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Berlin culture minister Joe Chialo on Berghain, diversity challenges and artificial intelligence

Euronews Culture sat down with Berlin Culture Minister Joe Chialo
Euronews Culture sat down with Berlin Culture Minister Joe Chialo Copyright Credit: Canva Images
Copyright Credit: Canva Images
By Olivia Stroud & Theo Farrant
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Euronews Culture sat down with Joe Chialo, Berlin's Minister for Culture and Social Cohesion, to discuss the German capital’s vibrant cultural scene and the future challenges facing the city.

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From the iconic Berghain nightclub to its world-renowned opera houses, Berlin boasts some of the world's best arts and entertainment – so deciding who gets what from its billion-euro budget can be divisive.

CDU politician Joe Chialo bears this responsibility as Berlin's appointed Senator for Culture and Social Cohesion.

The former singer, who has been in office for just over a year, spoke to Euronews Culture about his vision for the cultural landscape of Germany's capital and the various challenges the city faces.

Euronews Culture: Is Berlin one of the most lively cities in the world?

Joe Chialo: Berlin is one of the most exciting, fascinating, and creative metropolises in the whole world. Why? Simply because we have an incredibly rich cultural scene here. We boast four world-class opera houses. We have countless clubs where we always rejoice in welcoming guests from all over Europe and the world. We have galleries, over 170 galleries to be exact. And we have over 200 museums. So, for a city like Berlin, with its history, this is remarkable. It's a very vibrant place to be.

Do you also go to the opera or techno clubs or concerts?

Of course. I recently visited Kunstwerken, I was at Berghain, even recently. Of course, I also visit the Neue Nationalgalerie by Klaus Biesenbach, as well as many other cultural sites here in Berlin. And I am pleased that it's not just high culture, but also free culture. And the club culture makes this city a truly special one worldwide.

Photo shows guests attending the opening of the 'Pop-Kultur' festival in the Berghain club in Berlin, 2016.
Photo shows guests attending the opening of the 'Pop-Kultur' festival in the Berghain club in Berlin, 2016. Credit: Joerg Carstensen/AP

How did you find Berghain?

I've been to Berghain many times, and it's a place where you lose track of time.

Are there other cities in Europe that you think are cool and special, not just Berlin?

Yes, of course. I think London is an incredibly exciting city. Paris, but also Milan, Rome, Barcelona, Madrid [...] I think of Warsaw, also an incredibly great city, which has incredible strength, and also other cities, which unfortunately may suffer a little under current conditions. Kyiv, for example, was a city that had a lot in common with Berlin, as we are also partner cities, especially in terms of club culture.

Do you believe that Berlin is diverse enough?

Well, here in Berlin, we have a migration rate of over 25%. That alone is a clear indication of how the city is composed and how it's coming together. Do we still have room to improve on that? I definitely think so, and we're working on it. But still, I would say that Berlin has always been characterised by one thing. And that is freedom. And this idea of freedom attracts people, which is why, in my opinion, Berlin is ahead in many ways.

How do you marry Berlin's diversity? Well, I think for me personally, it's already biographically ingrained. I was born in Germany, my parents come from Tanzania. I came to boarding school when I was nine years old. That means I started learning German and finding my way around here in Germany. I completed my high school diploma, I did my education, I was an entrepreneur, and through that, I got to know the different aspects of life here in Berlin, in Germany. I see the challenges, and I believe we can only overcome them. By being aware of diversity and by realising that it's about coexistence, not about one thing displacing another.

Tourists gather in front of the popular 'My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love' mural at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Monday, July 3, 2023. 
Tourists gather in front of the popular 'My God, Help Me to Survive This Deadly Love' mural at the East Side Gallery in Berlin, Germany, Monday, July 3, 2023. Credit: Markus Schreiber/AP

We have introduced an anti-discrimination clause because it was important for us that when allocating financial resources, it's ensured that the hard-earned money of taxpayers benefits the institutions and people who accept democratic principles. As you surely know, we live in a very polarised world, fragmented into echo chambers. And it's important that when allocating these funds, it's done on the basis of a legal framework. And that's what we wanted to work on. And this anti-discrimination clause includes racism, classism, ableism and also anti-Semitism. It also addressed Islamophobia, and maybe the whole debate has been very charged with the term of anti-Semitism due to the current situation.

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Any final points?

I have a favourite topic, if I may say so, that accompanies me during my term in office. Firstly, as I mentioned earlier, societal cohesion. But the second one is that in politics, we haven't really grasped the concept of artificial intelligence yet. So, this artificial intelligence is a vast field.

Joe Chialo sat down with Euronews Culture
Joe Chialo sat down with Euronews CultureCredit: Euronews

What we will revisit, what we want to roll out here in Berlin in the future – we will discuss how artificial intelligence affects a city like Berlin: economically, ethically, legally. Just to ask, what does art and culture actually mean in a time when the voice that sounds like Joe Cocker isn't actually Joe Cocker's? Whose voice is it? What does it mean, for example, if it has been artificially produced in a track in terms of compensation? What does that mean ethically and morally?

And we want to address all these questions because it affects so many areas. It affects film, where scripts are completed by AI following a certain logic of success. What does that mean for creativity, for progressive thought? On the one hand, it's very practical. If an artist sang himself in the studio, you don't have to ask him to come back the next day. That can be sorted out because AI helps. On the other hand, we are moving in a very dangerous framework if we don't define that. We have recently seen that artists have voted against it. We want to address all of this here in Berlin as well, to sustainably strengthen this culture.

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Check out the video in the web player above for the full interview.

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