Few industrial cities have experienced the hardships that Berlin has known, from two world wars to the wall that split the city for more than two decades. Yet despite its past struggles, Berlin has emerged as one of the world's top creative hubs, attracting artists from around the world.
Eye Level Art presents a multimedia show based around The Beauty of Transgression, American artist Danielle de Picciotto's memoir of her life in Berlin. The evening will include a reading from her memoir, musical entertainment, a documentary screening, and more.
De Picciotto first visited the German capital in 1987 with the intention of heading back to New York City shortly thereafter, but found herself feeling at home in the city's art scene. "I wanted to stay for two weeks, but I ended up staying until today," she says. "I stayed there because it was less dangerous than New York and a lot less expensive, but just as creative. It was like an island of artists, because there was a wall around Berlin."
The artist quickly immersed herself in the city's creative world, working in fashion, art, and music. She became one of the founding organizers of the Love Parade, the city's iconic electronic music festival and parade that ran each year from 1989 through 2010. She also found herself living outside of the city (after the Berlin Wall fell) in an abandoned castle that had been transformed into an art space with studios and exhibition rooms.
"At one point I said, 'I'm experiencing so many changes — the fall of the wall, the development of music and art — that I should write them down,'" de Picciotto says. Her memoir, released last year by art book publisher Edie Gestalten, outlines her life in Berlin, while also painting a portrait of the art scene. "I was working in many different areas and I can tell exact, detailed stories of how all these things developed during those years."
Her memoir also demonstrates how the city has changed since the late '80s. "When I moved there, it was surrounded by a wall and it was hard to get out. It was also extremely cheap — I had a huge loft apartment and only had to pay 30 marks per month, which was about $15 back then," she says. According to de Picciotto, after the Berlin Wall was torn down, industries started moving into the city and cleaning it up. "It became more expensive and commercial. Before, it was like a time-capsule or a dream bubble, but now it's part of the regular trends."
In her upcoming presentation at Eye Level Art, de Picciotto will read from several different chapters of the memoir highlighting Berlin, its artists, and her own history. She will also show photographs and film clips that she and her friends shot of parties and events she participated in over the years. "They show how Berlin looked — it had a post-war apocalyptic look to it before everything was renovated," she says.
Her husband Alexander Hacke, of German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, will create different soundscapes during her reading, each illustrating the issues and themes of the selected chapters. The evening will also include a screening of a documentary about the band, featuring footage compiled for its 30th anniversary last year, including performances and unreleased footage.
"They are considered one of the most important cultural bands that have come out of Germany. For me, they are the voice of Berlin — the way that Berlin changed, they have also changed," de Picciotto says. "It's a very nice parallel way of describing what I wrote about."