Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Berghain: Philip Sherburne on Berlin Techno Hedonism

For a while now the boyfriend and I have been trying to engineer our way across the ocean to Berlin. I first went there in 1984 and had my day of adventure in the East, where kids admired my "Nike schuehe," I saw real East German borderguards with submachine guns and police dogs, and had the crap scared out of me when I heard what sounded like a loud explosion from the direction of the wall. I returned in 1995 to live there for a summer while I took classes at Humboldt University, and then again in 1996 just to be a bum. I got to see the last Love Parade on the Kudamm and manged to find my way into clubs like Tresor, E-Werk, and WMF. My last visit was in 2000, and my most moving memory is standing on the roof the restored Reichstag, looking down into the glass dome of the legislative chambers. The symbolism was some of the most powerful I have ever experienced in architecture.

One of the things that drew me to Berlin was its long and rich history of decadence, its stature as a birthplace of avant-gardes, and the amazing history that was embodied in everything around me. One of my friends was a Kreuzberg anarchist who owned a bicycle shop (now doesn't that sound strangely familiar?) who would ride me around the city and point out moments in fascist history. Over here is the wall where the communists executed members of the June 17 1953 uprising; and here's a building in the park where Hitler had participants in the assassanation plot executed; oh, and that old bunker over there? That's a dance club called Bunker.

Philip Sherburne's This Month in Techno column in Pitchfork describes Berghain
, the current version of a decadent dance club in a massive industrial setting. It reminds me of what I went to Berlin looking for, and being thrilled to find, but it also made me wonder about the way in which Berlin has become mythologized as this land of techno sybarites. It looks like we're working on another chapter in that mythology, and I hope I'll soon have a chance to learn its places and names.

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