photos: Marie Staggat.
It was only a few months after I moved to the city that I was eager to discover the infamous Berlin clubs as a fresh Berliner. I was neither a techno listener nor a raver at the time, but I heard ample amounts of folktales about Berlin clubs that excited me from the beginning. It had only been a few months and somehow I managed to get into Berghain. I was thrilled amateurishly. Not knowing what would befall me, I was feeling confused but eager to partake concurrently. Little did I know that in the following months, Berlin nightclubs would become an inseparable part of my life. Among dancing, sweating, intimacy, and giving in to the moment, they became my Mecca for a sex-positive environment where I did not have to pretend anything other than my very queer self.
However, last year at the peak of the pandemic in our city, silence hit the walls of our clubs and they were left to utter solitude imminently. Photographer Marie Staggat and journalist Timo Stein capture these unrecognizable club spaces and tumultuous silence in their new photobook HUSH: Club Culture In Times Of Silence. From April 2020 to December 2020, they collected their impressions of abandoned clubs in 360 pages of interviews, observations, and photos, and they reflect the inevitable despair highlighted by strong optimism.
Completely unrelated to the ongoing pandemic, the beloved Neukölln club Griessmuehle had to close down a year ago for reasons you can read up about here. It was a blow to the nightlife scene of Berlin as it stood for the worrying recent city developments of Berlin and the ongoing club closings we’ve witnessed now for a decade and more. The city is full of night clubs but oddly the popular district of Neukölln doesn’t really have that many, so it was a major loss for the party kids of the neighborhood.
Luckily, the club makers of Griessmuehle could move their outstanding programming to Alte Münze last year and also found a new location in Schöneweide at the Revier Südost. But with the permission for outdoor raves coming relatively late last summer, there was not much raving to happening.
As a 27-year-old night owl in Berlin, who once devoted himself so dearly to the nightlife and party scene, sometimes I question myself how I ended up spending my Friday night taking an online quiz to find out which döner sauce I am. Now I’m sure most of you can already relate. Corona forced our boundaries of mundane activities to a whole new level. You won’t be surprised to find out you’re not the only one watching an old show on TV and find yourself wondering how the actors are so close to each other without wearing a mask. While we are adapting to the new normal, artists and performers are working hard to bring us the best on digital platforms to keep us connected to the world and we can’t thank them enough. You will be extra happy if you love immersive experiences, dance, theater, opera, digital art, and drag shows! Here is a list of online events you can book right now!
photos: Kseniya Apresyan.
Berlin’s nightlife and music scene are holding their breath. And they have been doing this now for close to a year. What is usually the number one reason for people to come to Berlin from all over the world is now in a strange limbo the city has never seen before. Clubs and bars are closed – or at best turned into Covid test centers – stages are empty and all the people who normally come to these places to dance and celebrate are most likely at home – hopefully not alone.
These are unusual times, we have to completely rethink so many things. But while party kids and concert-goers will just find other ways to spend their time, it’s quite a different story for those people behind the scenes and on the DJ decks and stages of Berlin’s nightlife. They are all facing an uncertain future, many are out of work or have to start completely different careers to make a living, some even had to leave the city going back to their home countries. It’s a tragedy to think that those who build up Berlin’s reputation of having one of the most thriving and influential nightlife and music scenes are left with practically nothing during this pandemic.
photos: Gili Shani.
I first met Gili Shani when he took my photo on a Wednesday night three years ago in KitKat. It may seem ironic that one of the most famous sex clubs in the world has a photographer, but no evening by the pool would be complete without the sleek, black and white moments he conjures. Shani refuses to call himself an artist, instead insisting that he simply captures the atmosphere inside KitKat. His photos offer a taste of what happens within the fabled walls of the notoriously hedonistic space. However, his work simultaneously subverts the sexual nature of the nightclub, “What I do is documentary,” he says, “it has nothing to do with sex.”
I sat down with Shani at Alexander Platz for a coffee and chat about his time in Berlin, his work in KitKat and what he’s been up to during quarantine.
illustration: Virginie Kypriotis.
Berlin’s nightlife has served as inspiration for many art forms. Multiple illustrators have managed to convey the atmosphere of the wild parties that go on for days, among them Virginie Kypriotis with her fantastic visions of Berghain. The new project ENTER THE CLUB has made her work even more enthralling by turning it into a virtual reality experience.
photo: Keith Telfeyan.
Just around two weeks ago, iHeartBerlin guest author Daniel was wondering where Berlin ravers party without the clubs and vice versa, what Berlin’s clubs are doing without raves. While these questions have been quite relevant for the past few months, we’ve just witnessed an almost unbelievable change.
The newest development in the volatile narrative of Berlin’s gradual reopening is the re-emergence of some clubs, specifically those with outdoor areas. Not just as a more funky alternative to beer gardens, but as an actual party destination. Of course, Covid-19 regulations apply: so be prepared to leave your contact info at the door and include a face mask as an obligatory addition to your attire.
The clubs of Berlin have reopened with new, Corona-friendly daytime concepts but one key element is missing: dancing. This has forced Berliners to deconstruct the idea of clubbing and ask themselves what they were searching for in clubs before and where they can find it now.
At the risk of stating the obvious, dancing is a big part of club culture. It is fun, it is a way to enjoy the music, and it is refreshing not to sit straight and hold a conversation all the time while being intoxicated. Consequently, the lockdown gave new life to the recently somewhat neglected illegal rave culture. The second part of this series investigates the illegal, private, and spontaneous dance parties that have been popping up all over the city and the controversies surrounding them.
Halle, photo: Roman März.
There are many other reasons to come to Berlin apart from the clubs but they are definitely among the most popular ones. Techno has its roots in Detroit and the Afrofuturism movement but both the name and the current widespread popularity have to do with what it evolved into in Berlin.
While these parties are still relatively underground in many cities, Berlin has embraced rave culture and built a special relationship with its clubs and their audience. Berghain has already secured legal status as a cultural institution, and other clubs are fighting for the same. Club tourists are also valued by the city’s government as a major contribution to the economy.
Last week, we had the absolute pleasure to co-present the first IRL Voguing Ball in Berlin since the lockdown. It was hosted by the charming David Milan who already gave us the big Pride Ball and Ocean Ball last year that we also covered. The venue was once again the Säälchen at Holzmarkt – it’s just the perfect venue for a ball of this size!
The theme of this ball was Superheroes which was without a doubt the most specific and playful theme of the series. Of course there were a lot of classic superheroes and villains such as Spiderman and Catwoman. But the call for participation asked people to be creative, so you could also see everyday heroes such as nurses, single moms, activists – we even saw the first trans presidential candidate there.
As we are still living in a pandemic the circumstance for the event was quite different: Usually, over 1000 people show up for these balls, but to comply with the current legal safety measures this time only the participants and a few fellow house members were allowed into the venue. The usual spectators were able to watch a professional live stream of the ball either from the comfort of their homes or at the public viewing at Neuzeit Ost in collaboration with Mobile Kino. The required distancing and face mask rules also had to be respected, which was hard during the performances when the energy of the voguers was taking over, but I think the crowd did a fairly good job at complying.
It was a great ball, with a lot of stunning performances, great international participants, and a powerful audience. Of course, we took some impressions for you which you can enjoy below!