Did the Capital of Culture make it even harder for emerging artists to get a foothold in the city? Has the commercialisation of our core spelt curtains for creativity? Jürgen Cyranek is a graduate, born in the former East Germany, who’s attempting to find out.

As the International Biennial unfurls across the galleries and warehouses of the city again, Jürgen will be hot-footing it around town filming a documentary exploring whether our hosting of the European Capital of Culture and its associated investments have had a negative effect on our independent art scene and, as a consequence, whether it’s prevented an artist led regeneration of our run-down areas.

JurgenA graduate from the Freie Universität Berlin, Jürgen (pic r) is part way through a master thesis: a documentary about Liverpool, artists, and the influence of the Capital of Culture on a shrinking city.

It’s not the first time he’s filmed us. For his degree Jürgen shot a documentary about the restoration of our docklands from maritime hub to cultural enclave.

The result was the film – Turning The Place Over? It was premiered durning Berlin’s ‘Long Night of Science 2010’ – a well-attended event aimed at engaging the general public with the wonky world of science.

“The audience really liked the movie and they were rather fascinated by Liverpool,” Jürgen recalls. “Usually, when Germans think about Liverpool they only have the Beatles or Liverpool FC in mind. I think we changed that a bit.”

Let’s hope it didn’t include any Stan Boardman vignettes.

Suitably encouraged, Jürgen is back this month – and, with a couple of colleagues, including his partner Claudia, he’s launched City Picture: a project focusing on the less-celebrated of our city spaces, aimed at unlocking the potential of urban hinterlands, capturing it, and offering new perspectives.

In a way, it’s what the Biennial’s ‘art in the public realm’ strand does every couple of years, and, recently, the Council’s Shops Upfront initiative of opening up abandoned retail units to become temporary galleries and performance spaces.

For Jürgen, though, this transitory approach doesn’t go deep enough. For a continuation of creativity, you need a commitment to its support. And that, inevitably, comes at a price.

“After the German reunification many buildings in East Berlin were in a very bad condition, and many people left the residential and industrial areas of the city, allowing artists and students to move in because they were so cheap,” he says.


“Now, you can’t find many of these areas in Berlin anymore because money has started flowing into these once-neglected areas, and creativity has been priced out. But still artists, designers and students need these inspiring, affordable locations if they’re to continue to contribute to the city. I can see that Liverpool is inventing itself anew by focusing on art and culture, but it’s at a crossroads,” he says.

According to Jürgen, Liverpool has an advantage over Berlin. We have the space.

“Berlin never has been a shrinking city, but Liverpool still has lots of space for creative pioneers, if they’re allowed to use it. It’s a well-known fact that artists, who tend to settle down in run-down areas because of cheap rents and enough space they find, can be an enormous contributing factor to the process of regeneration,” Jürgen says.

It’s here, and it’s happening now. Of that there can be no doubt. We can still punch above our weight when it comes to creativity.

“We see cities as the sum of the people who live in them and changes as a welcome and essential part of their development. Our ambition is to uncover the hidden potentials and we want the city to tell the story. What will the outcome be? We don’t know. We’ll have to see what kind of story it will be when the filming is done…”

Jürgen’s keen for us to have our say. He’s hoping to stage a discussion at a city centre location in the next couple of weeks. More details will be revealed on www.citypicture.co.uk.

“Last but not least, we’re still looking for some music which we can use as a soundtrack for the documentary. Maybe there is a band based in Liverpool who wants to share its music with us? Just contact us!”

Thanks to Nerve Magazine for the final image.

One Response to “Capital or Culture? You Decide”

  1. We didn’t let money or development price us out. We have established enclaves such as the CUC Novas building , the Gallery, Stanhope Street and that section of the city. Also city businesses have invited us in to display our work in thier premesis’ giving us a larger audience than before the city development. It has actually opened up the city for the less well known artist.

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