RUNNING TO PARADISE
”Poor men have grown to be rich men,
And rich men grown to be poor again,
And I am running to Paradise;”
- William Butler Yeats, “Running To Paradise”
To Los Angeles and Berlin
The exodus from the artist’s playground, the expulsion from the creative paradise that was once Manhattan, has begun in earnest. From the closed, lock-down atmosphere of a post-911 New York, the flight of the artist has been going on for some time. Artists once able to live in New York are finding themselves locked out of an unaffordable and impenetrable fortress, and discovering new freedom in the wide open spaces of two thriving creative art centers: Los Angeles and Berlin. Spreading out, like two polar opposite forces, to the east and west extremes of New York City, Los Angeles and Berlin are like two repelling magnets that simultaneously attract.
Both Opposites and the Same
Los Angeles and Berlin are cities thriving with the freedom and energy of contradiction, and perpetual reinvention, in a sprawling, untamable urban landscape. Los Angeles, unburdened by the crush of haute history, always was and still is a place of dreams and perpetual fiction, while Berlin is perpetually rebuilding and reinventing itself after near destruction and the severance of its people by a wall. Both thrive on the incoherence and sprawl of its varied, kaleidoscopic neighborhoods, inviting out the freedom of chaos, artistic interpretation and creative expression.
Quirky, unique, and uniquely brilliant, both cities are full of contradictions and surprise. Berlin houses the largest zoo in the world as well as the gates of Babylon. Los Angeles, homeof “Hollywood Babylon”, is commonly cliché-decried as a cultural wasteland, yet it has the highest number of museums per capita in the world, and also houses the third largest oil field in America, black gold running in rivers beneath Gucci and Chanel.
In Chaos there is Fertility
While Los Angeles opened the world’s first movie theater in 1902, Berlin celebrates the 100-year anniversary of Babelsberg this year, the world’s first and still active movie studio. With a rich history of the debauched revelries of Tinseltown, and the decadent and deviant theatrical traditions of Cabaret, both cities harbor an undercurrent promise of smoky nights of depravity, excess and fun. Gay Talese once described Los Angeles as “a lovely city of sun and sex” while the openly gay Mayor of Berlin describes the city as “poor but sexy”. Both cities are oases of sorts, as Los Angeles is bordered by ocean and desert, and Stendahl once said of Berlin “What could have possessed people to found a city in the middle of all this sand?” No wonder Los Angeles and Berlin are sister cities. No wonder AirBerlin finally launched the first nonstop flight between Los Angeles and Berlin.
Both rule-defying cities, Los Angeles and Berlin invite the rule breakers and the artists to come and play. As Anais Nin said, “In chaos, there is fertility.” Out of the cosmic chaos of their contradictions, Los Angeles and Berlin give birth to a new freedom of creative expression. And therein lies their brilliant reversals of fortune: taking the artist on a departure from the business centers of art in New York and London, to the new creative centers of Los Angeles and Berlin, in an ironic twist: bringing the artists destination to a new paradise, a reversed creative journey– from exodus to genesis.