My arrival on August 4th marked my third time in Berlin. Did I know more about the city this time, after having spent three days, and month, respectively, during the previous four years? Maybe a little, but the city has remained seductively elusive until even today. Elusive – that’s a word that I would associate with Berlin before I had ever come here, and still associate with it. Elusive sounds better than aggressively pretentious, which is a label I would consider on the opposite side of the same coin.
But I was already privileged the first time I came here when visiting colleges in Junior year of high school. My dad had recently remarried and was now living in a government-sponsored apartment in Mitte with his Swedish/German diplomat wife. I was given the good treatment – and a bike. And although my personal success rate with clubs was in the negative percentages, I very well knew what reputation Berlin had as, as Nicolas Hausdorf and Alexander Goller would describe it, the hedonist capitol of the world. I couldn’t wait until I was back when I was 18, to take full advantage of Berlin’s facilities.
And now that’s I’m back as a 20 year old, ever ever so slightly wiser than two years ago, it’s texts like these (An Introduction to Berlin) that stimulate me to be critical of this artistic hyper-bubble, and at the same time, familiarize myself with everything that Berlin has to offer.
It’s funny to be in Berlin, because this (dare I generalize) anti-capitalist, proto-new wave cool, all black wearing cultural ensemble has so successfully ingrained itself into Bard Annandale’s campus social culture, that it almost doesn’t feel so foreign. The mentality feels eerily similar, and the sense of gentrifying for art’s sake is still there, but, of course, Europeans are generally slightly more politically conscious and respectful than their American counterparts. In that way I disagree with Hausdorf and Goller. Yes, Berlinerschnauze is a real thing – but definitely not to the extent they perceived. There is an openness, an artistic/liberal open-mindedness that makes Berlin distinctly unique from my hometown of NYC. Drinking on the street already opens infinite channels for a weekend night to take an interesting turn – a luxury I really wish we had in NYC. The difference in police presence here is undeniable different, with officers acting much more like concerned neighbors than their power thirsty counterparts in NYC. Small things like respecting the train/tram ticket requirements even when the comptrollers are rare to check.
All of these things in conjunction makes Berlin such a desirable place to be at my age, and yes Nicolas and Alex, I get the stereotype. I am a foreigner artist exploiting areas that are quickly gentrifying in order to perhaps push my way up in a more-than-corrupt artist industry, but what’s my alternative? New York doesn’t exactly have the best reputation either.
More than anything, I see Berlin as a beautiful stepping stone into a greater, less deeply-Americanized Europe. I’m Swedish, but have never lived in Sweden. I have to make use of my EU passport somehow, and I want Berlin to be the amazing dream of finally living in Europe with my dad (and his wife), and maybe learning some German phrases along the way all well. Tut mir leid.
And here’s a picture of a dance party deep in a Mall. That’s a first for me.