In the heart of Berlin-Neukölln, the Genezareth Church, a neo-Gothic tower with a history as rich and intricate as the city itself, stands renewed and vibrant, thanks to the artistic duo Various and Gould. Their latest project, “Strahlen” (German for “rays” or “to shine”), was inaugurated in mid-September, almost 120 years to the day after the church’s foundation stone was laid in 1903. The installation heralds a new era for the church, which has been experiencing a revival under the Startbahn team, an open-minded group managing the church for the past few years.
Street artists and installation artists Various and Gould, known for their immersion in the context and history of their chosen sites, have transformed the church’s bricked-up windows into a dynamic visual narrative. “We were immediately struck by the church’s colorful redesign and open concept. Our design for the windows evolved into a dynamic, upward-striving bundle of rays, a lantern-like view into the church, reflecting its vibrant, multi-layered new program,” they shared. This transformation is particularly poignant, considering the church’s history of resilience and adaptation, especially during and after WWII when its proximity to Berlin-Tempelhof Airport necessitated critical architectural changes to work in concert with aeronautic needs.
The mural, “Strahlen,” is not just an aesthetic enhancement but a symbolic representation of the church’s role in a changing neighborhood. Various and Gould observed, “The surrounding area, especially since the closure of the nearby airport, has been a juxtaposition of contrasts. Our mural mirrors this dynamism, serving as a beacon of diversity and plurality.” This is evident in the faces depicted in the mural, generated with AI and then artistically altered, representing the diverse community the church embraces.
Inside the church, artworks by other artists, like Polina Soloveichik’s Easter triptych, complement the external mural, creating a dialogue between the interior and exterior. The Startbahn team, according to their website, envisions the church as a space for artistic, spiritual, and socio-political projects, a vision embodied in Various and Gould’s “Strahlen.”
The installation of “Strahlen” at the Genezareth Church is a testament to the evolving role of public art in contemporary society. It bridges the free spirit of graffiti with the finesse of trained artists, creating a new paradigm in public art engagement. As Pastor Jasmin El-Manhy of the Startbahn initiative aptly says, “We aim to inspire and accompany people through life with a blessing, opening our doors to all walks of life.” One may say that this new project is not just a visual spectacle but a reaffirmation of the church’s commitment to inclusivity, diversity, and community engagement in a neighborhood rich with history and undergoing significant transformation.
The artists would like to thank Juliane Kownatzki and Tavar Zawacki for their spontaneous help.