• Germany's news in English
 

Struggling with Berlin's artsy hype

Published: 30 Nov 2012 12:13 GMT+01:00

You know the party has gone on too long if you're reading about it in the New York Times.

Over-hyped in recent years as a hedonistic paradise for artists, Berlin would no longer seem to be the Promised Land for globetrotting bohemians. Why? Because the city apparently makes them too lazy.

That's at least the gist of an article causing a kerfuffle among Berlin's creative expat scene this week by detailing the drunken exploits of a hopeless band from Australia in the German capital.

In his lament, Robert Coleman argues the city is so cheap and such a blast compared to the likes of New York or London that artists, musicians and other creative types are simply unable to create here. Essentially there is no pressure to be successful if you can live life in a drug-induced haze yet still manage to pay your affordable rent.

"There were too few limitations, and we’d lost all motivation and willpower to ever say no," he writes. "Soon our self-imposed five-day-a-week rehearsal routine started to crumble in the face of hangovers, comedowns and various members going AWOL."

While he's hardly the first musician to be undone by drugs and drinking, what's getting people riled here is how Coleman pins much of the blame for his overindulgence firmly on the city he hoped would be a creative oasis for his band.

"One day, while taking a break from staring at a nudist at the Hasenheide [park], I realized that I’d ended up in a kind of artist’s paradox: We had gone to Berlin because of the lifestyle it offered to artists, yet we were coming unstuck by that exact lifestyle. Berlin was ruining us."

As Coleman goes on to describe his band's adolescent antics — including one member getting jailed for massive property damage — it becomes clear why there has been a provincial and pointless Berliner backlash in recent years against arty newcomers in districts like Kreuzberg and Neukölln.

But besides making the mistake of extrapolating his own unproductive existence to all foreign artists living here, Coleman exposes himself as a classic victim of the city's hype, admitting he and his bandmates were nothing more than "creative tourists" on a short stopover to soak up Berlin's cool.

"It seemed that everyone we met was creative-minded and drawn to Berlin for the same reasons we were: to pursue their art. Except that very few of them seemed to have any coming exhibitions or book launches or gigs."

Trustafarians on speed

Of course, had he bothered to lift his head out of the pile of cheap speed he and his buddies were snorting, Coleman might have met some of the working artists who call Berlin home.

These aren't trustafarians from Brooklyn with a six-month pass to Berghain — the local club famous for serving up unending nights of debauchery. And they're certainly not immature Aussies thinking time spent in Berlin will make them the next David Bowie or Nick Cave. No, they're musicians like the Englishman Chris Corner or Peaches from Canada, who both live here permanently because they're inspired by the city.

(And what sort of wimpy rock musicians is Australia turning out these days, if Coleman admits he didn't know how to drink whiskey before coming here? Bon Scott must be rolling over in his grave.)

The Berlin art scene is equally fertile for foreign implants like someone as wildly creative as Iceland's Olafur Eliasson. Yet it also supports literally "underground" talents like the American Erik Smith.

Are there a lot of crap "artists" in Berlin? Undoubtedly there are. But getting upset because someone weaves garments from their own body hair, writes worse than a chimpanzee, or doesn't create anything at all is an even more absurd pastime. These are "lifestyle artists," as this article nicely explains.

Would it be better if such people were working mind-numbing jobs simply to make ends meet in a more expensive city? If they want to come to Berlin to make crappy art and music rather than sit in a call centre cubicle all day, that's fine by me. Bad art never hurt anyone.

With any luck, Coleman's documentation of his tribulations will have the salubrious effect of deterring some of his fellow creative tourists from coming to Berlin simply in the hope it will give their careers an artificial boost.

Besides, everybody knows Leipzig is where the cool kids are moving these days anyway.

Marc Young

marc.young@thelocal.de

twitter.com/marcyoung

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

14:08 November 30, 2012 by BLAKE IT UP!
With enough research, one could write a book on the topic.

I'm from Los Angeles and live in Berlin since 2001 -I was living in New York before then... long story.

True, Berlin is slow compared to other EU cities and it is filled with more than enough artists. But, to be successful in Berlin one should find out who is who and work their way up the ladder rather than across the bar or whatever else gets them high. Don't get me wrong, you can meet get some good connections at parties, but unfortunately some crews are tighter than others and one can only really get a good connect once the others define you as a artist, rather than a tourist coming to party and make money on the side.

One thing I should say is that it really requires discipline and persistence to make it. They say if you make it in New York you make it anywhere... I like to think if you can make it in Berlin you make it anywhere because there's so many "lazy" traps.

If I would give a tip, I'd say "Think of Berlin as your home and practice room -you can't really make money sitting around practicing -but you'll get better." Basically, work in Berlin and tour in a more artist supported country -like France.

Berlin, for me, is for creation and testing your creations.
17:34 November 30, 2012 by StoutViking
Perhaps it is only my own pessimistic outlook on the world, but... I have this imaginary scene in my head, set in Berlin some 30 years from now:

An elderly couple is walking down the street. The man suddenly has a heart attack / stroke and he falls down. The woman starts to scream frantically "Is there a doctor in here?!". A crowd of arch-hipsters gathers around them and go:

Hipster 1: "No, I'm an artist".

Hipster 2: "I'm a DJ".

Hipster 3: "I'm a designer".

Hipster 4: "I'm a photographer". (And snaps a shot).

Hipster 5: "I'm so underground you haven't heard of my profession yet...!".
17:34 November 30, 2012 by chris berlin
haha, blaming the great offers and big choice of happenings in Berlin for being too distracted for investing some discipline for your career is so weird. It would be like I blame a big supermarket for getting fat because it offers too many kinds of tasty chocolate...

Again this is just an overestimated subective report of a guy who blames others for his misfortune and who is not wise enough to follow a plan. If you look at the start-up scene, Berlin has risen to be the most successful place in Europe. There are 5 start-ups per day and investors - also google - bring millions of euros to berlin. I know many hard working creative people who do not party much but who earn so much money but have no time to spend it... (I would take some ;)
21:14 November 30, 2012 by The-ex-pat
Just because you are sensitive and no one understands you, does not make you an artist............
21:12 December 3, 2012 by Clarissa Smith
Oh well, what is art? I feel like it has something in common with socialism -- you cannot define it clearly. It happened often in my life, that people kinda were patting my shoulders and called me an "artist". And I felt like, "Get outa here!" Because I dislike that tag. It's nothing but a cliche and I don't wanna be tagged with cliches. People who see 'art' like sort of ideology or religion make me run away. You Muses serve me or scram!

I am a jazz musician and especially love to tag myself a green or ecological jazz musician. Call me "unplugged" and then pat my shoulder and I feel flattered indeed. That's a real value!

Okay, who has a **gettin'-too-lazy** problem here in Berlin? How about little health check? I mean, depression is not uncommon in Winter. So, if you have difficulties getting out of bed, this is not specifically an 'artists' problem. Plus, Berlin is much closer the North Pole than New York. The New Yorkite skin probably makes more vitamin D than the Berliner.

Whatsoever, living on 'art' is almost impossible anyway. Building your life on art is like building on quicksand. No, I don't play that kinda lottery. To have my shoulders patted and be called an 'artist' or what? But in case you have the guts to dare it, why not prefer Berlin? Apartments dirt-cheap here, so why risk it elsewhere? Many of those who get by here wouldn't make it elsewhere. It's not always the best musician who make it, so the Muses probably appreciate the easy conditions in Berlin. ;o)
00:02 December 6, 2012 by IchBinKönig
Sounds like a Berlin based site just upped its cred with Talented young artist. Maybe there is a post-peaches renaissance in the making? I hope so. I mean I love Peaches, but in 2013, come on.

http://www.electronicbeats.net/2012/12/05/golden-blonde-travis-egedy-on-nu-depth/
Today's headlines
EU investigates Germany over airport security
Photo: DPA

EU investigates Germany over airport security

The European Commission said on Thursday that it had referred Germany to the EU Court of Justice for failing to regularly check up on its airport security measures at some airports. READ  

Germans want to keep their hands on cash
Germans still trust cash over other forms of payment. Photo: DPA

Germans want to keep their hands on cash

Confirming conservative stereotypes, Germans have come out strongly in favour of sticking to hard cash in conducting transactions, a survey published on Thursday showed. READ  

This week in history
Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible
Rainer Fassbinder on set in 1977. Photo: DPA

Fassbinder: New German Film's Enfant Terrible

On Sunday May 31st, Rainer Weiner Fassbinder, one of the most influential German film directors, would have turned 70 - had it not been for his death at the age of 37 in 1982. The Local takes a look back at the life and work of the enfant terrible of New German Cinema. READ  

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo
Photo: DPA

Cool caps reduce hair loss during chemo

German scientists are trialling a special scalp-cooling cap which helps reduce hair loss for cancer patients going through chemotherapy. READ  

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy
A man assembling food processors in a Wuppertal factory. Photo: DPA

Industry: 'doped' growth boosting economy

The German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) warned on Thursday that a fresh burst of economic confidence might be unfounded, even as they raised their growth projections for 2015. READ  

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic
A Eurofighter jet stopped up traffic on Thursday because it was so wide. Photo: DPA.

Slow-moving fighter jet blocks Autobahn traffic

A damaged Eurofighter plane being pulled by a truck along the autobahn was so wide that it blocked three lanes of traffic on its way to being repaired in Bavaria on Thursday, drawing the ire of fellow drivers. READ  

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack
AfD co-leader Frauke Petry. Photo: DPA

Right-wing leader suffers restaurant attack

Frauke Petry, co-leader of Alternative for Germany (AfD), was attacked by masked assailants while eating in a restaurant on Wednesday evening. READ  

Court rejects case against US drone strikes
An American MQ-9 "Reaper" unmanned drone. Photo: U.S. Air Force/Paul Ridgeway/dpa

Court rejects case against US drone strikes

A German court on Wednesday rejected a complaint by three Yemenis demanding that Berlin bar Washington from using a US base on its territory to operate deadly drones. READ  

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'
A gay couple in Stuttgart. Photo: DPA.

Gay marriage: Germany still says 'No'

Germany's cabinet on Wednesday approved a raft of draft measures to extend the rights of same-sex couples, but faced criticism for allowing only civil unions, not full gay marriage. READ  

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble welcomes his G7 colleagues to Dresden. Photo: DPA

Spectre of Greece haunts G7 Dresden meeting

Finance ministers and central bank governors of the Group of Seven wealthiest nations gathered in Dresden Thursday to discuss the global economy and tax evasion, but the Greek crisis was also high on everyone's minds. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Travel
Why the train strike is bad for passengers and workers
National
Meet Germany's Eurovision hope
Business & Money
Is 2015 a new moment for jobsharing?
Features
How the LGBT rights movement was born in Germany
National
Why you don't make bomb jokes at the airport
National
Why Germany needs a little less tipple
National
Who Germans and Americans trust... and don't
Politics
What the UK election means for Germany
National
Why Germany is great for mums
Features
The Germans with GI dads
Five ways Germany falls short on gay rights
Travel
Giant tortoise found riding Munich rail
National
FCK CPS? A-OK with court
Politics
Opinion: Brexit's dangers for Germany
Features
Smart kids all want to work for BMW
National
Minister shows off top Denglisch
National
Germany's 'other genocide' in Africa
National
Arms firms get a 'must do better' mark on ethics
Sport
Bayern's anticlimactic 25th Bundesliga win
Politics
A Greek learning politics in Germany
Features
The battle of the "Gates of Berlin"
National
Germany's 'very poor' lobbying record
National
Germany's favourite baby names of 2014
Politics
Merkel's 15 years at the top of German politics
Travel
Lowest of the low: how woman exploited Germanwings crash
Features
Spice up asparagus season with The Local's serving suggestions
Sport
Football and the €30,000 firework
Technology
Why scientists oppose killer robots
National
'Cannibal cop' gets 8 years
National
Which city is Germany's worst for drivers?
Technology
Electrifying 'Ostalgia'
National
Cologne Cathedral returns from space
Pupils mourn lost classmates
National
Freed after 25 years on death row
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
10 things you didn’t know about Zagreb (and why you should go)
Is your workload 'out of control'? You're not alone...
Sponsored Article
What expat parents should ask before choosing a school
Features
Paddy's Day, Berlin style
National
Why east Germans are happy to get it on on camera
National
Uplifting thoughts to get you through the last week of winter
National
What would you do with a 250-year-old pretzel?
National
Who wants the Olympics more - Hamburg or Berlin?
Features
Just why is the German flag Schwarz, Rot, Gold?
Business & Money
Getting German workers and bosses thinking positive
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

6,698
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd