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SoHo, Kreuzberg, Prenzlauer Berg: Art, Activism, and the Urban Built Environment in the Late Cold War

Emily Pugh, Research Associate, 2012 – 2013

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Keith Haring, Berlin Wall mural, 1986. Keith Haring artwork © Keith Haring Foundation. Photo courtesy Haring Foundation Archive

The relationship between art making, political activism, and urban space as a site of artistic production and exhibition will be a key focus of my new project, which examines SoHo in New York City, Kreuzberg in West Berlin, and Prenzlauer Berg in East Berlin during the late Cold War, roughly the 1970s through the 1980s. These districts will serve as case studies in analyzing how artists’ residencies in particular urban locales have inflected the spatial and economic profiles of these places, as well as how built environments may influence the practices of the artists and activists who lived in them. Of special interest is the tension that can emerge between individuals’ attempts to create spaces and ways of life that criticize mainstream values and efforts to sustain such values through, for example, processes of gentrification.