Berlin in Focus: Cultural Transformations in Germany

By Barbara Becker-Cantarino | Go to book overview

5
Art and Money: Cultural Innovations within the Urban Setting of Prenzlauer Berg

Friederike Eigler

The relatively young history of the Prenzlauer Berg district is marked by rapid urban development, an increasingly diverse population and, more recently, by a thriving local culture, the so-called Kiezkultur. Daniela Dahn, a writer from the GDR, has been most successful in capturing the local culture and everyday life in Prenzlauer Berg in the pre-Wende era of the mid-1980s. Today, Dahn's portrayal of Prenzlauer Berg in Kunst und Kohle 1 reminds us of a multifaceted culture in an East Berlin neighborhood that existed despite the GDR's attempts to regulate and control its cultural institutions. This local culture was by no means limited to the relatively small group of writers and intellectuals who made headlines in Western newspapers in the winter of 1991-92 when Wolf Biermann revealed the Stasi-activities of the poet Sascha Anderson, a leading figure of Prenzlauer Berg's literary avant-garde.

In retrospect, one can read Kunst und Kohle as documenting a moment of historical transition in a local Berlin neighborhood: it displays the fissures and cracks of the socialist system in the GDR without yet indicating any of the new perspectives or major changes that Gorbachev's perestroika would encourage and that, in the late eighties, would lead to the emergence of a broad-based citizens' movement and, ultimately, to the collapse of the GDR. Since the unification of Germany, Prenzlauer Berg has faced more severe economic, social, and urban problems than other parts of Berlin and former East Germany. Yet its rich local culture offers unique opportunities that can help to combat the general disorientation and the ensuing destructive and xenophobic tendencies that we have witnessed since 1990. While people

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