Built in the ruins of the once mighty Anhalter train station in Berlin-Kreuzberg, the second B-750 public art exhibition, Mythos Berlin, opened in June 1987.The exhibition was later described as a “six million Deutschmark playground for international artists,” (the total cost of the exhibition was nearly 6 million deutschmarks) and as “the only real flop of the 750th anniversary celebration.” The team of organizers behind Mythos Berlin had sought to render the abstract myth of Berlin, or the “Berlin in the head,” in visual form, via multimedia exhibitions, installations, historical displays, speeches, performances, and film screenings.
The exhibition’s fragmented pastiche of abstract, emotionally-charged, and visually stimulating “experiences” was intended to submerge viewers in the many layers of myth that had indelibly shaped the city. Viewers moved between different myths and eras of history, while encountering a haphazard collection of artifacts, ephemera, and antiquated forms of transportation.
A temporary exhibition hall featured abstract “environments” and objects intended to stimulate moments and memories from Berlin history, simultaneously nostalgic and horrific. A light installation/sound montage built into “a stuffy and disorienting space” simulated the modern condition of overstimulation that left city dwellers dizzy at the turn of the century. The “back room of the German soul” professed to reveal the city’s “inability to come to terms with itspast,” with an installation of the “historical inheritance ofGerman history.”This included: “the German book case, traces of memory from the Wilhelminian era, leftover relics of the Nazi dictatorship, and the helpless attempts at overcoming the German past.” An “irregularly floating projection ball,” dubbed the “myth sphere,” installed between the two axes of the exhibition hall represented the “opposing force to rationalized modern life."
The Autonomous Left Protests Mythos, June 13 1987
At the Mythos Berlin opening on June 13th, autonomous leftists appeared at the grounds to protest the exhibition, facing off against a ring of police surrounding the grounds. Leaflets distributed at the scene described Mythos as the “biggest private gravy train of the public 750th anniversary windfall.” The activists took aim at the Mythos organizers, described in their flier as, “the city’s most notorious assholes and cultural careerists,” and “villa-dwellers“from Berlin-Zehlendorf, an old bourgeois district in the southwest.
The protesters gathered outside the Mythos opening also drew attention to the controversial opening, which was invite-only despite the millions in public funding spent on the project. Over two hundred police officers were on hand to contain the protesters. Many of the officers were from other West German states, and happened to be in town for the visit from US President Ronald Reagan the previous day. Mythos organizers eventually invited the protesters to join the opening (and partake from the free buffet) rather than risk having the event turn violent. The drama would instead come a few weeks later when the unflattering reviews began appearing in West Berlin and West German publications.