Club Berlin: The City as a Temporary Autonomous Zone
“Does money make you sexy?” journalists asked Klaus Wowereit, Berlin’s governing mayor, a few years back. Wowereit answered in the negative. “No. You can see it in Berlin. We are poor, but still sexy.” Indeed, the contradiction between the economic reality and the image that Berlin enjoys cannot be put in a more concise manner. Berlin, unlike most of Germany’s other big cities, is a poor city. However, since the opening of the Wall, Berlin has developed into one of the most culturally productive cities of the world. Berlin is famous for its club scene as well as the scores of musicians, DJs and visual artists who live here. Hundreds of galleries try selling art to collectors, who are just as glad to visit the city as young tourists from all around the world.
After the fall of the Wall in 1989, Berlin was ahead of the rest of Germany by years, if not by decades. Berlin Mitte was an enlightened enclave in a country that only slowly began to understand what reunification meant. In Mitte, the Germany of tomorrow was already celebrating its reunification with the world. The classless and colour-blind society of its clubs, the Babylonian diversity of languages at private showings of art exhibitions and the extravagance of the fashion on the streets interested people from all countries immensely. Many came for a couple of days, staying on and eventually remaining here. Berlin is poor, as Wowereit stressed, and rent here is comparatively low. Where else can one live in such an interesting city for so little money, where the nights never come to an end? In this way, the economic weakness of the city is also a reason for its cultural strength.
Berlin has been poor since the end of the war, due to the division of the country and the city. But when and how did Berlin become sexy? Admittedly, the picture of the Golden Twenties never really faded away. But that Berlin is once again a place of promise is not just due to the fall of the Wall. The roots of the cultural explosion of the early nineties go further back – to the deserted streets of houses in Berlin Mitte, which for decades were located in a country called the GDR (German Democratic Republic), and the squats of West Berlin.