In August 2021, real estate giant Deutsche Wohnen will sponsor the ‚Berlin Mural Fest‘, paying street artists to decorate the full facades of buildings across Berlin.
For companies such as Deutsche Wohnen, public pressure caused by anti-gentrification movements and the upcoming Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen referendum has meant that the sponsorship of art and culture is currently more important than ever. This artwashing normalizes those profit-oriented practices that are transforming the spaces that we use for living and working into spaces of precarity.
As Berlin artists and art workers organizing with Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen, we condemn Deutsche Wohnen’s appropriation of the aesthetics of resistance, its exploitation of the precarious position of artists, and the artwash of its responsibility for Berlin’s housing crisis.
Art does not exist in a bubble beyond the social issues that surround us. The commodification of living spaces displaces low- to middle-income households, and intensifies pre-existing discrimination on the housing market. It also eradicates self-organized groups and non-commercial spaces. This detrimentally affects our work as artists, as well as art’s accessibility to the public. Accessible housing and affordable commercial spaces are not only essential conditions for artistic production. They benefit everyone. The health of the arts sector must be tied to the health of our communities, not financed at their expense.
As Kimo, co-initiator of the Berlin Mural Fest, rightly points out, this year the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly impacted the arts and culture sector. While an ever-larger percentage of our income goes towards paying rent, Deutsche Wohnen’s profits have only increased. Our financial precarity has intensified as a direct result of the efforts of Deutsche Wohnen and the real estate lobby to overturn measures such as the Mietendeckel (rent cap), which kept rental rates affordable.
There are many strategies for preventing art from being co-opted. For example, in December 2014, street artist Blu painted over their own iconic Curvrystr. mural, rather than allow the work to be used in the service of Kreuzberg’s ongoing commodification. Blu’s collaborator Lutz Henker describes the destruction of the mural as a reminder: Berlin needs to preserve “affordable and lively spaces of possibility”, rather than produce more “un-dead taxidermies of art”: art that is only accessible to those who can afford it.
We invite all artists to join the struggle against the sell-out of our city, and to act collectively to safeguard the health of our communities, on which the conditions of artistic production depend. What makes our neighborhoods “einzigartige Orte” are us, the people who live in them, and street art has historically served to amplify our voices. Let´s not relinquish this powerful tool to serve the agenda of those responsible for evicting us. Let’s continue to be active and present on our own terms.
We call on our fellow artists to sign this statement and join us in organizing for a city that is affordable and accessible for all. “Kunst für den Kiez” does not mean artwashing. It means organizing together against privatization, financialization and speculation in our neighbourhoods. This also means voting to evict Deutsche Wohnen & Co from our neighbourhoods on September 26th – damit Berlin unser Zuhause Bleibt.
Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to continue to organize together. We look forward to hearing from you.
The art workers of the Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Enteignen campaign, and
Reclaim your city
Kunstblock and beyond
Reclaim Club Culture
Lause Lebt e.V.
Büro Otto Sauhaus
Bündnis gegen Verdrängung und Mietenwahnsinn Berlin
Coalition of Cultural Workers Against the Humboldt Forum