Why Tacheles Must Be Preserved: A Statement by Dr Mark Naison, Professor of African American Studies and History, Fordham University, New York City.
It is both ironic and reprehensible that in the middle of a global economic crisis, where banks are being bailed out by governments, and where large numbers of commercial and residential properties stand abandoned in cities around the globe, that one of the most important examples in the world of the conversion of abandoned space for creative purposes is being threatened with elimination by banks and developers.
Make no mistake about it; people all over the globe who have visited Tacheles have been inspired by the story of a group of artists who took over a huge abandoned Department store after the fall of the Berlin wall and with their own sweat and labor transformed it into an internationally known arts center with an extraordinary music club that features artists from around the globe.
Tacheles is not a period piece; an excercise in nostalgia that recalls an exciting bygone time in Berlin's history. It is a living, breathing example of what ordinary people can do when markets collapse and governments fail.
I experienced this first hand when I visited Tacheles four years ago with the progressive hip hop group Rebel Diaz. When we saw the amazing things the artists at Tacheles had done with abandoned space, not only in the building itself, but in the adjoining lot, we wondered why nothing like it had been done in comparable spaces in New York City, especially in the Bronx, where there are many partially occupied warehouses and factories.
So inspired was Rebel Diaz by this model that they were determined to recreate it in the Bronx and this year their dream became a reality. Along with 20 other artists, musicians and community organizers- they turned an abandoned candy factory in the Bronx into the Rebel Diaz Arts Collective, which, like Tacheles, has a music club, artists studios, and outdoor gardensand sitting areas showcasing graffiti arts.
At a time when the global economic crisis is leaving in its wake thousands of abandoned stores, shopping centers, and luxury housing complexes, Tacheles stands as a living example of how grass roots activism can transform such spaces into centers of artistic creativity and small scale commerce.
Not only should Tacheles be protected from irresponsible commercial development- undertaken, it should be noted, by the very institutions that brought us the global economic crisis-, it should be proudly promoted by the City of Berlin as an example to the world of how ordinary people can create opportunities in the midst of turmoil and hardship
Tacheles is not only a reminder of a heroic time in Berlin's past, it is, for many people around the globe, a symbol of their hope of a better future
August 18, 2010.