Gentrify This!

Artists travel the world, examine gentrification

Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke
Danielle de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke

Gentrification: a word spoken in hushed and frightened tones, as though it’s the black plague, a zombie virus or artisanal ice cubes.

Five years ago, Berlin-based interdisciplinary artist Danielle de Picciotto decided to do something about Berlin’s gentrification, skyrocketing rents and creeping homogeneity.

Along with her husband, Alexander Hacke of seminal German industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten, de Picciotto, who was born in Tacoma, gave up her home in Berlin to become a self-proclaimed nomad — traveling the world in order to examine and attempt to solve the scourge of gentrification in the world’s greatest cities.

The pair will appear Friday, Aug. 28, at Tsunami Books in south Eugene for a multi-media performance, including readings from We Are Gypsies Now, projections of artwork from the book and live music.

De Picciotto and Hacke have produced a “graphic diary” — We Are Gypsies Now — a German bestseller, now in its first English translation, chronicling the couple’s first 18 months on the road. “The book is about why Alexander and I became nomads — why we decided to do it, how we did it and the first adventures we had,” de Picciotto explains. “It’s made up of my drawings.”

“We got really sick and tired of the gentrification in Berlin. We’ve been traveling ever since,” de Picciotto tells EW. “We originally thought that gentrification was a Berlin problem, but we pretty quickly noticed that it’s actually an international problem. It would be more difficult than we thought to find a place that wasn’t changing in the same way Berlin was.”

De Picciotto adds, “During the performance I will be reading. Alexander will be doing music to my reading and I will be projecting my drawings and animated movies. And also we will be playing music from my solo album, as well as from our upcoming album.”

While de Picciotto and Hacke have found gentrification to be an international problem, there is a silver lining. “One city that I think is handling it pretty well is Toronto,” de Picciotto says.

“They are being gentrified,” she continues, “but they still have a huge amount of small-owned businesses — they still have a Starbucks on every corner, but they still have a lot of small, independent, boutique cafes and restaurants.”

She adds, “We’ve noticed that smaller places are handling it better than bigger places. Smaller places, smaller towns and cities — they’re more personable. You don’t have to cater to huge masses. A lot of people are moving out of big cities.”

The We Are Gypsies Tour stops in Eugene 7 pm Friday, Aug. 28, at Tsunami Books, 2585 Willamette St.; $10. All ages.