When it comes to events, activities and interesting places to visit, there no shortage of either of these in Berlin. Not all of them are free, but if you read the fine print, there is quite a bit, which evens out whatever you spend for the paid events (mostly concerts). One thing I learned in Bangkok was to take note of special traveling exhibits like The Elephant Parade or the WWF 1600 Pandas World Tour, and since they set up in public places (the Pandas are usually a flash mob operation), they are accessible and fun.
If you live in Berlin or are passing through before September 24, 2017 I highly recommend a visit to the Olympus Perspective Playground (Berlin 2017) at the former Vatenfall Kraftwerk (power station) in Kreuzberg. This is something I stumbled on quite by accident and wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but the catch phrase interactive art exhibition was enough for my curiosity to sit up and pay attention.
Due to its unique pre- and post-WWII history, Berlin has a lot of huge abandoned structures that nobody want to invest in for renovation but tearing them down would cost even more, not to mention raise countless health issues in the neighboring residential areas. So some of these locations are rented out for large events seeking a unique atmosphere, case in point the former Tempelhof Airport and the power station.
“Playground” is definitely the right word for this unusual and spectacular art installation, and the chosen venue could not have been more suitable, given the space and the height. It is recommended that you reserve your tickets online. Entrance is free, but if you arrive with your e-ticket you can go through the priority lane. Once you are in, the first step is to get your Olympus camera (after all, it is an Olympus sponsored event and they provide the playground for you to try out their products). You are of course welcome to use your own, but if you happen to own an Olympus you will have to declare it. As a staunch Fuji user, I was of course curious about the mechanism and opted for one of the semi-pro units, since I didn’t want to waste my time fiddling around with the settings instead of shooting.
Stepping in through the first installation, which resembles a car wash, is like entering a world that seems to be a mix between Matrix, Star Wars and James Bond, half expecting Indiana Jones to come whizzing through or even the T.A.R.D.I.S to land with a gallant Dr. Who. I needed a few minutes to stare with my dropped jaw before exploring. No matter where I looked, there was something unusual to point the lens at, not to mention that it was the best self-imposed composition challenge that I have stumbled upon in a while, and the fascinating part is that the installations are designed to be photographed.
Admittedly, shooting something as spectacular as the Perspective Playground is difficult enough, what more if you are doing so with a camera you have never handled before. The results were decent enough, but I was itching to shoot all over again with my own equipment, on my terms. Which is exactly what I did the next day.
There is no limit to how many times you visit the exhibit on the same ticket or how long you stay. In the end, either your stomach will lead you out or a desperate need for fresh air. The venue being a former power plant, is devoid of windows and natural light, so it gets hot and stuffy.
As a marketing campaign for Olympus it is top rate, as an art exhibit it is mind-boggling, but as an interactive photography playground it is utopia. Previous Olympus Perspective Playgrounds in 2017 were set up in Copenhagen and Barcelona. Keep an eye out for the 2018 calendar, it might just pop up in a city near you!