Touring Lichtenberg art-spaces with bikes – and a lot of Cops
[tl;dr] Nice event, nice people with an embarassing police
Thursday the week before last (July 31st) the first installement of Art Spin took place. Originally established in Canada, Art Spin is an interactive, multi-disciplinary, art-related bike tour, or maybe a bicycle led art- tour. Whatever…. A lot of cyclists meet and ride through a certain district from one art space to the next, with a guide in front and more people with high-viz garments giving additional security. Like on our tours – just bigger, a lot bigger.
Appr. 300 people met not far from S-Bahn Frankfurter Allee – the edge of what Berliners would consider the inner city to tackle the Lichenberg Nieghbourhood and its arty stuff. Since room for experiments in the centre is getting either very scarce or increasingly expensive a lot of artists and young people in general is moving their projects and ideas to the „edges“. Like a caravan Berlin’s subculture is moving around constantly. Thanks to our history there still is a lot to explore and conquer – at least compared to other big cities. It might not be as exciting and anarchic as in the 90s but at least in Lichtenberg and other „outer“ districts there is still enough cheap space to just do stuff.
Berlin’s version of Art Spin was made possible by Vanessa & Erin who moved here not so long ago and was supported by a number of either art- or bike-related initiatives from Berlin, including our friends from Klara Geist and Alle Macht den Rädern. We weren’t officially asked to particitpate. But a lot of people asked what we would do for the event, so we decided to at least offer up rental- bikes for half the normal price for those who don’t have a bike of their own. About a dozen people did so, mostly expats who moved here just shortly and their visitors.
If we’re being perfectly honest with our selves we have to admit we came more for the cycling bit and Klara Geist’s new sound system, not so much for the art. Let me tell you: „The Big One“ combines insane quality with an incredible punch. I really think you have to be a special kind of crazy, to build these amazing machines – I WANT ONE. Ok maybe I’ll just take a smaller one.
Another distracting fact was the police and the way they handled the situation. After asking the Ordnungsamt and being told everything would be OK, none of the people involved thought they still had to contact the cops. After All there’s been a critical mass every month for years now. Both events build on a special rule: if there’s more than 16 cyclists they are being treated as a single vehicle. So if the guide in front has a green light or right-of-way for others reasons, all the others may follow, even if the situation changed in the meantime. Even ignoring the fact that probably 98% of drivers don’t know that rule, this construct needs someone being responsible/accountable. While at Critical Mass everyone just pretends to not really be involved, Art Spin had Vanessa for the police to talk to. And talk they did. First there were maybe two Bullies with cops, but at our first stop their number grew. And about 10 of them were sporting bullet-proof vests, seriously. Mind me; at that point we have maybe ridden 2 km on a quiet side street without really bothering anyone longer than a couple of minutes.
We were standing on a parking lot in front of highrise at Landsberger Allee with a beautiful and GIANT mural by Streetart-Duo JBAK. So the police’s first topic was the damage to property (the cars) and sound we were making. A long discussion followed with a lot of back and forth between the local police and their headquarters. According to the police we were a demonstration that needed a fixed route and a police escort. If we were not willing to cooperate they would just stop the whole event, even though the legal grounds for that would have been shaky at best. But being right doesn’t help you when they just cancel the whole thing. So we were wating for the motorcycle squad which didn’t come. So after about 30 mins of wating they agreed to block the roads for us, if we would stick to our route. For all that we were probably a bigger hindrance to motorized traffic than necessary, but it was kind of fun to see, how clueless they were. Maybe I’m prejudiced that way but my guess is, had the event been taking place in Kreuzberg or Mitte the story would have been a little different.
Anyway, after finally being allowed to continue we were cycling back to the stasi-compound on Frankfurter Allee for the installation of f.u.c. – Fragements of Urban Culture – which we didn’t really see, because we were talking to these guys, and grabbing a beer.
From there we were riding to a screening of short movies – most of them quite funny – from Mobiles Kino at Rummels Bucht a very nice and cozy open air space just behind Ostbahnhof. After that we just bailed, since we had tours to ride the next day.
Really looking forward to next year. Ride Safe!
Some more Pics: