“Berlin seemed cheap and easy for people coming from London, Paris or Madrid, where rents are soaring.” Danielle de Picciotto (Tacoma, 1965) refers to the exodus of those who, forced by the financial crisis of 2008 and the domino effect of Lehman Brothers, chose to save their vital dream by emigrating to the German capital. “But for those of us from here, the rents had already gone up almost 100% and the salaries were still the same. This was never a place to make a lot of money and have a great career, so we were forced to continually tour in order to pay for the flat. And since we weren’t willing to give up our artistic career to pay the rent, we decided to get rid of our house. ” Music, filmmaker, writer and performer She uses the plural because it includes her husband, the musician Alexander Hacke, part of Einstürzende Neubaten, whom she met 20 years ago through Nick Cave and his Bad Seeds.
The trip started at the beginning of the last decade, but the graphic newspaper that tells the adventure, Now we are nomads, now appears in Spain edited by Electric Sky. The story has absolute validity at a time when going to live in a caravan, return to town or revive extinct jobs is no longer a romantic idea but the brutal reality of many people. The couple got rid of almost everything – “I kept my most precious assets: my violin, my computer and my cowboy boots” – and began to look for a life. “Our goal,” Danielle says, “was to find a place where there was an interesting artist community and decent social security, rent an apartment big enough for both of us to live and work, and not cost us two-thirds of our earnings or it will force us to be on tour without stopping. We decided to travel until we found that place ”. They spent more or less time – in the book he illustrates it with a naive– in New Zealand, Mexico, the United Kingdom, the United States, Budapest, Prague or Ireland.
The nomadic experience is as subject to romantic misunderstanding as it is to the adrenaline rush of having no set course. What is between one and the other? “Being a nomad is extreme. It has effects on your health and your mental makeup. It is a very complex matter and can become dangerous if you are not careful, so we take it very seriously. We stopped drinking and smoking. We went vegan and started meditating and yoga to be as healthy and as clear-minded as possible. Every step you take matters because if you make a mistake you can pay dearly for it, so we always tried to plan the next move in advance and what we were going to do. ” They took advantage of the time with tours, residencies and curators; they published albums and books, they worked tirelessly: “it takes a lot of work to be a nomad”.
“I think,” says De Picciotto, answering the question of whether he recommends the experience, “that it is something very interesting that changes your life. You can only carry one suitcase and you have to cut everything down, which is incredibly liberating. It is okay to only have one pair of shoes and two books. Make things become more important than to have stuff. It is different for each person and character, for example Alexander started to feel uncomfortable after a while because he missed having his own room. But it made us both happy because it changed our lives and our perspectives. Being a nomad opens your mind. You learn to deal with people in a completely different way. Having a lot of foreign friends in different countries with very different habits is beautiful ”.
We live under a system interested exclusively in profit and expansion. The world is becoming a more and more expensive place. People are going to the country everywhere. I think it’s great that everyone is more and more interested in a more sustainable life.
Despite the fact that that 18-month period that his book recounts is long gone, the spirit that runs through it has not disappeared from his life. On the contrary: “Gentrification has taken over the world. We live under a system interested exclusively in profit and expansion. The world is becoming a more and more expensive place. People are going to the country everywhere. I think it’s great that everyone is more and more interested in a more sustainable life. We have to change things because of climate change quickly. You have to leave the car, stop flying and take trains. Less meat and fish and more veganism! You have to stop using plastic. The general movement will be in this direction but many people are not willing to give up the easy life and will continue to live in a way that is not good for our environment, so I don’t know what will happen ”.
In between, the Covid: the pandemic not only truncated any nomadic idea, but also close travel, a fatal circumstance for artists. “Despite everything, it has given us the chance to rest. For us it was good, because the truth is that we were exhausted. We were going to be on tour throughout 2020, but it was in Berlin, in our office, where we were living. And it was a good experience because we had a really good new Minister of Culture, Klaus Lederer, who immediately put together a plan to help artists survive. He took the situation very seriously for all freelancers and fought for us. It makes a difference that politicians take culture and culture seriously underground.”
The artist considers that nomadism is here to stay: “I think that emigration in general is going to become a very important issue in the future. It already is: Due to skyrocketing rents, climate change and political problems, large masses of people are on the move. This situation not only affects artists, but I think it will make things more and more difficult for our collective. If life becomes more difficult for everyone, who will have the money to support art? Me, as a musician undergroundI’m used to constantly inventing new ways to get ahead, but middle-class families with children will find it increasingly difficult to be so flexible. “
“The communes are definitely an interesting option. I think we will all have to support each other more ”, says De Picciotto, who was, by the way, one of the co-founders of the Love Parade. “That was an incredible experience, especially when it coincided with the fall of the Wall. The original spirit is no longer there — the world has changed so much; now there are different issues that the new generations are making visible through new calls. Now it’s your turn to invent the new world. ” Meanwhile, she and her husband continue to search: “Next year we will tour again, and then we will see what happens. Who knows where we will go. We haven’t found our place yet. Everything is possible”.
‘Now we are nomads’
Author: Danielle de Picciotto. Translation by Carola Aikin Araluce.
Editorial: Electric sky, 2021.
Format: 209 pages, 27 euros.
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