Germany has everything these days. They hold all the world’s hope to climb out of the financial crisis pit of despair that is being dug by every country on earth. They have great cars and, they even do art pretty well too. Only recently have they revealed their secret plans to breath life (that’s right they can raise the dead) into the long forgotten corpse of the once awe inspiring world fairs that supported innovation and ingenuity not that long ago. It seems Germany will stop at nothing to take the world by storm.
Britain, and particularly London, are not completely off the map just yet. They too can catch the world fair train as the fever to promote creativity and innovation on a local level intensifies over the summer and into the inevitable next round of murderous government austerity measures. London has already shown some signs that this could be developed in Britain with the opening of new art spaces in around the Olympic regeneration sites. Only recently Germany has explored the practicalities of producing a world fair in 2012 to great success, Britain should also take advantage of derelict spaces to produce a world fair.
The World is not Fair – The Great World’s Fair 2012 attempted to turn the history of world fair’s around and produce something to propel Germany and Berlin further into the future of sustainable collective projects. The organisers of the event raumlaborberlin and the group Hebbel am Ufer theater produced the latest world’s fair on the former grounds of the unused space left from the Berlin-Tempelhof airport from the first until the twenty-fourth of June to exceptional praise. Instead of building potentially unsustainable structures they redirected efforts to build new exhibition spaces into existing spaces to create pavilions and places of performance. Not only were the organisers looking to build into the space themselves, they asked guests and performers to claim some spaces within the site as their own. The reviews were in, and some said “yes, this was a crazy world exhibition, sometimes silly, sometimes simply funny. But at the same time most of the pavilions were smart, mysterious, and thought-provoking, going beyond this cheap and highly creative event’s general concept: a critical perspective on the typical waste of other world expos”.
World Fairs have not always had a glorious history. Less than a two minute stroll around the internet will illuminate historical events that world fair organizers would most likely strive to forget. While the original world fair’s started in France around 1844, and followed the traditional national exhibition, they were designed to highlight the latest movements in industrialization, a very important thing at the time. If you’re reading this on a computer you can thank industrialization for that. The history of the world fairs begins to darken around the 1960’s when major attractions to these fairs included human zoos. Time went on and governments across the world stop pumping money into these projects because the costs began to outweigh the benefits. That was nearly curtains for the world fair, but not until London threw it’s might around and established an architectural masterpiece known as Crystal Palace. The display of architectural achievements became a feature a world fairs, and is still an important aspect in the revival of world fair exhibitions.
London can make a statement too. Most recently London has seen the emergence of the Pleasure Gardens on the fringes of the city and creative capitol. It looks to bring together art, music, culture, and much more as it develops a future over the next few months. It is a massive site with a great deal of potential to produce an event of this magnitude. It is with hopes that any event that is similar to the one staged in Berlin will also attempt to address similar issues regarding effective city planning, and the development of public art spaces.
World fair’s are on the rise and present a great opportunity for cities around the world to be involved in a vibrant discussion in their future development. Even though the history of world expo’s is blemished by tragedy, this exhibition in Berlin sought to bring back the heart of innovation that initiated the fairs to begin with. They have done it with a roaring success, London only has to learn and add it’s own unique twist to prove it too can have a great fair.
Words by: Portia Pettersen © Artlyst 2012
Image from: The World is Not Fair. The Great World’s Fair 2012