SCREAMING CITY: WEST BERLIN 1980s
Babylon Lounge, Istanbul
April 30, 2009
Curated by Florian Wüst. Presented in
collaboration with Apartman Projesi.
Between the end of the 1970s and the
fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, a vast number of films were
produced in and about West Berlin, dealing with the ambivalent realities
of the enclosed city. Highly subsidized by the Federal Republic of Germany
as a "shop window of the Free West", West Berlin had become
an island, an inverted fortress for all those who saught to live without
economical pressures, and to express themselves by all means. It wasn't
about devoting oneself to the World Revolution anymore, but to implement
alternative ways of housing, giving rise to social resistance, strident
underground cultures and sexual border-crossing. Pessimism and apocalyptic
moods, not least driven by the enhanced arms race and nuclear threats
of the Cold War era, mixed with extravagance and dilettantism, punk
Where images lived a special life inmidst
the deadlock of socialist and capitalist ideologies, an idiosyncratic
crossover of music, performance, art and super-8 movement developed.
The extraordinary activity of the various individuals, groups and institutions
working with film and video in West Berlin in the 1980s was subject
to an extensive retrospective, Who says concrete doesn't burn, have
you tried?, at Kino Arsenal, Berlin, in 2006. Recently, the two
curators of the series, Stefanie Schulte Strathaus and Florian Wüst,
published a book of the same title.
The double feature screening at Babylon
Lounge comprises a shorts program and a feature length experimental
movie, and focuses especially on the role of music, from Pere Ubu and
Dead Kennedys to The Birthday Party, Abwärts and Malaria. The films
by Brigitte Bühler & Dieter Hormel, Christoph Doering, Horst Markgraf
and Die Tödliche Doris address the pathological condition of a militarized
world, and meets it with dark fantasy and sensual ecstasy. Christoph
Dreher and Heiner Mühlenbrock's OKAY OKAY. Der moderne Tanz
travels through industrial landscapes and urban decay, interspersed
with camera footage of live concerts and staged performances. The delicate
choice of songs by The Residents, Throbbing Gristle, Wire, and above
all Pere Ubu, amongst many others, not only underscores the images,
it rather builds the core of the film: a radical approach to contemporary
life profoundly influenced by punk, post-punk and new wave.
Horst Markgraf, BRD 1983, 6'
A young woman in a scarcely lit space,
dressing up, polishing her nails, while the camera continuously drifts
into darkness. A performance of solitude and vain, set to the music
of The Birthday Party, with singer Nick Cave. The title of the film,
Norma L., plays with the creation of a fictive persona that refers
to the actress's fascination with Marilyn Monroe before she became a
star and was still known under her real name Norma Jeane Mortenson.
Brigitte Bühler, Dieter Hormel, BRD
Accompanied by a score composed of music
by Pere Ubu and Einstürzende Neubauten, a-b-city revolves around
West-Berlin's psychodelic atmosphere. Brigitte Bühler and Dieter Hormel,
who were renown for their fast paced and skillfully edited Super-8 clips,
mix TV images and time-lapse shots of nightly streets, drifting clouds,
and a man continuously jumping in front of the Berlin Wall. The video
brings about an impression of the enclosed city that constantly shifts
between ecstacy and depression.
Persona Non Grata
Christoph Doering, BRD 1981, 16'
The world at war plays on a TV screen
in an empty space. While the light sets over the city, a young man eventually
takes the TV and throws it out of the window. This is the moment for
him to head out into the dark, ecstatic jungle of the night full of
punk music, drugs and wild drives over the city's highway. The films
of Christoph Doering, who was a member of the artist group Notorische
Reflexe, are key to West Berlin's notorious Super-8 avant-garde of the
Brigitte Bühler, Dieter Hormel, BRD
Even before music videos revolutionized
the industry and MTV arrived in Germany, Geld (Money)
was produced and released as a video clip for the all-female band Malaria!.
Bühler and Hormel shot the band members around Gudrun Gut and Bettina
Köster in an empty cellar. Streaks of light were projected onto the
musician's faces and androgynous bodies, and refilmed on Super-8 so
that they seem to peek out from behind a layer of torn darkness. This
low-tech effect combined with double exposure and cross fading creates
a striking visualization of the nebulous lyrics of the song: "there
is no clarity / there is no fog / ah, if I weren't hungy / how happy
would I be / our belief is our world / our belief is our money."
Die Tödliche Doris, BRD 1983, 3'
On a sand heap in front of the Berlin
Wall, Die Tödliche Doris stages their Naturkatastrophenkonzert (Natural
Catastrophy Concert), shot on video for West German TV.
After the microphone has been set on fire, short musical pieces are
played in an overly amateurish fashion. The group around Wolfgang Müller,
Käthe Kruse and Nikolaus Utermöhlen existed from 198087, and represented
one of West-Berlin's most idiosyncratic artistic formations that mixed
music, art, performance, and film.
OKAY OKAY. Der moderne Tanz
Christoph Dreher, Heiner Mühlenbrock,
BRD 1980, 90'
Produced at the German Film and Television
Academy in Berlin (dffb), OKAY OKAY. Der moderne Tanz (OKAY OKAY.
The Modern Dance) is a music film in its best sense: a timeless
selection of punk, post-punk and new wave songs (amongst others Pere
Ubu, Throbbing Gristle, Wire, The Red Crayola) defines the mood and
rhythm of the film. With each new song, Christoph Dreher and Heiner
Mühlenbrock introduce a new situation or locality, comprised mostly
of fragments of a man made world empty of people: waste sites, garages,
industrial chimneys, and run down housing blocks. It is from these post-apocalyptic
landscapes that both the music and film draw their energy and living