A new exhibit at Pineapple Lab entitled “Club Berlin: An Exhibit on Electronic Music & Photography” might be confusing to some people. Why glorify places of revelry and parties filled with rebellious people? What’s the art in that?
For people like Sven Marquardt writer, photographer, and a notorious doorman at Berlin’s famous Berghain, the nightlife is representative of the freedom that never came in the sunlight. He had witnessed how techno and clubs helped create unity in Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In the Berlin underground scene, he took photos of people he felt representative of the changing tide. “My photographs have always been influenced by the people who I would see. After the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was a lot of anarchy but it became also an inspiration for me. Something was happening, there was a change that would make everything different.”
His black and white portraitures expose people covered in tattoos, decked out in S&M-like garb, with piercing eyes and exotic characteristics that foretells of non-German roots. Sven himself is also a caricature of sorts: long white hair tied back to reveal tattoos crawling up from his neck to his temple. Thick skull rings on every other finger and multiple chains around his neck that would put DJ Khaled to shame. Often, he is asked about the political statement behind his photographs with the context of his roots, he gives a soft answer though. “I don’t know if my photographs are political, they are very personal and have always been something I knew [I needed to do].”
“Nope, ” he also says point blank when asked if he believes that Berghain became famous across the globe because of him. “I don’t like to think of it that way.” The club however became very influential in his photographs. “I was never allowed to photograph inside the club to protect the people that were partying. I would take photos of the records, sometimes the DJs and even cupboards. That’s how I started.”
In his story, Sven speaks a lot of how Berlin’s change started from below, the underground nightlife. It’s quite like how great currents bubble up to the surface. “Berlin changed a lot, the life that would be seen in the clubs would be seen now every day.” Sadly, that’s still not a truth everywhere. I asked Sven about his take on the Orlando shooting incident and why people were surprised to find that for people in the outskirts, clubs were sanctuaries. “They are sanctuaries,” Sven agreed. “And that’s why we at the door have a strict policy. We have a protective role for these people who want to be free. We don’t look at race or at sexual orientation. We just know that we have to protect these people that have no other place to go.”
So as you take a look at the photos of different clubs by Martin Eberle, sneak a peek into the Boiler Room via audio-visual clips and get to see the people Sven has lensed, drink in the experience of how the night life is more than just having a good experience, but embracing a time, place, and identity that has yet to find a free space for themselves.
Club Berlin: An Exhibit on Electronic Music & Photography runs until Sept. 23 at Pineapple Lab Makati.