Tuesday, July 27, 2004

News Of The Hood

Just a couple of quickies, but one is pretty damn important: tomorrow Haus Schwarzenberg goes on the block for the third time. I'm embarrassed to say I've had this sitting on my hard drive since Sunday:

Dear Friends, Supporters, Fans & Rest:

Like you probably know we - the haus schwarzenberg - will be auctioned
again on the 29th of July and the future of the house and of us will
depend on the outcome of this auction. To support us now once more in
the last days before that date, you can still help us by signing our
, by making a donation, by posting
our matter, by linking our websites, by consuming in our shop, visiting
the institutions in our house, writing articles etc..

more news after the auction.

christian, jee-un, lopez, sheen


Now, I realize this hasn't made the international news, but to those of us who live in my neighborhood, this is of vital importance. In fact, my last story for the Wall Street Journal Europe was about just this situation. Haus Schwarzenberg has a long and interesting history. There, a man named Otto Weidt saved the lives of over 40 Jews during World War II by employing them, a couple at a time, in what was ostensibly a workshop for blind and deaf people, making brooms. The SS left him alone, so they never noticed how well these blind and deaf people saw and heard, let alone that they might have looked a bit Jewish (something SS officers seemed able to tell better than anyone, of course). Weidt even had a little double wall where people could hide, but most importantly, he had connections in Switzerland, and that's where the Jews went.

After the War, the descendants of the people Weidt had rescued bought the property, which was a group of dilapidated buildings, and if I read the documents the Schwarzenberg rescue committee put together correctly, it was never actually part of East Berlin, although it was situated there. At any rate, once the city reunited, artists started migrating to the neighborhood because it had a lot of these sorts of groups of buildings, one of which was Haus Schwarzenberg. One of Berlin's first ISPs was there, a couple of great illegal private clubs, a gallery/work space for Japanese artists that was a magnet for visitors from Japan, and an art cinema that was one of the only places in the East showing original-language films. Weidt's old workshop is now a satellite of The Jewish Museum.

There were, as I said, a lot of these spaces, and yet the relentless march of real estate killed them off one by one. Today, they've been replaced by the endless high-end retail malls people built in anticipation of a boom in high-end visitors and residents that's never materialized. One woman I know with a studio at Schwarzenberg stops in to the Rosenhof next door every morning to do her makeup with samples at the high-end makeup store. She's sure they know she's scamming them, but they're happy to have someone in the shop.

Now, there's a guy in Hamburg who has made a practice of finding Jewish families who've come into property in the former East Germany and stirring up dissent in them, which dissent leads him to gaining control of the sale of the property, paying off the part of the family who've sided with him, and then flipping the property after making some superficial repairs. This guy has his bloody handprints all over the area surrounding Schwarzenberg, and he's managed to drive a wedge into the Weidt descendants' group. Twice, they've tried to auction Schwarzenberg, and twice an angel who's promised to beat this guy out has managed to cause a no sale. The angel, as far as I know, is pledged to outbid this rapacious guy, but emotions are running high.

All I know is, Schwarzenberg and its like were the reason I was so happy to move to this neighborhood 7 1/2 years ago, and one of the reasons I find it so depressing that they've been chased away by this boom that never happened. (Hell, at least if these new places aimed at yuppies, they'd be stylish, but they seem to be aimed at frumpy rich housewives from Bonn).

There's not much I can do these days to help, except wish the best to the Schwarzenberg crew and hope things turn out okay. Given the history of this city in recent years, that's hoping for a lot.


Not that there's no art in the 'hood these days. I noticed a small show of Cartier-Bresson photos on Auguststr. as I walked down it today on my way back from a friend's office (he's got a fax machine there I use occasionally), which will be interesting to check out after I see the one at the Martin-Gropius-Bau. And then I ran into Hannes, of the dna Gallery (formerly the Aktionsgalerie), standing out in front of his place talking to someone (and shame, Hannes, you really should have a website!) who turned out to be Armin Khadr of the Khadr Gallery, which, although you'd never know it from the website, has just closed a wonderful show of large-scale photos by Chuck Ramirez from San Antonio, which are eerie color shots of meals which have (mostly) been devoured. The show went down on Saturday but it was still hanging, and although this is the August drought in the art (and other) worlds already, it was good to see one more gallerist trying to make it on the street that's defeated so many of their colleagues.

Damn that Chuck Rodriguez. Now I want tamales!

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