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Activists and Artists Publish Open Letter to Chris Dercon, Director of Berlin’s Volksbühne Theater

BERLIN, GERMANYSince the April 2015 announcement that Chris Dercon, the former director of Tate Modern, would succeed Frank Castorf as the head of Berlin’s renowned Volksbühne Theater (Castorf led the institution for twenty-five years prior to Dercon’s arrival), the Volksbühne’s staff and much of the local theater community have roundly criticized the appointment as being inappropriate, even a “mistake,” as Klaus Lederer, Berlin’s senator for cultural policy, recently said.

The theater has been occupied by activists since September 22, who are protesting the gentrification of Berlin. Many of them see Dercon’s appointment as another step in the city becoming more expensive and, as a result, inhospitable to artists.

The global activist coalition Hands Off Our Movement, along with e-flux, recently posted an open letter to Dercon, challenging why he allegedly filed a criminal complaint with the local authorities to have the police “block the theater” and “evict the artists, actors, and others who were occupying it” on September 28.

The letter reads as follows:

Dear Chris Dercon,

We understand that the situation around your appointment as the new Director of Volksbühne theater is complicated, and that the current atmosphere in regards to this matter makes rational discourse difficult. We are appalled that during the past months this situation escalated to the point of physical attacks against your person. Despite the fact that the occupation, which started last Friday, has so far been very peaceful, we are aware that many of the people who work at the theater do not support the occupation and have appealed to be allowed to continue their work.

But we are also extremely concerned that this morning, after your filing of a criminal complaint, the police was deployed to block the theater and to evict the artists, actors and others who were occupying it.

We would like to remind you that only a few years ago you were part of the jury of the European Cultural Foundation award which selected Teatro Valle Occupato as one of the laureates in 2013/14—an occupation that was precisely for the democratization of a cultural space.

We call on you as the Director of the theater to continue seeking a resolution of this conflict through dialogue and engagement with the cultural community.

Sincerely, 
Hands Off Our Revolution & e-flux

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October 3, 2017