Tresor Foundation Berlin: The importance of nightclubs
16 Jun 2022
In a series of stories we portray our Culture of Solidarity Fund grantees. The grantee featured here successfully applied to round 5: Cultural grant for regional transformation, which we jointly ran with the Bundeszentrale für Politische Bildung.
In the following two contributions you’ll read more about the project ‘Next generation culture space’ proposed by the Tresor Foundation. Firstly on why club scenes are important, secondly on how the project will roll out.
'Building a club scene is worth it! And it will bring peace and harmony' - text by Dimitri Hegemann
Clubs are cultural spaces. They boost the appeal and quality of life of our towns and cities. Clubs enrich and enlarge existing cultural offerings and are an important location factor. They’re vital components in the creative development of a city, becoming part of the solution when revitalising and improving urban areas. And they bring a new momentum to the night-time economy that couldn’t be predicted before the emergence of the club scene.
Clubs bring people together. There are techno clubs in almost every European city. These places open their doors very late, here in Berlin, around midnight. Then crowds start getting together, people who have travelled from far and wide; they mostly meet in dark spaces, often in converted industrial buildings. These are scattered throughout the city, many on the former Wall strip where the no-man’s-land between East and West Berlin lay unused for almost 30 years, heavily fortified with booby traps and military patrols.
After the fall of the Wall, there was an incredible euphoria over the reunification. Young people were ready for something new. In the eastern part of the city there were many vacant lots, areas of wasteland and hidden nooks and crannies – perfect conditions for small cultural cells to grow.
The forces of law and order barely bothered with this new movement; they had other problems to solve, such as traffic between East and West Berlin. There was cultural anarchy. On top of that, already in 1949 the curfew was abolished in Berlin. This was another major factor behind the emergence of a vibrant night-time culture – in fact, it reflected the general climate in the city of Berlin. The politicians of the day made no attempt to control or curb this movement. Then in 1991 came a bombshell – these new sounds from Detroit. Techno was born.
The Love Parade began in 1989, and within a few years the number of visitors had grown to more than several hundred thousand enthusiastic revellers from all over the world. They were drawn to Berlin by a longing to meet like-minded people and party together peacefully. And they stayed for days, exchanging ideas, joining in shared activities, chatting to each other and then going home excited and inspired. The miracle was achieved. A million young people embraced peace and harmony. And this mood continued week after week in the clubs. The Love Parade showed me the immense potential of peaceful energy that can be generated by a crowd. It really does work.
That’s why I now think the World Heritage application by the co-inventor of the Love Parade, Motte and his friends, makes sense – I actually feel techno is a type of music that creates a happy, welcoming mood wherever I hear it, especially in clubs and at festivals. Techno has the potential to change the world peacefully. In the cosmopolitan city of Berlin, it has certainly succeeded.
I perceive techno as a type of music that’s listened to by young people all over the world. I also see people in troubled countries who want to dance. When they can, they do.
In fact, people from all cultures dance to techno, peacefully and happily.
I’m convinced this music has a worthwhile mission: it is both the soundtrack and the key to achieving peace among young people around the world.
Techno has transformed and rejuvenated the city of Berlin since the Fall of the Wall. A micro-economy sprang out the movement: clubs, cafés, galleries, restaurants, hostels, fashion boutiques, design agencies, and so on. A whole generation set off on a new musical journey. This music works without lyrics – there are no tales of romance or struggles. Instead, techno releases our hidden wild side, and makes us bold; creative ideas are born at 3.30 in the morning, and they point us in new directions. Techno has the power to reach everyone, and enables all of us to discover the good in ourselves.
Dancing is better than marching, as the saying goes. And that doesn’t just apply to Berlin. All over the world, the techno phenomenon and accompanying club scene provide the perfect space for bringing together life-affirming, happy people.
However, the power of techno has gone much further. The Berlin Love Parade changed the way Germany was perceived throughout the world – the images of Germans dancing and partying with Israelis and Poles were something new and played a major role in creating a new image of Germany. The same happened 10 years later during the 2006 Football World Cup, known as the summer fairy tale.
'Next Generation Culture Space' - text by Anna Harnes
Here at the Tresor Foundation we hope to create a robust, international artists’ alliance between Berlin, Sarajevo and Tbilisi with the project ‘Next Generation Culture Space’. Funded by the European Cultural Foundation, we are working to reinvent the use of historical spaces and breathe new life into them through cultural activities. Helping us are project partners Space of Urgency, Association for Procreation and Development of Future Ideas – Neocor (NCR, Sarajevo), Cultural and Creative Industries Union of Georgia (Tbilisi) and United We Stream e.V.
The aim is to create safe spaces where alternative youth cultures, queer communities and other marginalised groups in Eastern Europe can thrive.
Working together with the community in Tbilisi, Sarajevo, Berlin and the networks of Space of Urgency and United We Stream, we want to offer a new future for experimental, multi-functional cultural spaces in Sarajevo and Tbilisi.
We are documenting our work and making it available online so that future researchers will be able to follow the process of adapting spaces.
The global Covid-19 crisis and resulting restrictions, coupled with economic stagnation and political polarisation, have threatened the social ecosystem of alternative youth culture, queer communities and other marginalised groups in Eastern Europe.
The closure of cultural spaces and disruption to creative ecosystems that have served as the last remaining safe spaces for these communities now pose a threat to the very existence of these under-represented groups.
On top of that, right-wing extremism is on the rise, as demonstrated by the recent violent attacks in Eastern European countries and the war in Ukraine, as well as the assaults at Pride events in Tbilisi, Kiev and Belgrade that left many casualties.
Nationalism and religiously motivated discrimination are the chief factors splitting the three main ethnic groups in Bosnia and Hercegovina, and they continue to divide communities to this day.
Roma and Jews are still excluded from electoral systems. This kind of initiative can create a unified, democratic space for the young generation to develop their skills in a transparent political environment.
The disruption of the creative ecosystem has brought about new partnerships via “localised internationalism” with new global alliances developing projects such as “United We Stream” during the pandemic. These initiatives have helped raise awareness of local problems at an international level while putting pressure on local governments to take these issues more seriously.
We will be giving advice on constructing a new cultural space in Sarajevo as a pilot project and using it to build long-term, sustainable alliances to establish creative safe spaces where alternative cultural ecosystems can thrive again.
This guidance on developing independent, political cultural spaces in an East/West partnership will feed directly into the planning of a sister project in Tbilisi.