At least in front of the Berghain the snake is as long as always; People line up hundreds of meters in a row to gain access to the famous Technoclub. Spanish, English and French are spoken in line and occasionally a little German. People wear sweatpants and tank tops, latex skirts and goth accessories, the usual outfits that have been tried and tested for decades for nighttime fun in Berlin. So it could be as usual on this summer Saturday evening, but of course everything is different. Everyone walks past the bouncers today; and inside the hall people do not expect an ecstatic rave with sweaty and twitching bodies, but an electro-acoustic installation by two Austrian sound artists, through which one strolls measured and at a distance from each other.
The dance floors in the Berghain are still closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future; For a few weeks in summer, the club's operators only opened the "Halle", a side alley that was otherwise only recorded on selected occasions, in which the visitors now wore masks in front of their faces and at a safe Covid 19 distance from each other let very deep bass buzz through and chirp by very high fettling noises. The artist duo Tamtam fills the huge hall with sounds; at the best moments every bone vibrates, the nostrils begin to flutter, the vibrations crawl from the floor to the head and then back again. That's how it always felt when you danced in the main house of Berghain; just that dancing to such body-shaking sounds has been banned for months now.
And when it will ever be allowed again is in the stars. The clubs were the first to close at the beginning of the Covid 19 shutdown and will be the last to open again. Because what is happening in them is in every respect the opposite of what we have had to get used to in the past few months: collective intimacy, unleashed and fearless closeness to everyone with whom you happen to be or not exactly on the same dance floor . For theaters, sports arenas and concert halls, concepts may be developed in which one is sufficiently distant from one another and infection-proof, even in large crowds, in order to simulate at least a rudimentary version of familiar cultural experiences. This is not possible in clubs, it contradicts all ideas for which they have been set up and visited, and it also contradicts the music that is performed in them; this is in no way suitable for contemplative hearing; it wants to take hold of the whole body and set it in motion and invite the bodies in motion to cross it.
Anyone who leaves the sound installation in the large hall on this Saturday evening can still go to the Berghain beer garden, where the audience sits on beer benches at tables with bottled drinks, on the weekends changing club resident DJs stand in a tent and play in Room volume their music. That evening it is Hayden Payne aka Phase Fatale, an expat, late 20s, from New York. At the end of January, a few weeks before the shutdown, his first album was released on the club's own Ostgut-Ton label. He was at the beginning of a great international career and was fully booked into the summer. The last DJ mix that he released before Corona at the end of February was named after the London club in which he recorded it: Unmasked.
Now he is standing behind his devices, illuminated by the evening sun, and is swinging into a quiet but energetic set. He builds his musical dramaturgy as if an audience enthusiastic about dancing swarms and squeaks in front of him; but of course the people on the beer benches do not swarm and squeak, but bob with their feet and occasionally also their upper bodies and wink at him encouragingly. There are tourists, but also many veterans of Berghain, who are clearly looking forward to being there again. Nevertheless, the mood as a whole is more like that of a funeral, you come together again to commemorate a disappeared culture and happiness, and to be happy about the fact that you are still alive after all.
What will happen to this culture? And what will become of your music? At least in Berlin, the Senate is trying to help clubs out of their financial hardships for a while. The emergency aid program for small and medium-sized cultural enterprises, which was decided in May, explicitly takes into account the Berlin clubs as well as private theaters, concert halls and cabarets. Of the 8.5 million euros awarded in the first round, just over three million euros went to clubs; A total of 30 applications have been approved, according to the Senate of Culture, the amount of the grants ranges from 21,000 euros to 450,000 euros. That sounds like a lot, but in Berghain, for example, there are also 180 employees who have to be brought through the crisis. Small clubs and concert agencies with fewer than ten employees went completely empty; they are now to be considered in another emergency aid program for which Senator for Culture Klaus Lederer (left) promises another 30 million from September.