Berlin Vol. 4: The Art of Choice
One of the highlights of my recent trip to Berlin was the Borros Bunker: an old Nazi bunker that was recently converted into a home/art gallery.
The couple that own the Borros Bunker wanted a place that they could live with all the contemporary art they’d collected. So, they restored the old building – making sure to retain the markings of its former life as a bunker, a fruit cellar, a disco club – and added a penthouse apartment on the roof.
They’re professional patrons, only buying art from artists that they can develop a relationship with and rejecting advice from art consultants. I can’t help admire their devotion. To me, their choice of where to live and how is an artistic act in itself.
If you’re rolling your eyes right now, you’re not alone. In my more cynical moments, I see the privilege and pretention of their actions. Anyone can live an eccentric life off the beaten path if they have money, right?
But this reaction is just an excuse born out of fatigue and a fear of living deliberately and meaningfully. When we feel tossed around by life it seems like our fulfillment is in someone else’s hands. In truth, we have control over more than we think.
Living artfully means shining a light on the unconscious choices me make and being brutally honest about our sphere of control. Because creative acts are always about choice. The mental anguish of making art is not coming up with an idea, it’s in the choosing. Faced with the possibility of a million directions, the artist must sort through the mental clutter and decide what to discard and what to hold on to.
True, the Boros’ lifestyle is extravagant and not everyone has the means to make such large investments of time and money. But living artfully need not be so grand. Nor does it have to be about rebellion or rejecting the status quo. Quite simply, it’s about using whatever agency we may have to become makers.
The Podcast S-Town, a story a man who hates where he lives, is perhaps one of the most profound examples of the power of choice. To me, it’s a podcast about turning one’s life into a masterpiece. But John B. Macklemore puts it much more humbly: “I have not lived a spectacular life, but within my four-dozen-plus years, I’ve had many more hours to pursue that which I chose instead of toiling over that which I detested.” A worthy goal, I think.