Ambitious art project in Berlin

Berlin (dpa) – After much speculation about a secretive Berlin film and art project, organizers are now starting to reveal more details. Later this year, a city within a city will appear in the centre of the German capital, creating an area sealed off by a Berlin Wall replica.

Every day, some 1,500 to 3,000 visitors will be granted “visas,” each costing 15 euros (17,40 dollars). Visitors will exchange their smartphones for a phone, disconnected from the mobile network, that will send the visitor on a personalized journey.

Concerts, academic talks and even performances by artists such as Marina Abramovic and Carsten Hoeller are set to be part of the programme. Pianist Igor Levit will make an appearance and there’s also talk of street art legend Banksy participating.

The project, known as DAU Freedom, has not yet been approved by the city authorities. However, that approval is “in the works,” said Thomas Oberender, director of the Berliner Festspiele, which will host the event. Despite the replica Berlin Wall, Oberender said it would not be “Disney GDR.”

Visitors will not encounter actors in costume, like those that can be spotted at Checkpoint Charlie, the former border crossing point. Instead the project’s creators are interested in recreating how it feels to visit a foreign country and lose your sense of freedom – and not necessarily life in the GDR or the Soviet Union.

The artificial city, estimated to cost 6.6 million euros, will cover a large area near Berlin’s tourist-filled museum island, stretching along part of the Unter den Linden promenade. Events, including a Shakespeare theatre, are planned at several locations. Visitors will also be allowed to access viewing platforms to look over the wall.

The space is set to open in Berlin on October 12 and continue for at least 4 weeks. Then, on November 9, the 29th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the fake wall will fall once again. The show will then travel to Paris later this year and to London in early 2019.

The focus of the space will be a film project by Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky. Between 2009 and 2011, the the 43-year-old used a specially reconstructed Ukrainian city with its own nuclear research institute to recreate life in the Soviet Union between 1938 and 1968.

For the film, 400 people lived in an isolated parallel world, without a script. They included street cleaners, waiters, families, scientists, shamans and only one actress. “We were everywhere,” said German cinematographer Juergen Juerges, who has worked with auteurs such as Wim Wenders and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The film title “Dau,” comes from the nickname for the Soviet nuclear physicist Lew Landau (1908-1968).

Khrzhanovsky amassed over 700 hours of material, which he turned into 13 feature films, several TV series, as well as an online digital film platform featuring collaborations from musicians like Brian Eno and Massive Attack. Instead of a traditional premiere, the film will launch with the art event in Berlin.

Tom Tykwer, the director of “Run Lola Run,” acted as an adviser to the project, which was funded in part by the Berlin-Brandenburg Media Board. At the press conference, Tykwer spoke of the “myth” that surrounds the project, which he sees as something that needs to be experienced rather than consumed.

Nina Pohl, the curator of the Schinkel Pavilion art society, which is also involved in the project, said she was pleased with the debate about the “scandal in the restricted area.” She said it recalled the art of Joseph Beuys and Christoph Schlingensief.

According to the producer, Susanne Marian of Phenomen Films, local residents have already been consulted and everyday life in the neighbourhood should continue without too much interruption. Those attending operas and concerts at venues on the boulevard will even be provided with special entrances.

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