The Voices of Berlin: Busking in a ‘Creative’ City


  • Claudia Seldin Federal University of Rio de Janeiro



Berlin, creative policies, resistance, street performance, temporary use


The city of Berlin is often advertised as one of the most prominent creative cities today. In the past two decades, its marketing agencies have constructed a carefully crafted urban image designed to attract the young, mobile and creative workers that move the contemporary economy. To do that, they rely on cultural temporary uses that enable selected urban spaces to have the desired ‘cool’ and authentic ambiance that distinguishes this city from others within the competitive global network. This paper investigates the phenomenon of abundant street performers in the German capital to find out if and how these artists perceive their role and instrumentalisation within these creative policies. The field research carried out through the method of ethnography reveals that their understanding of their art as small resistances in urban space often clashes with their use in broader placemaking schemes that have negative consequences. The article begins with a discussion of creative policies in Berlin from an Urban Planning point of view, highlighting how it encourages the migration of young artists and creative professionals. It then analyses the definitions of busking in the existing literature in the Social Sciences to understand its potential as a builder of sociability. Moreover, it draws on theories that speak of the “looseness” of space and the idea of tactically appropriating a place through art to build an interdisciplinary approach between the different fields. Lastly, it presents the case study, using the performers’ own testimonials to draw conclusions about the temporary uses of urban space within a broader urban context.


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How to Cite

Seldin, C. (2020) “The Voices of Berlin: Busking in a ‘Creative’ City”, Culture Unbound, 12(2), pp. 233–255. doi: 10.3384/cu.2000.1525.20200609a.