4ARC563: HISTORY & THEORY
THE MYTH OF BERGHAIN THE BERLIN UNDERGROUND by Lawrence Carlos 134782361
A special thanks to the people who contributed to this essay, in no particular order William Firebrace Mike Slade Grant Taylor Christopher Moger Harish Vijayan Irfan Lamba James Russo Katarzyna Kubiak Dan Slavinsky Robert Taylor Yelena Podznyakova Alessandro Zuccoloto Antje Bucholz Elke KnĂśĂ&#x;-Grillitsch ...and those who I have not mentioned, but have shared an experience with in Berlin with over the years
CONTENTS Berlin: Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg map 6 Berghain: Aerial Site map 7 Cueing Up The Record: Playing Back a Pastime 8 Berghain: Von Einem Kraftwerk zu einem Tempel des Technos / From a Power Station to a Temple Of Techno
The Berghain Front Door: Die Neue Grenze / The New Border; Protecting The Democratic Liberalism Of The Dancefloor 14 Ber / Ghain / Lin: Eine Stadt Der Grenzen / A City Of Borders
Cueing Up The Next Record: The Night Is Young 27 Appendix: The Berghain Monologues 29 Bibliography: Books / Main texts 38 Articles / Website links 38 Videos 40 Image credits 41
BERLIN: FRIEDRICHSHAIN-KREUZBERG DISTRICT MAP
KREUZBERG FRIEDRICHSHAIN BERGHAIN/PANORAMA BAR
BERGHAIN: AERIAL SITE MAP
KEY 01 02 03 04
[fig 04] BERGHAIN / PANORAMA BAR site of the now demolished OSTGUT, now O2 WORLD and MEDIASPREE (ongoing) BERLIN OSTBAHNHOF station Oberbaumbr端cke bridge
CUEING UP THE RECORD: PLAYING BACK A PASTIME
“[Chatter outside the club] Woman: Excuse me…um, excuse me. Charles? My name is on the list Charles: What list? Woman: The DJ’s list Charles: Miss thing (snap), there is no guest list tonight! Woman: Oh…oh…oh” 1
‘Club Lonely’ by Lil Louis & The World
As a fervent enthusiast of electronic dance music my unwavering search for unique clubbing experiences have led to several journeys to Berlin – the current Mecca of what I shall loosely refer to as ‘techno’ music. A city well known for its tumultuous past throughout the twentieth century, techno in the 1990s signified a shift in outlook and attitudes from citizens sociologically trapped by the Berlin Wall. The enormity of the reunification both nationally and globally is well documented, but for the youth in Germany the expression of freedom was not restricted to the joyous celebrations as seen on news network footage from November 19892. The fall of the Wall heralded a new subcultural movement, which in the last quarter of a century or so has defined Berlin as a clubbing paradise for DJs, music producers and the now ubiquitous raver. I have become increasingly intrigued by the establishment of Berghain as a capital in the global electronic music landscape. My trajectory has aligned with Berghain on two occasions, both of which have, disappointingly, resulted in being refused entry. The subsequent heated discussion amongst my fellow clubbers has led to a closer scrutiny of Berghain and the issues that arise from the divisive rules it enacts. I shall investigate the relationships, both literal and metaphorical, that emerge from one of Berlin’s contemporary border conditions – the Berghain front door. It has come to represent the threshold between the known and civilised city and the unknown, transcendental, hedonistic clubbing experience. In this brief treatise I do not aim to reveal any truths or dispel notorious myths about Berghain, but rather to shed light on a remarkable phenomenon that has proliferated in Berlin over the last decade. The restrictions that surround the apparent freedom the city has experienced as it enters the third decade since the reunification has provided social critics with much to ponder. The sacred liberalism of the internal environment of the Berlin nightclub, strongly upheld by their owners, does not come without a characteristically tough door policy. These social and psychological aspects of the internal and external experience of Berghain and its effect on the city form the basis for this discussion.
The Fall of the Berlin Wall (PART 1) and (PART 2): East Germany opens the gates (BBC News 9th November 1989), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjNz1lvXgzU, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFlT46JwEJE (viewed 04 March 2013)
BERGHAIN: VON EINEM KRAFTWERK ZU EINEM TEMPEL DES TECHNOS / FROM A POWER STATION TO A TEMPLE OF TECHNO “Cities depend on a healthy mix of uses and people for their vitality. As a preeminent world city, London is a magnet to people from across the globe. They come to be close to work, friends and entertainment, and it is this mix of uses – of living and working, of retail and restaurants, of parks and playgrounds, of theatres and nightclubs – that brings life to London’s centres.” 3
With this statement, Richard Rogers validates the nightclub as an integral part of London’s vibrancy. Places where parties occur, of which nightclubs form a considerable proportion, become an extension and colourful expression of the freedom afforded to citizens living in democratic societies. Berlin seems to embody this freedom to all areas of city life more than any other capital city in the world. Its thriving clubbing scene not only continues to push underground music into new territories but also offers the city a large part of its contemporary identity. In the last decade, Berghain has written its own history in this “new Berlin”4 and those associated represent a good cross-section of the post-Wall generation. Before a closer reading into the socio-political impact of Berghain can be made, an outline of the building’s history is essential. The name ‘Berghain’ is derived from the last syllables of the names of the two districts it straddles – Kreuz(BERG) and Friedrichs(HAIN). In this light, the nomenclature immediately makes reference to the divisions in the city. The building was erected in a socialist neo-classicist style as a combined heat and power station (‘Heizkraftwerk’) between 1953 and 19545 [fig 05]. Rented from the Swedish power company, Vattenfall6 the inevitable obsolescence of these power stations meant that the building was abandoned [fig 06]. As with many other infrastructural buildings under Vattenfall’s ownership, the 30,000m2 of empty floor space provided a lucrative prospect for what would be its new inhabitant – Berghain.
Rogers, Richard, “We need a new plan to build an even greater city”, Evening Standard, Monday 18 February 2013, p. 14 b. 4
Rapp, Tobias, Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno and the Easyjet Set, Innervisions 2010 (English translation), p. 36.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berghain (accessed 15 February 2013)
Tzortzis, Andreas, “In Berlin, art among the ruins”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/ arts/01iht-berlinart.1.5513672.html?_ r=2&pagewanted=all&, published Tuesday 01 May 2007, (accessed 15 February 2013)
Berghain was the offspring of Ostgut [fig 07], a club which opened in 1998 and was home to Snax, a gay sex fetish night, after the promoters decided to settle in one location [fig 08]. Despite being a fulcrum for Berlin partygoers, reinvigorating the waning techno scene at back end of the nineties, the club closed down in 2003. The building was subsequently demolished to make way for new development along the River Spree. During Ostgutâ€™s short lifespan it was the gay crowds and parties that were instrumental in re-establishing techno and its foothold in the city. Although there are no historic references to any architects who designed these buildings, co-founders Michael Teugel and Norbert Thormann7 laid the template for Berghain as a club and a culture within the walls of Ostgut. Upon its disappearance from the clubbing landscape, a new home was needed for a burgeoning twenty-first century raver subculture.
Rapp, 2010, p. 132.
THE BERGHAIN FRONT DOOR: DIE NEUE GRENZE / THE NEW BORDER; PROTECTING THE DEMOCRATIC LIBERALISM OF THE DANCE FLOOR [fig 09]
Approximately 01:00am – 03:00am, Friday 5th February 2010:
“So when we arrived in the queue at about 1.30am with a load of other mates in the freezing cold snow-laden Berlin we hoped that the queue would move quickly, but as the queue slowly trudged along we noticed the large amount of people getting turned away at the door. There seemed no reason for the rejection and yet it seemed like every other person or group didn't stand a chance, it hit me that maybe you had to look cool, or not be a tourist. So I told my mates to be quiet and for me to do the talking in German. So there we waited for over an hour in the minus temperatures freezing our feet off. We kept out silence and when we arrived at the front, the bouncer, who seemed to be letting a higher percentage in, took a break and a new one came on. He just waved his wrist away from the door, there wasn't even a need to plead as it was clearly futile. We trudged away feeling dissatisfied by our roughly two-hour wait. Who knows what's in there?” 8
(Excerpt from Grant’s Berghain experience)
8 Taylor, Grant. The Berghain Monologues (refer to the Appendix), written 07 March 2013.
The zero-tolerance door policy at Berghain, which has contributed to the club’s reputation and its intense appeal, means that many of those who queue up for hours leave emptyhanded. Many of the stories about Berghain end at the front door [fig 10 & 11], such as the one aforementioned, told by a friend of mine during our first attempt to enter the club. When the infamous East Berlin-born doorman, Sven Marquardt9 [fig 12] decides on the fate of the hundreds that stand in line on any given night at Berghain, there is an unsettling and nerve-inducing feeling as one edges closer to the front. Nowhere is it stated or divulged from the Berghain fraternity as to the reasons for rejection of those who try their best to be considered fit for the party inside. The exact criteria for entry is ambiguous, and although many have written tips online10 (no talking in the queue, no groups more than three, no acting drunk or high off drugs, for example), even partygoers who have been successful multiple times have also reported failures to get in too. The doormen appear to favour people residing in Berlin, and that one must have the demeanour of a Berliner, but even this as a definition is difficult to pin down. 9
The Berghain front door “…is reputed to be the hardest door in Berlin”11 and is representative of the uncompromising rules at many of Berlin’s top clubs. Whilst on first impressions these denials seem unfair and discriminatory, many Berlin club owners highly disapprove of groups of mainstream tourists and those too intoxicated to enter their nightclubs. Essentially, anyone who does not align with the ethos of the Berlin subcultural scene cannot be given the opportunity to either consciously or naively, contaminate the party.12 As Tobias Rapp aptly states, “Whether you’re a queen or a farmer, it really can happen to anyone.”13 The resultant anxiety that everyone in the queue has only serves to heighten the anticipation of what lies inside. Even when one is granted entry the risk of being told to leave, in falling out of line with the unwritten etiquette inside, remains high. One high-profile incident at Berghain in 2009 involving Richie Hawtin, a pioneering minimal techno DJ and producer, meant that he left the club early as security threw his private guests out for improper conduct.14
Kulish, Nicholas, “One Eye on the Door, the Other on His Photography”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/03/world/ europe/03germany.html?pagewanted=all published 02 September 2011, (accessed 15 February 2013) 10
Lucian, Evo. Clubbing Berlin – ‘Berghain Door Policy’ – How to get in. ‘OTA-Berlin Constituency Blog. http://www.ota-berlin.de/ blog/10/18/clubbing-berlin-%E2%80%93%E2%80%98berghain%E2%80%99-door-policyhow-to-get-in-%E2%80%93-%E2%80%98otaberlin-constituency-blog%E2%80%99-contributorevo-lucien-tells-you-how/, written 10 October 2010, (accessed 15 February 2013) 11
Kulish, 02 September 2011, (accessed 15 February 2003)
Real Scenes: Berlin, http://www.residentadvisor. net/feature.aspx?1405, published 06 September 2011, (accessed 18 February 2013)
Rapp, 2010, p. 144.
http://www.residentadvisor.net/feed-item. aspx?id=5837, (accessed 23 February 2013)
Friday 1st February to Saturday 2nd February 2013:
“Berghain is a crème brûlée. Perfect consistency, and comes in a smaller pot that you had imagined. From the pure bass beat to the smoke rising up in the bar and mixing in the haze, to the elegant industrial windows. It is a gem – a dark diamond. Friday night, and most people are standing around. A sense of waiting. But in a few hours no one will be still. Maybe because of the perfect sound system, the music really resonated with me, it was in complete harmony, something hard to describe, and I could ride its energy and not get tired. Time really doesn't matter in there.” 15
(Excerpt from Dan’s Berghain experience)
One can only imagine the relief in successfully leaving the high-running tension outside to the outpour of energy and emotion within for the next several hours. Along with the strict door policy it is forbidden to take any photographs inside16 [fig 13]; devices can be deposited for safekeeping to eliminate the risk of getting caught on the dance floor and being evicted. This, arguably more than anything else has earned Berghain its mythical status as any experience or story inside is reduced to anecdotal evidence and thus left to the imagination. Popular stories that circulate include the both openly gay and straight sex acts, which even occur at the bar or on the dance floor itself.17 Despite the lack of visual representations of a night in full swing inside Berghain, a sketch drawing showing the organisational layout of the club’s interior gives some clue as to the notional functions of certain spaces [fig 14]. Nevertheless, any form of pictoral evidence of the interior fails to accurately capture the extraordinary aura and presence of the
Slavinsky, Dan, The Berlin Monologues (refer to the Appendix), written 02 March 2013
Adapted front cover of Tobias Rapp’s book, Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno and The Easyjet Set, http://www.residentadvisor.net/ feature.aspx?1117, (accessed 26 February 2013)
Rapp, Tobias, “Saturday at Berghain”, http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature. aspx?1117, published 21 October 2009, (accessed 09 March 2013)
[fig 14] KEY 01. Front Door: tended by Sven Marquardt 02. Dark Room II: bed-sized slabs with curtains, partly-dark 03. Wall-sized art installation on 175 aluminium panels: ‘Rituals of Disappearance’ by Piotr Nathan 04. Quiet Toilet: for when it is too full upstairs
05. Concrete sofas, bar, arcades 06. Berghain Garden
07. Dark Room I: winding corridors with small partitioned cubicles, very dark 08. Unisex Toilets: always full, a playground for many
09. Berghain Dance Floor: 18-metre-high room,
techno music, gay crowd, dark
10. Big Bar Room: with swing beds hanging from the ceiling 11. “Ice Bar”: cappuccino, sandwiches, strawberry ice cream
12-14. Photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans: ‘Freischwimmer’ and ‘Nackt’ 15. Bar made from hard rubber: difficult to hit one’s head here very late into the night 02
16. Panorama Bar Dance Floor:
house music, heterosexual crowd, bright 17. Tall Windows:
motif designs by artist Marc Brandenburg 18 & 20. Booths: cabins and beds made from timber, some with a view of the dance floor 19. Unisex Toilets: always full, a playground for many
21. Smoking Area: built more recently, bright, cold
music resonating within the 18-metre-high “cavernous main room” [fig 15].18 On Karhard Arhitektur + Design’s website, the cleanly shot photos of the interior [fig 16-21],19 untouched and unoccupied, belie the untold fantasies that are lived out weekend after weekend. The industrial aesthetic of the insertions into the ruinous exposed concrete structure adds to the mechanical-sounding driving beats emanating from the Funktion-One speakers. It is evident therefore, that hardly any nightclub interior in the world can rival the historically monolithic and awe striking main room in Berghain. These unique restrictions have set an unparalleled precedent in today’s frequently overcrowded urban nightclubs and are reminiscent of the famous clubs in New York in the mid-to-late 1980s when house music was emerging as a music genre.20 Clubs with such policies safeguard the congregation of the right crowd for underground parties, but also preserve the euphoric atmosphere generated from open-minded clubbers subject to the power of the DJ. In essence, these clubs offer delocalised subcultural music followers the platform to share their implicit knowledge of non-mainstream music genres, which are predominantly house and techno. Over the past decade Berghain has been the vanguard for such scenes and in many ways epitomises a raver’s paradise.
[fig 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21] 20
Sherburne, Philip, “Techno”, http:// pitchfork.com/features/techno/6604techno/, published 09 May 2007, (accessed 15 February 2013)
Photographs taken by Janni Chavakis and Stefan Wolf Lucks, http://www.karhard. de/architektur/barclub/berghain.html, (accessed 05 February 2013) 20 “
Maestro: The History of House Music & NYC Club Culture”, http://youtu. be/1Nf6I35i8yk, (accessed 15 February 2013)
BER / GHAIN / LIN: EINE STADT DER GRENZE / A CITY OF BORDERS [fig 22]
“…(vi) Since freedom from the wills of others is what makes a man human, each individual’s freedom can rightfully be limited only by such obligations and rules as are necessary to secure the same freedoms for others.” 21
There is a great irony in the current protests against the demolition of the East Side Gallery [fig 23], the only remaining section of the Berlin Wall still standing.22 The impact of the Wall during its official existence has demarcated a deep social and cultural divide, which Berliners continue to shake off today. The Wall is undeniably a significant part of Berlin’s identity and for the generation who were born and raised on either side, it is embedded in their genes. The techno parties that have precipitated over the past two decades were the playgrounds absent in East Berlin before the Wall came down. The special Berlin aura has arisen from the condition of being wholly restricted in their very urban existence. In many senses the city acknowledges the need for its inhabitants to truly let themselves go. Berghain, despite opening at least a decade after the fall of the Wall, has been the unofficial ambassador for this generation’s previous hardships. In the same way that Germany lived through the tyrannical split as an entire population, Berlin’s nightclubs have been the galvanising, communal havens of freedom for these hitherto repressed subcultural groups. As Rapp remarks with regard to the queues outside Berghain, “…it’s as if these people are queuing to get into another country”23 – highly evocative of the scenes on the globally momentous night in November 1989. If we consider the Stasi secret police as the symbol of German oppression, Berghain’s doormen are the gatekeepers to the freedom that Berliners have yearned for and continue to perpetuate. “According to a study by Berlin Tourismus Marketing GmbH, the clubs are now in second place behind museums in a survey of tourists that asks which cultural institutions have drawn to them to the city – well in front of opera and theatre.”24 The importance of nightclubs to Berlin cannot be understated. “[T]he so-called MediaSpree, a new city district with offices for media firms”25 [fig 24] presents a serious threat to this freedom of expression and continues to undermine the integrity of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg’s counterculture. Berghain’s predecessor, Ostgut
MacPherson, C.B., The Political Theory of Possessive Individualism, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1964, quoted in Gilbert, J. and Pearson, E, Discographies: Dance Music, Culture And The Politics Of Sound [e-book], Routledge, 2002, available from : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA, (accessed 04 March 2013), p. 147.
Angelos, James, “Protests Over Wall Widen in Berlin”, The Wall Street Journal, http://online. wsj.com/article/SB100014241278873241789 04578338390335160404.html#, published 03 March 2013, (accessed 08 March 2013) 23
Rapp, 2010, p. 142.
Ibid, p. 51.
Ibid, p. 35.
was just one of many clubs which fell victim to this redevelopment. The underground community have voiced their resistance officially through the founding of the Berlin Club Commission (an organisation which has presented a professional front to the authorities and the industries supporting Berlin’s nightlife) in the late nineties.26 The short history of conflict between the state and the underground community can be summarised by Christoph Klenzendorf’s (a co-founder of the infamous but now-closed down Bar25) observation:
“Berlin has not turned out as people imagined it would, it has remained what it always was, a capital of culture. A city for creatures of leisure and free spirits. These development plans are destroying a lot of the spaces which, for many people, are places to live their lives and express themselves. This is what we are fighting against.’” 27
Rapp, 2010, p. 48.
Ibid, p. 45.
CUEING UP THE NEXT RECORD: THE NIGHT IS YOUNG How the clubbing landscape will unfold in the next decade will be largely determined by the successes and failures of these state initiatives and the clubbing community. In London, the numerous attempts to close down the internationally famous Ministry of Sound have met with stern opposition; the music community mobilise as and when the support has been needed.28 By contrast, the strength of cooperation between clubs in Berlin has erected a substantial barrier to these supposed city regeneration solutions. Berlin clubs continue to give Members of the German Bundestag more headaches and force strategies to work around their claimed territory. There is a general consensus from the culturally savvy residents of Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg that anything shiny and new is a detriment to the area’s honesty and desire for a different way of life.
“Berghain challenges you in your very existence: it’s not only a place to let off steam after your working week, to find a partner or to hear interesting music. It’s a free space – what you do there doesn’t have to be consistent with your lifestyle outside. Since the club shows you the greatest pleasures imaginable, you have to ask yourself the question: What do I want? Where do I place myself on the map of social, sexual and musical pleasure? Berghain is a place where you learn to look your own desires in the eye.” 29
‘Ministry of Sound faces closure next month; launches petition to block nearby housing development’, http://www.factmag.com/2013/01/31/ ministry-of-sound-faces-closure-nextmonth-launches-petition-to-block-nearbyhousing-development/ (accessed 31 January 2013)
Berghain is the anti-icon to the behemoth of governmental and bourgeoisie currents that tend to prevail in mainstream urban life. The egalitarian philosophy underlying such institutions, reinforces the dance floor as the equaliser for a city’s disparate demographics; it is also an indirect reaction against the wishes of the established order. In democratic societies there is a considerable restlessness of the drone-like grind of contemporary
Waltz, Alexis, “Berghain, the centre of
the world”, featured in Rapp, 2010, p. 138.
urban routines. On the face of it, the stringency exhibited at Berghain seems frustratingly unjust in their jurisdiction, but there is a more utopian ideal at work here: “the price you pay for exclusivity is the risk of not getting in yourself”.30 This arbitrary inclusivity then, can be argued to uphold the values of the free individual, and Berghain offers the space, both physically and psychologically, for one to go as far as possible with that freedom. The dance floor does not attempt to subvert existing societal hierarchies and boundaries, but rather temporarily dissolves them for truthful expressions of freedom. Berghain is positioned towards the more extreme end of this spectrum. Marghanita Laski has written extensively on the ‘ecstasies’ experienced in crowds in the nightclub setting.31 She also laments at how “the crowd is such an ordinary, everyday aspect of ‘normal life’” in cities, which can cause “a full sense of loss of self and reflection.”32 The dance crowd on the dance floor on the other hand is a single, organic entity that personifies notions of unity and equality. Berghain, more than any other nightclub today, offers escapism of the highest order.
Rapp, 2010, p. 146.
Laski, Marghanita (1961 and 1980), quoted in Malbon, Ben, “Moments of Ecstasy: Oceanic and ecstatic experiences in clubbing” (1999) in Gelder, Ken (ed.), The Subcultures Reader (Second Edition), London: Routledge, 2005, pp. 491-509. 32
Laski, M quoted in Malbon, Ben in
Gelder, 2005, p. 494.
“And that’s what I look for when I go to the Berghain, with friends or on my own: relax, a pause from the time, from the daily life, from the timetables, from what I leave outside. The music is my main interest. I spend my time dancing and chilling out listening to the music, enjoying the sound and observing people dancing or chilling out as well. The general relaxed feeling of everybody amplifies mine. That s what the most of the people frequenting the Berghain, I guess like me, look for. Just a place where, together with other people, you can, once again, RELAX, have fun, partying, releasing a bit the brakes that the outside social life imposes and maybe recovering a bit of your own nature and personality.” 33
(Excerpt from Alessandro’s Berghain impressions)
Zuccoloto, Alessandro, The Berghain Monologues (refer to Appendix), written 11 March 2013
APPENDIX THE BERGHAIN MONOLOGUES
THE STORIES OF THOSE WHO DID NOT GET IN, THE STORIES OF THOSE WHO DID GET IN My attempts Attempt #1: 5th February 2010 with Grant Taylor and Christopher Moger - entry refused “It was my birthday and a friend of mine, Grant, working and living in Berlin had beckoned me to come visit him and another friend, Chris visiting from London for the weekend. I had arranged a ‘mitfahr’ ride and by the evening I had arrived in the ‘Mitte’ area of Berlin. I hadn’t slipped and fallen over in the snow all winter in Hamburg; I greeted the streets of Berlin butt cheeks first soon after stepping out of the host car. Welcome back to Berlin. We queued from approximately 01:00am to 03:00am in the snow to attempt to gain entry into Berghain, after revelling in a bar or two in Kreuzberg. Moodymann, Actress and Joy Orbison were booked to play. I waited in quiet hope and anticipation with Grant and Chris. We behaved and tried to minimise any outward expression which could give the doormen grounds to refuse us entry. Polychromatic rays of light flared through the tall vertical slit-windows above the expectant queue to distract us from the subzero conditions. We watched intently as the infamous tattoo-faced doorman swapped with his equally intimidating colleague, who was designated to deny access to the unfortunate. The queue grew alarmingly silent as we approached the waist-height metal railings near the front of the building. There was a sequence of people being let in, and when the second doorman emerged again, we exhaled a collective groan. We feared the worst. Upon reaching the door, I was asked in German, “How many of there are you?”, to which I replied, “Wir sind drei” in as firm a German accent as possible. The doorman opened his left hand in a single sweeping gesture to signal us to step aside. There was no argument to be had nor did we react even in the slightest. We had been rejected. It was a bitingly cold walk back down the queue, heads down to avoid the stares of those awaiting their fate. There was, however a guarantee at the end of the frozen-over path – an open-door taxi ready to take us to another destination that night.” ---
Attempt #2: 1st January 2013 with Harish Vijayan (pair 1), Irfan Lamba & Katarzyna Kubiak (pair 2) - entry refused “My three friends and I had awoken from a brief slumber from the frenzied Silvester (New Year’s Eve) celebrations. Two of us had attempted to enter previously on different occasions and failed. The queuing ritual weighed on my mind more than the two other first-timers, who had an understated optimism about the procedure. Nonetheless I had renewed vigour for the morning ahead. We caught a taxi and shortly after 08:00am we joined the end of the queue. The party had commenced an hour after welcoming the New Year. We weren’t even late to the event – there were at least thirty-six hours left of the schedule yet to be played out. We split into pairs – one slightly ahead in the queue, I was in the second pair a row back. A guy completely covered in blue paint was bothering the Germans behind us, which he claimed was from a ‘neon splash’ party somewhere in the city. He was clearly excited having arrived from a village 100km away from the capital and had no shame in expressing his energy by describing the buzz in Berlin with sporadic outbursts of onomatopoeia. As we progressed towards the front, we were all concerned about this rogue threatening to scupper our chances of entry, no matter how much amusement he provided us with an hour ago. Nicely dressed girls, guys with the ‘Berlin look’ and other eccentric individuals were being rejected. Their faces conveyed a mild disappointment amidst others leaving the party, wide-eyed and delirious. We now declined to look back and focused our attention on the faint, rhythmic stream of music leaking through the front door. There were quite a few guardians at the gate this time. The last of the dusk had gone and the overcast morning light made for an unusual setting prior to entering this hitherto mysterious clubbing experience. The same nerves from a few years back returned as we reached the metal railings; those feelings were soon suppressed and I felt ready for any eventuality. One guy, who was alone, stood meekly in front of the puffer-jacketed doorman, who was inspecting his passport. He was allowed in. My two friends ahead advanced, but were immediately shooed. There was no time to dwell on their denial before I stepped up with my friend, head high awaiting judgement. The doorman waved a dismissive hand, no words exchanged. I held my breath as I reluctantly walked away with my partner. We joined the other two someway down the narrow path back to the taxi rank. “Inselstrasse bitte”, I requested nonchalantly to the driver. It was 09:30am. The post-pre-Berghain queue analysis ensued.” ---
Grant Taylor (a friend from undergraduate studies, who lived in Berlin for a year) 5th February 2010 “The first encounter I had with Berghain was merely a conversation had with a fellow student during the first year at university. He mentioned that during a trip to Berlin, he and his mates went to Berghain and all of them had their hoods up to look cool. This was a bit meaningless to me at the time, having never heard of the club. But anyway when I found myself living in Berlin during 2009 and 2010 I experienced first-hand an encounter with the club. Two students from my university decided to work in Berlin in our architectural years out. And my friend [Lawrence Carlos] decided to visit Berlin on his birthday. I had an other friend [Chris Moger] over from London that weekend so it seemed like a good idea to try out the so-called best club in the world. I knew from living in Berlin that the club was open from Friday all the way through to Sunday, day and night. So when we arrived in the queue at about 1.30am with a load of other mates in the freezing cold snow-laden Berlin we hoped that the queue would move quickly, but as the queue slowly trudged along we noticed the large amount of people getting turned away at the door. There seemed no reason for the rejection and yet it seemed like every other person or group didn't stand a chance, it hit me that maybe you had to look cool, or not be a tourist. So I told my mates to be quiet and for me to do the talking in German. So there we waited for over an hour in the minus temperatures freezing our feet off. We kept out silence and when we arrived at the front, the bouncer, who seemed to be letting a higher percentage in, took a break and a new one came on. He just waved his wrist away from the door, there wasn't even a need to plead as it was clearly futile. We trudged away feeling dissatisfied by our roughly two-hour wait. Who knows what's in there? I heard that only the panorama bar is open on Fridays and so the capacity was much smaller. But I hate to admit it but maybe we were obviously tourist or uncool. I hear that a labyrinth of hedonism exists within those walls, I imagine a multi-levelled maze where I've heard there is one room where one’s camera is removed from them and untold sexual practices take place. But I can only speculate. It seems unfair that such an undemocratic entry process can exist, but maybe the bouncer judged that we wouldn't add to the atmosphere. I look forward to getting in there someday! Hopefully!” --Irfan Lamba (a friend from secondary school) 1st January 2013 “My account of Berghain [after being refused twice on the same day, firstly in the morning, secondly at late afternoon]: demoralising, devastating, forgettable.” ---
Katarzyna Kubiak (a friend from Hamburg, when I lived in Hamburg for eight months) Gained entry with a friend, but decided to leave when another friend was refused entry further down the queue. “I am not sure if getting through the front door, but getting stuck before the club does interest you. As I told you once, the service in the club does not see any need of being friendly ... so, if you do not behave according to their ideas, you are being shout at ... this is why, after being admitted entrance to Berghain, I resigned from entering ... whoa, this was my story :p” --Robert Taylor (a friend from undergraduate studies) December 2012 - entry granted “I went to Berghain with 4 or 5 friends; Of course, I lost every single one of them as soon as we got past the incredibly scary bouncers on the door. Nevertheless, after about an hour or so of wandering around, I bumped into one of them at the bar as I was being refused a glass of tap water by a grumpy barman. My friend told me that she [also wanted] water after I'd exclaimed my joy at our reunion. Knowing the club's attitudes on charity, I drunkenly snaffled a Smirnoff optic from behind the bar when matey wasn't looking. "Serve them right", I thought; neither of us even wanted it. My night at Berghain started as it had begun; lost and disorientated amid minimal German techno. Even though it was before my cohort's scheduled meeting at the upper bar to catch the sunrise as the blinds were opened to reveal the daybreak outside, I decided to retreat home. I smoked a couple of cigarettes outside however in the vain hope that my friends would show up and we could catch the U-Bahn back home together. It was cold, raining and the dirt in the yard outside the club had long since turned to mush replete with its own pock-marked of muddy water. I heard someone getting turned away from the front door by the bouncer stationed there. Although I'd seen a few similar episodes in my time waiting outside, this guy was trying to reason with the bouncer, perhaps in the belief that a skinhead unhinged bouncer who looks like he's had more birthdays that good nights of sleep in his life would appreciate some dude's logical reasoning making him look like the ill-educated thug he was? Regardless, in a completely unprovoked move, bouncer interrupted him mid-sentence by pushing this bedraggled hipster around, until upon finally splashing down in a deep, broad muddy puddle he started to quite simply kick the shit out of his face. As I looked away, I couldn't help but watch this shocking, bloody beating play out of the corner of my eye: I wondered what this maniac would have done to me if they'd have caught me stealing earlier...” --35
Dan Slavinsky (a friend and former colleague who recently moved to Berlin) Friday 1st February to Saturday 2nd February 2013 - private entry granted “BERGHAIN 2013 Experience Having moved to live in Berlin, it was still two or three months before I even attempted a Berghain entry. Why? Perhaps, hearing anecdotal accounts of Berghain for so many years from friends who had visited Berlin, or just from general hearsay, gave me a sense of familiarity with the place, as if i'd been there a thousand times and there was no urgency to revisit. I went in the alternative way, via the guestlist. Even though I knew - deep down - that the whole queue system is a farce, the 5-minute stroll past the line of hungry would-be partiers gave me a sense of superiority. The small entrance door hid a tall man in a grey tracksuit (an unexpected chav), who came out to look over every person who came in, and to nod them through. A hipster with an iPad was arguing with the doorman, showing him an e-ticket and protesting that he had already paid his entry. I didn't wait around to see the inevitable rejection that was to follow. Berghain is a crème brûlée. Perfect consistency, and comes in a smaller pot that you had imagined. From the pure bass beat to the smoke rising up in the bar and mixing in the haze, to the elegant industrial windows. It is a gem – a dark diamond. Friday night, and most people are standing around. A sense of waiting. But in a few hours no one will be still. Maybe because of the perfect sound system, the music really resonated with me, it was in complete harmony, something hard to describe, and I could ride its energy and not get tired. Time really doesn't matter in there. I was with a friend who was leaving Berlin the next day. We left in style, a cab straight to Schönefeld Flughafen from the Berghain front door. But even at midday on the Saturday, after 10 hours in there, we got that gnawing feeling that we [were] leaving early. I think next time I'll stay until Sunday morning.” --Alessandro Zuccoloto (a sound engineer who I met in Berlin) “First I must say that, living in Berlin and having frequented the Berghain since it opened, I probably find it much less mythical than how many people do, coming to it as on a pilgrimage, following its fame and quasi-legend. Besides, going clubbing has a place in my life like going swimming or to the sauna, biking in the park, playing tai chi, etc. Something I can enjoy with other people or on my own as well. So it can be both a social and an intimate experience. In any case, it makes me some good. For sure! 36
I vaguely remember my first time at the Berghain...I moved to Berlin in October 2003, so I guess it could have been winter-spring 2004. I know the Berghain opened on 2004. I remember when someone proposed it to me the first time, actually talked about “a new place”. The place fascinated me. So imposing, both the outside view (..all hope abandon ye who enter here…) and the interior. A really impressive building. And the internal readjustment gives to the place even more solemnity. I think it can be easily compared to a sanctuary. Like a kind of “Nacht-Berliner-Dom”. Just talking about its dimensions, out of its present world-fame of “shrine of techno”. Another thing I remember about the first time (I would say about the first months...) is the loudness on the Berghain ‘s dance floor: the sound pressure and the bass frequencies were shaking my skeleton, making vibrate every single bone. Impressive, but absolutely dangerous for my ears. The sound level was incredibly high. It was really at the pain threshold! Fortunately after these first times, it seems they set up more “human” sound levels - if me I did not become hard of hearing... The big volumes of the halls offer a lot of headroom. No claustrophobic sensation, even in the middle of the crowd. Personally I like big, large indoor spaces very much, in which I can spend hours with no need to take any breath of air outside. Big spaces relax me, both indoor and outdoor. From inside the Berghain you cannot watch outside. No natural light comes in. I don’t use a watch and I normally leave my mobile phone at the cloakroom. So with the music it’s easy, after a while, to fall into a timeless dimension. And that’s what I look for when I go to the Berghain, with friends or on my own: relax, a pause from the time, from the daily life, from the timetables, from what I leave outside. The music is my main interest. I spend my time dancing and chilling out listening to the music, enjoying the sound and observing people dancing or chilling out as well. The general relaxed feeling of everybody amplifies mine. That s what the most of the people frequenting the Berghain, I guess like me, look for. Just a place where, together with other people, you can, once again, RELAX, have fun, partying, releasing a bit the brakes that the outside social life imposes and maybe recovering a bit of your own nature and personality. And the front door yes, is probably the boundary between what you bring inside and what you leave outside. I think i normally bring just myself. Fortunately they never stopped me (cause I m a gooood guy!! : P” ---
BIBLIOGRAPHY BOOKS / MAIN TEXTS ARTICLES / WEBSITE LINKS VIDEOS IMAGE CREDITS
BOOKS / MAIN TEXTS Gelder, Ken (ed.). The Subcultures Reader (Second Edition). London: Routledge, 2005. Gilbert, Jeremy and Ewan Pearson. Discographies: Dance Music, Culture And The Politics Of Sound [e-book]. Routledge, 2002. Available from : eBook Collection (EBSCOhost), Ipswich, MA. Accessed 04 March 2013. Rapp, Tobias. Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno and the Easyjet Set (English Edition). Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag, 2009. (English edition published by Innervisions, 2010). Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. London: Picador, 2012. Thornton, Sarah. Club Cultures: Music, Media and Subcultural Capital. Middletown CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1996.
ARTICLES / WEBSITE LINKS Rogers, Richard. “We need a new plan to build an even greater city”. Evening Standard, Monday 18 February 2013, p. 14 b. Tzortzis, Andreas, “In Berlin, art among the ruins”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/01/arts/01iht-berlinart.1.5513672. html?_r=2&pagewanted=all&, published Tuesday 01 May 2007, (accessed 15 February 2013) Kulish, Nicholas, “One Eye on the Door, the Other on His Photography”, The New York Times, http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/03/world/europe/03germany. html?pagewanted=all, published 02 September 2011, (accessed 15 February 2013) ‘Hawtin lays into Berghain’ http://www.residentadvisor.net/feed-item.aspx?id=5690 (accessed 23 February 2013) ‘Hawtin vs Berghain, Pt. 2’ http://www.residentadvisor.net/feed-item.aspx?id=5837 (accessed 23 February 2013) ‘Richie Hawtin responds to “untrue rumours”’ http://www.factmag.com/2009/10/19/richie-hawtin-responds-to-untrue- rumours/ (accessed 23 February 2013) 40
Rapp, Tobias, “Saturday at Berghain”, http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1117, published 21 October 2009, (accessed 09 March 2013) Karhard® Architektur + Design website: http://www.karhard.de/architektur/barclub/berghain.html (accessed 15 February 2013) ‘Help The Tourists are Coming!’: Berlin Neighbourhood Fights Invasion of the EasyJet Set http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/help-the-tourists-are-coming-berlin- neighborhood-fights-invasion-of-the-easyjet-set-a-749470.html (accessed 25 February 2013) ‘Ame On Techno Literature – Lost and Sound: Berlin, Techno and the Easyjetset’ http://www.fabriclondon.com/blog/view/ame-on-techno-literature-lost-and-sound- berlin-techno-and-the-easyjetset (accessed 25 February 2013) Angelos, James, “Protests Over Wall Widen in Berlin”, The Wall Street Journal, http:// online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887324178904578338390335160404.html#, published 03 March 2013, (accessed 08 March 2013) ‘Ministry of Sound faces closure next month; launches petition to block nearby housing development’ http://www.factmag.com/2013/01/31/ministry-of-sound-faces-closure-next-month- launches-petition-to-block-nearby-housing-development/ (accessed 31 January 2013) The Berlin Wall, 20 years gone: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2009/11/the_berlin_wall_20_years_gone.html (accessed 11 March 2013) Remembering the Berlin Wall: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2011/08/remembering_the_divide.html (accessed 11 March 2013)
VIDEOS Maestro: The History of House Music & NYC Club Culture http://youtu.be/1Nf6I35i8yk (viewed 15 February 2013) Real Scenes: Berlin (Resident Advisor) http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1405 (viewed 18 February 2013) Sven Marquardt, Photographer and Bouncer, Talking Germany http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=e86QuzybDmg (viewed 26 February 2013) The Fall of the Berlin Wall (PART 1) – East Germany opens the gates (BBC News 9th November 1989) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjNz1lvXgzU (viewed 04 March 2013) The Fall of the Berlin Wall (PART 2) – East Germany opens the gates (BBC News 9th November 1989) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FFlT46JwEJE (viewed 04 March 2013) ‘East Side Gallery Berlin / Wall Run / Protest in Kreuzberg Friedrichshain’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E2rFE390Lnc (viewed 08 March 2013) ‘East-Side-Gallery Grossdemo vom 3.3.2013 Berlin 50.000 Demonstranten’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-eNy71V2w4o (viewed 08 March 2013) ‘Save our EAST SIDE GALLERY (Berlin)’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fRR1dNyk6I (viewed 08 March 2013)
IMAGE CREDITS [fig 01] (front cover) [fig 02]
[fig 04] [fig 05]
photo of Berghain faรงade/window detail https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/83770259 (accessed 26 February 2013) Berghain logo http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berghain-Logo.svg (accessed 09 March 2013) Adapted from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Berlin_Bezirk_FriedrichshainKreuzberg_(labeled).svg (accessed 04 March 2013) Adapted from googlemap satellite image of Berlin (accessed 04 March 2013) http://www.lookslikemusic.com/wp-content/ uploads/2013/01/997e859251.jpg (accessed 15 February 2013) http://www.lookslikemusic.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/ e718072889.jpg (accessed 15 February 2013] Ostgut sign http://de.academic.ru/pictures/dewiki/79/Ostgut_reklame.jpg (accessed 09 March 2013) Ostgut http://de.academic.ru/pictures/dewiki/79/Ostgut.jpg (accessed 09 March 2013) Adapted from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a5/Berghain.jpg (accessed 15 February 2013) photo of front door, Berghain https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/83770166 (accessed 26 February 2013) photo of front door, Berghain https://ssl.panoramio.com/photo/36521678 (accessed 26 February 2013) Sven Marquardt http://mb.cision.com/Public/897/9368187/a9032892666595e7_org.jpg (accessed 09 March 2013) 43
[fig 13] [fig 14]
[fig 15 - 21]
[fig 22] [fig 23]
http://www.residentadvisor.net/feature.aspx?1117 (accessed 09 March 2013) http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-daIZPF0JyE8/TV1OdcgfrtI/ AAAAAAAAAD8/oFsZa824fiA/s1600/BerghainDrawing.jpg and http://sz-magazin.sueddeutsche.de/texte/anzeigen/28877 (accessed 08 March 2013) © Janni Chavakis and © Stefan Wolf Lucks http://www.karhard.de/architektur/barclub/berghain.html (accessed 15 February 2013) photo taken by author, East Side Gallery, Berlin, 11 November 2008 “Eastside Gallery demolitions delayed” http://www.findingberlin.com/wp-content/uploads/mp_ eastsidegallery-08.jpg (accessed 08 March 2013) Model of Mediaspree, view from Jannowitzbrücke, looking east http://www.abriss-berlin.de/blog/wp-content/uploads/2008/01/ Modell%20Mediaspree,%20von%20der%20 Jannowitzbr%C3%BCcke%20aus%20gesehen.jpg (accessed 11 March 2013) Graffiti near the Berghain entrance (© Robert Herrmann) http://robertherrmann.photoshelter.com/image/ I0000fVHm7G7HhmM (accessed 11 March 2013)
© LC 2013
Published on Mar 12, 2013
A Masters of Architecture History & Theory essay examining the past and present border conditions in Berlin, focusing on the famous nightclu...