June 2019

- The 'ufa-fabrik' -

/512-657-thickbox/u.jpgI was sorting my Berlin pictures in the living room when my son Joel joined me. When he discovered the 'ufa-fabrik', he took the painting into his hand and sat down with me. He was obviously in a chatty mood. "I can still remember when you took me to the Free School every morning for a while and then you painted in front of the café." – "Yes, that was for two or three weeks." – "And you asked Yuppi, Sigi, Hannes, Alexis and me if we wanted to be models." – “Exactly" – "And did Yuppi's dog actually stick out his tongue when he was being painted?" – "Yes, whenever Yuppi said: 'Otto, stick out your tongue'." Joel smiled and put the painting back on the table.

"Did you know the 'ufa' from the beginning?" he asked with interest. "Yes and no," I replied and told him about the late 70s, when West Berlin was still walled in. More young and older people than those in middle age lived in the city, I studied at the Technical University Berlin. I described this world to him a little and the sense of change. Berlin had an incredibly liberating effect on me at the time. "How exactly?" Joel wanted to know. "Everything that was established was questioned. We discussed, demonstrated, went on strike and committed ourselves to alternatives for education, training and schooling. But also, the ‘No’ to nuclear energy, independent journalism, self-determination for one's work and life, conscious nutrition, emancipation and a thousand other things were very important to us. Then the first occupations occurred. This included the ufa-site. When a real squatters' movement came into being a little later, it was never just a matter of preventing the demolition of the houses. No, people also wanted to create space for themselves to implement their ideas for an alternative life. Almost 180 empty houses were occupied within a short time, mainly in Kreuzberg, but also in Schöneberg, Moabit and elsewhere. No. 31 Danckelmann was 'mine' in Charlottenburg" – "And then?" – "Yes, then the evictions came pretty quickly. The dream was over! For me, too. That's why I left Berlin and only came back seven years later. The city had changed completely in this relatively short time. Only then did I get to know the 'ufa-fabrik' in Tempelhof. In 1988 it was one of the few places that preserved the spirit of the Sponti movement and breathed life into it: commune, free school, children's farm, fun and culture. That's why I really appreciate the 'ufa' and wanted to capture its positive atmosphere in a painting," I ended, concluding my brief look back in time.

Joel still had this and that question, then he said with real regret in his voice: "It's a pity that there is only one 'ufa-fabrik' in Berlin. The people who live there are doing well and the neighbours also know where they can go, there's always something going on. Artists from across the whole world come for many great events. Wouldn't you have liked to live there too?" – "Sure, but it's not that easy to set up a project and then stick to it. I don't know if I would have been suitable for it. All respect to the makers." – "That's right, I imagine that to be quite difficult for you, as you like travelling so much and don't want to make any commitments at all. What do you like best about the 'ufa'?" I didn't have to think long. "For me it is a place with heart, mind and visions, a colourful oasis that can stand up to the big city grey. And already soon in the second generation." – "Sounds good, Mama. And now show me your other Berlin pictures. Where and when and why did you paint them?"


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