Artistania: Bringing Art And Culture Together

Artistania is an arts association based in central Neukölln aiming to use the arts in order to bring people in the community together.

Since the nineties Berlin has been invaded by the so-called ‘creative class’ (and yes I am a young person who has moved to Berlin to study the arts and write for a magazine…). Berlin had, what other cities didn’t, in Peter Schneider’s terms enough ‘space’ (both physically and figuratively) to feel as if one can grow alongside a city that is itself in the stages of development; a perfect place for artists who would struggle to survive in the other major capitals. However, with this ‘space’ being snapped away by the minute and gentrification taking place at a speed no one could have imagined, Berlin’s ‘Freiheit’ is arguably long gone.

Artists are still coming to work here in great numbers and are often, alongside yuppies, seen as one of the causes of gentrification. Artistania is a strikingly unique example of an international arts association trying to involve themselves in the community and bridge the gap between expats and locals. I spoke to Claire Chaulet, an organiser of the association, about the past-events and aims of the project.

Artistania is an association based on the idea of bringing people from different cultures and backgrounds together to collectively produce works of art. Although members of the association I spoke to said that it did not matter whether you’re artistic or not, there is a part for everyone to play. Based on the concept of a mobile theatre company, the association was founded in 2012 by seven international young people, since then the organisation has grown significantly and branched into various different art forms including music, dance and visual arts.

The association uses recycling and upcycling, collecting random objects off the street (of which there is an abundance in Neukölln) as a way to create theatre masks and puppets (the association’s speciality) as well as other pieces of art. The group was under pressure to find a new base; beforehand most of the magic had taken place in a small kitchen, so they recently moved to a new location on Neckarstraße in Neukölln and have put a considerable amount of work building this place up. The dimly lit rooms glow with brightly coloured sculptures and puppets that look themselves attentive as the performances swing into action. There is also a chill-out space, bar and various art exhibits.

In May the association held an event, based at their new venue, founded on the idea of kennenlernen (getting to know one another). Taking to the streets with shopping trolleys full of postcards the artists asked their neighbours and the community questions about not only what they wanted from Artistania, but also what they also wanted from the community. They then posted these out to the right addresses. This was part of a project of a network of associations in Europe trying to involve arts in the community. The association is specifically aiming to hold events that can benefit the community as a whole. They believe in connecting people through the ideology that difference brings forth more and better ideas and creates less conflict and fear of the so-called ‘other’, strictly opposing the ideas of nationalism.

The future aims of the project are to continue to construct the space; they have done so much work but have even further to go (for 50cent you can buy a brick to help them with their building materials). They also hope to introduce a mobile space so they can travel to other communities and other countries, as well as creating a cultural centre in Neukölln. Obviously Artistania cannot solve all the problems of division within communities, but they are a small step in the right direction – a prime example of the way we should all be moving forward.

This weekend (19th – 21st July) Artistania will hold another festival based in the community, with hula hooping workshops, dance and drama performances as well as exhibitions. This event will be definitely worth a visit if you enjoy the arts and want to mix with the community. Later in July the association will also hold a construction week where one can help build up the space; it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, everyone is welcome.

You can find Artistania at:
Neckarstrasse 19, 12053 Berlin
Website, Facebook, Events

By Bonny Herington

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