Article> Free Space: Berlin
If we create art influenced, embodied, and at one with the environment surrounding us, what is embodiment and being human mean in the age of crumbling capitalism?
Being in Berlin opened a sense, a reality behind the illusion of Capitalism- that Capitalism simply, is not Reality and that the patterns capitalism infuses into how we exist in our bodies and how they are perceived, how we move our bodies, how gender is seen, how men and women experience each other, how we carry ourselves on the streets, how women can move more freely, how time is experienced, how corporate images everywhere aren’t dictating realities, and how we can image ourselves-- how all this can be looked upon in different ways can suddenly be up to us as free human beings, because, guess what? Capitalism isn’t some indestructible law of nature.
Capitalism is a fallible construct, like the scared little man behind the illusion of the all-powerful Wizard of Oz, and without us seeing it for what it really is, has surreptitious, all-pervasive influences on how we have learned to live our lives.
To know no other way of existing in a way is like not knowing you’re living in a room surrounded by metal bars. Not knowing you are following rules that just don’t have to be there. Like what Naomi Wolf’s Beauty Myth suggested, women do not realize that to look good all the time and even having this aesthetic of “good,” is created, dictated and controlled by a capitalist culture wanting to have us spend money on products. But, this extends then to how that woman has constructed herself, how expensive she has become, who pays for that, who gets to have all that. There becomes a sense of her actually embodying somewhat the American dream of having nothing and earning the right to having it all. She becomes the object of desire in the American dreamer. And like all objects, if she can’t be bought then some might risk stealing her. Men’s gaze upon women as advertisements for the American dream has huge affects on how women walk the streets, are looked at walking the streets-- she might be stolen/raped/mugged on the streets.
And it’s not just about women at this point but the body, the human body- the handler, holder, exchanger of money. Bodies as animated bank machines walking the streets, - streets which aren’t safe because those who feel lacking or mistreated by the American dream can steal and get even. Could it be said Capitalist bodies do not exist for themselves? Bodies themselves are products. We in capitalist society embody production. Our bodies produce and only exist for a means to an end. Bodies are there to work and produce. Bodies existing in time means that time better be productive. Our bodies should run like clock-work. We need our bodies to function like a machine so we must get the optimal hours of sleep, exercise and nutrition. Suddenly our body clocks are artificially maintained just like how city lights artificially maintain the day’s light. Resting, relaxing, doing nothing becomes more of a human imperfection and hindrance to a more “ideal” life of maximum work and optimal productivity.
So, what is the embodiment of non-capitalist-dominated time? There is not a sense of rush to get to a destination. Sundays are still for resting. People work enough to live and living means a lot of time just hanging out, enjoying what is beautiful in nature or culture- both informed from a place that is not just about making money or conforming to corporate aesthetics. Time spent allowing for time just to evolve and create what it does, not for any purpose or product but just because with time, creativity acts on itself.
Seeing the streets and buildings absolutely covered in unrelenting graffiti, building after building, wall after wall, neighborhood after neighborhood, is a constant reminder of this non-owned, non-sellable creative urban spacetime that still exists in some rare places in this globalized world, and, most certainly existed in Berlin heavily before westernization could create a stronghold of rules and capitalist ownership of urban space. The graffiti also exists somehow differently than in NYC, where the graffiti there screams of a rage against the machine, the tags stealing city space, an act of social protest, commenting on the inequality of ownership and property in America.
Berlin graffiti may have had equal amount of emotion underlying its birth and proliferation, but, the fact that so much of it still exists because the city itself is still too busy concerning itself with its own economic survival to do anything about it, or also the fact that the graffiti on what’s now named the East Side Gallery is not just allowed but revered, creates a vastly different statement towards free forms of urban expression and image-making.
There seems to be this free space that exists when pure capitalism doesn’t pervade a city and a way of being. This free space is where people are allowed a process of in-form-ing their individual realities. Free space is where people inform themselves from their own images. To not have a capitalist cacophony of advertising images on every empty space in an urban environment, or not to have every space in an urban environment having a cost, a parking metre, a cover charge, a rent- means that it is a free place for people to tell themselves about their own experience there. Not being told what experience to have there. Could it be said that people perhaps will look inside for their information? Or to each other for their in-form-ation, so a community is grown from a host of in-formed people acting for each other as an instant intercultural feedback for their self-created lives.
This is a political and sociological model not built around the capitalist model of corporate dictation and conformation but a free space shared by communities of self-informing and inter-creative people… kinda makes one feel guilty for even thinking about investing in the cheap real estate there…