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Gaswerk Art Days: Unleashing music and art in an industrial oasis

From July 28-30, Gaswerk Art Days will showcase a stellar lineup of music, art installations and performances.

Concert at the Gaswerksiedlung in Berlin. Photo: Peer Kugler

The story of the Gaswerksiedlung in Rummelsburg is a quintessential Berlin tale: an abandoned industrial building gets repurposed into a space for the city’s artists to let their creative juices flow.

Once home to the workers of German gas provider Vattenfall, the Gaswerksiedlung, a red-brick housing estate with a community café and a “secret” garden, has been providing studio spaces for visual artists, musicians, and producers since 2018.

Here, just a stone’s throw from Funkhaus, over 400 creatives have formed a thriving community, and now they’re ready to showcase to the world what they’ve been cooking up behind closed doors. Gaswerksiedlung is putting on its own three-day extravaganza, the Gaswerk Art Days, inviting the public to join, celebrate, and support the community’s creative output.

We spoke to Gaswerk’s artistic resident, creative director, and the event’s curator, Letizia Trussi, about the origins of the community and what to expect at the first edition of Gaswerk Art Days.

I’d like to come back from an event with a good enriching experience – something that blows me away.

Since 2018, Gaswerksiedlung has been an artistic hub. Can you tell us a bit about how it came to be?

The Gaswerksiedlung was Vattenfall power plant’s old housing estate. Vattenfall’s workers used to live here, and then the city changed the building’s designated use to Betrieb (business). Then the place was empty for a long time, about 15 years. I guess almost everybody who has passed this very long building asked themselves, “What is this? Why is it empty?”

Our manager, Stephan Kunze, rented it out from Vattenfall, promising he’d take care of the historic 1920s building. He rearranged the old living units for studio purposes, and together with the help of some really cool people, we reached out to our network and community of artists and musicians. The place got full pretty fast, and it’s been highly appreciated since then as a working space.

You have been part of the Siedlung as an artist with your project, Rooms of Kairos, since its inception and became its creative director in 2022. Tell us about your experience with Gaswerksiedlung.

I found the perfect home in Gaswerksiedlung, a home for my work and for the work of my fellow artists and musicians. Good studios, good company, a great garden in the back. A little out of town, but not too much. You can play what you need to play. You can really use your sound.

Three or four years ago, I started interacting with Gaswerksiedlung more in the role of curator, bringing some events to the garden. We also do exhibitions at the Muschkebart café, which is our community hangout, our café, our canteen, and also our little indoor event space. Since 2022, I’ve been the creative director for Gaswerksiedlung with the role of developing our aesthetic identity and putting us on the map. The idea is to create a series of events that show our interests, our artistic position, and to develop our own signature.

I guess almost everybody who has passed this very long building asked themselves, “What is this? Why is it empty?”

Let’s talk about Gaswerk Art Days. What was the initial inspiration for the event?

It was time to go a little bigger and share more about Gaswerksiedlung with the world outside. It’s the first time we’re opening the doors to visitors to explore some of the studios and our huge beautiful secret garden. After five years of working really well together, it was time to unleash our vision and bring it to reality.

It’s about defining our signature and making our voice loud and clear. But I think we are also responding to a need: we are mixing club music and experimental electronic with more live music and band music. There’s a bit of ghettoisation in terms of music genres. It’s something we want to break.

So what exactly can we expect?

We want to bring everyone together for a fantastic weekend of music, art installations, and performances. Essentially, it’s an event for music lovers that brings together what you would usually find in different places. I know this city is full of people who would appreciate this. Of course, you go to places that speak the most to you, to your tastes, to your interests, but you’re always missing out on so much. So we’re going to mix it up!

Is there anything you’re personally looking forward to?

I can’t wait to hear Derek Gripper. He’s a guitarist from South Africa. He plays kora music, a music style from Mali, fused with classical guitar. It’s something that was thought impossible by experts in the field. I can’t wait to hear him, though usually I’m much more into experimental electro-acoustic, so I also very much look forward to Andrea Belfi, Shackleton, or Perera Elsewhere.

There’s also Triniboi Joocie & The Samuel Dubois Band who are going to be mind-blowing, in my opinion. It’s four different musicians joining forces. It’s going to be a soca concert, which is a music style that originated in Trinidad and Tobago and is defined by very strong rhythms. It’s active, enthralling, and very hot.

The red-brick housing estate of the Gaswerksiedlung Photo: Anna Bresoli

What are you hoping to achieve with Gaswerk Art Days?

Gaswerk Art Days will have been successful if it is enriching for the visitors and the artists attending. Both as an artist and as a guest, I’d like to come back from an event with a good enriching experience – something that blows me away. We would also like to do it every summer. We’ve set up the organisation with that in mind.