Nine years of Party Arty
This year marks the 9th year anniversary of the Berlin based event Party Arty. Run by the self proclaimed art dictator Jan Kage, the event has become one of the strongest and longest standing references for events that pull together an extreme melting pot of different artistic mediums, cultures, crowds and styles. The birthday event featured an impressive exhibition featuring 53 artists and collectives shown in the hospital-turned-cultural-centre the Kunstraum Kreuzberg / Bethanien. As well as the 38th edition of the party in the former factory club Ritter Butzke with DJ’s, spoken word, live painting and installations. The following is an interview with the big man himself; Jan Kage.
Modart: This year is the 9th anniversary of Party Arty. What was the original idea and why did you start the event?
JK: Like the motto says it’s a “night of vibes from different tribes”. I come from a Hip Hop background and I was kind of bored with a subculture where everybody thinks they are a rebel when in fact they have more rules than their own parents. As luck had it I was on a tour bus with some people from D.I.T.C, it was Party Arty the rapper. And I thought that was a great name, so I was like fuck, I like that name and I want to make a party with all of the arts involved!
Two or three months later we started in a little club called Lovelite. I always had two floors, one for so called black music and one for so called electro. Two worlds that would not generally meet back in those days. I didn’t show street art and graffiti until Party Arty Vol 5 or 6. I didn’t want to meet expectations that a guy from the hip hop world would show that.
We always had spoken word, it wasn’t just a poetry slam. It could be short stories, could be poetry, whatever, just spoken word. That’s how it got off. It was fun and I decided to do another one, but I didn’t really have a plan to take it this far.
After four years Lovelite decided to close down. So I went to Club 103 and this changed the rules of the game. I needed a bigger name for the dance floor; I had to pay higher wages. Before everybody got the same no matter how famous or unfamous you were. Everybody got 100 Euro, a socialist payment, because art is not a democracy it’s a dictatorship. I’m a dictator and everybody is created equal in my dictatorship. I’m a good dictator, but my arrogant taste of course decides if you’re in it or not. Then we were in 103 and after a few years they decided to close down and in the end I ended up in Ritter Butzke, where I have been for two years now.
M: One of the main elements of Party Arty is the mix of different genres from the spoken word to the electro, hip hop and visual artists from completely different fields. What is the biggest difficulty in putting on an event like that?
JK: For an exhibition like this the biggest challenge is to make sense in the hanging. You have people that are completely different, how do you hang them on one wall, or in this case on forty walls? What you can do is go through colour shades or forms that correspond. And then it is really interesting because then you can open up a communication between works that wouldn’t communicate because normally they wouldn’t be in the same location in the first place. But now you have something swinging between them that opens up this conversation.
Also, like we said this whole eclecticism is bound to my person. Who I like, I invite artistically and personally. I don’t want to work with assholes just because they are good at what they do. We gotta show my person in it too, show that there is someone behind it that invited all of them.
M: Over the nine years that you have been doing the event what have been the changes in what is happening in Berlin?
JK: In Berlin? Cats like you moved in. It got way more international with a lot of people that don’t speak German and have their own little American, Australian, Canadian, communities. That changed a little bit, at first everyone was like “Youhou we’re international, we’re like a metropolis now”. But now all the Turkish and German cats are really like “ah another American, hip and broke and can’t speak the language…walking the street with a can of beer in his hand…”.
Actually what has happened in the last 9 years and that is not all due to Party Arty is that Hip Hop turned pretty electro and electro got more of a snare drum to it. These worlds got a little closer. So I was maybe on the early tip of the zeitgeist.
Also Urban Arts had a big hype and some cats like Banksy and Blu were respected by the academic world. The street artists I know no longer want to have the label of “street artist” any more because they felt like the hype is over. The more serious ones like Various and Gould have gone to art school and they still do their urban interventions and they still do their beautiful collages and prints in the street but the whole thing changed.
M: Would you ever do a Party Arty in another city?
JK: We did! We did one in Hamburg, the Party Arty Hanseaty. We did one in the south of Germany near Munich, and we did one in Rostock when the G8 summit was there. I’d love to do more of that but logistically it’s quite a bit of work since we are no longer as small and experimental anymore. We have international artist in the Party Arty army, something like 8 or nine nations are represented, and all kind of ethnic groups. In that sense it is international. But we would love to do it in other cities, especially New York, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Brussels of course, I love Brussels, maybe Zurich, Milano, Moscow, and Beijing, no fuck Beijing do it in Shanghai…
M: And what do you predict is the future for you and the event?
JK: I don’t know. I mean I’ve been doing this for nine years now and it doesn’t look like I want to stop. It’s still fun. It’s a huge production to get ten musicians on stage and give them a good sound; you really need to have a good technique. It’s much more than just having a DJ there which would be way less effort and way more profitable. Party Arty is not always profitable but it’s a huge playground for artists to explore other sides of what they do. That is really satisfying and the reason why I do it.
Exhbition closes June 17th!
10997 Berlin / Germany