This year was quite different, wasn’t it? There was a lot of crazy stuff happening, but we can all agree on what the most significant thing was: the pandemic. If you would have told me a year ago that this would happen, I probably would not have believed you. But here we are, 9 months into a global outbreak of an airborne viral disease that has turned the world upside down.
Of course, this pandemic brought us a lot of negative things, but I don’t want to focus on those – you can simply turn on the news for that. I want to focus on the things that were good, specifically on how people responded to the crisis in positive ways. While a lot of us were struggling with our lives, our work, and our mental health, some people gathered their creative energies to come up with great things to brighten the days of everyone else and show some optimistic spirit.
One of the major highlights for me this year was watching our good friend Esther Perbandt, the iconic Berlin fashion designer, succeed on the new designer competition show Making the Cut by Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn. It was the first time for me to see someone I personally know on a hit TV show and it was such a thrill to follow her through the lens of American reality TV.
Those of you who have been following us now for a long time, know that Esther is very closely connected to us as we organized one of her early runway shows with our sister project Designer Scouts back in 2010 and co-hosted the two aftershow parties of her spectacular Volksbühne fashion shows in 2014 and 2017. She also curated one of our city guides for us showing her favorite places in Berlin. It is always so amazing for us to become part of her black avantgarde universe and we feel so proud of all of her accomplishments as a designer in all those years.
A few months ago I published a story about how the lockdown has seemed to have created a new dogma of system relevance that discriminates against arts and culture workers. This was a story very close to my heart and close to what matters to all of us at iHeartBerlin.
While some cultural institutions were able to re-open since then, although under challenging circumstances, the overall situation has not improved for the majority of the scene. Especially in the alternative and underground scenes, it’s still quite dramatic. While publicly funded institutions don’t really have to worry about going under, it’s those independent arts and culture makers that really have to fear for their livelihoods. Rents and bills still need to be paid, but to produce shows and events is still often not possible, and support programs by the government have so many blind spots and leave a lot of people behind or are simply not enough. For many, the situation is really serious. And considering we are only at the beginning of the second (most likely bigger) wave that will bring new challenges and restrictions you don’t even want to begin to imagine how much worse it could get.
Jiyoon Lee – the first female concert master of Staatskapelle Berlin.
The life of a classical musician is formed by a pathway of hard work and sacrifice just to get a place in a great orchestra. But becoming an orchestra musician is neither about fame nor about becoming rich. It is really just about the privilege to create unique music for your audience. A work of art that only can exist through the power of the ensemble. Through the organic interfering of the different instruments to one voice, to one sound.
This sound had to stop for the last six months. Orchestras like many other artistic ensembles could not perform in public to keep each other and the audience safe from possible infections. Despite all hardships, one orchestra kept their spirit alive like no other.
photo: Jubal Battisti.
At the end of August, the operas and theaters of Berlin will be able to reopen again after the lockdown. We are really happy about this but it’s not going to be the same with a lot of restrictions on stage and behind the scenes, as well as way fewer seats in the audience room. A lot of the new productions we were looking forward to were scrapped because they either didn’t comply with distance rules or could simply not be rehearsed due to the restrictions.
For a few months now the dancers of Staatsballett Berlin were not able to perform nor practice together. In an earlier stage of the lockdown, we already shared a really wonderful video initiated and edited by Principal Dancer Ksenia Ovsyanick that showed the dancers performing in their homes and gardens during self-isolation. Now, a few months later, the dancers were able to leave their houses and practice again, but still not together like they were used to. Following the big success of the first video, they now released two more videos that we want to share with you here.
Sassy Berlin stand-up comedian Daniel-Ryan Spaulding has really lifted our spirits during the last weeks of the quarantine as he has been coming up with new hilarious videos on a daily basis about all things corona. You would think this would quickly grow old but in fact, he’s been continuously serving some of his best comedy videos ever. Who would have thought it would get better than his “It’s Berlin” videos that put him on the map in the first place (at least for audiences here).
In his videos, Daniel’s character “Da’Niel” has been mostly sulking and passive-aggressively commenting on the lockdown and all lack of nightlife and sex club activity that he so dearly misses right now. Most notably you could see him throw a tantrum in front of Berghain when it closed down, crawling somewhere through the bushes of Hasenheide to announce the comeback of cruising, or how he fantasized a huge gay orgy in Mauerpark by disobedient horny gay guys who wouldn’t stay in quarantine.
photo: Nika Kramer.
Last Autumn, the incredible Urban Nation museum for contemporary urban and street art has given us one of the most memorable exhibitions with their own Biennale. Using the empty space underneath the subway train viaduct right in front of their main building they installed a walk-through immersive installation featuring countless urban artists from around the world. The main museum building was a sight not to be missed as well, as huge tentacles were sticking out of the windows as if the museum had been invaded by a giant octopus.
It’s incredibly sad what is currently taking over the building: nothing. Because of the pandemic, it had to close much like any other big gallery, museum and cultural space until an unknown point in the future. The current exhibition is excellent and features works from iconic artists such as D*FACE, Nychos, Martin Whatson, Shepard Fairey, Swoon, Vhils, and THE LONDON POLICE. If you haven’t seen it yet, now there is a new way to experience the museum. Following the lead of several other art spaces, Urban Nation has now released a virtual tour, and it’s actually a guided one with hosted by art dealer Markus Georg.
The Berlin music scene has been busy in the last months cooking up so many new tunes and music videos that we thought it’s about time to compile another round-up of recent releases by our favorite musicians. This time we have a bunch of newbies in our list that we haven’t previously featured on the blog (shame on us!) but that we are glad to introduce into our musical iHeart universe. Amongst them one of the more famous Berlin musicians, Zebra Katz, as well as newcomers Finn Ronsdorf and the lovely K.ZIA. Of course, we’ve also thrown in the latest music from iHeart favs Fhat, Evvol and Lie Ning. Here we go.
photo: Sasha Waltz & Guests.
It’s been just two weeks since we showed you the cute video of the Staatsballett Berlin dancing from their home. You guys really loved this video, so we thought we could give you a bit of an encore today. In the past couple of weeks, the ballet dancers were not the only once who kept dancing while all shows are canceled and theaters closed. In fact, a lot of contemporary dancers also used the offtime to record some small performances and improvisations.
It’s been quite the adjustment for all of us to suddenly experience things only through our computer stream. It feels like a restriction at first, but as with any new circumstance, people will get used to it and adapt and find new ways to express themselves. Especially for those of us who are used to working in teams, such as dancers who perform with an ensemble, suddenly finding themselves without their teammates might be a challenge. But again, a new experience doesn’t have to be a bad one.
Last night, three Berlin-based orchestras had planned to perform a concert at Vollgutlager in Neukölln playing the music of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 6th symphony. For reasons we are all well aware of, this could not happen, sadly. But the creative force of 70 musicians from the junge norddeutsche philharmonie, the STEGREIF.Orchester, and the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin can’t be stopped so easily.
They got together with 3D artist and iHeartBerlin friend Lucas Gutierrez who created a stunning virtual sound performance that sees a cluster of recordings from the 70 musicians playing their parts embedded in a futuristic world that the camera zooms into. Using 360° video technology the viewer can pan around the world freely, exploring the details and viewing the individual musicians while enjoying the concert. It’s pretty cutting-edge and probably the most impressive “digital version” of a live event of this new contact-less era. We hope to see more things like that soon!
And now let’s lean back and enjoy the music of Beethoven!