Full-Assed Friday: Tacheles

You may or may not have noticed that the tag line to this blog is adventures in half-assed step parenting. 

Welcome to Full-Assed Friday. Every Friday I’m going to share something that I consider Full-Assed. It may be funny, awesome, meaningful, or just different. I’m taking suggestions, so if you have an idea or want to be a part of it, email me at accidentalstepmom at gmail dot com.

A lot of things happened over the past week:

  • #5 scored 300 on his NJASK standardized test in Math. Out of 300.
  • #3 made the middle school travel volleyball team
  • #2 kicked a whole lot of butt in a whole lot of high school volleyball
  •  I sold my first essay (squee!).

I had a fascinating interview with a lovely girl that I’m very excited about writing up for this feature. However, CC is working a second gig during the days this week, which means I’m on deck for early morning lunch-making and school runs. I’m not pulling an all-nighter to finish writing up the interview. I am too old for that. Not to mention too sober.

So, today’s Full-Assed installment is about Tacheles, an art center in Berlin. This past March I was lucky enough to spend four days in Berlin for work.

It was beyond amazing. I’ll never forget it- in particular, Tacheles.

Tacheles is a place that we stumbled into on accident. What follows was originally posted on March 13 of this year under the title “When Being a Rude American Paid Off.”


Okay, so most of my trip to Berlin I felt guilty about not learning Germish and not getting past page twenty-three in my guide book. The thing is that nearly everyone there speaks English and you can totally get away with it. They don’t even make you feel bad for it; the guilt is all self-induced.

Tuesday night we had an amazing meal at an authentic Deutsche küche. They had this really awesome candle holder in the middle of the table.

A chicken made out of various bits of metal, some identifiable, some not. I like his feet.

We decided to walk back to the hotel a different way. We kept passing these graffiti-covered entrances to alleys and staircases.

Not normally a place I would wander into in New York. Or Berlin, for that matter. One of my more adventurous companions walked down an alley and found a quiet, grafitti-covered room. No bar. No music. Faint smell of pot smoke wafting out. And, inexplicably, some guys playing a very quiet and very serious game of ping pong.

We skipped the one pictured above with the staircase. It was really intimidating, and several stories high.

The next one we came to was an open air courtyard, with makeshift rooms built out of the walls of sea crates and cinderblocks and corrugated metal. It turned out to be the coolest thing I’ve ever seen in my life. A bunch of artists in makeshift rooms.

It was the place they made the candle holder.

Picture if you will a dim, grafitti-covered room, cold, and heated only by a fire going in a giant head that looks eerily similar to those big rocks on Easter Island. It’s worth clicking on this picture for a closer look.

They’re working. Making art. Metal sculptures, from tiny to ginormous, out of various bits of random hardware- drill bits, ammo casings, gears, chains, screws, metal shavings. There is music: the original cast recording of Annie mixed down with a techno beat. If I were at a different time in my life I would have signed up to apprentice right there. Instead, I just took some pictures.

I love this one. He turned around at the last second.

Little ones:

Big ones:

(Somebody please give me props from refraining from the obvious here.)

I am reminded of that Heywood Banks song:

I’ve felt like this before:

Okay, here’s why it paid off to be a rude American. This experience was made so much better by not having any idea what the hell I was walking into. When we met up with the rest of our group and told them what we saw, one of them said he had been inside the intimidating staircase part.

I went back on Thursday by myself.

The highlight for me was Alexander Rodin’s Global Warming exhibition. I was completely blown away. [JM note 9/22/11: pictures weren’t allowed in his exhibition, but please check out the link- he’s fantastic.]

Most of his works are canvases larger than I have ever seen in my life, three and four wide, all the way to the high ceiling.  The painting that you see from across the room is impressive enough, but when you step close to it, you’re left standing, head craned up, mouth open, marveling at the detail that he puts into every square centimeter (see that? I can be metric when I want). It’s a whole different painting up close.

He had several works in progress. It was fascinating to see how he goes in stages with them, because my brain simply couldn’t wrap around how the finished work ever began.

There were other studios in the space that I visited too.

In every one were petitions to sign saying “I support Tacheles” except the rest was in Germish and I couldn’t read it.

It was only upon returning home that I had a chance to Wiki it. Former Jewish department store turned Nazi prison (hence my original impression of it being intimidating) turned artist collective. Holy crap.

The place was amazing. I don’t think I would have had the same experience knowing what I was walking into. I have decided that just maybe, in the future when I visit other countries, maybe I will continue to not read past page twenty-three in my guide book and trust my instincts on where I go.

Continuing with the theme from previous Berlin posts, here’s a different kind of angel, Tacheles-style:







What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever stumbled into unexpectedly?




20 thoughts on “Full-Assed Friday: Tacheles

  1. That place looks amazing. Being the type that struggles with stick figures, that type of artistic ability just blows me away. And especially that medium.

    Congrats on the paying piece. Awesome. The first of many, no doubt.

  2. Congrats on selling your essay!

    That place looks like a movie set. My husband would be in heaven (he loves to create art) I would be pretty intimidated by all of it. How amazing to have a giant head breathing fire, I want one.

    1. I totally want one too. I say, if you’re going to have a fire place, that’s the way to do it. I’m not any kind of a visual artist at all, but I can get behind making art that’s heavy, sweaty and dangerous. Pretty cool.

  3. What a week you had! WOW. Love the maths score, that is some achievement right there and I’ll bet that half-assed step-mom had a more than a little something to do with #5 getting there (and not just the endless supply of bacon)!

    Selling your essay is no mean feat either and the girls certainly kicked ass too.

    1. The only thing I had to do with his math score is that I stopped checking his math homework because I was telling him things were wrong when they weren’t. 🙂 Thanks for all your kind words!

  4. Congratulations to you and your family of full-asses! Huh. That doesn’t sound right. But wow, I’m so impressed (though in a way surprised it’s your first sold article, because you are all over this writing shiz – I love your style!)!

    This place in Berlin looks amazing (also comforting to know I’ll get by being unilinqual) – I had heard that Berlin is has stunning street art, but this?? And that fireplace?? Wow!!

    Can’t WAIT to read the interview!

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