„It all started when we lost our space. Until then, everything had worked by itself. But now, without space, we meet often and try to gure out how to go on. The feeling that the question has suddenly become political has been with us ever since.“
Excerpt from the introduction of the book:
„We are working on our LEGACY!“
The project space General Public was a collectively organized place for artistic, transdisciplinary presentations, events, exhibitions and discourses: initiated by the founders of the CTM (Club Transmediale), GP was run by up to ten artists and cultural workers at a time. Located on the district boundary between Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg on the ground floor of a house rented out to artists and creatives, General Public offered an open space for various artistic and political articulations. It was part of the independent scene in the centre of Berlin that was still flourishing in diverse ways until the first decade of the millennium – a diversity that has since given way to the pressure of gentrification and has migrated to other parts of the city.
General Public was a place that was permeable and open to collaborations of all kinds, based on professional as well as friendly relations. It established social structures as aesthetic/political practice; a place where urban and cultural policy issues were debated, and which saw itself as part of an increasingly international urban culture.
The financing and organisational model was grassroots democratic, low-cost, without institutional support and secured by fixed solidarity contributions and a cheap rent.
In 2012 General Public, together with six other spaces, received the “Award for Independent Project Spaces and Initiatives”, which was awarded for the first time by the Senate Cultural Administration. Shortly after, at the end of 2013, the group lost their space in the course of a complete renovation of the building at Schönhauser Allee 167c – which, among other problems, finally led to the dissolution of General Public two years later.
The involuntary end of a functioning collective and spatial practice, whose significance as an alternative to the commercial, institutional, or patron-sponsored art system must not be underestimated. It raises numerous questions both with the example of General Public as well as many other cases of project spaces that closed or became homeless in recent years – briefly and fiercely discussed but soon forgotten, their disappearance remains without structural cultural-political consequences. What is depicted in this publication should therefore not only represent the history of one space, but can also be read as a portrait of a cultural self-understanding of a specific scene, whose urban/spatial situation and aesthetic/collective practice already appear historical today. This practice thus demands retrospection and contextualization, while contributing critically to the debates of the present.
The expulsion and marginalization of the independent cultural scene as collateral damage of the speculative bubble on the Berlin real estate market is one of the numerous symptoms of gentrification – one where the so-called creatives are not completely uninvolved: threatened, yet always mobile, flexible, ready for new efforts, alliances and temporary use, as Fred Dewey critically notes. The slogan “Wir bleiben alle” (“everyone of us stays”) is alien to this scene, which ultimately has little choice but to get support in the name of business development and city marketing. It was a peculiarity of General Public to always reject on this state between appropriation and autonomy, to show a public attitude and to initiate discussions. It may have to do with this peculiarity that the group was unable and unwilling to adapt to the imposed nomadism of the cultural scene (and its displacement to other parts of the city) in the end.
Working on the General Public Archive means collecting oral histories, artefacts and documents, with the desire to preserve the ephemeral history of the space and make it accessible to a wider public. In addition to archiving, it is a matter of classifying this multi-part practice within the microcosm of self-organized spaces in an urban culture marked by valorisation and expulsion; a political, aesthetic and now also historical self-assurance. The backbone of this book is a transcribed conversation with the members of General Public, a fictitious collage of conversations composed of numerous individual interviews. It depicts the collective experience and its polyphony, while searching for those aspects that were essential and emblematic for this time, for this space and for this scene.
A detailed chronology lists the various activities and collaborations of General Public`s ten year existence. However, this publication focuses less on the documentation of individual artistic presentations or events, and more on an in-depth reflection on the nature of the collective agreement that shaped General Public: to create a space for spontaneity that was not prefigured by a particular programmatic concept, where very different audiences could come together and where a core of regular visitors would often gather.
Open space, space for spontaneity, experimentation and friendship – what sounds simple can be better grasped in its difference to today’s paradigm of the Curatorial. The practice of General Public consisted of a multitude of curatorial and artistic ideas that existed rather incongruously side by side. Some of the projects were quite elaborate, while others would be realized overnight, without much preparation. Nevertheless, these different formats often took place simultaneously in the space, with- out any relational concept. This was done simply because parallelism and the “bearing” of the programs by the other members were part of the basic accords at General Public. This collective non-aesthetic – or to put it more positively: the sharing of space and solidarity with colleagues’ work – is something that can hardly be reinterpreted and institutionalized as collective or relational aesthetics. It is something that refutes posthumous theorization and still remains characteristic for this kind of spatial practice.
At the same time, it was clear what General Public stood for: a critically distanced yet participatory attitude towards the institution of art, an independent, interdisciplinary, discourse-oriented as well as humorous, eclectic and often experimental program, solidarity with each other and with the public. The name was programmatic (pp.123f).
The Last Waltz - General Public im Exil bei Meinblau
Ausstellungseröffnung + Book Launch
19.00 Eröffnung Politics of Friendship / Politik der Freundschaft
Teilnehmende Künstler_innen: David Hanes, Stef Heidhues, Naomi Hennig, Michel Laurent, Sofia Lomba,
Eva Maria Offermann, Anike Joyce Sadiq. Eingeladen von Michael Schultze und DFS
19.30 Einführung und Buchvorstellung General Public 2005–2015 durch die Herausgeberinnen
Naomi Hennig und Anna-Lena Wenzel. Erschienen 2020 im adocs Verlag Hamburg
20.00 Performance Ode To 2 von Jeremiah Day
Town Hall Meeting
14.00 - 19.00 Ausstellung
19.00 Szenische Lesung aus dem Protokoll des Town Hall Meeting vom 24.10. 2014 im Ausland.
19.30 So so, Berlin! Oder: Wo wären wir, wenn es uns jetzt gäbe? (Town Hall Meeting 2)
Am 24.10.2014 luden die Members of General Public zu einem öffentlichen Town Hall Meeting, um nach dem Verlust der Räumlichkeiten gemeinsam über die Zukunft zu beraten. Etliche Jahre später ist General Public nunmehr Geschichte. Die Fragen nach der Relevanz von Projekträumen aber bleibt. Wir verabschieden uns daher mit einem finalen Treffen, bei dem unterschiedliche Akteur_innen der Freien Berliner Kulturszene an einem Tisch zusammenkommen, um sich über die aktuelle Situation auszutauschen.
Teilnehmer_innen: Jochen Becker (Metro Zones), Jeniffer Bennett (Kunst Block), Johannes Braun (Acud Macht Neu), Marco Clausen (Prinzessinnengärten), Diffrakt | Zentrum für theoretische Peripherie, Matthias Einhoff (ZK/U), Joerg Franzbecker (Berliner Hefte), Maurus Gmür (Gmür), Xenia Helms (PI Radio), Tobias Herold (Ausland), Andrea Caroline Keppler (District * School without Center), Christophe Knoch (ex Koalition d. Freien Szene), Malve Lippmann & Can Sungu (bi'bak), Severine Marguin (TU Berlin), Marina Naprushkina (Neue Nachbarschaft), Nic, Sim (Sign, Ciat), Ute Müller-Tischler (Bezirksamt Mitte), Regine Rapp (Art Laboratory Berlin), Sakrowski (panke.gallery), Allegra Solitude (Liebig12), Cleo Wächter (Tier Space Berlin). Moderation: Heimo Lattner und Cornelia Lund
14.00 -19.00 Ausstellung
Performances und Party
14.00 - 19.00 Ausstellung
19.00 - 22.00
1_Anike Joyce Sadiq Visited by a Tiger, 2019 (Musik: Lamin Fofana)
2_Mark Emblem How to shoot heroin (Performed Reading)
3_Discoteca Flaming Star (Moran Beeg, CGB, Sofia Lomba, Sara Pereira, WM, Catriona Shaw)
Love To Love You Baby 2
4_Ethnopapistogy by Krista Papista
22.00 - spät
5_DJanes: Napa + Friends
Haus 5 Kunst- und Atelierhaus Meinblau