Berlin SubCulture to London NoCulture

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I’d been going on at Ernesto Leal to programme Danielle De Picciotto in his Red Gallery in London’s Shoreditch, and am super-proud he invited me to steer this panel.

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I knew this picture of Danielle De  Picciotto (with her husband, Alexander Hacke, of Einsturzende Neubatten) prior to knowing much else about her…

It was Chris Bohn, editor of The Wire magazine, who turned me onto Danielle – he was reading her book (The Transgression of Beauty – which I whole-heartedly recommend – she’s a true inspiration, the type of woman I don’t find enough of, and trust her schedule will allow her to perform at Red later this year…) – Alexander Snelling – my boyfriend and I were meeting with Bohn and his girlfriend, Keiko, to discuss a film Alex is directing about psychedelic-techno maverick, Manuel Gottsching (the Berliner who went up a mountain with LSD-guru, Timothy Leary, managed to come down to be chased by Nico, recorded with Ashra Tempel, and made this, the definitive Balearic track, sampled on Sueno Latino, nicked by countless inferiors, re-sampled by Derrick May, who, incidentally, believes Techno is a power greater than the mechanical consciousness feared by The Frankfurt school – which I’ll get to – but let it be known, Gottsching is the DUDE).

So we’ve visited Manuel’s scene in Berlin – and I’ve fallen in love with the city’s embrace of techno-academic philosophies guiding ART (I’m a long-term fan of Christiane F- Hacke’s first girlfriend, and I love the Helmut Newton gallery by Zoo Station, and just knowing that Iggy Pop & Bowie hung out in West Berlin kills me – I’ve been lucky enough to visit amazing private views over the years and have a few of Sven Vath’s Harthouse records, a couple of Kraftwerk, some Detroit, Belgian, some of Jeff Mills Underground resistance and old Tresor records in my collection…) but the biggest appeal to Berlin for me is the rationalisation and need for structural understanding of  CULTURE in the programming at festivals such as Transmediale, and discussions at squatted buildings which support discussion as an essential element of progressing thought and practice – call it Neo-Marxism, or techno-democracy, stemming from The Frankfurt School (which I have State-lectured in – under the guise of Contextual Studies for Media – in the old syllabus for undergrads, before Marxism disappeared from the current outline, which came out shortly after the current government – NB – how the fuck can you discuss technological and democracy without Marxist-models is beyond me – but I find it easy to blame the State’s need to have conforming, non-questioning workers who love life in the Mall – another soapbox/blog, another day)…however, the German need to evaluate is likely the intelligent evolution stemming from their post-Nazi situation, I find an inherent German characteristic is logic and REASON (I don’t care if nationalistic identification is perceived as rascist, again, another soapbox, another blog) AND I love working with Germans for this, in my experience, Germans deliver – and progress is why, when I used to write for NME, DJ, Mixmag and many other publications including The Face, Sky, Dazed and Raygun (before DJing and going onto make music documentaries for BBC Radio) – I was always on about the ELECTRONIC VANGUARD, and that’s what Ernesto’s events have always been about – which is why we’re drawn to each other – but aside from Ecstasy, Peace, Love & Unity, the aspects of rave culture shared by the British and German scene-are people came together from different worlds – when the Berlin Wall fell,  the former-Soviet East and the Western bloc (which had been broken into districts ruled by the ‘Western Allies’, France, the US and Britain – with consultation with West Germany), having parties in warehouses in former GDR-land (German Democratic Republic/Soviet) where ownership and legislation was murky, dancing under initial idealistic ideologies of anarchy and optimism in much the same way as we did around the M25, in pre-Criminal Justice Bill Britain – before super-clubs, capital super-greed and State taxation were instigated by the devisive mega-minds at the top of the power tree –  so what evolved, particularly in the grimy warehouse clubs of Berlin such as E-Werk, and all the ‘stay up forever’ principals of Doctor Motte’s LoveParade, was the Techno philosophy of Newness being the Future.  Space – the final frontier…

Ernesto has a pre-occupying theme of gentrification, which becomes as explosive as Shoreditch rents when combined with Berlin’s 90s trance culture and the MASS POSITIVISM which accompanied the WHITE LIGHT/WHITE NOISE-TOTEM championed by DJs such as Paul van Dyk, a discovery of Mancunian, Mark Reeder who was drawn to Berlin in 1978,  having started The Frantic Elevators with a certain Mick Hucknall – before becoming Factory Records label rep in Berlin, moving into East Berlin – the nutbag – started managing and engineering bands like this female punk band, Malaria!


He formed the band which toured with New Order, Die Unbekannten (as Shark Vegas – a more pop version) with Alister Gray and Thomas Wylder, who went onto drum with Die Haut and Berlin lurkers, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds:

Setting up a label “Masterminded For Success” MFS – the initials of the Stasi, Ministry for State Security in East Berlin, in 1990 – he encompasses a brilliant musicological ‘rock family tree’ –  stemming from this post-Geniale Dilettentan (Martin Kippenberger-style post-Dada transdisciplinary movement), post-punk East Berlin-isolation, into electronica and trance.  I’m delighted to get the chance to hear him because cultural entrepreneurialism around the delapidation of the Berlin Wall echoed the rave scene I became involved with in London at the age of about 14 – despite a folk-background, I became a wildchild, aware that acid house had the counter-cultural Power to stand as the last revolution against kill sprees and capitalism, to achieve what Flower Power had failed to…sadly, the fantasy failed again -being part of Thatcher’s youth, I was one of the apolitical monghead tools who thought going to a Spiral Tribe rave was a political dancefloor move (huh hurr), but, it meant a generation led the following generations to float in the bland mediocrity of existence, coupled with Generation Fear – those brought up wary of Bin Laden and if not watching Big Brother, being filmed on CCTV- that no-one can ever be bothered to watch (another soapbox – I’m reaching for the stars on those boxes today).

Our economy has been on a downward spiral since acid house – I don’t blame the drugs,  I’m with the half-glass full, Nobel prize-winning economist, Paul Krugman, who suggests LURVE will get us out of our current financial straits – basically, positive spending energy encourages positive energy – embrace, LoveWorks – bring it on, let’s just get in debt forever, it will always be future debt.
I’ve previously said I believe there should be a Global Charter of Corporate Social Responsibility (with relative social ‘taxes’ – not wholly binary, or financial – more altruistic and community-based) and with this in mind, should base-level creative projects, such as bars, clubs, and galleries, and those feeding from their existence such as property people and businesses, support the underground matrix of artists which offer them credo – (Shoreditch being a prime example of essential co-existence – if Westwood and McQueen have lots in Redchurch St, will they want to stay there without a little of the grit that attracts hipsters to Boy – or will East have moved South by then – I suspect the rents will have pushed them there) but an alternative model could perhaps exist through something in the grasps of corporations: Land, and the provision of it to artists – seeing as we cannae squat civilly nae more – from September it will be a criminal offense to squat in the UK,  I would suggest areas encouraged giving land to artists to aid gentrification, perhaps if their taxes and business rates aren’t doing so well, what with all these empty shops – but if it is done borough by borough, communication can exist in a real sense between those who need to be provided for in some sense by those bigger than them – let’s call it the the parental duty of the 1% if they can be philanthropic enough to assist, but we know it’ll never work – as long as there is greed and need…
But I hope THE INNOVATOR, DIMITRI HEGEMANN (who’s the key speaker) can spread some advice here – he gives grants to artists, supports them with one job to lead to another, a good guy – labelled a Techno activist through, what I suspect will be a belief about DIY-ism, he had the Fishburo bar, turned it into the UFO club, before setting up Tresor -does his embrace of Techno side along using the Internet and whatever private-app based networks we can think we’re underground communicating upon – to achieve this – because what this talk at the Red Gallery sets out to do, is explore the relationship between Subculture and Creative Industries – Tresor, being a prime example of a Creative project, so passionate in its advancing of the techno arts that it became a philanthropic sport of Hegemann to provide lifeblood to the underground matrix of artists.  Is it as simple as Subculture being another word for Lifestyle – so said Alvin Toffler, the futurist who is cited by Detroit-Juan Atkins (Cybotron, Model 500) for inspiring him with his writing on ‘techno rebels’ in his book, The Third Wave.  Is it true the underground no longer exists in our networked world, and instead, the choice is Lifestyle – and whose we’re buying into, because Money Corrupts Equality.

And if we have to be part of a Lifestyle, can we do it without guys like Dimitri investing in progressive artists in an era where it’s Google vs The World?  (They have  Orwellian-powers you do not want to believe) –  where does the capital fit in with art?  Currently through gallerists – bless their sweet souls, but howabout musicians – it’s hard out there, and writers – wow – well, I lecture, and have a PHD is Ducking n Diving.  Is it as black and white as being either DIY and thoroughly indie-pendent, is there a rainbow of opportunity to find support through sponsorship as a working class artist – or one that has to work.  To offer complete autonomy to artists takes a truly maverick brand, and in my experience, there are very few who don’t want to imprint some level of Ownership, and a corporate-instigated belief system or another bullshit masquerade.    I love the principals of GEMA (the copyright society of Germany) who are responsible for ‘protecting artistic works’ but such are their endeavors, to protect the artist as a creator, they are superstrict – and German YouTube is not as liberal in content as elsewhere (another blog -Creative Commons etc and the need for ownership).  Is freedom of expression the same thing as freedom of audience – in Idealistic times, yes.  Which seem historical by their very notion – amoral times, ladies and germs (that’s a Garfield-ism, he was my philosophic hero when I was growing up).

Is there a middle ground of compromise where artists don’t have to do as De Picciotto and co did – which was recluse to a castle, only to have a hundred skinheads as their door- or is the point to co-exist, to log-in to culture and leave the studio as and when required, rather than build a wall around culture, forcing us to totally DIY it, leaving our small castles to get attacked – do we need to be more unSocial than Social – UNwiring ourselves to the networks where corporate/capital cyber-control leave Analogue the only freedom fighter in the ongoing flotilla of post-modernism – because even private networks will always be hackable, because people and artists will always be buy-able.  Let’s all go and buy an island of ideals.  It couldn’t possibly be this planet.  What is the revolution?  As I read in Vanity Fair’s current issue, Woody Allen has endorsed Smirnoff, Kurt Vonnegurt – credit cards, Hitchcock- Western Union and Salvador Dali – Alka Seltzer (!) – Bobby Gillespie sold his soul to Uniqlo – if you’re stupid enough to buy it, you’re stupid enough to believe it – but free economy… (another box of soapsuds, another blog).
As I draw to a close, I would suggest the corporate wave of digitalisation has overthrown the Techno dream of a democratic internet, and new-tech or old-school are the NU NEW.  All power to Anonymous, or maybe not an oligarchical portion.  Folk jumpers and the craft they represent worn with iPhones continue into the next season, my darlings…(iPhones, I know, still – despite a recession, what can everyone sport?  The symbol of not being lonely.)
So the velocity of techno-times have passed, to be replaced by the arguments for living anti-Socially whilst being wired in – PHEW – had to get that out –
Techno-culture was always the melting of new forms, dripping towards a virtual existence – we are in that place – where morals have been replaced by armageddon.  The devil’s playground, which is what the underworld and new world’s can offer – Money and art, and where the twixt wane, cultural capital and it’s involvement with the state – let’s embrace the arts and intellectual like a fist full of dollars and challenge and progress at this event on Thursday 7th June.  Which is full  – but message me if you’re super-keen and I maybe able to swish you in under my magic cape…or stay tuned on here, Twitter and my mailing list, and I hope to upload the discussion soon…
My mind is sure of one thing, there needs to be cultural friction, such as that caused in the competition for Berlin to reclaim its capital status against Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and the riches of Bavaria – cultural friction causes us to fight for progress, unless we’re just creating, man, either in a fog of auteurism and drugs – what Simon Reynolds enchantingly labels some aspects of techno as, “A full-scale retreat from the most radically posthuman and hedonistically functional aspects of rave music toward more traditional ideas about creativity, namely the auteur theory of the solitary genius who humanizes technology,” or in other words, the bedroom DJ – a precursor to the ‘Dead Boys’ of Japan, who are called so because they literally do not interact with society – and this is the darkside, the last frontier, or crossroads that an artist has to do a deal with the devil at in order to create a new beginning…perhaps the Techno dream has come true.

Crossroads and fringes have to shake their tassels right back to the core to have any effect -Techno was a reaction of modernity, a quest for the future, to live on spaceships, in clinical, scientific beauty – away from the wishy-washy drug music of psychedelia – whether Berlin can continue to do this now that the wall’s come down remains to be seen, or as British politics currently suggest, there is, in fact,  a dark secret that if you Build walls, spectacular things will occur, but only once they’re destroyed.

Where are you moving to next?  I heard Athens is pretty cheap…Britain overlooked the importance of allowing people to live as artists to produce exportable merit.  We’ve been drugged goddamit.  And all nanny wanted to do was help.  I take responsibility…TECHNO FOREVER!!!


(the intro track to this, Sugar Daddy, is made by my ex, Kris Needs – he was double my age, I was young, dumb – and errr, full of…blonde ambition – seriously, I was only just out of my teens…don’t do it, Kids, never mind how much you want to learn…)

DO CHECK THIS SELECTION OF TRAX- THEY WERK…

YUMMY

Kirsty Allison, London, June 2012

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