I saw a room avertised in Uferstraße recently, 500€ for 12 square metres. I laughed. Then felt trapped. I saw another place advertised, someone is renting out rooms in the apartment next to Uferhallen for 45€ a night. Call it 1300 a month. In Uferstraße. Wedding. Gentrification’s arrived and it’s fucking grotesque. Berlin is no longer cheap; it’s living on the memory of that, though for many this new era of rent has not gone together with increased income.
My reason for coming to Berlin is tied up (hawhaw) in Uferstr. I’d heard about Felix Ruckert in Australia, from friends who’d worked with him, who’d said I’d totally be into what he’s doing. We emailed a bit, then one of those first summer days here I caught the bus to Pankestr, walked to this courtyard factory, up some stairs, found Felix there with three naked women hanging in shackles. Turns out I found Dasniya the most interesting. She was one of those three, and some years later things still turn for me around Uferstr.
Dasniya was deeply involved in the setting up of Schwelle7, and I had my proper introduction there to shibari, BDSM, all kinds of strange things. It’s been a while since I was last there, not that it’s ever so far away, seeing people walking past to and from workshops there (you can always tell them, they don’t look like the ones from across the street in Uferstudios, nor the ones from Uferhallen itself), friends or people in Dasniya’s regular class talking about it. The Schwelle7 factories, Uferhallen, I remember conversations at the beginning about how there was a distinct aim to not disrupt the neighbourhood, to not cause that gentrification which so often follows artists. Artists after all are a tool consciously used by cities and investors towards the ends of gentrification, the shock troops: first in, first out.
Out it is now for Schwelle7. The rent was increased so much there’s no way it can remain. The empty land at the far end of Uferhallen has also been sold, apparently to be built upon this year, further down the street more of the same, and in Wiesenburg with degewo’s recent claim to the land and property; people in Buttmannstr who have lived there for decades kicked out on the street. Wedding ist vorbei, Wedding ist verloren.
There was a place in San Francisco, an artists’ collective in a run-down part of town, it had been there for a decade. The owner massively increased the rent, kicked them out, the place was taken over by a ‘startup’ (fucking hate that word and everything it stands for) that crashed a couple of months later. Some time later it was still empty. This is the mentality that’s reached Uferstr. Laughably extreme rents no artist or local can afford, a short-term perspective that values this over say Schwelle7 (or any of the artists in the Uferhallen) who provide steady, uncomplicated, long-term tenancies, who bring tangible things besides ‘investment’ to the area, who make communities within the existing ones; a complete disinterest in the neighbourhood beyond moving in those with money and shafting those without. Money over and above everything.
So, what next for Schwelle7? They are looking for a new place to rent, or to buy or build, somewhere in Berlin, somewhere affordable. Even if I don’t go there anymore, I think it’s one of the very deserving projects in this city. What Schwelle7 has created and given can’t be reduced to money. It’s really dismal that in the end its existence is solely, entirely determined by this alone.