photos: Aja Jacques.
It takes a lot of effort for an artist to build up a career. Berlin has undoubtedly been a center of avant-garde artists from all around the world, offering a unique platform for innovative and unstigmatized arts. However, during the last year of the Covid lockdowns, they had to sacrifice what they have built-in years. Berlin artists embellished our nightlife and arts scene with their diverse and original touch but now with no jobs, no stages, and no live audiences, they are stripped off of their platforms even though their art still radiates talent and creativity.
The photographer and former performance artist Aja Jacques created Berlin Offstage after spending the last three months interviewing and photographing some of these artists in their homes and leads us through a series of vignettes of their fears and concerns. Jacques aims to create an open space for public discussions about the struggles of the art community in Berlin that has been left in the lurch during the pandemic.
Julietta La Doll, a freak-show & Sideshow Performance artist who took part in Berlin Offstage says:
“I’m missing the stage, I miss the thing I have a passion for, the thing I am burning for. I miss all of this that no money in all the world could pay for… I think compared to other cities in this world we are very lucky to be here in Berlin, and of course, it’s a situation that no one has dealt with before. We can’t expect that [the government] makes no mistakes at all. I just wish our voices would be heard more.”
Julietta LaDoll at home, December 2020
Very Confused at Home in Berlin
Fifi Fantome at home, November 2020
Some of the artists are afraid of losing their platform in uncertainty. Ixa, a DJ, drag performer, and performance artist is very open about her fears of unrecoverable damages:
“My fear is that the infrastructure that nightlife is based on, that feeds into performance culture here, would collapse. That the financial institutions come into such hardships that they start to only have to think about funding the most essential things, which… the arts is usually high up on the list of things to get cut first. This city being the haven that it was won’t exist in that way anymore. This is something that we’re already struggling with, with the gentrification that occurs here.”
Ixa at home in Berlin
Inga Salome at home, January 2021
Reverso at home, January 2021
Daddy Sparkles tells us what they miss the most about performance. Lockdown steals not only the platforms but also causes mental and psychological distress. For trans artists, the struggle can be overwhelming:
“What do I miss about performance? Everything! For me, it was a process of affirmation and confirmation of everything in my life, led up to performance. Every time I get on stage, I feel the same as the first time I performed. Which is so meaningful. I can inspire people from within my four walls, but it’s not the same as hearing people’s experiences of your work, and seeing them face to face, and seeing their emotion… I miss the queer community so much. It’s heartbreaking… In lockdown, I wrote an article about what being trans is like in lockdown. It’s a full set of prisons. Everyone feels a bit imprisoned inside their home and a bit imprisoned inside their country. That’s already two prisons. But when you also feel mental health-wise imprisoned by your brain, and then trans wise imprisoned by your body, it’s like being locked inside a cage inside a cage inside a cage inside a cage. You can’t ever get out, and it’s very terrifying.”
Daddy Sparkles at home in Berlin
Riley Davidson, aka Gutter Gucci, at home, November 2020
Buba Sababa at home, December 2020
The project was co-organized by Bad Bruises, Trash Era, and Wilde Renate with artists who were all a part of the art exhibition Overmorrow that ran at Wilde Renate until October 2020. Overmorrow provided a performance platform for over 100 local performance artists and contributed over 100 000€ to local artists until it was forced to close at the end of October.