Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics RoomLog 4 Artist Run Spaces
Log 4 Artist Run Spaces

Jeder Mensch ein Kunstler
Louise Garrett


"das Leben ist viel länger als man glaubt"

Radio BerlinSimply finding your way into some of the galleries in Berlin can be a feat in itself. No doubt you will be required to negotiate a construction site or two. You slip on some rubble, fall down a ditch and happen upon a set of stairs inside a recycling bin leading to a bunker. There you are greeted by what appears to be a toilet door. Stuck on this somewhat dubious entrance is an envelope with KUNST scribbled on it. You are getting warmer. Scramble around a bit and you might be lucky enough to find a bell which, when pushed, allows that same door to creak open to reveal a space, one supposes, for art. Under the steely surveillance of a likely-looking gallerist you, the intrepid viewer, may then cop your well-earned fill. And that's just the mainstream.

authentic culture, diaspora style

You're never sure what you're actually looking at in Berlin. For example, the so-called 'ancient city' was fabricated c. 1987, and it's likely that yr average 17 c. Schloß (palace) was reconstructed in the 1960s. In the East, anything left standing after the war which looked remotely old was left to ruin or replaced by a futuristic egg-carton (until the money ran out). Nothing is what it seems. The construction sites here are promoted as tourist attractions (as well they might). There is no centre, and since the wall came down no clearly-defined focal point for political action. Barely anyone seems to come from Berlin, and if you were actually born here, you're probably Turkish. Berlin has gone way beyond such easily palatable terms as 'multicultural.'

Such conditions, as you would expect, signify an identity crisis of epic proportions, but also an extraordinarily dynamic atmosphere ripe for artistic invention. The fact, too, that Berlin is separate from the major German art markets of Köln and Düsseldorf-way out there in the West-means that funding for the arts is tight (you've heard it all before, huh), but also that 'here on the margins' (hey, where is that damnable centre?) a siege mentality suitable for a healthy underground scene prevails.

on the edge, in the middle

When the wall came down, artists from all sides streamed into the eastern part of Mitte, the district which had previously straddled the wall. Up until about five years ago, yr average bohemian could live there fairly cheaply until money and the housing authorities stepped in. Now it's increasingly becoming a tourist trap and the artists are gradually moving deeper into the former east. Mitte itself remains an important site for independent and commercial galleries, boasting about 70 art institutions in the space of about 4 blocks, but it's clear that the market holds court, despite the abundant rubble and grime. However, Herr Blank's sensitive antenna managed to track down one bohemian enclave still clinging to their birthright in Mitte.


The antipodean contingent knew it had stumbled upon some semblance of the nitty-gritty, when we sloped into a radioberlin opening one evening. To our delight, smoke mingled happily with art to the accompaniment of some very pleasant sounds indeed, care of our affable mentor and guide, Mr. Nice. This was definitely casual. Blank and I went to find out more.

Mr. Nice

When we arrived to chat to Mr. Nice (a.k.a. Patrick Zollinger), he was mopping the floor of radioberlin. We were quickly brought up to speed with radioberlin's recent plumbing triumph-a toilet which no longer explodes to be exact-and it was clear that all was well with the tribe. I share these banal details to illustrate that radioberlin's Kunstkonzept is fundamentally involved with the messy necessities and chaos of life: that thing which, despite arguments to the contrary, never seems to impinge upon capital 'A' Art. In other words: a guy's gotta think, but someone's gotta make the coffee. Mr. Nice told us that he found his niche in this particular game ('Kunst', that is) by becoming a chef and barguy, thus making himself indispensible. A fine strategy, and one strangely appealing to those for whom practical details have swiftly become top priority.

NTSR-never the same radiobar

radioberlin's earliest manifestation, from what we could gather, was as the party-machine called radiobar. The inaugural radiobar happened in 1993 as a small kind-of one-off backyard bar with cool sounds, cool drinks and 'really big paintings' by Jim Avignon. All invitations were by word of mouth, as they are to this day. The Berlinkoktail was invented and quickly became an institution.

This tentative foray into the art/entertainment/atmosphere (or whatever) business soon revealed the need to find bigger and better premises because, as Patrick related, "everyone want[ed] to invade us." During the following years the radiobar team went on to stage unique events (NTSR) at (among other places) the original (post-reunification) cool clubs in the former east (Friseur, Tresor and Elektro), the Fernsehturm (TV Tower) in 1994 and 1995, and at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien exhibition spaces in 1995. The latter involved about 15 groups of artists ("including DJ's and everyone else") using about twelve rooms ("each one an organic entity"). A personal triumph was a party held on the 34th floor of the Forum Hotel in Alexanderplatz-the centre of the former East-where the partygoers posed as visitors to the casino upstairs. Radiobar had become a "visual-audio living society," a kind of "Lunarpark in an arty-farty style," as Mr. Nice recalled.


The political/art Aktion wing of radiobar/radioberlin is known as the U-Kunst Gruppe. In 1997, about thirty artists belonging to the group set up shop at Documenta X. By day they sought to win new friends at their street stall in Kassel by promising "10 Jeff Koons in 80 Minuten," or "24 Beuys in 90 Minuten" (Mondrian, Lichenstein, Miro, Van Gogh, Picasso, u.s.w.): every day a new artist, and a fresh U-Kunst Aktion. By night they implemented their radiobarkonzept in a building near Documenta central, brandishing their kuratorkiller banner as a challenge to the ever-increasing elitism and stuffy intellectualism for which Documenta has come to stand. By all accounts, U-Kunst provided a welcome relief from the claustrophobia of the inner sanctum.

"Wir haben keine Angst. Kunst ist fucking boring entertainment for rich Bastards who dont't [sic] know how to spend their money... U-Kunst has nothing to do with Kunst...U-Kunst ist the virus in the systhem [sic]." (from a recent ad. in the local rag) U-Kunst is currently doing things in its first 'permanent' exhibition space, radioberlin, which was founded in 1997. Every week there's a new show, and they manage to make ends meet without funding, somehow, and with style. It's a comfortable little nook which is becoming, day by day, every bit like a general store. And this is Mr. Nice's ultimate dream. But as the girl says, "Tomorrow ist another day."

-many thanks to Patrick Zollinger (Mr. Nice), Markus Rees (PENTAKLON), all the artists affiliated with radioberlin, and all those tuned in to the psychic airwaves.

Louise Garrett



Log Illustrated - a publication from the Physics Room