Web geeks meet in the flesh
Born three years ago as a blogger get-together, the re;publica conference has morphed into an expanded ‘social media' shindig this year. It takes place at the Kalkscheune and the huge Friedrichstadtpalast, a rather bizarre venue for something so forward thinking. Under the motto “shift happens,” Wikipedia founder Jimbo Wales and Creative Com¬mons instigator Lawrence Lessig will be headlining discussions involving more than 100 other speakers. The topics will range from the Atheist Bus Campaign (its slogan “there's probably no God - now stop worrying and enjoy your life” helped it raise almost €160,000 in online donations) to the huge impact Obama's web campaign had on the American elections.
Don't despair if you find the program a tad serious (“Health 2.0” or “The Future of News,” anyone?): there will be plenty of time to discuss LOLcats and Rickrolling at the Saturday night party. /CN
Re;publica ´09, Friedrichstadtpalast & Kalkscheune, www.republica.de/09. April 1-3; one-day tickets are available at the door for the Friedrichstadtpalast events, presale tickets are sold out.
Brewing up the avant-garde
It's hard to go out in this city without hearing at least one jaded hipster lament the “death” of Berlin, longing for the lost 1990s when a reunited cold war battlefield served as a sort of post-apocalyptic playground – a haven for anarchist squats, illegal clubs and unbridled liberalism. Tacheles is living proof of the city's self-cannibalization. What was once an open living space for artists and romantics has become little more than a tourist attraction. But fear not, fellow dreamers: Berlin is alive and well, and the spirit that once haunted Tacheles has found a new home at the old Berliner Kindl brewery in Neukölln.
The space is massive and mostly untapped. Wandering through the building's labyrinthine basement and looming tower, you'll stumble upon artists scattered about, at work and play in its crumbling nooks and filthy crannies. One group pulled together installations, musicians, and dirt cheap beer for an opening in March, but the growing community is still largely unorganized: it lacks a website and any coherent management. There's no one to guide you through or take your money, but those bold enough to drop in can experience firsthand what's bound to become a nerve center for the emerging Kreuzkölln art scene.
Rent is paid and the space is owned, but Alte Berliner Kindl Brauerei's DIY attitude will bring you back in time: forget what the cynics say – Berlin isn't kicking the bucket anytime soon. /NH
Alte Berliner Kindl Brauerei, Werbellinstr. 50, Neukölln, U-Bhf Boddin¬str.
Bike season prep
Don't trust what the weather tells you: to check if spring has arrived, keep your eye out for Deutsche Bahn's top-tuned rental bikes. They are the bomb. Just pick up one up where and when you see it, call the number listed below… and you're good to go. These little monsters may look like high-tech granny bikes, but they combine the speed of a city two-wheeler and the agility of a BMX. They'll send you flying over curbs at the blink of an eye. If you're looking for a free ride, you may be lucky enough to spot an unlocked bike, but beware: Big Brother Deutsche Bahn is following you by satellite. /CN
-Register at www.callabike.de or telephone 07000 522552 if you want to use a bike. They speak English.
-You only pay for the time you are riding. Payments can be made from MasterCard, Visa or a German bank account.
-You can use them all over city, but the bikes must be returned within the S-Bahn ring
-Standard rates: €0.08 per minute of cycling time; €0.06 if you have a BahKarte. The maximum charge is €9 for 24 hours.
While Easter egg hunting this April, keep an eye out for something a little different – tucked away amongst the trees and bushes you might find a small white doll strung up from a branch or a white-painted helmet hanging in the boughs. Nike, a 67-year-old eccentric from Copenhagen whose eyes sparkle and glisten with wicked teenage innocence, carefully placed them around Berlin's most popular parks: Volkspark Friedrichshain, the Tiergarten and Kreuzberg's Victoria Park.
“This is real public art,” says the Danish painter. “It's for people to look at for free, to pick up and bring home for a while or move to a place they find more suitable.”
There's no edifying message behind Nike's playful art; the fragility of the dolls and the helmets – which resemble eggshells – conjure up parental feelings, while the coat of white paint symbolizes peace and protection. Both elements click into place when you see the tags Nike attaches to each one: she asks treasure hunters to donate to a charity of their choice or to extend the idea in whatever way they wish. /MCK