“Like in a Tarkovsky film” Ben de Biel on Berlin’s Nineties Art Squats – Electronic Beats

In February 1990, soon after the Wall came down, I went to check out the Berlin situation. There was still a border control for Western citizens and upon my entry, East Berlin seemed very strange to me. It was dark and at nights only every second street lantern would be lit, oozing dim, orange-colored rays. Some streets had no illumination at all. There were very few cars and nearly no people in the streets. Utterly spooky. Like in a Tarkovsky film. Like an abandoned city.The city centre buildings were characterized by their emptiness, which the GDR government had obviously advanced in order to get rid of the decrepit Altbau houses. The Mitte neighborhood was especially empty—the administrative region wasn’t exactly where people wanted to live in the GDR, I assume. Others had escaped to the West before the fall of the Wall. The buildings were in a horrible state of decay with whole blocks between Torstraße, Oranienburger Straße and Rosenthaler Platz scheduled for demolition.The Wydoks’, the prototype squat which had been squatted in 1990, was at Alte Schönhauser Straße 5 in Mitte. East Berliners from the music scene around bands like Freygang, Die Firma, ichfunktion and Feeling B started pro-squatting action right after the Wall came down. They knew about buildings that had been taken off the cadastre and were consigned to demolition. Those buildings were officially non-existent, which furthered the hope that one could stay there in peace for a bit. Empty buildings were there for the taking.In January 1990, some members of the original germ cell moved on to the I.M. Eimer building on Rosenthaler Straße 68. In February others took up residency at the former department store Tacheles, also in Mitte. The very building later to be known as Kunsthaus Tacheles had not been occupied yet, but people had immediately moved into the two adjacent houses.The Tacheles building is an edificial icon. It remains a cultural landmark today, even though the artists were evicted for good in 2013. It’s Berlin’s first steel frame construction and back then, due to lack of experience with this kind of building, an excess of steel was used. The squatters knew the thing wouldn’t come down easily, that it would stand forever. The only problem was with the structural design, parts of the building had been demolished in the early eighties and they’d filled the cellar with water to prevent the street side building from tipping over. The Tacheles cellar was like a swimming pool, you could go deep sea diving. One Australian dude actually did that.

Source: “Like in a Tarkovsky film” Ben de Biel on Berlin’s Nineties Art Squats – Electronic Beats

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