Not every city in the world can hold a diverse agenda and daily massive events like the German capital can. Berlin is the city of ideas, liberty and diversity. The tumultuous decade of the 80s generated a cultural upheaval; the refined, the eccentric and the avant-garde merged. This multicultural city has harbored misfits, visionaries, activists, ex-pats, hedonists, squatters and more. Newcomers and repeat visitors come to Berlin attracted by its freedom, vivid atmosphere, non-stop parties, underground fetishes, and so forth. This city keeps reinventing itself, yet preserving its rebellious spirit. How to get into Berghain? is one of the most frequent topics among visitors and locals. There is no better destination for dancing than in this city, but there are many other interesting things happening in the next months worth highlighting.
On May 1st the traditional protests and riots will commence in the early morning hours. Polizei and demonstrators begin their annual clash on hot spots such as Kreuzberg and Wedding, lasting all day. Expect to see protestors taking over the streets. In the meantime, a multitude of Berliners and visitors will partake in dancing at improvised street parties and at clubs as the city celebrates a day of resistance, anarchy, independence and hedonism.
The weekend prior to May Day, the artistic calendar begins with the 14th edition of Gallery Weekend taking place from April 27-29. This year’s participating artists are Raymond Pettibon, Fernando Bryce, Los Carpinteros and Yngve Holen, among others who will be presenting exhibitions in their respective galleries.
Coinciding with Gallery Weekend, the KW Institute of Contemporary Art will present AA Bronson's Garden of Lust; a 5-day hybrid installation featuring performances and artworks. AA Bronson is a pioneer of collaborative and queer visual art practice and the sole surviving member of the art collective General Idea. He has a long history with political and social issues in art and publishing, and has collaborated with different generations of artists across various disciplines.
Photo credit: KW Berlin
Returning this year for its 10th edition, is the Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art. We Don’t Need Another Hero is the title of this year’s biennale and will run for three months starting June 9th through September 9th. This will be taking place in four permanent exhibition venues: Akademie der Künste at Hanseatenweg, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Volksbühne Pavilion, and ZK/U - Center for Art and Urbanistics. It will be interesting to see what the curator Gabi Ngcobo’s proposal will be for its 10th edition.
Berlin is also home to important private collections of contemporary art. Renowned collectors have contributed to the art scene with exhibitions from their own collections and made it open to the public. Long-established collectors like Hoffmann Samnlung and newcomers such as Julia Stoschek have brought more attention to this city.
The Julia Stoschek Collection focuses on time-based media. The exhibition area is 2,500 square meters located in a building in Mitte which formerly housed the Czech Cultural Center in East Germany. It recently opened the solo exhibition of award-winning filmmaker Arthur Jafa titled A Series Of Utterly Improbable, Yet Extraordinary Renditions running through November 25th.
Berlin is often referred to as the cultural center for music and has remarkable music venues to support said claim. Currently, the Funkhaus offers an exceptional programming. Built in the 1950s on the east side of Berlin, this complex operated as the headquarters of the GDR’s radio station. This monumental landmark is now a venue for concerts due to its unique setting. The massive space consisting of concert halls, lobbies and recording studios along with sophisticated interiors, preserve a Soviet Union footprint in its architecture. Its rawness, high ceilings and walls’ paneling are one of a kind. The location overlooks the river adding an extra charm to the venue. The architecture is wondrous; the acoustics and sound quality are flawless. The Funkhaus has hosted huge raves such as Perlon’s 20th label anniversary party last year. Two sold-out shows by Four Tet are scheduled in May. Other upcoming performances include Venetian Snares, Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto, Andy Stott, Demdike Stare and DAF.
Photo credit: Funkhaus Berlin
Last year, the Funkhaus was stage to an exclusive and intimate concert for Depeche Mode’s release album Spirit. In less than a year, Depeche Mode will play a total of six sold out shows. The legendary band is returning in July to finalize the Spirit world tour with two last concerts. The numbers of shows in Berlin remind us of the strong ties and fan base Depeche Mode has in this city. In addition, longtime 80s bands such as Tears for Fears and The Human League will be playing in the winter. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds is returning for another concert in less than nine months. Massive Attack as well as Pearl Jam are having concerts in the summer and tickets are sold out.
Another outstanding venue with an interesting program is Radialsystem. Once a sewage pumping station for Berlin Water Services, Radialsystem is now a cultural center on the banks of the Spree. At the end of April, it will host the f(t) festival that will explore alternative concepts of time in music. Our highlight among a notable list of artists is Rrose presenting a live multichannel experimental set.
Thirty miles away from Berlin, the Her Damit techno festival is taking place this summer with a very well curated line-up. The recondite location and the particularities of the event are favorable for an underground party. Situated in a military compound in Freudenberg, locals have speculated this grounds were the barracks of the GDR’s anti-riot police. However, this place has more than meets the eye. Underneath it, lays a bunker with a 260-meter-long tunnel that operated as a subterranean secret refuge for the GDR’s Interior Minister in the event of a nuclear war. Roi Perez, Hector Oaks, Freddy K, and Nitam among other talented artists are playing in this event.
Photo credit: Her Damit
Berlin’s techno parties and nightlife have been referenced in the collections of high-end fashion labels. Two Polish expats and regular Berghain clubbers, Dawid Mayser and fashion designer Maldoror, have captured Berlin’s subculture in their clothing selection. This can be seen at their store, Wsiura, located in Neuköln. It’s fascinating how they curated peculiar vintage pieces and designers alike. Every piece in this store is unique and has an obscure and satiric hint along with a punk, fetish, gothic, freaky aesthetic with a slutty twist. Their vision and creativity proof that no big investment is needed to make a store standout. The garments are hanged on inverted drying racks hanging from the ceiling and the store houses a secret basement that gives you the feeling that you are entering a dark room of a dungeon. The character the store has and the creative use of resources implemented resemble the widely used phrase describing the lifestyle of the city poor but sexy.
Photo courtesy: Dawid Mayser and Maldoror for Wsiura
The Record Loft has recently reopened its new home in Neukölln. Located near Griessemuehle, this second-hand vinyl store is a place of reference since its early days in Kreuzberg. It is an essential visit for vinyl lovers and collectors who like to dive among record boxes. Expect to spend some hours digging and listening to a vast selection of dance music.
Photo courtesy: Christian Pannenborg
New places keep popping up on a daily basis in Berlin. The freedom experienced in this city is inspiring, generating a fertile ground for creative ideas and initiatives. Berlin is constantly changing and expanding; the opportunities are endless. Expect to see more activities that will keep you entertained in the following months.