Saturday, 5 March 2011

a dead town

From the NYTimes, 22 February, original article here

GENEVA — Geneva’s counterculture may not be dead, but it is looking distinctly bruised.The city, known internationally for diplomacy, private banking, watches and highbrow culture, was for much of the last decade a hub for squatters, anarchists, electronic music and impromptu theater.

But recent years have not been kind to the alternative-culture scene.

“Geneva is moping,” Le Temps newspaper wrote in an article late last year. “It’s a town closed in on itself, it’s stopped dreaming.”

The malaise has its roots in an official clampdown on numerous squatter spaces in 2007 and ’08 that was led by Daniel Zappelli, the city’s chief prosecutor, or district attorney, from the center-right Liberal Party. For public health and similar reasons, other spots have closed since. Added to the city’s high rents, strict zoning laws for former industrial sites and the success of recently opened upscale private bars and clubs, the closures have severely curtailed choices for those on a limited budget.

“What happened with the closure of the squats was akin to a cultural brain drain,” said Albane Schlechten, who represents a union of independent cultural associations.

The alternative spots — notably La Tour and Rhino — nurtured workshops, bars, theaters and clubs, giving rise to groups like Cave 12, whose electronic sound attracted visitors from as far afield as Japan, and hip hangouts like l’escobar. Artamis, a sprawling, informal cultural center housed the Théâtre du Galpon, a cinema and an art gallery, as well as bars and spaces for concerts; upscale apartments are among plans for the site. All of the venues are now closed.

The changes have put increasing pressure on Geneva’s last grunge-style culture center, L’Usine , on a former industrial site on the banks of the Rhone.

William Riceputi, 36, a teacher who helps to organize arts shows, screenings and gigs for new bands, said: “Many people have been priced out of culture. Young people are getting bored. There’s more frustration.”

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