( The Shelf – Statement )
Critique on the urban development in Berlin-Kreuzberg
The longer the Berlin Art Prize exhibition has taken place in these still remaining halls, and the longer we watch the demolition work across the street, the more we regret that soon, this place will no longer exist. It is not only the buildings of the former car rental agency Robben & Wientjes that will be demolished, but also the accessibility and affordability of a place where neighbors and newcomers, anyone who had something to transport, used to meet. This property was sold quickly and secretly behind closed doors, and a commercial complex will be built here that will have a significant and negative impact on the neighborhood – rents so high that the people who have been living and working here for decades cannot afford them. This is one of the poorest parts of the city, and also one of the most attractive for real estate speculation. The artists and organizers of the Berlin Art Prize 2018 stand in solidarity with the local initiatives fighting against gentrification and displacement. The consequences of urban development that bypasses the needs of the locals affects all of us.
Of course one can criticize the Berlin Art Prize e.V. for participating in the interim use of this space.
But one could also ask why The Shelf provided the only possibility to realize this exhibition in the city center this year. Because there are no affordable, large, and independent spaces for art in Berlin. The controversial Stadtschloss was rebuilt on the foundation of a debate, which has since sunken into the sands, about a Kunsthalle. If Pandion, our landlord and one of the biggest real estate developers in Germany, really wants to work towards a creative and sustainable city and the city of Berlin is serious about valuing art, decisions should be made in dialogue with residents and the independent scene.
While the Berlin Art Prize only requires a large exhibition space a few weeks each year, there are many other projects and people in this city who suffer greatly from forms of temporary usage. The concept of interim use, which the private real estate industry and Pandion see as cultural patronage, is not sustainable. While it makes for good marketing campaigns, artists and other cultural producers ultimately have to go when the start-ups and large-scale entrepreneurs come. Of the nine artists in this exhibition alone, eight live and/or work in situations dependent on short-term interim leases, which are precarious, acutely threatened, or not even present.
We call for an urban development policy without deals behind closed doors, in which the city is not prey. We call for spaces in which art can be manifest not as the culmination of current conflicts, but rather as a reflection on them, and creative force facing them.
– The Organizers and the Artists
Berlin Art Prize 2018