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‘Balconies, life, art’: Berlin’s locked-in artists display their work

Berlin's art galleries are closed, but the art scene is rising to the occasion as around 50 artists join a community exhibition from their balconies.

'Balconies, life, art': Berlin's locked-in artists display their work
An art installation featuring a video screen, part of the "Balconies, Life, Art, Pandemic, and Proximity" exhibition, is seen in Berlin on April 12th. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP

“At a time when our freedom of movement is suspended, (balconies) have
become unique performance sites,” organisers said as they launched the project in the trendy Prenzlauer Berg district of east Berlin.

READ ALSO: 'Focus on what's really important': Berlin artists' colony finds creative solution to shutdown

Balconies are “for getting a breath of fresh air, spending some time in the sun or smoking”, said Ovul Durmusoglu and Joanna Warsza, whose project “Balconies, Life, Art, Pandemic and Proximity” gives artists a 48-hour showcase for their work.

The rules of isolation in the face of the coronavirus pandemic are less strict in Berlin than elsewhere in Germany, allowing people a chance to admire the works while out for a stroll.

One installation presents ribbons of toilet paper cascading down a building's facade, a reference to Germans' rush to stock up on the must-have commodity as soon as the coronavirus pandemic arrived in Europe.

Artists have unfurled toilet paper as part of the exhibit. Photo: John MacDougall/AFP

One artist displayed black and white photographs of people on their balconies in Athens and Cordoba, while another hung a ladder made from rope and sticks.

The project with “zero budget, no preview, no crowds” aims to provide “an intimate walk in search of signs of life and art“, the organisers said.

The 48 hours ended on Monday evening, when the artists retracted their works and returned to their usual solitary endeavours.

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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