The one thing Berlin with all it’s eventful history never had is a world fair. The fact that fame-hungry Emperor Wilhem II. would oppose such a fair and would not be interested in showing the “hereditary enemy” France, which in numerous world fairs had proven it’s industrial strength and had set a strong mark with the construction of the Eiffel Tower in 1889, who is calling the shots in Europe seems astonishing. But, as he explained it:
The fame of Paris makes the Berliners fall short of sleep. Berlin is a major city and as such it must have an exhibition. This is completely false. Paris is simply what Berlin should hopefully never become, the biggest whorehouse in the world.
It should not go unmentioned that Berlin’s disastrous financial situation at the time also played it’s part in this decision. In spite of this regal decision a consortium of Berlin based traders and industrialists decided to boost the local industrial exhibitions that had already been organized since 1822 and to turn the event into the “Great Industrial Expositions” of 1896 which was soon dubbed “the impeded world fair”, due to it’s enormous size of 900.000 m² and extensive costs, as well as the high number of visitors – close to seven million. Even a new power plant was constructed to secure the supply of electricity for the exhibition’s pavilions. At the time electric light was still a relatively new invention and a curiosity itself. In 2012, over a hundred years later, Berlin is still highly in debt – some things never change – , France and Germany are no longer hereditary enemies and electric light is something we can’t do without in our daily life. 2012 is also the year that a group of enormously ambitious artists has chosen as the year that Berlin would get it’s first proper World Fair. And what better place to set it up than the airfield of the now defunct Tempelhof Airport. The Tempelhof World Fair might be one of the smallest world fairs there ever was, and probably the first one that does without a representation of the world, but it is still quite spectacular and features beautiful, innovative and creative pavilions and a long list of renowned participating artists such as Harun Farocki, Olaffur Eliasson’s institute for spatial experiments or Toshiki Okada, who quite possibly constructed the most threatening pavilion ever to be shown at a world fair – a replica of the burnt out Fukushima reactor. The Tempelhof World Fair features an impressive list of talks, performances and screenings. To get all the information check out: http://www.tempelhoferfreiheit.de/besuchen/veranstaltungen/die-grosse-weltausstellung-2012/