t there yesterday when the doors were locked for the last time. Just those most dogged remained – a smattering of artists and supporters who deserve better from the city that should have seen it as a building of great importance, whether one liked the work within it or not. Like Muhammed Ali in Zaire, they had absorbed all of the blows that came their way. They had hugged the ropes, clinging on, but this time the rope-a-dope tactics didn't work. There was never enough energy left to land a decisive counter punch.

The great Otis Redding sung a song a long time ago saying, “You don’t miss your water, 'til your well runs dry.” As always the genius who had so much soul that he needed an extra large arse to hold it all in was right. When the last parts of Berlin are sanitised beyond recognition nobody should complain if it is for the right reasons – but Tacheles wasn’t about preserving something old and run down for the sake of it. It was about the future, the future of artists in Berlin, and the future of creative spaces being destroyed at the whims of those trying to make money. I should have done more, and for that I am sorry. We will all miss Tacheles in the end – now that our well has finally run dry.


September 5, 2012

Comments (7)

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tacheles or die?

well, apart from really wishing i knew what jason had said...

i must disagree. tacheles 'passing' is indeed potentially a symbol of all these things you mentioned, but perhaps not.

berlin is certainly growing & expanding. must people forever be looking backwards to this "wonderful time" of squats & vital but impoverished artists being the only "real" soul of our city?

i find berlin incredibly inspirational because of the people here. yes, the buildings are lovely & very impressive for someone from a country with just over 200 years of history, but really - you sound like some faded rock star in their thirties bemoaning the passing of a favourite leather jacket. times change. live life. berlin is still the heart of europe, and while it remains the underdog, it's art, artists and the whole pack of kunst in general will remain the most exciting place to be.

look a little harder for your underground experience & stop letting old myths be your guide.

herr james more than 1 years ago

Tacheles article comments

Just in response to a couple of the posts there.
CK you totally missed the point of his article! Please don´t make anyone explain it´ll be embarrassing! Also i take it you were there yourself on the day? Just checking.
And Jason There are lots of different kinds of writers writing for lots of different kinds of audience. I think Jacob was writing with a specific audience in mind and anyone who was a newcomer to the subject matter but who was interested enough in the article would only have to do a quick bit of research. I think most people would be able to do that so in the grand scheme of things the actual subject of the article should be accessible to most people. Perhaps Jacob had limitations as to the amount of words he could use for the piece, perhaps not but wouldn´t the world be a pretty boring place "literally" if every writer who had ever written anything had to start every sentence they ever wrote with every single person who might read it in mind?
Don´t you think this would be quite restrictive and make the world of writing a pretty dull place?
If i picked up a magazine about fly fishing for instance, i wouldn´t expect to know everything about the subject matter in advance nor would i expect to have it explained to me.
Have you tried children´s books? They´re written with the reader in mind, you´ll know what the author is talking about in the first "paragraph" and they have pictures too.

Steve Howard, Brighton more than 1 years ago


Yeah well done Jason. Love your empathy and sympathy. Off you go to Caffe Nero and wonder if you're in London, New York or Frankfurt. Because of people like you, Berlin threatens to be just the same geneirc sort of city. RIP Tacheles.

CK more than 1 years ago


I am truly saddened by this. I experienced Tacheles the very first night that I visited Berlin, and it was, in many ways, where my love affair with the city began. Here I sit, a few years later, having made the city my home, and I have failed to do anything of note to support the fight for its survival.
There was something so potent about a piece of real estate in the centre of an international city being completely undeveloped. Cliche as it is, it really did belong to the people - and how often do you see that in, for want of a better term, the modern age?
Although I believe it will retain a certain artistic f**k you spirit somewhere deep in its heart, Berlin will inevitably become more and more like all the other capital cities of Europe over time. Tacheles was, in many ways, the dividing line between the Berlin all the artists flocked to, and the Berlin that is simply another tourist destination.

Thank you for your piece. You have summed it all up perfectly.

I say I did nothing but actually I wrote them a song for their campaign. They put it on their website. Yay me!

Too little, too late.

Sassa more than 1 years ago


Sorry you didn't understand mate. Maybe I'm overestimating it, but Tacheles has been in the German and English press, as well as every tourist guide for so long now, I didn't think I had to explain any further. Still,I suppose It doesn't really matter any more anyway. And it's fourth.

@Nathan kumar etc etc Er, cheers for that. Big spender.

Sweetman more than 1 years ago


By the forth paragraph I still didn't have a clue what this building was or is. Try writing for readers and not for yourself so much.

Jason more than 1 years ago


Damn i love going there to get a sweet bag of MDMA before running through a couple of Brass on oranienburger strasse.

Nathan Kumar lives in Berlin from Croydon more than 1 years ago

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