A discussion with author Paul Hockenos
Paul Hockenos will discuss his Berlin Calling (The New Press, May 2017) that tells the story of the Berlin Wall's momentous crash through the divided city's street artists and punk rockers, impresarios and underground agitators. It is a chronicle of 1989's "peaceful revolution," which upended communism in East Germany, and the wild, permissive post-Wall years of artistic ferment and pirate utopias, when protest and idealism, subaltern techno clubs and sprawling squats were the order of the day. The story features characters including David Bowie and Iggy Pop, the internationally known French Wall artist Thierry Noir, cult figure Blixa Bargeld of the industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, and a clandestine cell of East Berlin anarchists. Hockenos explores the unique conditions that inspired Berlin's politically charged creatives. He argues that the DIY energy and raw urban vibe of the Cold War decades shaped the new Berlin after the Wall's collapse and still pulses through the city today. The city's protagonists owe more than they realize to subcultures of Berlin's pasts. But, Hockenos claims, gentrification and mass tourism could erode the city's spirit if its younger generations relinquish the dissident politics of their forbears.