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From test-driving delivery gigs to scoring work with corona and delving into the Nazi history of modern management, it’s all in a day’s work for Exberliner. Our latest issue explores jobs and jobbing in the city. FREE TO OBEY – A historian explains how an SS Oberführer shaped modern management THE CORONA GIG – A new job market grows out of testing and vaccinating – but how long will it last? COVID CAREER SHIFTS – Four hustlers find themselves at a professional crossroads SECURE IN THE SADDLE – Exberliner takes delivery app employers on a test drive “I’M A RIDER MYSELF!” – Gorillas start-up founder Kağan Sümer on how it all began COWORKING GOES CORPORATE – How big brands are warming to the idea of sharing an office THE HOMEOFFICE DEBATE – As the novelty wears off, we hear four different takes on working from home POLITICAL NOTEBOOK – Business as usual with Israel BEST OF BERLIN – A fashion Plattenbau, wine in a can and home-cooked grub to order BOOKS – The absurdity of Heimat, East German diaries and paperback picks BERLIN BITES – Four puffy-crusted gems of the pizza-demic SHORT ESCAPES – Venturing out to the sandy shores of the Müritz

From test-driving delivery gigs to scoring work with corona and delving into the Nazi history of modern management, it’s all in a day’s work for Exberliner. Our latest issue explores jobs and jobbing in the city.

FREE TO OBEY – A historian explains how an SS Oberführer shaped modern management
THE CORONA GIG – A new job market grows out of testing and vaccinating – but how long will it last?
COVID CAREER SHIFTS – Four hustlers find themselves at a professional crossroads
SECURE IN THE SADDLE – Exberliner takes delivery app employers on a test drive
“I’M A RIDER MYSELF!” – Gorillas start-up founder Kağan Sümer on how it all began
COWORKING GOES CORPORATE – How big brands are warming to the idea of sharing an office
THE HOMEOFFICE DEBATE – As the novelty wears off, we hear four different takes on working from home
POLITICAL NOTEBOOK – Business as usual with Israel
BEST OF BERLIN – A fashion Plattenbau, wine in a can and home-cooked grub to order
BOOKS – The absurdity of Heimat, East German diaries and paperback picks
BERLIN BITES – Four puffy-crusted gems of the pizza-demic
SHORT ESCAPES – Venturing out to the sandy shores of the Müritz

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<strong>205</strong><br />

J U N E 2 0 2 1<br />

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#BerlinerFestspiele70<br />

EVERYTHING<br />

IS JUSTFOR<br />

A WHILE<br />

Rediscovering 70 years of the<br />

Festspiele‘s history<br />

28.5.<br />

17.10.21<br />

Funded by<br />

Partner<br />

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<strong>EXB</strong><strong>205</strong><br />

June 2021<br />

SPECIAL<br />

—<br />

Berlin at work<br />

Free to obey<br />

A historian explains how an SS Oberführer<br />

08 shaped modern management<br />

11<br />

The corona gig<br />

A new job market grows out of testing and<br />

vaccinating – but how long will it last?<br />

14<br />

Covid career shifts<br />

Four hustlers find themselves at a<br />

professional crossroads<br />

18<br />

Secure in the saddle<br />

Exberliner takes delivery app employers on<br />

a test drive<br />

21<br />

“I’m a rider myself!”<br />

Gorillas delivery start-up founder Kağan<br />

Sümer on how it all began<br />

22<br />

Coworking goes corporate<br />

How big brands are warming to the idea of<br />

sharing an office<br />

26<br />

The Homeoffice debate<br />

As the novelty wears off, we hear four<br />

different takes on working from home<br />

REGULARS<br />

—<br />

05<br />

Political Notebook<br />

Business as usual with Israel<br />

06<br />

Best of Berlin<br />

A fashion Plattenbau, wine in a can and<br />

home-cooked grub to order<br />

28<br />

What’s On<br />

Our culture editors preview the month<br />

in film, music, stage and art<br />

44<br />

Books<br />

The absurdity of Heimat, East German<br />

diaries and paperback picks<br />

48<br />

Berlin Bites<br />

Four puffy-crusted gems of the pizza-demic<br />

49<br />

The Gay Berliner<br />

Berlin queers are far from idle in the<br />

pandemic<br />

50<br />

Short Escapes<br />

Venturing out to the sandy shores of the<br />

Müritz<br />

CONTENTS<br />

8<br />

18<br />

14<br />

June / July Programme<br />

2.6. / Access via www.berlinerfestspiele.de<br />

42. Theatertreffen der Jugend Berlin<br />

German<br />

Emojiland!<br />

With students from Hector-Peterson-Schule<br />

/ Houseclub presents:<br />

Kareth Schaffer & Dan Lancea<br />

PERFORMANCE<br />

4.6. / HAU4 / Premiere / Available until 11.6. / German<br />

FUX<br />

Premiere (UA)<br />

THEATRE<br />

8.6. / HAU4 / Premiere / Available until 14.6.<br />

German<br />

Die Figur & Showcase<br />

Beat Le Mot<br />

FANS<br />

PERFORMANCE MUSIC FILM<br />

15.6.* / HAU4 / Premiere /<br />

German<br />

onlinetheater.live<br />

Loulu<br />

GAME NET ART<br />

18.6.* / HAU4 / English<br />

Jota Mombaça<br />

The Birth of Urana Remix<br />

FILM<br />

23.6.* / HAU4 / Premiere / English<br />

Forced<br />

Enter tainment<br />

How the Time Goes – Episode 1–7<br />

PERFORMANCE FILM<br />

29.6. / HAU4 / Premiere / Available until 5.7.<br />

Lee Méir<br />

safe&sound<br />

DANCE FILM<br />

2.7. / HAU4 / Premiere / Available until 9.7.<br />

Kadir “Amigo” Memis<br />

Opferschicht – Narben und Namen<br />

DANCE FILM<br />

9.-27.6. / Display window Friedrichstraße 4<br />

Further information on www.hebbel-am-ufer.de<br />

Werkstatt Mehringplatz<br />

As part of the project “Berlin<br />

bleibt! #3”<br />

SITE-SPECIFIC PROJECT<br />

www.hebbel-am-ufer.de<br />

* Afterwards still available on www.HAU4.de<br />

Further content can be found in the HAUthek on HAU4.<br />

˛


PARTNER CONTENT<br />

4 <strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


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COLUMN— Political Notebook<br />

<strong>205</strong><br />

J U N E 2 0 2 1<br />

SPECIAL<br />

Jobs &<br />

jobbing in<br />

Berlin<br />

Cover by Katharina Grossmann-Hensel<br />

Editorial<br />

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Alexander Wells<br />

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Exberliner was founded in 2002 by Maurice Frank, Ioana<br />

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It is a publication of Tip Berlin Media Group GmbH.<br />

Managing director: Robert Rischke<br />

Business as usual with Israel<br />

As German decision-makers wring their hands and mince<br />

their words on the crisis in the Middle East, the arms<br />

companies keep cashing those cheques.<br />

Amid all the talk of bombs and rockets,<br />

here’s a list you might have missed in<br />

the German news:<br />

2018: Combat operation system, all-terrain<br />

vehicles, parts for combat tanks, armoured<br />

vehicles and other military vehicles. Total<br />

value: €101,194,601.<br />

2019: Drones, parts for combat tanks,<br />

engines and parts for helicopters,<br />

ammunition for howitzers,<br />

ammunition for recoil-free<br />

weapons, ammunition for<br />

grenade guns, ammunition<br />

for automatic grenade<br />

launchers, mortar<br />

ammunition, parts for<br />

submarines and warships,<br />

naval mine-clearing<br />

equipment, parts for<br />

torpedoes and missiles,<br />

missile defence systems for<br />

aircraft, parts for infrared<br />

equipment and thermal<br />

imaging equipment (among<br />

other things). Total value: €75,932,282.<br />

January - June 2020: Corvette warships,<br />

parts for submarines and corvettes, airindependent<br />

propulsion systems. Total<br />

value: €533,044,265.<br />

This is the military equipment that<br />

German companies have sold to Israel in<br />

the last three years, as listed in the German<br />

government’s arms export reports. Not<br />

that Israel is the only country in that region<br />

Germany has sold arms to. Turns out there<br />

are a lot of good weapons customers in<br />

the Middle East. The Egyptian military<br />

dictatorship is one of the best; like Israel,<br />

Egypt also bought a German submarine last<br />

year. (Germany is often careful to maintain<br />

balance in these arms races.) There’s also<br />

good business to be made with Qatar (a<br />

direct funder of Hamas), the Saudi monarchy<br />

(dismemberer of journalists, bomber of<br />

Yemen), the UAE (another bomber of<br />

Yemen), as well as Oman, Jordan and Kuwait.<br />

Last month, as Hamas rockets (courtesy of<br />

Iran and Syria) flew into Jerusalem and Tel<br />

Aviv, and as Gaza City was being flattened by<br />

Israel’s (mostly US-made) planes, German<br />

Foreign Minister Heiko Maas wrote a tweet.<br />

Konrad Werner<br />

explains German<br />

politics<br />

It read: “At the moment, ending the violence<br />

in the #MiddleEast is the highest priority.<br />

But we should also talk about how such an<br />

escalation can be avoided in future.”<br />

This tweet is irritating on a few levels,<br />

but one of them is grammatical. Making<br />

use of one of German politicians’ favourite<br />

tools, you’ll notice how Maas slid gently<br />

from the active to the passive voice towards<br />

the end there. How can this horror be<br />

avoided? It suggests that the solution to<br />

the conflict is abstract, in<br />

the air somewhere, like a<br />

balloon floating above all<br />

the belligerents, just out of<br />

reach. If only we could jump<br />

and get it down!<br />

But if you’re supplying<br />

arms, you are involved.<br />

You’ve made a deliberate<br />

decision to help one side<br />

kill people (though you may<br />

also be indirectly helping<br />

the other side through<br />

Qatar, see above). That’s an<br />

active choice and could be<br />

described with active grammar. Of course,<br />

the nature of this kind of involvement means<br />

that you can go easy on yourself, confining<br />

your interest to the only thing that matters<br />

to you: the money German companies can<br />

make.<br />

Germany’s strongest reaction to the terror<br />

in Gaza and Israel in the last few weeks<br />

has been to obsess over anti-Semitism at<br />

home – namely, in the Arab community of<br />

Neukölln – and to suck its teeth and point<br />

to the nation’s historical responsibility to<br />

stand up for Israel. Both of those concerns<br />

are legitimate and important, but they’re<br />

just two elements of a cycle of violence<br />

that Germany actively participates in.<br />

They’re also just shrugs: it’s not us, it’s<br />

the immigrants; it’s not us, it was our Nazi<br />

granddad. It’s very bad. We’re very sorry<br />

about it. Now here’s the invoice. T<br />

If you’re supplying arms,<br />

you are involved. You’ve<br />

made a deliberate decision<br />

to help one side kill people.<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

5


BEST<br />

OF<br />

BERLIN<br />

BERLIN APP<br />

BEST HOME-COOKED GRUB<br />

Lockdown has seen a profusion of passionate<br />

home cooks selling their tantalising concoctions<br />

on Instagram. HomeMealDeal<br />

is an app designed to help them run a bona fide<br />

business from their own kitchen, by connecting<br />

them with Berliners hungry for new and<br />

authentic dishes not available anywhere else<br />

on the foodscape. Against popular belief, it is<br />

not impossible to sell your vegan lasagne or<br />

home-made jollof rice to punters from your<br />

home – provided you have the right paperwork,<br />

that is. After launching trial runs late last year,<br />

Martin Schmidt of Leverkusen and his Slovenian<br />

partner Mario Dugonik officially formed<br />

the Berlin start-up in April to help at-home<br />

chefs get hygiene certificates and the ironically<br />

named “red cards”, which give individuals the<br />

green light to set up shop. Popular offerings<br />

include Vivian Liu’s 20-set of Chinese dumplings<br />

at €11-13 and Evelyn Ebert’s beef, chicken<br />

or veggie waakye, a Ghanaian rice-based dish<br />

cooked with black-eyed peas and covered in a<br />

black chili and tomato sauce (€9.50). And don’t<br />

forget Benjamin the Bavarian’s home-roasted<br />

Schweinshaxe! Anyone living in the north or<br />

east of the city might struggle to score a homecooked<br />

dinner, since offerings are pick-up only<br />

and concentrated in Tempelhof-Schöneberg,<br />

Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and Mitte for now.<br />

The roll-out is proceeding at a modest pace,<br />

but it’s not for the lack of chefs; Schmidt and<br />

Dugonik are cutting through the red tape district<br />

by district. HomeMealDeal currently supports<br />

40 ‘kitchenpreneurs’, many of them newcomers<br />

to Berlin who are in the process of setting<br />

up a new life here. Another 200 people are on<br />

a waiting list, ready to serve up the authentic<br />

flavours of their home country. — MP<br />

HomeMealDeal, available for Android and<br />

iOS devices<br />

TPSY<br />

HomeMealDeal<br />

HomeMealDeal<br />

SUMMER DRINK<br />

BEST WINE IN A CAN<br />

Berlin isn’t exactly a wine city. Blame that on<br />

Berliners’ inveterate love for street drinking:<br />

whether in the park or at a protest, a Pilsner<br />

seems a lot more practical than a bottle of Riesling<br />

and a set of glasses. Enter TPSY, which has the perfect<br />

solution for outdoor boozers with palates too<br />

refined for Sterni or Radler: canned wine. That’s right<br />

– the handy tipple for the gal on the go has reached<br />

these shores, after taking the Anglophone world by<br />

storm. Putting wine inside a can has always been a<br />

contentious concept, but founders Nico Dierking-<br />

Mihm and Phillip von Gilsa aren’t scared to ruffle<br />

some feathers if it means filling a gap in the Berlin<br />

market. “That’s why we chose a cat as our mascot,”<br />

Dierking-Mihm says, pointing to the bleary-eyed<br />

cartoon puss sprawled across the packaging. “Not<br />

everyone loves the idea of drinking wine from a can,<br />

but a cat does what it wants – it doesn’t give a shit<br />

what other people say.” You might not find TPSY<br />

in your local Späti, but that could be by design, as<br />

these wine rebels say they don’t want their vino<br />

to-go sold in any old corner shop. Priced at €4 per<br />

250ml-can and available in four different varieties<br />

(Riesling and Rosé Bubbles, and Riesling and Rosé<br />

Schorle), it’s more expensive than your average tinnie.<br />

TPSY promises not to falter on quality, sourcing<br />

only from a leading winemaker in Rüdesheim in the<br />

Rhine Valley. “Phillip and I drank a lot of wine to<br />

ensure we didn’t compromise on taste!” Dierking-<br />

Mihm chuckles. The pair have reduced their wines’<br />

alcohol content to 7.5 percent, spritzer or not (the<br />

Bubbles option is mixed with non-alcoholic wine).<br />

This is to mitigate the risks that come with canned<br />

booze, Dierking-Mihm explains. “When it’s from a<br />

can, you tend to chug a lot faster!” The makers are<br />

also working on reducing their CO2 emissions by<br />

planting a tree for every four-pack sold. Sadly, you<br />

won’t be able to sip your TPSY under said tree, since<br />

it’s part of a reforestation drive in Madagascar. — LR<br />

Order online at tpsy.wine<br />

6<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Putnoki Photo<br />

BEST OF BERLIN<br />

PREFAB EMPORIUM<br />

BEST FASHION PLATTENBAU<br />

From outside, the grotty cement<br />

block at Memhardstraße 8 looks<br />

no different to any other Plattenbau<br />

on the fringes of Alexanderplatz – but<br />

inside, this prefab relic has had a dramatic<br />

revamp. Funded by the district offices of<br />

Mitte and Pankow, Platte Modehaus<br />

is a collective project led by 80 fashion<br />

stakeholders that aims to serve as the new<br />

home for Berlin’s fizzing fashion scene.<br />

The ground floor will house installations,<br />

window displays and pop-ups, while<br />

designers are invited to set up camp in<br />

the lower ground cavern where they can<br />

use fully equipped studios complete with<br />

paper backdrops, natural lighting and<br />

tucked-away hair and makeup booths.<br />

Arne Eberle, publisher of indie fashion<br />

publication ΠMagazine, is among the<br />

hub’s handpicked custodians. “I’m just<br />

a tiny part. The name Platte refers to<br />

the idea that the system is modular,<br />

that different blocks come together,”<br />

he says. From mid-June onwards, the<br />

onsite shop opens, offering designers the<br />

opportunity to sell their creations. But<br />

this isn’t a glorified gift shop; the space<br />

seeks to be “a hub where things happen”.<br />

Talks with Berlin fashion schools are<br />

under way to launch research into the<br />

development of sustainable materials<br />

and there are plans to host panel talks<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

and coaching sessions for designers.<br />

According to Eberle, the project offers a<br />

full 360 degrees of support for creatives,<br />

who can benefit from “a transfer of<br />

knowledge and networking opportunities”.<br />

In order to move in, all they have<br />

to do is submit a concept to the pool<br />

of stakeholders. Eberle admits that the<br />

collective nature at times can be chaotic,<br />

but the more actors who get involved,<br />

the more resources and money can be<br />

pumped into Platte, which has barely<br />

got off the ground but already plans to<br />

expand. The space has its eyes on the<br />

800sqm plot next door, a former pharmacy<br />

that has been boarded up for the<br />

past 10 years; next year it will become<br />

home to Platte’s “special machines”, to<br />

be rented out in time slots. “Designers<br />

don’t typically have buttonhole or seam<br />

machines because they are so expensive<br />

no one buys them,” Eberle explains. He<br />

even sees the potential in Platte’s back<br />

courtyard to host fashion shows. “They<br />

used to do them here in the 1990s!” he<br />

says. Trends may have come and gone<br />

since then, but shabby-chic never goes<br />

out of style in Berlin. Just as well since<br />

the prospective runway is cluttered with<br />

rubbish bins and covered in graffiti. — LR<br />

Platte Modehaus, Memhardstraße 8,<br />

Mitte, instagram.com/platte.berlin<br />

, RLIN<br />

05.06., 48h 05.06., 48h 04.– 04.– | | UKW 05.06., UKW 05.06., 48h 48h 106,4 | 106,4 | UKW 48h UKW 48h | | | VOLKSBÜHNE 106,4 UKW VOLKSBÜHNE 106,4 | 106,4 | | | | VOLKSBÜHNE VOLKSBÜHNE BERLIN<br />

BERLIN<br />

BERLIN<br />

BERLIN<br />

BER<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

04.– 04.– 05.06., 05.06., 48h 48h | | UKW UKW 106,4 106,4 | | VOLKSBÜHNE VOLKSBÜHNE BERLIN<br />

BERLIN<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

04.– 05.06., 48h | UKW 106,4 | VOLKSBÜHNE BERLIN<br />

04.– 05.06., 48h | UKW 106,4 | VOLKSBÜHNE BER<br />

04.– 05.06., 48h | UKW 106,4 | VOLKSBÜHNE BERLIN<br />

BERL<br />

VOLKSBÜHNE | 106,4 UKW | 48h 05.06., 04.– Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel<br />

7<br />

Illustration und Schrift: Hannah Göppel


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

| HUMAN RESOURCES |<br />

FREE TO OBEY<br />

In a short, erudite book recently published in German,<br />

French historian Johann Chapoutot explains how a<br />

former SS Oberführer shaped post-war West Germany’s<br />

business elite, revealing the surprising modernity of Nazi<br />

Menschenführung, as well as the “fundamental hypocrisy”<br />

of modern liberal management. By Nadja Vancauwenberghe<br />

“Obedience makes you<br />

free, a short history<br />

of management from<br />

Hitler to the present”, by<br />

French historian of Nazism<br />

Johann Chapoutot,<br />

came out in German in<br />

late March (Propyläen).<br />

When Reinhard Höhn kicked<br />

the bucket in 2000 at the age<br />

of 95, obituaries mourned<br />

the great theoretician of modern liberal<br />

management, the guru behind post-war<br />

Germany’s economic success. Between<br />

1956 and 2000, some 600,000 West<br />

German bosses, managers and other<br />

business leaders, from BMW to Aldi to<br />

Colgate, attended his business school in<br />

the Lower Saxony town of Bad Harzburg<br />

and trained in the fundamentals of<br />

successful management: participation,<br />

delegation, autonomy,<br />

responsibility. In fact, the<br />

famous ‘Harzburg model’<br />

was developed by Höhn as<br />

he was working to solve<br />

the Third Reich’s organisational<br />

needs at the<br />

Humboldt University’s<br />

Institut für Staatsforschung<br />

between 1939 and<br />

1944. Oberführer Höhn<br />

not only escaped post-war<br />

justice and denazification;<br />

he made a seamless career<br />

transition into post-war<br />

Germany, lending his<br />

skills and expertise to the<br />

new economic elite.<br />

Gehorsam macht frei<br />

(obedience makes you<br />

free) reads like a parable:<br />

through the incredible<br />

career of one man whose<br />

influence presided over two systems<br />

often held as ideologically incompatible,<br />

Chapoutot places the Third Reich<br />

into the historical continuity to which<br />

it belongs – within Germany, but also<br />

within the wider context of liberal economic<br />

history. In the end, Chapoutot<br />

isn’t so much discrediting management<br />

I was shocked by how<br />

current the language<br />

was. I had a little moment<br />

of doubt. Was l<br />

listening to a rabid Nazi<br />

or was I in a business<br />

school lecture hall?<br />

practices through their potential Nazi<br />

roots as he is exposing the duplicitous<br />

essence of modern management.<br />

What inspired this book about<br />

the Third Reich and modern<br />

management? For my last book, Das<br />

Gesetz des Blutes (‘the law of blood’), I<br />

had read the works of Reinhard Höhn<br />

in the 1920s-1930s and come across<br />

his second career. I thought it was<br />

interesting that an SS general could<br />

become a liberal-management guru in<br />

post-war West Germany. It was quite<br />

telling about our world.<br />

But it was a text by Herbert Backe<br />

that really caught my attention [Backe<br />

was the radical Nazi technocrat who,<br />

as minister of food, oversaw the<br />

planning and implementation of the<br />

starvation of millions following the<br />

1941 invasion of the USSR]. It was a<br />

pretty short and abrasive circular in 12<br />

points aimed at the Third Reich’s civil<br />

servants in the East. And what does<br />

he say? He speaks of “performance”<br />

and “mission”, asking them to show<br />

“flexibility”, “agility”, “autonomy” and<br />

“decisiveness”. I was shocked by how<br />

current the language was. On the one<br />

hand, there was the appalling racism<br />

towards Untermensch Russians, colonial<br />

violence, et cetera – which feels very<br />

alien to us today. But on the other hand,<br />

there was the familiar language of a<br />

modern manager. I had a little moment<br />

of doubt. I was wondering where I was.<br />

Was I listening to a rabid Nazi or was I<br />

in a business school lecture hall?<br />

The French title, Libre d’obéir<br />

(‘free to obey’), was already<br />

intriguing, but the German<br />

Gehorsam macht frei is a notch<br />

more daring – even provocative.<br />

Was it your decision to use a direct<br />

reference to Arbeit macht frei,<br />

the Nazi slogan at the entrance of<br />

Dachau and Auschwitz? Actually,<br />

it was a German journalist who’d read<br />

the book in French and translated the<br />

title like that. I thought it was very<br />

good. It’s true: it’s daring and it may<br />

seem a little shocking, but it’s relevant<br />

as it translates very well the Nazi idea<br />

of liberating man through work. The<br />

expression “Arbeit macht frei”, which<br />

for us has become the height of the<br />

criminal cynicism of the Third Reich,<br />

had a real meaning for the Nazis. In the<br />

Nazis’ conception of the Germanic man,<br />

what they call der germanische Mensch,<br />

work realises the individual, creates a<br />

world of civilisation and thus frees man<br />

from nature. It’s a very common idea,<br />

since Hegel, to say that man realises<br />

himself through work, but for the Nazis<br />

it only applied to the Germanic man.<br />

Only he works. The other ‘races’ don’t<br />

really work. This is something that is<br />

repeated over and over again in the<br />

newsreels of the time, which show the<br />

populations of Poland or the East as<br />

idle, negligent people who don’t work<br />

and don’t maintain anything – an old<br />

colonial stereotype that we still find in<br />

attitudes about Africa, for example. So<br />

only the Germanic man works and puts<br />

others to work, and that’s part of the<br />

reason why the Nazis were so interested<br />

in the organisation of work and put so<br />

much thinking into management – or<br />

Menschenführung.<br />

One of the surprising aspects<br />

of your book is how modern<br />

and liberal the Nazi approach<br />

to management was – not at all<br />

authoritarian as you’d expect<br />

from a repressive regime. How did<br />

that happen? In practical terms, you<br />

8<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

need to consider that the Third Reich’s<br />

ambitions in terms of production<br />

are massive. Take rearmament: an<br />

armoured division must be created, a<br />

navy must be created. It all needs to be<br />

produced – and fast – which involves<br />

an increased Leistung (performance).<br />

The term Leistungsfähigkeit (efficiency)<br />

is a cardinal and recurrent one in Nazi<br />

discourse. They are aware that you can’t<br />

increase Leistung by coercion. Coercion<br />

is good for ‘slaves’, like the inferior<br />

‘race’ of Slavs who live in the East<br />

under the domination of the Judeo-<br />

Bolsheviks in an open-air gulag. But this<br />

isn’t possible for the Germanic man; he<br />

cannot be forced. You have to win his<br />

consent, and his enthusiasm for work<br />

will in turn create more Leistung. To<br />

do this, you don’t force him, you don’t<br />

hit him, you don’t repress him – you<br />

encourage him. This is where the term<br />

Menschenführung comes in. It’s a term<br />

that comes from military vocabulary,<br />

which was used a lot in the context of<br />

World War I. The Führer is the leader<br />

who takes his men into battle, the one<br />

who takes you with him.<br />

The polysemy of the term<br />

‘Führung’ is interesting, isn’t it?<br />

The verb führen is ‘to lead’ and ‘to<br />

direct’, but it’s also ‘to guide’. The<br />

Führer is a boss, a leader, but also a<br />

guide. In French or in English you<br />

have different words; in German<br />

it’s the same thing. Yes, “führen” is<br />

really “mit sich führen” (to lead with<br />

oneself); there is this idea of solidarity<br />

between the leader and the troop. This<br />

notion of Menschenführung is opposed to<br />

the notion of verwalten (to administrate<br />

or manage), which contains the idea<br />

of Gewalt (violence). It’s really the<br />

vertical, pyramidal relationship between<br />

a leader who is totally detached from<br />

his troops and the troops below who<br />

obey mechanically. That’s French-style<br />

management conceptualised by Henri<br />

Fayol at the end of the 19th century.<br />

Reinhard Höhn says it very well – and<br />

he’s not the only one: there is a total<br />

opposition between the pyramidal,<br />

coercive French-style Verwaltung and<br />

the German-style Menschenführung.<br />

One would also associate that<br />

type of hierarchical/coercive<br />

management style with the<br />

Prussian military tradition... Not<br />

necessarily, because what Reinhard<br />

Höhn shows is that after the defeat<br />

of Napoleon, a new form of military<br />

command was invented, called<br />

Auftragstaktik, which was not at all<br />

vertical but consisted of “auftragen”<br />

(assigning, delegating) to a subordinate.<br />

Like the captain who said to the<br />

lieutenant: “Nimm doch das Dorf”<br />

(Go and take that village) – do as you<br />

please, as you can. In the Nazi context,<br />

Reinhard Höhn and his colleagues,<br />

the head of the Gestapo, Werner Best,<br />

and Staatssekretär Wilhelm Stuckart,<br />

put a lot of thought into the most<br />

efficient way of administrating the<br />

ever-expanding Reich, and they realised<br />

the benefits of that approach: on the<br />

ground, the subordinates are free to<br />

take the necessary steps to fulfil the<br />

objective without bothering the Zentrale<br />

in Berlin, which has other things to<br />

worry about.<br />

So are you saying that the<br />

modern theory of management<br />

‘by delegation’ was a Prussian<br />

military invention, perfected by<br />

the Nazis? You could say that. And<br />

it’s no coincidence that Peter Drucker,<br />

the great US management theorist,<br />

develops a similar model in the US<br />

after 1945. He talks about “management<br />

by objectives” (MBO) and Reinhard<br />

Höhn talks about “management by<br />

delegation of responsibilities”. The<br />

idea is the same and the inspiration is<br />

the same. Peter Drucker is an Austrian-<br />

German Jew, of German tradition and<br />

culture, who emigrated to the United<br />

From 1956 to 2000, the business elite of Germany<br />

would flock to the spa town of Bad Harzburg<br />

in Lower Saxony to train in the ‘Harzburg model’,<br />

the objective-based management approach<br />

conceptualised by Reinhard Höhn during the<br />

Third Reich. Höhn, shown here in 1971, loved<br />

teaching and was praised as a great pedagogue.<br />

States. And so he too was inspired by<br />

the Prussian military model.<br />

That’s where it becomes more<br />

uncomfortable. Where you<br />

show a historical continuity of<br />

Nazi management – both theory<br />

and practice – with a Prussian<br />

before and a neo-liberal after.<br />

And Reinhard’s career shows<br />

how seamless it was. What Höhn<br />

advocates totally fits the culture of<br />

the time, and that’s why Drucker will<br />

say the same thing in the US. Both are<br />

completely relevant in the context of<br />

the ‘free world’ against the Communist<br />

Bloc. So to be free in the Western,<br />

Atlantic, capitalist world is to be free<br />

as a voter, free as a consumer and as a<br />

producer. And since I have a margin of<br />

initiative, I am free to obey.<br />

Reinhardt Höhn’s career is at<br />

the core of this book, and it<br />

seems unreal that a former SS<br />

Oberführer and convinced Nazi –<br />

you call him “the Mengele of the<br />

economy” – could become this<br />

great man of modern management<br />

in post-war Germany, not only<br />

unbothered by justice, but able<br />

to find a flourishing career with<br />

Die Bad-Harzburg-Stiftung<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

9


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

his Harzburg School. Yes, it<br />

seems incredible, but what you need<br />

to consider is that Germany went<br />

from one war to the next – the war<br />

against the USSR. It may have been<br />

a cold war, but it was still a war. In<br />

this context, the former Nazis are<br />

seen as experienced professionals<br />

– but they are also trustworthy anticommunists.<br />

The entire civil service,<br />

the entire police force, the entire<br />

judiciary, doctors, university professors<br />

are people recycled from the Third<br />

Reich. There was no denazification in<br />

West Germany – that’s a myth! And it<br />

doesn’t only affect West Germany. In<br />

France, the Foreign Legion recycles<br />

thousands of former SS men. And let’s<br />

not talk about the United States! Latin<br />

America... Now we’re getting to know<br />

all that very, very well. It may come<br />

across as surprising, but<br />

historians are no longer<br />

surprised at all. It’s been<br />

well documented.<br />

But he was an SS<br />

Oberführer, a highranking<br />

Nazi! And not<br />

only did he escape<br />

Nuremberg, he didn’t<br />

even have to flee or<br />

hide under a fake<br />

identity to become the<br />

Reinhard Höhn famous and influential<br />

A devout Nazi, SS man he became. He’s<br />

Oberführer and professor<br />

of law at Hum-<br />

had a prosperous career<br />

not the only Nazi who<br />

boldt’s Institut für in West Germany. Hans<br />

Staatsforschung during<br />

Globke, Adenauer’s<br />

the Third Reich, Höhn<br />

had a prosperous second<br />

career in post-war Staatssekretär at the<br />

main collaborator and<br />

Germany as the founder<br />

of the Bad Harzburg man who wrote the<br />

Chancellery, was the<br />

academy of business commentary on the<br />

leadership. He died in Nuremberg Laws with the<br />

2000, celebrated as author of the Nuremberg<br />

a pioneer of modern Laws himself, Wilhelm<br />

management.<br />

Stuckart! People like<br />

Reinhard Höhn were<br />

needed: he was a hard worker, someone<br />

who had developed important ideas.<br />

He managed to re-position himself<br />

through his lectures on military<br />

history. In doing so, he met the<br />

concerns of the era – the Bundeswehr<br />

was finally established in 1955. He also<br />

met the concerns of the industrial<br />

and business elite of the time as the<br />

German economy had adapted to the<br />

new post-war reality – the shift from<br />

being traditionally Ost-orientiert, which<br />

was no longer possible with the Iron<br />

The former Nazis are<br />

seen as trustworthy<br />

anti-communists...<br />

There was no<br />

denazification in<br />

West Germany, that’s<br />

a myth!<br />

Curtain, to becoming ‘Atlanticised’.<br />

It is a matter of flows of goods and<br />

materials, but it is also a question of<br />

methods. Reinhard Höhn was the one<br />

who could do this and liberalise the<br />

organisation of work. He became a<br />

Leiter at a think tank for employers,<br />

and from there he developed the idea<br />

of a “Führerschule” (leadership school)<br />

for the German economy – and so Bad<br />

Harzburg was born in 1956. He was<br />

very happy: he was the founder and<br />

director of this school, he taught – and<br />

loved it – and he wrote and theorised.<br />

You say that 600,000 business<br />

executives were trained at Bad<br />

Harzburg – basically the entire<br />

post-war economic elite of West<br />

Germany. You compare it to the<br />

Harvard Business School. Oh<br />

yes, absolutely. The idea is to have<br />

Fortbildung (advanced education<br />

and training) for people who already<br />

have positions of responsibility, like<br />

managers – to train them in even<br />

more efficient methods. They go there<br />

for seminars, to learn the method of<br />

delegation of responsibility – what we<br />

call the ‘Harzburg model’.<br />

The Harzburg model became<br />

the dominant model in the<br />

German-speaking world until<br />

it was challenged in the 1970s.<br />

Can you explain why then?<br />

Two things happened. There is an<br />

internal criticism of the Harzburg<br />

method, which is accompanied by<br />

precise rules and very precise controls<br />

on the execution of these rules. This<br />

was contested from the 1970s onwards.<br />

This criticism resonated with the<br />

exposure of Reinhard Höhn’s past.<br />

You could tell that it was his own<br />

hubris that lost him. In his desire to<br />

expand his school and make more<br />

money, he started to advocate for his<br />

management model to be applied to<br />

local and federal administrations,<br />

which brings in a lot of money. But<br />

then the step too far: to extend it to<br />

the Bundeswehr. When Willy Brandt<br />

came to power in 1969, it didn’t look<br />

too good for a Social Democrat defence<br />

minister to have a contract with a<br />

school run by a former SS general.<br />

Again, it wasn’t a secret. Spiegel ran a<br />

whole series on “die alten Kader der SS”<br />

(the old cadres of the SS) in the 1960s<br />

and Reinhard Höhn was mentioned<br />

repeatedly. Under the newly installed<br />

SPD, it became more problematic and<br />

Helmut Schmidt ended the cooperation<br />

between the Bundeswehr and Bad<br />

Harzburg. The school continued to<br />

survive and prosper though. The<br />

Tochterschule [Die Akademie für<br />

Führungskräfte] has just closed down<br />

because of corona. Interestingly, when<br />

you look at the school’s website, it<br />

still boasts Reinhard Höhn as one its<br />

great teachers. A few years before his<br />

death, the BDI [Germany’s business<br />

federation] held a big jubilee where<br />

they celebrated the man who theorised<br />

management.<br />

What are the traces of Höhn’s Bad<br />

Harzburg management model<br />

today? I don’t put the problem so<br />

much in terms of filiation. What I<br />

find much more interesting is to ask<br />

what Reinhard Höhn’s career and<br />

the good fortune of his management<br />

model reveal about the organisation<br />

of work the way we know it in our<br />

‘liberal’ system, which aims to make<br />

the relationship of subordination as<br />

acceptable as possible. This is the<br />

essence of management...<br />

…the art of making employees<br />

free to obey? Indeed, and it involves<br />

gifts at Christmas, heating in the<br />

office or the idea that you are free to<br />

choose your means to achieve an end<br />

that was prescribed for you. What I<br />

find interesting is that Reinhard Höhn<br />

allows us to see the aporia, or the<br />

hypocrisy, if you will, of management.<br />

That is to say that you will be made to<br />

believe that you are ‘free’ because you<br />

have the choice of means, even though<br />

the end has been prescribed to you –<br />

and beware, you must obey. Hence the<br />

title. Reinhard Höhn’s career reveals<br />

the fundamental hypocrisy of liberal<br />

management. T<br />

10<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

| PANDEMIC JOBS |<br />

THE CORONA GIG<br />

Over the past year, thousands of Berliners have found<br />

work in the lucrative testing and vaccination industries<br />

that grew out of the pandemic. But how attractive are<br />

these jobs, and how hard are they to get? And what will<br />

happen after the crisis is over? By Rachel More<br />

An eclectic mix of DJs, bouncers and<br />

bar staff mill around on the floor<br />

of the Arena Berlin in Alt-Treptow.<br />

They check visitors’ documents and take<br />

their coats, and push less able-bodied guests<br />

around the 30,000sqm vaccination megacentre<br />

on wheelchairs. It’s a far cry from the<br />

dance floors they once orbited, but most are<br />

grateful to have found work – and a decent<br />

wage – in this new sector, born of the crisis<br />

that killed their jobs in the first place.<br />

These workers have Jens Quade to thank<br />

for throwing them a lifeline. When the<br />

53-year-old Urberliner found himself in charge<br />

of recruitment for two of Berlin’s six Covid-19<br />

vaccination centres, being president of<br />

the German Red Cross’s Müggelspree branch,<br />

he turned to one of the industries that was<br />

hurting most. “In December, I had the challenge<br />

of having to hire lots of people in a very<br />

short space of time, so I made a conscious<br />

decision to target the arts, culture and club<br />

scene, to specifically recruit people from<br />

that area,” he says during one of his cigarette<br />

breaks. “I turned to the state culture minister<br />

[Klaus Lederer] and got the addresses of<br />

industry associations from this field, and just<br />

started calling them all up.” There was a flyer<br />

James Huertas<br />

No one is working in a<br />

test facility for fun or<br />

because it’s the best job in<br />

the world. It’s because it’s<br />

this or nothing.<br />

campaign; job ads were shared on Facebook<br />

and on industry mailing lists. Now, Quade<br />

estimates, around 800 of the one thousand<br />

employees at the Arena and Tegel Impfzentren<br />

are from those creative industries. The<br />

vast majority of the centres’ staff require no<br />

medical experience, just the willingness to<br />

wear a mask all day and work with the public.<br />

The “worker bees”, as Quade calls them, get<br />

a monthly wage of €2500-2800 for full-time<br />

work on fixed-term contracts, which are<br />

extended depending on how the vaccination<br />

drive is progressing.<br />

Berlin’s six vaccination centres, which employ<br />

2100 people between them, are just one<br />

part of the new job market that has arisen<br />

from the pandemic. Thousands more have<br />

found work in the now-ubiquitous field of<br />

coronavirus testing, with around 740 facilities<br />

– and counting – now listed on the state<br />

health department’s website. This industry<br />

has boomed following the introduction in<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

11


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

It was pretty easy to get<br />

the job here... It’s fun and<br />

I’m outside. I have my<br />

schedule so it gets me out<br />

of the house.<br />

Paula Ragucci<br />

March this year of free rapid testing for all,<br />

with subsidies available for savvy businesses<br />

looking to profit. Today, there are test<br />

facilities all across town, from repurposed<br />

sport stadiums to restaurants whose menu<br />

boards have been wiped clean to make way<br />

for Abstand rules and QR-code registration.<br />

The operators require no prior experience<br />

or medical training to register. By simply<br />

filling out an online form, any business can<br />

request to be added to the ministry’s list of<br />

test spots; if it gets the go-ahead, staff just<br />

need to complete a short training course<br />

before they can begin poking cotton swabs<br />

up strangers’ noses.<br />

Even with these new opportunities,<br />

looking for a job midpandemic<br />

is rough: there are<br />

about a third fewer vacancies<br />

listed on job centre websites in<br />

Berlin than there were a year<br />

ago. The rate of unemployment<br />

in the city has climbed from<br />

7.9 percent in March 2020 –<br />

before the pandemic prompted<br />

struggling employers to start<br />

firing people – to 10.5 percent<br />

this April. Of course, being out<br />

of work doesn’t necessarily mean being out<br />

of a job entirely: ask anyone in the Berlin club<br />

scene, where almost everybody is currently<br />

on Kurzarbeit, the state-funded furlough<br />

scheme covering their wages so their broke<br />

employers don’t have to.<br />

Inside the Arena<br />

Janosch Marder and Christian Kahl, two<br />

of the DJs now working as vaccination<br />

helpers, both lost their bookings basically<br />

overnight when the pandemic hit last year.<br />

After submitting a CV to Quade’s Red Cross<br />

2,100<br />

BERLINERS<br />

staff the city’s<br />

six vaccination<br />

centers<br />

branch and taking part in a brief telephone<br />

interview, they were each hired to start at<br />

the Arena centre in January. “There was a<br />

seminar to give you an introduction and<br />

then it’s a case of learning by doing,” says<br />

38-year-old Marder, once a regular fixture in<br />

some of Berlin’s most popular clubs (Sisyphos,<br />

Mensch Meier, Kater Blau) under the<br />

artist name Janoma. “Of course you have to<br />

do everything correctly, not make mistakes,<br />

but it’s nothing particularly complicated.”<br />

Roughly speaking, the work can be divided<br />

into three areas: registration, not unlike<br />

check-in at an airport; guiding visitors<br />

through the system; and supporting<br />

people who are less<br />

able-bodied.<br />

“You work your eight hours<br />

and get a one-hour lunch break<br />

in the middle,” says Kahl, who<br />

is one part of downtempo<br />

duo Kahl & Kæmena and also<br />

used to arrange bookings for<br />

festival stages including the<br />

FKK floor at Fusion. He says<br />

he likes the vaccination centre<br />

work, before correcting himself.<br />

“I appreciate the work,”<br />

he clarifies, “because the team is so nice. If<br />

the chemistry wasn’t right, I don’t think I’d<br />

stick with the job for as long, because at the<br />

end of the day it’s pretty much like being in<br />

a hamster wheel.” He found out about the<br />

gig through Booking United, an initiative of<br />

over 150 Berlin agencies that was launched<br />

to support musicians and artists through<br />

the pandemic. Now, rather than getting his<br />

social interactions on the dancefloor, at the<br />

bar or in the queues for the club toilet, Kahl<br />

finds himself making small talk at different<br />

stops throughout the Arena’s labyrinth of<br />

registration points, marked walkways and<br />

vaccination booths. “You have lots of these<br />

short conversations – with an elderly gent or<br />

an older lady, then someone else around the<br />

corner – which all tend to be pretty positive,”<br />

he says. “So I guess that’s similar to the club<br />

feeling, because you have those feel-good<br />

vibes at least.”<br />

The Red Cross is still hiring: as vaccination<br />

capacity increases, Quade says he<br />

needs more people, plus replacements for<br />

the 30 to 40 members of staff each month<br />

who find other gigs and leave. Some might<br />

consider the chance of scoring a quick jab a<br />

good enough reason to apply, since such a<br />

job catapults you into the top priority group<br />

for vaccination. But Quade bristles at the<br />

suggestion that this is a perk, pointing to the<br />

infection risk that his staff expose themselves<br />

to – and adding that not all of them<br />

get vaccinated immediately, since they have<br />

to wait for leftover doses in the evenings.<br />

Kahl lucked out and got his first shot during<br />

his first week on the job, while Marder had to<br />

wait two months.<br />

Minijob swabs<br />

While members of Berlin’s club scene were<br />

welcomed with open arms, not everyone<br />

has been able to walk into a job at a Berlin<br />

vaccination centre. Maria, 27, sent numerous<br />

applications for Impfzentrum positions in late<br />

December and early January as a furloughed<br />

flight attendant looking to top up her Kurzarbeit<br />

money. “I never heard back from them,”<br />

she says. “So I thought, well, might as well<br />

try a test centre.” That turned out to be “way<br />

easier”. She found a test facility provider<br />

website with a link to listed jobs, and sent<br />

them a two-line email briefly introducing<br />

herself. “And that was it. They invited me<br />

to an interview and afterwards I worked a<br />

trial shift, which was paid. Then I got the<br />

job.” Maria, who did not want to give her<br />

full name, worked the registration booth on<br />

a Minijob contract for €12 an hour – but she<br />

didn’t last long there. “I ended up at a completely<br />

disorganised company where the shift<br />

planning was a disaster,” she says, without<br />

wanting to give the name of the company.<br />

“We had no rota for the week, so you would<br />

12<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

find out on the Monday whether you had to<br />

work on the Tuesday.” She quit within six<br />

weeks of starting.<br />

Maria suspects that the vaccination gig<br />

would have been less stressful. “Those<br />

centres are led by proper organisations, like<br />

the German Red Cross – but anyone can<br />

open a test site.” The Covid job market is a<br />

two-tier economy: on the one hand, there<br />

are publicly funded vaccine jobs offered by<br />

established charities with well-structured HR<br />

departments; and on the other,<br />

there are private-sector gigs<br />

in testing, where the working<br />

conditions are as variable as the<br />

companies involved. Some test<br />

centres have cropped up in locations<br />

like clubs, theatres and<br />

restaurants, as shuttered spaces<br />

try to adapt to the crisis – either<br />

to play their part, to keep their<br />

workers in a job or to cash in on<br />

state subsidies. Entrepreneurs<br />

and adaptable businesses can<br />

choose between over 450 different tests<br />

currently listed by the government’s BfArM<br />

institute for drugs to use at their improvised<br />

centre. The state pays non-medical sites €12<br />

per test carried out, plus an additional €6 if<br />

they supply the materials themselves – allowing<br />

for a handsome profit, since some of<br />

the tests can cost as little as €2 a piece.<br />

Benjamin Föckersperger entered the testing<br />

game as an entrepreneur. After launching<br />

a number of different ventures in fields<br />

varying from plastic recycling to esports, he<br />

founded coronatest.de back in November<br />

2020. It now runs 12 sites across the city<br />

and employs around 130 to 150 people. The<br />

company is currently advertising around<br />

a dozen job vacancies, ranging from management<br />

and medical positions to more<br />

entry-level work, like staffing the registration<br />

points and pointing people in the right direction<br />

towards their test. The starting rate for<br />

hourly pay is around €13, Föckersperger says.<br />

“For a lot of people who’ve lost a job with<br />

their regular employer or are on Kurzarbeit,<br />

it’s obviously pretty cool. We’ve been able to<br />

get them earning again and putting food on<br />

the table.”<br />

One of those people was Bruno Epifânio,<br />

who lost his job as manager of Café<br />

Nullpunkt, a slick vegan eatery in Kreuzberg’s<br />

Blumengroßmarkt, after the pandemic hit<br />

last year. “It was pretty easy to get the job<br />

here,” he says as he clocks off from his shift<br />

at coronatest.de’s open-air site at the RAW<br />

Gelände in Friedrichshain. He trained for half<br />

a day at coronatest.de’s Friedrichstraße location<br />

before getting the gig near Warschauer<br />

Straße when it opened in mid-February. “It’s<br />

fun and I’m outside. I have my schedule so it<br />

740<br />

TEST<br />

FACILITIES<br />

have sprung up<br />

across Berlin<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

gets me out of the house,” Epifânio says. He<br />

works daily six-hour shifts, from 7:30 to 14:30,<br />

and has climbed the ladder to become shift<br />

manager for his team, bringing in more cash<br />

from the testing gig – although he refuses to<br />

disclose how much.<br />

Föckersperger is keen to distance his business<br />

from the less regulated side of corona<br />

testing. “Now every Currywurst joint and<br />

chicken grill has opened up its dining room<br />

for testing with the same workers, because<br />

they can’t offer the space to diners<br />

anyway,” the businessman<br />

says, before adding ominously:<br />

“The quality is what you would<br />

expect.”<br />

According to Föckersperger,<br />

his facilities are a cut above the<br />

rest. Firstly, he argues, because<br />

his cotton swab-wielding<br />

employees get more thorough<br />

training: a five-hour induction<br />

followed by a trainee period, as<br />

opposed to the bare minimum<br />

required by the city health authority, which is<br />

a one-hour course provided by the Red Cross.<br />

Aside from that, Föckersperger claims that<br />

there are vast differences in terms of labour<br />

standards: “No one in these Dönerläden has<br />

ever even heard of occupational safety!”<br />

Temping the pandemic<br />

Looking ahead, no member of the new Covid<br />

labour market is expecting – or hoping – to<br />

have a job for life in the pandemic-response<br />

industry. Even those well-paid vaccination<br />

centre workers are itching for Berlin’s clubs<br />

and bars to reopen. In the meantime, they<br />

can at least stay socially connected with the<br />

scene. “There’s not a whole lot of networking<br />

because I think everyone is still quite<br />

reserved about what the future holds,”<br />

Kahl says. “But sure, I’ve met some pretty<br />

interesting people with whom I’d like to<br />

collaborate later.” He and his colleagues only<br />

recently found out that they will still have<br />

vaccination centre jobs this summer. Their<br />

contracts were due to expire at the end of<br />

this month but have since been extended<br />

until late September.<br />

As for the testing jobs, many of those will<br />

only last as long as the state funding for<br />

Schnelltests does. Föckersperger hopes to stay<br />

in the business for longer by offering PCR<br />

tests, which are expected to stick around longer<br />

as a standard requirement for cross-border<br />

travel. But he understands his workforce<br />

of Covid jobbers are waiting for a way out.<br />

“Most of our employees are looking forward<br />

to being able to do their old job again,” he<br />

says. “No one is working in a test facility for<br />

fun or because it’s the best job in the world.<br />

It’s because it’s this or nothing.” T<br />

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13


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

COVID<br />

CAREER<br />

SHIFTS<br />

As industries<br />

that were once<br />

powerhouses<br />

for jobs began<br />

haemorrhaging<br />

employees during<br />

the Covid crisis,<br />

newly out-ofwork<br />

Berliners<br />

found themselves<br />

at a professional<br />

crossroads.<br />

We speak to<br />

four hustlers<br />

who landed in<br />

completely new<br />

sectors – some<br />

reluctantly, others<br />

less so.<br />

SANDRINO TITTEL<br />

FROM FULL-TIME DJ<br />

TO HOME FURNITURE<br />

FLOGGER<br />

Covid sent many DJs from the club<br />

to the couch when dance floors<br />

closed last year. Sandrino Tittel<br />

was one of them – but for him, it was a<br />

business decision. “Going from eight to 10<br />

gigs a month to suddenly no gigs and no<br />

income – that was so abrupt,” he winces.<br />

“I realised how fragile our ecosystem in<br />

the music world is and I don’t want to<br />

rely only on that anymore.” Now, donning<br />

a coral-coloured flat cap and flamboyant<br />

floral shirt, the new business owner<br />

smiles under his chevron moustache as he<br />

reclines on a stone-grey sofa in einraum.<br />

berlin, the home interior shop he launched<br />

with a friend just around the corner from<br />

Neukölln’s Lohmühlenbrücke.<br />

The 40-year-old, who was born in the<br />

Romanian city of Timișoara, moved to<br />

Berlin in 2010 and became a regular on<br />

the club circuit as one part of electronic<br />

duo Frankey & Sandrino. The pair had a<br />

residency at Watergate, regular Sunday<br />

sets at Kater Blau and also took monthly<br />

trips abroad for gigs. But as the reality of<br />

the pandemic set in, he began spit-balling<br />

ideas about how to fulfil a long-held<br />

dream of setting up a furniture showroom<br />

with his friend Andre Henneberg. The<br />

business partners met 10 years ago while<br />

working at Moove, a furniture store on<br />

Yorckstraße, Kreuzberg. “I was the sales<br />

agent for northern Germany. About six<br />

years ago I stopped because it was just too<br />

much work – gigging and doing a normal<br />

job.” Tittel gesticulates wildly: “I was<br />

always on fire!”<br />

And so, after the pair stumbled across<br />

the perfect spot for their dream to become<br />

a reality – a 100sqm plot with floor-toceiling<br />

glass panels at Harzer Straße<br />

109 – einraum.berlin was born. You may<br />

think that with retail stores being forced<br />

to close, the second lockdown could have<br />

been a fatal blow for a fledgling company.<br />

But it seems like Tittel and Henneberg<br />

chose the right business: the pandemic<br />

was actually beneficial to the furniture<br />

sector. Having saved on holidays and other<br />

luxuries, many Germans have splashed<br />

out on home improvements. “With<br />

people spending much more time at home<br />

during lockdown, many realised, ‘Woah I<br />

really need a new couch,’ or maybe they<br />

needed a new chair for their home office,”<br />

explains Tittel. As things slowly return<br />

to normal, Tittel is optimistic business<br />

will boom: the store sells “sophisticated”,<br />

hand-upholstered couches made in a<br />

small Karlsruhe factory for about €3000<br />

a pop, as well as office chairs, rugs and<br />

repurposed storage furniture. But the<br />

space also promotes local artists, vase<br />

makers and even vintners. “We have<br />

seven or eight natural wines from German<br />

vineyards. We are our own best customers,<br />

we choose stuff we like,” says Tittel. The<br />

store might now be his main source of<br />

income, but that doesn’t mean Tittel will<br />

be turning his back on music any time<br />

soon. In fact, he thinks the transition will<br />

boost his music career. Whereas before<br />

he took on gigs that might not have suited<br />

him or his musical style, with more money<br />

in the bank Tittel says he can be pickier<br />

about where he plays. “Decisions can now<br />

be based on the music itself.” In a sign<br />

that music is never too far away from their<br />

thoughts, the co-founders are also looking<br />

to invest in some high-quality speakers<br />

for einraum. Playing a set while shoppers<br />

mingle over a glass of fizz is certainly on<br />

the cards post-lockdown, although Tittel<br />

concedes that he might need to adapt his<br />

usual style. “I would love to play for our<br />

guests, but maybe not the weirdest techno<br />

– it would have to be something more<br />

ambient or electronica!” T — Lucy Rowan<br />

James Huertas<br />

14<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

LEA RÖHRIG<br />

FROM CONFLICTED<br />

FLIGHT ATTENDANT<br />

TO GUILT-FREE<br />

ACCOUNTANT<br />

I thought:<br />

‘Ok, two<br />

months’ paid<br />

holiday isn’t<br />

bad.’ There<br />

was no way of<br />

knowing what<br />

was about to<br />

happen.<br />

Paula Ragucci<br />

At just a smidge over 1.57 metres in<br />

height, Lea Röhrig nearly didn’t<br />

make the cut for a job above the<br />

clouds. “When I was younger, I wanted<br />

to be a pilot,” says the 25-year-old, who<br />

moved from her family home in Brandenburg<br />

to Berlin seven years ago. “But<br />

at some point I realised it would be too<br />

tough,” she explains, adding that her feet<br />

might barely have been able to reach the<br />

pedals anyway. “So then I thought about<br />

becoming a flight attendant.” Again, the<br />

height issue came up, but that extra smidge<br />

meant she could just about reach the<br />

overhead lockers. And so she made the<br />

cut, landing a job with a major European<br />

airline in April 2019, where dealing with<br />

400-500 fliers a day (some people’s nightmare)<br />

appealed to her gregarious, outgoing<br />

nature. “Anything can happen!” she<br />

says. “I learned a lot about myself through<br />

interacting with so many different people. I<br />

learned to be more confident.”<br />

In February 2020, just as the pandemic<br />

set in, Lea was on a three-week family<br />

holiday touring Thailand and Vietnam.<br />

“We spent the last week stressing over the<br />

news and checking flights. We really didn’t<br />

know whether we’d make it back home,”<br />

she says. “In the end, we were able to board<br />

one of the last flights back to Germany via<br />

Russia.” Röhrig was less lucky when it came<br />

to her work schedule, though. “I returned<br />

to work to find that my last flights had been<br />

cancelled.” She was furloughed a year after<br />

starting the job, which didn’t seem so bad<br />

at the time. “I thought: ‘OK, two months’<br />

paid holiday isn’t bad.’ There was no way<br />

of knowing what was about to happen.<br />

Somehow, I just completely couldn’t grasp<br />

what was going on.”<br />

By the end of the year, Röhrig had lost<br />

her job completely. “Rumours had been<br />

going around that if the Kurzarbeit went<br />

on for much longer, they would have to let<br />

people go.” Röhrig checked the company<br />

newsletter in her inbox every week for<br />

news. Eventually, her termination came in<br />

the mail; no one from management reached<br />

out to her beforehand. She was one of the<br />

last ones in and one of the first out; as a<br />

young person with no mouths to feed at<br />

home she fell victim to the company’s plan<br />

for “socially responsible redundancies”.<br />

“Once the dismissal notice was in my<br />

hands, it really sank in,” Röhrig says. She’d<br />

already reorganised her life so as to not<br />

succumb to the ennui of Kurzarbeit. “I’d<br />

started renovating my room and stopped<br />

drinking alcohol.” While positive steps for<br />

the short term, Röhrig now had to battle<br />

with a much deeper rut: “I was asking myself,<br />

‘What am I doing? And what do I want to<br />

do?’” Thankfully, her post-school Azubi<br />

apprenticeship in business administration<br />

provided her with a fallback. Plus, she had<br />

always looked back fondly on bookkeeping.<br />

“It sounds so boring but it was the part of<br />

my apprenticeship I enjoyed the most!” she<br />

gushes. Through good contacts, she managed<br />

to land a job in March as an accountant at<br />

a dialogue marketing company that works<br />

with clipboard-clutching charities who run<br />

fundraising campaigns on the street.<br />

The philanthropic nature of the firm<br />

has also given her a unique opportunity to<br />

atone for her carbon-guzzling, air-mile sins.<br />

“I was actually really conflicted because<br />

flying is so shit for the environment. I<br />

struggled with that a lot in the beginning.”<br />

Now, she’s part of an operation that works<br />

with big-name charities like World Vision,<br />

the Norwegian Refugee Council and the<br />

conservationists BUND. “I’m making a<br />

contribution to something good, and that’s<br />

definitely a nice feeling. It makes up for all<br />

that flying!” T — Rachel More<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

15


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

BRUNO EPIFÂNIO<br />

FROM RESTAURANT<br />

MANAGER TO TEST<br />

SITE GAFFER<br />

Bruno Epifânio stands at the entrance<br />

of an outdoor corona test<br />

facility, hair swept to the side and<br />

donning his signature sunglasses. He swaggers<br />

around what was once a beer garden,<br />

straightening signposts and fist-bumping<br />

colleagues at the site, situated next to<br />

the Astra nightclub on the pre-pandemic<br />

cultural hub of RAW-Gelände. After moving<br />

to Berlin from Barcelona four years ago, the<br />

fast-talking self-starter worked in the local<br />

hospitality industry, but when corona hit, he<br />

followed the money. “They’re probably lifting<br />

it up in shovels!” he says of Berlin’s new<br />

test providers.<br />

Since mid-February, the 43-year-old has<br />

been working at Haubentaucher, which<br />

like so many Berlin venues has taken the<br />

leap from event space to test site. “It was<br />

pretty easy to get the job here,” Epifânio<br />

says, reclining on a bench overlooking the<br />

queue for the swabs. He got a friend from<br />

bouldering to recommend him and has<br />

progressed from regular worker to shift<br />

manager. “I was here from the beginning.<br />

I did all the signage and a bunch of stuff<br />

with my hands. I put plexiglass and locks<br />

in.” Epifanio, or Nox, as his friends call<br />

him, is good with his hands. In fact, he’s a<br />

bit of a jack of all trades. Growing up broke<br />

in Lisbon, he learned from his father how<br />

to fix anything so the family wouldn’t have<br />

to shell out for a handyman. He’s been<br />

a photographer, a gardener, a designer<br />

and a teacher. Then came his foray into<br />

hospitality, one that would last almost<br />

two decades before being ended by the<br />

pandemic.<br />

It all started with the launch of Lisbon’s<br />

own Hard Rock Cafe in June 2003. As one<br />

inexperienced waiter in a staff of 150, he<br />

learned the tricks of the trade, working<br />

across three floors of the Cadillac-adorned<br />

eatery. Epifânio doesn’t stay in one place<br />

for long, though. “I get tired of things. Every<br />

couple of years I’m either moving house or<br />

moving city,” he says, twiddling a lighter<br />

between his fingers. “Or changing partner!”<br />

In February 2006, he moved from Portugal<br />

to Barcelona and scored a job at Parco, an<br />

upscale sushi joint on the Passeig de Gràcia.<br />

“The football players from Barcelona<br />

go there, the princess of Spain used to<br />

go there. It’s very posh.” He started as a<br />

busboy. Within a couple of months, he was<br />

head waiter, and not long after that he was<br />

managing the place.<br />

It was a similar story when he moved to<br />

Berlin. Britta Jürgens and Matthew Griffin<br />

– the architect couple behind the Frizz23<br />

cultural co-ownership project, south of<br />

Checkpoint Charlie – had initially been<br />

looking for a cleaner for their Miniloft<br />

design hotel. “I did, like, two shifts of<br />

cleaning but then they needed somebody<br />

to build.” Epifânio ended up doing the<br />

woodwork for the hotel as well as its<br />

ground-floor restaurant, Café Nullpunkt. At<br />

one point, it came up in conversation that<br />

the restaurant needed a manager. Epifânio<br />

dropped the name Parco and got the job.<br />

“Britta and Matthew never looked at my<br />

resume or anything!”<br />

Café Nullpunkt, a plant-based, glutenfree<br />

restaurant with its own garden and<br />

composting system, was up and running for<br />

less than a year when lockdown struck. “We<br />

opened in July 2019 and then everything<br />

went to shit in March 2020,” Epifânio says.<br />

“It didn’t feel good, because I actually loved<br />

the challenge of opening something. It was<br />

almost my baby as much as theirs. It was<br />

their money but it was my sweat that went<br />

into it!” He was ushered into Kurzarbeit<br />

as the bistro struggled to pivot towards<br />

takeaway and ultimately parted ways with<br />

Jürgens and Griffin – “because of course<br />

I was expensive, and we weren’t making<br />

any money”. Epifânio had one depressing<br />

winter, watching Netflix and smoking joints,<br />

before he decided to get back to work. He<br />

got interested in restaurant work “because<br />

it’s never boring”, he says. “You see<br />

different people every day. You’re not sitting<br />

at a desk, it’s physical.” And corona testing,<br />

in a sense, isn’t all that different (apart from<br />

one thing: no one tips you).<br />

As his current employers cash in on the<br />

2021 testing boom (see page 22), Epifânio is<br />

already looking for his next gig. He’s reduced<br />

his hours at the site from 45 to 30-33 a week<br />

and spends his afternoons at a communal<br />

workshop near Hermannplatz where he’s<br />

renting a space. The goal is to turn his knack<br />

for handiwork into a bona fide woodworking<br />

business, Nox Works (@noxworks on<br />

Instagram) – he’s already working on<br />

commissioned pieces for friends. And so, the<br />

eclectic career of Bruno Epifânio continues.<br />

He can run a restaurant, build a house, grow<br />

a vegetable garden and take over a test site.<br />

“I like to say that if the world ends – which<br />

might be now – I think I’ll be OK,” he says<br />

with a laugh. T — Rachel More<br />

James Huertas<br />

16<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

Paula Ragucci<br />

DORIAN PAIC<br />

FROM JET-SETTING DJ TO DESK-BOUND AGENT<br />

Last July, Dorian Paic found himself<br />

alone in Munich Airport, tired and<br />

sweaty. As he scanned the overhead<br />

displays for his departure gate, clutching a<br />

boarding pass for a Lufthansa flight back<br />

to Berlin, the weight of 15kg of house and<br />

techno vinyl cut into his shoulder. It grew<br />

heavier as he weaved between passengers<br />

on the way to the plane, exhausted but<br />

pumped full of adrenalin at the familiar<br />

prospect of a missed flight. He was on his<br />

way home from his first DJ gig since the<br />

pandemic shut the world down in March<br />

2020, and one of just a handful of dates he<br />

would play in the uneasy period between<br />

Europe’s first and second coronavirus<br />

waves. “I couldn’t believe I’d been doing<br />

that every weekend for more than 10<br />

years,” Paic said over coffee in a quiet<br />

Prenzlauer Berg park, almost one year later.<br />

“It seemed completely nuts.”<br />

Like the rest of Berlin’s DJs, the pandemic<br />

changed the Frankfurt-born Paic’s life<br />

almost overnight. The months leading up<br />

to March last year were some of the busiest<br />

of his career, thanks to a six-week South<br />

American tour that took him to countries<br />

like Brazil, Argentina and Peru. But with<br />

a stream of cancellation emails from his<br />

booking agent, it became clear that the<br />

South American jaunt would be his last<br />

tour for a while. “All my gigs until October<br />

disappeared,” Paic remembers. “From one<br />

week to the next, I was out of work.”<br />

More than 40 job applications later,<br />

Paic started his training on April 20 as a<br />

customer service agent for a well-known US<br />

e-commerce company with several offices<br />

in Berlin. He’d left an industry on its knees<br />

for one of the pandemic’s biggest winners:<br />

online shopping. Amazon and eBay are<br />

Germany’s most-visited internet retailers,<br />

accounting for 40 percent of online<br />

revenues. Both companies announced<br />

record sales during the pandemic.<br />

(Datenschutz rules mean he’s unable to<br />

name his employer.)<br />

It’s Paic’s first desk job in over 30 years,<br />

a period that was full of constant touring,<br />

digging for records and managing his label,<br />

raum...musik. He now works from home<br />

at the desk that once housed his home<br />

studio; his modest MIDI and drum machine<br />

collection replaced by his new work tools:<br />

a keyboard, monitor and headset. “In the<br />

first three months, I really wanted to die,”<br />

Paic says. “It was so hard. To be able to<br />

really work independently took around three<br />

months, which is when you start to see the<br />

same situations repeat themselves. Until<br />

then, everything was new.”<br />

The transition from DJ to office worker<br />

isn’t a common one. Most of the music<br />

scene’s casualties, whether DJs, booking<br />

agents or bar workers, have ridden out<br />

the pandemic on unemployment benefits,<br />

scraping by on Arbeitslosengeld II and<br />

Soforthilfe. But that wasn’t an option for<br />

Paic, whose pre-corona booking fee ranged<br />

between a few hundred euros and €3000.<br />

You could describe his life as comfortably<br />

middle class, paying €850 per month<br />

for his Prenzlauer Berg apartment with<br />

enough money to spare for savings and<br />

a few nice meals per week. He wasn’t a<br />

millionaire by the time corona hit, but he<br />

was no starving artist. “I have savings, so I<br />

wasn’t completely broke, but it didn’t make<br />

sense to just sit around eating kebabs,”<br />

Paic says. “I had it good before, so if life<br />

is a bit stressful at the moment, or I don’t<br />

have time to myself, then that’s just the<br />

way it is – you have to adapt.” In his case,<br />

adapting means five nine-hour shifts per<br />

week, during which he often fields calls<br />

from German-speaking customers deep into<br />

the night. He works in a small team of eight,<br />

all based remotely. And while he hasn’t<br />

caught up with any new workmates socially,<br />

at least one of them is a house music fan. “A<br />

colleague recognised my name,” Paic laughs.<br />

“He spent about an hour asking me about<br />

DJing and my label.”<br />

The last time Paic worked regular hours<br />

was behind the booth in 2008, slinging<br />

records to local DJs at Freebase, Frankfurt’s<br />

former temple of house and techno vinyl.<br />

Like standing behind the counter at that<br />

record shop, DJing provided the buzz that<br />

came with connecting with new cultures and<br />

young music geeks, the things Paic misses<br />

most about the touring life. But he says it’s<br />

nice to be finished with the constant travel<br />

– at least until his customer service contract<br />

expires next April. “Before corona, I’d been<br />

living off DJing for 12 years,” Paic says, “and<br />

living off music for 30 years. I don’t know<br />

many people who managed it over such a<br />

long period.” T — Matthew Unicomb<br />

In the first three<br />

months, I really<br />

wanted to die. It<br />

was so hard.<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

17


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

Wolt<br />

| GIG ECONOMY |<br />

SECURE IN THE SADDLE<br />

The lockdown economy has driven huge growth in<br />

Berlin’s tech delivery sector, filling city streets with<br />

legions of bike couriers, most of them expats out for<br />

limited contracts and flexi-hours. In interviews with<br />

Exberliner, workers report on their first-hand experience<br />

of the fast pace of change. By Andrea Birmingham and René Blixer<br />

Arjun arrives five minutes early, at 15:25,<br />

for his evening shift in the main Gorillas<br />

warehouse on Torstraße in Mitte. He<br />

clocks in using an app, greets his colleagues<br />

with fist bumps, then puts on his mask and<br />

goes inside to receive a key from his supervisor<br />

for one of the sleek, black e-bikes out front.<br />

He checks the bike, grabs a helmet and picks<br />

a break time from a sign-up sheet – and with<br />

that, he’s ready to take his first order. He will<br />

spend the next seven and a half hours hanging<br />

out with his colleagues at the warehouse, then<br />

cruising along nearby streets when he gets an<br />

order, never straying further than 10 minutes<br />

from his base.<br />

Gorillas is the new kid on the delivery<br />

block. Over the past year, Berlin’s homegrown<br />

start-up app has gone from owning<br />

a single warehouse on Danziger Straße in<br />

Prenzlauer Berg to covering 14 different<br />

areas across Berlin and 75 nationwide, as<br />

well as in major cities in the Netherlands,<br />

the UK and France. With one-year contracts<br />

and stylish black attire for its 1000-strong<br />

‘rider crew’, the newcomer has set itself<br />

apart from other apps. Its image is all about<br />

speed, with the stated aim of delivering groceries<br />

“at retail prices” to customers within<br />

10 minutes of ordering. It pays employees<br />

€10.50 an hour and lets them grab free postshift<br />

fruit and vegetables that are past their<br />

selling point.<br />

“It’s really so cool out there, I’m having a<br />

great time,” Arjun says about the 20 hours a<br />

week he spends at the Mitte base. A student<br />

from India, he started his courier career with<br />

Wolt, the Finnish takeaway delivery company<br />

that launched in Berlin in August 2020.<br />

Wolt has grown from its launch in Helsinki<br />

in 2014 to operating in more than 170 cities<br />

across 23 countries and employing 40,000<br />

“courier partners”. It offers workers a shorter<br />

contract than Gorillas, lasting six months,<br />

with a base hourly rate of €10 that can go up<br />

under a bonus system based on how many<br />

orders you complete and how far you cycle.<br />

According to the company, its couriers earn<br />

on average between €12 and €15 per hour.<br />

Finding your crew<br />

Even though the money with Wolt was<br />

higher, Arjun much prefers Gorillas. At Wolt,<br />

he rented his e-bike for €79 a month from an<br />

external company. There was a lot of time<br />

spent waiting outside on his own and his<br />

only contact with his supervisor was through<br />

an app on his phone. At Gorillas, he gets<br />

to hang out with other riders in an indoor<br />

communal area complete with tea, coffee<br />

and snacks. “They’re not colleagues, they’re<br />

like my friends!” he says of the like-minded,<br />

young internationals who work with him,<br />

many of whom, he says, come from South<br />

America. “We communicate in English, but<br />

to be honest I should be learning Spanish!”<br />

says the law and politics student, who wears<br />

his Gorillas-branded t-shirt despite not being<br />

on shift. “It just looks cool, so I wear it all<br />

the time.” Talking up the social benefits of<br />

the job, he shows a video on his phone of a<br />

birthday celebration for his Gorillas colleague<br />

Carlos, with music blaring and a large<br />

spread of snacks and drinks. “I swear, man,<br />

even if there wasn’t any money, I’d still go,”<br />

he says cheerfully. “It’s like my home!”<br />

As various employers jostle for pedal<br />

power, Gorillas likes to paint itself as the<br />

coolest delivery app to work for. The ondemand<br />

grocery service puts its riders “at<br />

18<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

the core of what we do”, according to its<br />

manifesto, which is peppered with buzzwords<br />

like “community” and “diversity”<br />

and even encourages use of the hashtag<br />

“#riderpride”. Gorillas offers occasional bonuses,<br />

like at Christmas or after it attained<br />

“unicorn” start-up status in late March by<br />

raising €245 million in its second round of<br />

financing, leading to a billion-dollar stock<br />

market valuation.<br />

An uphill climb<br />

Delivery app workers don’t always have<br />

it this easy. Gorillas has joined a market<br />

fraught with disputes and union battles. Tensions<br />

in the booming sector boiled over during<br />

Berlin’s extreme cold snap in February,<br />

when up to 20cm of snow coated the ground<br />

and temperatures lingered far below freezing.<br />

Workers at Lieferando, a Dutch-owned<br />

company that launched in Berlin in 2009 and<br />

has come to dominate the German market as<br />

part of the Just Eat/Takeaway.com conglomerate,<br />

were instructed by their Betriebsrat,<br />

a protected body of employees elected to<br />

represent their colleagues at company level,<br />

to sign in and report that they felt unsafe to<br />

work. The takeaway delivery app’s operations<br />

halted in the city for three days as a result.<br />

Lieferando now recognises its workers’ right<br />

to determine whether they feel safe to work,<br />

according to a company statement on its<br />

employment practices.<br />

In the same statement, Lieferando claimed<br />

to be against hiring “gig workers”. The company<br />

offers a “comprehensive” package to its<br />

10,000 “drivers” internationally as part of<br />

an “employment model that sets standards<br />

in the industry”. Employees get a similar<br />

six-month contract and payment structure<br />

to Wolt with a Germany-wide average wage<br />

of €12 an hour, with the rate increasing to as<br />

much as €16.50 in high-demand areas.<br />

Lieferando’s workforce was originally<br />

offered e-bikes for free, available to collect<br />

for shifts from local ‘hubs’, but since the<br />

pandemic this has been phased out in favour<br />

of couriers renting e-bikes from external<br />

companies at monthly rates of €110, according<br />

to delivery workers who have organised<br />

themselves via the Free Workers’ Union<br />

(FAU). Lieferando says workers who choose<br />

to rent bikes are compensated for the costs.<br />

The improved conditions that most couriers<br />

can now expect in Berlin, like secure<br />

contracts and winter protection, are a result<br />

of union action like that seen at Lieferando,<br />

according to Reza, a representative of FAU’s<br />

Deliverunion who has worked for Lieferando<br />

since late 2019. Couriering was a “relief from<br />

office work” and Reza liked being outside on<br />

a bike for a living. He found the job better<br />

than hospitality work, in which he used to<br />

Paula Ragucci<br />

Riding for a living the lowdown<br />

Want to sculpt those calves? We run through<br />

your options at Berlin’s top four bike delivery employers.<br />

GORILLAS The Berlin-born<br />

unicorn grocery<br />

app has a growing legion<br />

of ‘riders’ thanks to its<br />

cool image, sociable<br />

‘crew’ and secure contracts.<br />

Wage Average €11.50 per<br />

hour, starts at €10.50<br />

Contract One-year contract,<br />

setting out guaranteed<br />

minimum hours.<br />

Riders can share their<br />

preferences before shifts<br />

are scheduled.<br />

Equipment e-bikes provided<br />

to all riders<br />

Perks Communal space<br />

at each warehouse,<br />

where riders get free tea,<br />

coffee and snacks between<br />

gigs, and where<br />

they have direct contact<br />

to a supervisor. Also 25<br />

percent off all groceries<br />

plus free leftover fruit<br />

and vegetables to take<br />

home.<br />

LIEFERANDO The<br />

veteran Dutch-owned<br />

takeaway behemoth has<br />

improved its working<br />

conditions in recent<br />

years and offers big<br />

(-ish) bucks but only to<br />

its busiest cyclists.<br />

Wage Average €12 an<br />

hour<br />

Contract Six months,<br />

flexi-time. Riders can<br />

choose their own hours,<br />

inputting their chosen<br />

shifts on an app.<br />

Equipment The cost of<br />

renting a bike is covered<br />

by the company and<br />

couriers who use their<br />

own wheels can claim<br />

back 14 cents per kilometre<br />

travelled.<br />

Perks Bonus system<br />

means an extra euro per<br />

order after 100 orders<br />

completed. You could<br />

get you up to €16.50 an<br />

hour over the month, but<br />

that would mean doing a<br />

lot of orders.<br />

KHORA This food delivery<br />

collective started by<br />

a Deliveroo renegade in<br />

2020 (formerly Kolyma2)<br />

is the ultra-local, alternative<br />

option to tech<br />

giants, operating mainly<br />

in Neukölln, Kreuzberg<br />

and Friedrichshain.<br />

Wage €11.50 per hour,<br />

flat rate, just like everyone<br />

else in the company<br />

Contract Employees<br />

are hired by the SMart<br />

eG social enterprise and<br />

given fixed contracts.<br />

Equipment No bike, no<br />

branded apparel<br />

Perks Everybody has a<br />

say in how the company<br />

is run, with decisions<br />

made collectively at<br />

meetings held twice a<br />

week.<br />

WOLT The Finnish giant<br />

crashed the Berlin market<br />

in August 2020 and<br />

is giving Lieferando a run<br />

for its money. It offers<br />

a similar pay model for<br />

busy riders, but with<br />

guaranteed minimum<br />

hours for bringing home<br />

the bacon.<br />

Wage Average €12-15<br />

per hour.<br />

Contract Six months.<br />

Most couriers work parttime<br />

but Wolt offers a<br />

flexible model – you can<br />

work part-time, full-time<br />

or as a working student.<br />

Working hours are<br />

scheduled weekly based<br />

on contractually agreed<br />

hours.<br />

Equipment Couriers<br />

have to use their own<br />

bikes for now.<br />

Perks Couriers can take<br />

it easy and still earn the<br />

minimum of €20 for two<br />

hours, or earn considerably<br />

more under a<br />

lucrative bonus system<br />

depending on how<br />

many orders completed.<br />

You get €160 after completing<br />

150 orders.<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

19


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

work nights and be expected to do unpaid<br />

overtime. He became involved in union activity<br />

“more out of a conviction” than a complaint,<br />

he said.<br />

Left in the cold<br />

However, Reza’s opinion of the food delivery<br />

company has since gone down, particularly<br />

after a recent rift. While delivering orders, he<br />

received a text message from the company<br />

saying that he had been “standing in one<br />

place too long” and that he would receive a<br />

formal warning. This was due to a persistent<br />

glitch on his work app which was not updating<br />

the GPS. When he called his supervisor<br />

to explain, he was told to email the company,<br />

which responded with a copy-and-paste<br />

warning of the consequences of not working<br />

while on duty. Although the matter was<br />

later resolved, it left Reza thinking that the<br />

company did not value its couriers.<br />

Lieferando was acquired by Takeaway.<br />

com in 2014, which merged in February 2020<br />

with the UK-based Just Eat to form a food<br />

delivery behemoth consisting of several<br />

companies, operating under different names<br />

in different countries<br />

(but just Lieferando in<br />

Germany). The merger<br />

was controversial; the<br />

UK Competitions and<br />

Markets Authority<br />

delayed the merger until<br />

April 2020 due to concerns<br />

that it would result<br />

in “a substantial lessening<br />

of competition”.<br />

More seasoned Berliners<br />

may also recall Foodora, which originally<br />

Overall, it wasn’t<br />

a bad job except for<br />

two horrible winter<br />

months.<br />

started in Munich in 2014 and was bought<br />

out the following year by Delivery Hero,<br />

which itself was purchased by Takeaway.com<br />

in 2018. Following the finalisation of the deal<br />

in the first half of 2019, the parent company<br />

decided to discontinue the Foodora brand<br />

and merge all businesses under Lieferando.<br />

Next, Deliveroo pulled out of the market, unable<br />

to compete with the Dutch heavyweight,<br />

leaving Lieferando with a quasi-monopoly<br />

on the Berlin market – until last year’s Wolt<br />

intrusion.<br />

Noah, a UK expat who moved to Berlin to<br />

work in the music industry, has experienced<br />

this creeping consolidation of the market in<br />

Berlin first hand. Struggling to support himself<br />

solely through music, he started working<br />

for Foodora in 2017 through to their merger<br />

with Lieferando in 2019. “Overall, it wasn’t<br />

a bad job except for two horrible winter<br />

months,” he says. He was able to work there<br />

while he learned German through podcasts.<br />

The job is less social than among the rider<br />

crew of Gorillas, but not having to deal with a<br />

boss or coworkers “suited me as an introvert”,<br />

Noah says. Plus, the job was “very easy<br />

to get”.<br />

Noah felt his job change drastically after<br />

Foodora changed hands. Gone was the startup<br />

culture, with the offer of free yoga classes<br />

and a real-life human to talk to when you had<br />

issues. He noticed a new and cold company<br />

environment, where you could receive warning<br />

messages like the one Reza got if you<br />

were deemed to be standing around. Delivery<br />

areas increased dramatically in size, so now<br />

you could be “finishing a shift at 23:30 in<br />

Neukölln then get an order in Wedding”. The<br />

flexibility Noah had enjoyed about courier<br />

work was suddenly gone – and with it, his<br />

enthusiasm. He was not offered an e-bike<br />

when they began to be phased into the Lieferando<br />

model and when his Foodora contract<br />

expired he was not rehired.<br />

Bicycle race<br />

Today, the couriers of Berlin are predominantly<br />

tricolored: orange for Lieferando, blue<br />

for Wolt, and black for Gorillas. Things are<br />

set to get more colourful – and more crowded<br />

– as new companies join<br />

the market. Flink, another<br />

Berlin start-up, is positioning<br />

itself as a challenger<br />

to Gorillas, while Uber<br />

Eats has also arrived in the<br />

Hauptstadt. Meanwhile, the<br />

DAX-listed Delivery Hero<br />

is planning its return to<br />

Germany under the name<br />

Foodpanda, two years after<br />

it sold its business here.<br />

CEO Niklas Östberg has said the company<br />

will be delivering takeaways and “everything<br />

else”, with a test phase to start this month.<br />

Amazon got the green light from regulators<br />

to take over Deliveroo in April 2020, leading<br />

to an influx in funding and plans to publicly<br />

list the company. As a result, we may soon<br />

see that teal-coloured, beleaguered brand<br />

return to Berlin’s streets.<br />

And then there’s the grassroots offering<br />

Khora, an underdog by design. This food<br />

delivery collective was founded by former<br />

Deliveroo rider Stefano Lombardo and<br />

promises its riders better conditions as<br />

autonomous freelancers. The takeaways are<br />

more expensive with this local alternative,<br />

which has shirked investment but struggled<br />

to break out of its sparsely covered territories<br />

in Neukölln, Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain<br />

as a result. Digital giants like Lieferando,<br />

Wolt and Gorillas are hardly quaking in their<br />

boots as they focus on their own battles for<br />

dominance. So it’s go big or go home in this<br />

highly competitive sector – but the legions of<br />

couriers are here to stay. T<br />

Gorillas<br />

20<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

“I AM A RIDER MYSELF. I HAVE<br />

HUGE RESPECT FOR THE GAME.”<br />

Gorillas has been on a roll since Kağan Sümer launched the<br />

groceries app in June 2020 from the living room of a Prenzlauer<br />

Berg flat. We caught the busy 33-year-old between<br />

meetings in London to ask him how it all began.<br />

You founded Gorillas in March 2020.<br />

Thirteen months later, the company<br />

achieved unicorn status (a valuation<br />

of at least $1 billion). That’s faster<br />

than any other start-up in Germany.<br />

It’s now present in Hamburg, Cologne,<br />

Paris, London, Amsterdam and<br />

a host of other major European cities.<br />

It’s a huge success! I know, it’s the buzz<br />

[laughs] – too much buzz, if you ask me!<br />

We’re just doing something amazing, something<br />

that evolved organically. We didn’t try<br />

to force a model or a framework on people.<br />

We just have this basic belief: now we’re able<br />

to travel into space, we shouldn’t have to<br />

get dressed and stand in a queue to get food.<br />

So my idea was to deliver groceries at retail<br />

prices in under 10 minutes.<br />

Was this your idea? I don’t think Gorillas<br />

is my or anyone’s idea. It’s about fulfilling<br />

basic needs. We humans ought to have two<br />

things: a home and food to fuel us. Those are<br />

the same needs that cavemen had 20,000<br />

years ago. By now we’ve reached a stage<br />

where we have everything on demand: we<br />

watch TV on demand, get meals on demand...<br />

But one of our most primitive needs,<br />

to shop for food, is not on demand, and we<br />

want to change that.<br />

You’re from Istanbul. Why Berlin? Why<br />

not? I love the music, I love the city.<br />

Also, there’s a lot of German<br />

influence in our family.<br />

Everyone speaks<br />

German.<br />

My uncle was a professor teaching German<br />

management. My grandfather was the first<br />

employee of Siemens Turkey. These were my<br />

role models and somehow they all intersected<br />

with Germany. I finished studying<br />

engineering after I came to Germany, which<br />

was when I realised, firstly, that I don’t actually<br />

like engineering, and secondly, that I had<br />

to do something creative.<br />

Riders are at the core of your business<br />

model, right? There’s that #riderpride,<br />

and a lot of the riders we talked to<br />

seemed happy with that chill atmosphere<br />

and the techno… I’m a big techno<br />

fan. Music was keeping us alive in the beginning<br />

when we didn’t have that many orders,<br />

with maybe five-hour breaks in between.<br />

Then everyone who opened a warehouse had<br />

their own playlist. Also, I’m a rider myself.<br />

I lived on my bike for six months travelling<br />

around Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkey,<br />

Kurdistan and finally China. I have huge<br />

respect for the game.<br />

When you reached unicorn status, is<br />

it true you shared some of the money<br />

with your riders as a bonus? Yes, it was<br />

a $1-million bonus and it was distributed<br />

based on how long crew members had stayed<br />

with us. Normally, I don’t like giving money<br />

as a gesture but I thought it was right here.<br />

Your riders also look pretty stylish<br />

compared to other delivery companies...<br />

Definitely! I mean, I’m super comfortable<br />

in all black and that’s something<br />

that connects me to Berlin. But the most<br />

important thing is making our crew proud of<br />

what they’re doing and who they are.<br />

I heard you have the reputation of<br />

jumping on your bike to help out if<br />

necessary. Is that still something you<br />

do? Yes, of course. Each warehouse we open,<br />

I help out there. Our first HQ ever was actually<br />

in the living room of my flat in Prenzlauer<br />

Berg. I was one of our first riders!<br />

So it all started from a Prenzlauer<br />

Berg flat, what, a year and a half ago?<br />

Yes, it was in January/February last year. I<br />

was at minus 3k on my N26 account… and<br />

the year before had been a pretty dark one<br />

for me, I was as low as it gets. I actually<br />

have a funny anecdote I never told anyone<br />

before: you know the Positions art show at<br />

Tempelhofer Feld? I was there in September<br />

2019 and spotted a piece that I was just<br />

crazy about. I said, “You’re gonna get this.<br />

You’re down 3k but you can find the money<br />

for it.” I ended up finding and calling the<br />

artist Maria Wallenstein and telling her, “I<br />

am at rock bottom, I have no money, but<br />

that piece…” She said,“It’s as black as it<br />

gets?” and I replied: “Yes!” Then, she told<br />

me the piece was actually called ‘As Black<br />

As It Gets’. [laughs] She agreed on installments<br />

and I gave my last bit of money<br />

to buy this piece. I brought it back to my<br />

room. One month later, I’d built the Gorillas<br />

warehouse.<br />

It was Berlin’s very first dark store,<br />

in Danziger Str. How many were you<br />

back then? It was Jörg [Kattner] and my<br />

wife, who also helped a lot. It was the three<br />

of us, plus an intern who helped as a rider.<br />

I’d met Jörg through a common friend. He<br />

was the perfect person to bring this vision<br />

to life and help build the business. He’s not<br />

involved in the business any more but he’s<br />

around. Sometimes we bounce ideas off<br />

each other.<br />

What was your first delivery as a rider,<br />

do you remember? Did you get a tip? It<br />

was Franziskaner beer, some other beer and<br />

one salty and one sweet snack. I did get a<br />

tip, yes! In general, I was getting really good<br />

tips actually!<br />

Unions have been a frequent problem<br />

in the past for other delivery companies.<br />

Are you scared of them at Gorillas?<br />

Actually, no. We support unions big<br />

time! I believe there are things as a society<br />

that need to change and we will act on these<br />

as a company, because we have the power to<br />

change things.<br />

I heard you gave $50,000 to the World<br />

Wildlife Foundation in a nod to your<br />

namesake? Where does the name Gorillas<br />

come from? At first, we called the<br />

company “getgoodys”. But I never liked that<br />

name. I asked myself: what characteristics<br />

do we have? We are bold, agile, definitely<br />

strong but also well-intentioned. So I guess<br />

we’re gorillas! – N. Vacauwenberghe<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

21


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

| OFFICE LIFE |<br />

COWORKING<br />

GOES<br />

CORPORATE<br />

From an underground<br />

hackerspace to flexible<br />

offices on the 10th floor of<br />

Berlin’s Hauptbahnhof, the<br />

coworking scene in Berlin<br />

has altered dramatically<br />

over the last 20 years.<br />

Now with Covid changing<br />

the way we work, some big<br />

and unexpected names are<br />

entering this competitive<br />

market. By Mark Petrie<br />

Berlin is a city that exudes freedom and<br />

liberty; Berliners are not the types to be<br />

tied down and stripped of their rights<br />

(unless consented to, of course). This is perhaps<br />

part of the reason why the ‘artistic freelancer’<br />

has flourished in the city, bouncing from one<br />

venture to the next, stringing a living together<br />

while enjoying the allure of the city’s subcultures.<br />

Over the years, a network of remote workers<br />

has emerged – there were an estimated 260,000<br />

self-employed Berliners in 2019 – and, naturally,<br />

workspaces waiting to accommodate them. With<br />

around 150 spaces – from independent, not-forprofit<br />

spots all the way up to international brand<br />

names – Berlin is home to the third most coworking<br />

locations in Europe, after London and Paris.<br />

While the tech boom has seen coworking<br />

go from strength to strength, corona and<br />

the shift towards working from home have<br />

completely changed the landscape again.<br />

Once strictly the domain of tech start-ups<br />

and creative types, coworking spaces have<br />

now moved into the mainstream, attracting<br />

the attention of big-name corporate players –<br />

both as customers and investors.<br />

WeWork<br />

Hackerspace history<br />

Although in vogue in recent years as a symbol<br />

of Berlin’s hip, tech-tinged, neo-liberal<br />

modernity, the practice of communal working<br />

in the city has actually been around much<br />

longer than many might think. In 1999, what<br />

could be seen as the very first coworking<br />

space in the world emerged on Berlin’s<br />

Rungestraße at c-base, a ‘hackerspace’<br />

established to share knowledge about the<br />

emerging world of computer hardware and<br />

data software. Literally an alien concept at<br />

the time, a myth shared by members purports<br />

that the base was formed in the remnants of<br />

an ancient space station that crashed from<br />

orbit. By 2002, the organisation began to<br />

offer free wi-fi to its guests and in 2006 the<br />

Pirate Party Germany was founded there.<br />

While c-base was a club for those in the<br />

know, the first steps towards what many<br />

today would recognise as a coworking<br />

space came in 2005 with St. Oberholz at<br />

Rosenthaler Platz – the original laptopfriendly<br />

café. Back then, there was no iPhone,<br />

wi-fi was a novelty, laptops were large and<br />

heavy, and remote working was really only<br />

possible for freelancers. Also, unlike today,<br />

buying a cheap coffee at a café, pulling out a<br />

laptop and getting to work was not the done<br />

thing. But St. Oberholz changed this with<br />

the very first space where it was not only<br />

cool to be working in a café, it was strongly<br />

encouraged. “It was definitely the first café<br />

that had work as part of the concept, that was<br />

really providing workspace to people that<br />

was not an office,” says co-founder Ansgar<br />

Oberholz. “That was an exciting time and we<br />

saw that something was growing.”<br />

St. Oberholz grew into something of a<br />

Berlin success story. Demand for workspace<br />

at the coffee shop was coming from not<br />

only individuals, but companies who had<br />

developed businesses around their coffee<br />

tables. Soundcloud, the music-sharing<br />

platform, was the first growing tech company<br />

to request meeting rooms. After acquiring<br />

more space in the building, it wasn’t long<br />

before demand for offices started to emerge.<br />

“We were definitely the first place in Berlin<br />

that kissed alive this coworking, workeverywhere<br />

thing. The word ‘coworking’<br />

didn’t even exist then,” says Oberholz.<br />

Over the next 10 years, expansion continued<br />

with a similar building on Zehdenicker<br />

Straße, and the company now has 15 of its<br />

own coworking and ‘flex-office’ locations. It<br />

has also advised traditional companies like<br />

Sparda-Bank and Deutsche Bahn on how to<br />

reinvigorate their own office set-ups.<br />

From hot desks to flex-offices<br />

St. Oberholz is a prime example of how<br />

coworking spaces have changed and grown<br />

22<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

St Oberholz<br />

over time. Initially conceived as a lively place<br />

for remote workers to soak up the vibrant<br />

start-up spirit and entrepreneurial vibes,<br />

they offered a solution to those fed up with<br />

being stuck at home. As a result, coworking<br />

spaces were traditionally made up of ‘hot<br />

desks’ where people could occupy a work<br />

space for the day, paying by the hour or<br />

taking out a membership. This evolved to<br />

include meeting rooms and event spaces for<br />

larger organisations that needed a temporary<br />

solution for company gatherings, as well as<br />

office space for 100-percent digital start-ups<br />

with no physical HQ looking to congregate on<br />

an ad-hoc basis.<br />

As the demand became greater, the needs<br />

of clients started to shift. Companies looking<br />

for a semi-permanent space with all the<br />

amenities of a traditional office could now<br />

expect flexible offices, or ‘flex-offices’, as<br />

a feature at coworking spaces. This gave<br />

companies looking to anchor their team in an<br />

attractive central location the chance to have<br />

the look and feel of an established company,<br />

without needing to take out a costly 10-year<br />

lease. And with rental prices soaring in recent<br />

years, flex-offices were highly sought after by<br />

start-ups and small companies.<br />

For example, a traditional office for a<br />

typical start-up of 20 people in Kreuzberg,<br />

home to Berlin’s ‘Silicon Allee’, would cost<br />

around €12,000 in monthly rent, plus a<br />

long-term contract with a down payment<br />

and overhead costs. However, a flexible<br />

office arrangement in the same area could<br />

be secured for around €8000 per month,<br />

including a flexible contract for as little<br />

as two months, a reception area, cleaning,<br />

security, kitchen, high-speed internet and all<br />

the required furniture.<br />

For these reasons, over the past five years<br />

around 256,000sqm of office space has been<br />

leased to flexible office providers across<br />

We were definitely the first<br />

place in Berlin that kissed<br />

alive this coworking, workeverywhere<br />

thing. The<br />

word ‘coworking’ didn’t<br />

even exist then.<br />

Berlin, accounting for around eight percent<br />

of the city’s annual office space market.<br />

The epicentre of the trend has been Mitte,<br />

followed by Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg and<br />

Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf. But this is<br />

just the beginning. By 2030, flex-offices are<br />

set to account for around 30 percent of the<br />

office market.<br />

The corona effect<br />

While the coworking ecosystem has<br />

continued to grow over the past decade and<br />

a half, 2020 proved to be a defining year.<br />

With the global pandemic bringing the 9-5,<br />

office-based working week to its knees, the<br />

coworking landscape has shifted dramatically<br />

from a niche product for baseless freelancers<br />

and young start-ups to a competitive flexoffice<br />

industry vying for Berlin real estate and<br />

corporate contracts.<br />

One of the companies looking to cash in on<br />

this shift is WeWork. The global coworking<br />

company, founded by Adam Neumann and<br />

Miguel McKelvey in New York in 2010, has<br />

more than 800 locations worldwide, and<br />

since 2016 has rented around 40 percent of<br />

the entire flexible-office market in Berlin.<br />

In 2019, a $42-billion IPO criticised for its<br />

‘yoga babble’ was laughed out of Wall Street.<br />

Neumann and McKelvey were sidelined as<br />

the value of the company dropped to below<br />

$10 billion, making way for real estate expert<br />

Sandeep Mathrani to take over as CEO.<br />

Under his leadership, WeWork will soon open<br />

its 10th Berlin location at Alexanderplatz<br />

followed by another on Chausseestraße,<br />

showing that the pandemic, despite bringing<br />

new memberships to a halt, hasn’t stopped it<br />

from expanding.<br />

In fact, Covid has led to an increased<br />

appetite for flexibility among workers –<br />

something that coworking spaces stand in<br />

prime position benefit from. Research from<br />

last year found that 47 percent of employees in<br />

Germany now want to decide for themselves<br />

where they work and only four percent want<br />

to work completely from home in the future.<br />

To help sweeten the deal for those<br />

returning to the office after the long<br />

winter of working from home, coworking<br />

spaces have adapted their memberships<br />

to become even more flexible in terms of<br />

price and accessibility. WeWork launched<br />

an ‘All Access’ membership that allows<br />

members to work from any of the company’s<br />

offices around the world – a benefit that<br />

previously cost extra. Meanwhile, it is also<br />

experimenting with an ‘On Demand’ option<br />

so that anyone can meet at a WeWork<br />

location without becoming a full member.<br />

As employees grow accustomed to their<br />

newfound flexibility, it’s clear that it’s<br />

not just artsy freelancers and scruffy tech<br />

entrepreneurs who are looking towards<br />

coworking. Many larger companies are trying<br />

to adapt to the new trends in order to retain<br />

staff and remain attractive to new talent by<br />

hiring flex-office spaces for their workers.<br />

“The pandemic has accelerated what had<br />

always been our core business,” says Nikolay<br />

Kolev, managing director for northern and<br />

central Europe at WeWork. “When Adam<br />

and Miguel started WeWork in 2010, it was<br />

predominantly meant for freelancers and<br />

start-ups. But we always believed that this<br />

was the future of how people and companies<br />

Techspace<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

23


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

Coworking in Berlin A timeline<br />

1999 The world’s first “coworking”<br />

space opened on Berlin’s Rungestraße<br />

at c-base, a “hackerspace” established<br />

to share knowledge about the emerging<br />

world of computer hardware and<br />

data software.<br />

2005 Berlin’s first “coworking café”<br />

was opened at St. Oberholz, Rosenthaler<br />

Platz.<br />

2009 The first official coworking<br />

space in Berlin was opened on<br />

Moritzplatz by betahaus, offering an<br />

unconventional office environment to<br />

the city’s freelancers.<br />

2015 Coworking giant WeWork<br />

moves into the Sony Center, its first<br />

location in Berlin.<br />

2020 Deutsche Bahn launches its<br />

everyworks business for professionals<br />

on the move at Hauptbahnhof.​<br />

2021 Today, there are around 150<br />

coworking spaces in Berlin. In terms<br />

of numbers, the city ranks third in<br />

Europe behind London and Paris.<br />

of any size will work.” This trend of flexoffices<br />

becoming mainstream has had a<br />

considerable impact on the company’s<br />

client list. “It wasn’t that easy to bring the<br />

big corporates on board in a pre-pandemic<br />

world,” says Kolev. “They said: ‘It’s nice, very<br />

interesting and creative, but not quite right<br />

for us.’ That’s why if you look back a couple<br />

of years, we had 12-15 percent enterprise<br />

business, and today it’s over 50 percent of<br />

our members who are large enterprises.”<br />

Another coworking player picking up on<br />

these post-Covid changes is Techspace.<br />

Established in London in 2012 with a specific<br />

focus on catering to up-and-coming tech<br />

businesses, the company moved into the<br />

Berlin market in 2017, lured by the availability<br />

of disused warehouses that fit nicely with<br />

their industrial aesthetic. Co-founder and<br />

sales and marketing director Philip Ellis said<br />

Berlin was an obvious choice for expansion<br />

due to thriving investment in technology,<br />

the possibility to do business in English, and<br />

Berlin being a “culturally similar but larger<br />

version of East London”.<br />

And while the company’s first flexible<br />

office space in town – spread over 4200sqm<br />

on Lobeckstraße in Kreuzberg – was made<br />

up of a balance of large and smaller tech<br />

companies before the pandemic, Ellis notes<br />

that the companies they have been working<br />

with over the past year are “much bigger”.<br />

Although it can’t reveal names, Techspace is<br />

in negotiations with a large corporate brand<br />

that's “well known across the world” about<br />

taking up some of their flex-office space –<br />

something that would have been unthinkable<br />

before corona.<br />

Indeed, many large companies who had<br />

expensive offices sitting vacant during corona<br />

are now on a cost-cutting mission to offset<br />

their losses. Amid restructuring to hybrid<br />

models of working, they are now looking to<br />

swap the traditional office for cheaper, more<br />

flexible space that is also less risky due to the<br />

short notice periods for cancellation.<br />

All aboard the coworking trend<br />

One German business behemoth that has<br />

long known the benefits of coworking – both<br />

as a customer and an owner – is Deutsche<br />

Bahn. The national rail provider might have<br />

more than 200,000 employees and be one of<br />

the country’s largest employers, but over the<br />

past few years it has rented desks, offices and<br />

even entire spaces in coworking sites from<br />

various providers in Berlin.<br />

To show that it wasn’t just interested in<br />

a hot desk or two, in late 2018, the group<br />

established the DB Digital Base at WeWork’s<br />

Potsdamer Platz site, just a stone’s throw<br />

from its own headquarters. Explaining the<br />

decision, a spokesperson for the company<br />

Everyworks<br />

said that “suitable office space is not always<br />

available at short notice” and that “coworking<br />

spaces are therefore a good way for DB to<br />

flexibly meet this need for workplaces”. DB’s<br />

WeWork office is spread over 5000sqm on<br />

nine floors and houses some 250 employees<br />

working on digital innovations.<br />

DB is not just a coworking customer: in<br />

2015, the group set up its own coworking<br />

space, DB mindbox, a 720sqm site under<br />

the arches of Berlin’s Jannowitzbrücke<br />

station, where DB employees work together<br />

with start-ups to innovate the digital side<br />

of the business. Then, in August last year,<br />

the company became the latest big name<br />

competitor in Berlin’s coworking market.<br />

Sitting pretty on the 10th floor of the city’s<br />

central station is everyworks, DB’s coworking<br />

space targeting individual travellers and<br />

businesses looking for a flex-office in a<br />

central location. The space is explicitly not<br />

for their own employees, but is a new venture<br />

for DB into the world of coworking and flexoffice<br />

real estate.<br />

The entry of big players like DB into the<br />

coworking and flex-office world doesn’t<br />

necessarily mean that the post-corona world<br />

will be a cash cow for the coworking spaces<br />

themselves. For one, the pandemic has made<br />

potential customers more selective when<br />

it comes to finding a space. “One of the<br />

biggest shifts from the last 12 months is that<br />

companies want better quality space and<br />

less of it – they are going after quality, not<br />

volume,” says Techspace’s Ellis.<br />

Oberholz agrees, saying that corona<br />

has turbo-charged the changes that were<br />

already under way. “Now people really ask<br />

themselves, ‘What kind of office and work<br />

environment do I need?’”<br />

Compounding this is the increase in<br />

coworking space on the market. With the<br />

launch of everyworks, WeWork and St.<br />

Oberholz’s expansion and Techspace’s recent<br />

opening of its second Berlin location in a<br />

renovated ice factory on Köpenicker Straße in<br />

Mitte, there are a lot more hot desks, meeting<br />

rooms and flex-offices to choose from.<br />

“Before corona it was really easy to<br />

rent out office spaces to enterprises –<br />

small, medium and even large – because<br />

everyone was struggling for office space.<br />

That changed; it’s really upside down and<br />

today we are only in the beginning of an<br />

oversupply,” says Oberholz.<br />

Far from the days of collaborative<br />

hackers in underground space ships and<br />

laptops with lattes, coworking in Berlin is<br />

now a big corporate battlefield that is set<br />

for cut-throat, post-Covid competition.<br />

“It was competitive before, but it’s more<br />

competitive now,” says Oberholz. “I’m sure<br />

not everyone will make it.” T<br />

24<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


PARTNER CONTENT<br />

GREENER<br />

THAN GREEN,<br />

BIKINI BERLIN!<br />

This green oasis in the<br />

middle of the capital makes<br />

sustainable shopping easy.<br />

BIKINI BERLIN stands for innovation and zeitgeist. Since its<br />

opening, the unique concept mall has offered an exceptional<br />

kind of shopping experience. It fully supports the current shift<br />

in society’s values towards a more eco-conscious lifestyle. This<br />

green oasis in the middle of the city focuses on locality, authenticity<br />

and transparency with its tenants. It makes taking a step<br />

towards a more sustainable, eco-conscious lifestyle easier for<br />

its customers than any other shopping mall in Berlin.<br />

The sustainable aspects are already evident in the extraordinary<br />

architecture. Even during the transformation of the<br />

Bikinihaus into today’s BIKINI BERLIN, ecological thinking was<br />

at the forefront at all times. Features include concrete walls<br />

mixed with glass fragments from the former building facade,<br />

mirrored windows to reflect sunlight, a skylight front that can<br />

be opened as needed for air-conditioning and even a toilet<br />

flushing system that works with rainwater. In addition, BIKINI<br />

BERLIN saved an incredible 299 tons of resources as well as<br />

nearly 36,000kg of greenhouse gases in 2020.<br />

The long-awaited dream of a green oasis in the capital has<br />

become a reality. This concept shopping mall invites established<br />

Berliners as well as curious tourists from all over the<br />

world to stroll through the unique site and linger in the sun<br />

on the greened 7000sqm roof terrace, inspired by New York’s<br />

High Line Park. It nourishes our modern-day desire to be<br />

close to nature in the city and offers a spectacular view over<br />

Berlin Zoo.<br />

Sustainability doesn’t stop at dining and enjoyment, and at<br />

the in-house food market KANTINI, it’s not only the delicious<br />

dishes and refreshing drinks that are green. With the innovative<br />

design of the furniture, BIKINI BERLIN and design studio<br />

Aisslinger have ensured that recyclable raw materials such<br />

as wood and metal were used, materials that are robust<br />

and very durable. What’s more, plastic tableware and<br />

cutlery is, of course, avoided completely. Visitors appreciate<br />

the high-quality tableware, which matches the culinary<br />

style of each individual restaurateur.<br />

BIKINI BERLIN is thinking ‘green’ in many areas and supports<br />

other innovative sustainable projects. These include the<br />

CityTrees of Green City Solutions, which at first glance look<br />

as if they have come from another planet. However, these<br />

structures absorb the fine dust<br />

in the pedestrian zone in front<br />

of the mall through a patented<br />

biotech air filter. BIKINI BERLIN also has an official<br />

partnership with the Fashion Council Germany and<br />

supports sustainable design talents from the Germanspeaking<br />

realm as part of the German Sustain Concept.<br />

It is easy to see that BIKINI BERLIN is a great place<br />

to shop, stroll and enjoy – all guaranteed without a<br />

guilty conscience.<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

25


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

“YOU WORK FASTER<br />

WHEN PEOPLE ARE<br />

SITTING NEXT TO YOU.”<br />

Thekla Heineke, founder, CEO and<br />

creative director of advertising<br />

agency Kakoii, is learning the art of<br />

home office the hard way.<br />

When we switched to working from<br />

home last year, we had to create<br />

completely new structures, and<br />

I’m not just talking about hauling our giant<br />

screens into people’s homes and hosting kickoff<br />

meetings on Teams. The first lockdown<br />

was extremely exhausting because we hadn’t<br />

learned the lessons of home office yet. We’d<br />

work until late at night and still not get all<br />

the creative things done. We couldn’t go on<br />

like that. We are a creative agency<br />

and working together as<br />

a group is fundamental.<br />

It wasn’t just<br />

difficult for the team;<br />

it impacted the clients<br />

too. The chemistry<br />

with them has to be<br />

right, almost like<br />

dating! We lost<br />

that getting-toknow-you<br />

process,<br />

which led to some<br />

misunderstandings.<br />

You’d show a client a sketch on the<br />

computer – so it looks more final than a<br />

pencil sketch – and they’d take it at face<br />

value and say, ‘Oh god, I’m disappointed!’<br />

By the time the second lockdown came<br />

around, we’d switched to a more didactic<br />

approach. Our presentations now are more<br />

lush, like a film, and we show clients more<br />

finished designs so that they’re not looking<br />

at a screen thinking, ‘Eugh, what’s this?!’<br />

As for our 17 employees, they now have<br />

the option of whether they work from<br />

home – which only three have taken us up<br />

on. The rest prefer to come into the office;<br />

they want the dopamine and adrenaline<br />

that comes with working together on<br />

something creative. Plus you work faster<br />

when people are sitting next to you. You<br />

check out what they’re doing, do a quick<br />

sketch, have a look at that, someone has<br />

great input and – bang! – you’re onto the<br />

next one. If you move that process online,<br />

you have to explain it, then wonder if the<br />

person understood. You take a screenshot,<br />

annotate it, send it back… There’s a lot<br />

more effort involved. So creative workers<br />

who choose to stay at home or who have<br />

had to stay at home for health reasons are<br />

at risk of being somewhat excluded. Even if<br />

we try to counteract it. That just happens.<br />

It’s like if someone lives in another city;<br />

you just don’t think of them as often.<br />

THE HOMEOFFICE<br />

26<br />

For Cat Davis, a 32-year-old project<br />

manager at a FinTech start-up,<br />

endless Zoom calls in the same room<br />

where she sleeps are slowly driving<br />

the Neukölln singleton mad.<br />

“I WORK WHERE<br />

I SLEEP. THERE’S<br />

NO SPACE FOR<br />

OTHER THINGS.”<br />

I<br />

wake up in the morning and the first<br />

thing I do is turn on my computer and<br />

immediately I’m at work. I’m still in my<br />

pyjamas, I haven’t had a shower, I haven’t<br />

done anything – but I’m already switched on.<br />

I work full-time from home in a high-stress<br />

job, and because it’s a studio apartment, I<br />

work where I sleep. There’s no space for<br />

other things.<br />

Sure, there are aspects of working<br />

from home that are pretty great: I can go<br />

shopping in the middle of the day, run<br />

to the post office, receive parcels. But I<br />

miss the social aspect of going into work.<br />

I’d never live with flatmates again – I’m<br />

too old for that! – but I definitely see<br />

the benefit of having someone there so<br />

that you’re not having a conversation<br />

with your cheese in the fridge. I’m<br />

constantly in meetings, but I hate Zoom.<br />

It’s expected in my company that you<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong><br />

turn your camera on, which is just a<br />

nightmare. You’re constantly being seen<br />

and it’s exhausting. It just mentally drains<br />

you and makes you less efficient. It’s<br />

also distracting being on camera. You’re<br />

constantly having to be aware: How am I<br />

sitting? Do I look weird right now? God,<br />

I look tired! Plus you miss out on that<br />

jokey, in-the-office, getting-a-coffeetogether<br />

relationship with people.<br />

Locked in your own house with the<br />

walls slowly closing in, you start to get<br />

crazy brain. At the end of the day, I have<br />

so much energy but nowhere to put it.<br />

It’s definitely having a detrimental impact<br />

on my mental health. Plus I don’t finish<br />

work on time because my computer is<br />

right there. It’s a finance company so they<br />

demand long hours. But with home office,<br />

you’re always there, so you just keep<br />

working and you don’t stop.


BERLIN AT WORK<br />

I’ve been exclusively working from home<br />

since I took over my new job last November<br />

and I love it. When you’re a<br />

software engineer, there isn’t much interaction<br />

involved: you’re mostly sitting at your<br />

computer completing tasks, and to be honest,<br />

I can’t stand being interrupted. In fact,<br />

every time this happens, it can take up to 30<br />

minutes to get back into the flow. Working<br />

from home gives me that head space to work<br />

five hours straight without any distraction.<br />

At the office, management can sometimes<br />

interfere with my work, asking questions<br />

about things to be done in the future. I also<br />

hate when some employers see you as their<br />

mercenary to be sent on little side missions.<br />

Home office means no one is on my ass on<br />

a daily basis.<br />

There’s also what I call ‘dead time’ in an<br />

office, which is when you’re in-between<br />

tasks or waiting for someone’s task to be<br />

completed. When I’m at home, I have that<br />

time to use at my own discretion. I can go<br />

out for a walk, or I can practice playing<br />

music. I’ve really upped my piano game<br />

now that I can play during my one-hour<br />

lunch breaks. And it’s during the day while<br />

my brain’s still active. As an office worker,<br />

I might only find an hour or two in the<br />

evenings to practice, but I’d also be pretty<br />

tired. The other plus side of home office<br />

is having the opportunity – and the liberty<br />

– to work from the park when it’s sunny.<br />

That’s really nice and gets me some<br />

vitamin D. I’ll head out with a blanket and<br />

my laptop to find a nice spot under a tree.<br />

I can stay there for a few hours, until my<br />

battery runs out.<br />

“NO ONE IS ON<br />

MY ASS ON A<br />

DAILY BASIS.”<br />

For Guillaume Hermet, a 27-yearold<br />

software engineer, working<br />

from home lets him cut through<br />

the noise and stay away from<br />

overbearing bosses.<br />

DEBATE<br />

When<br />

Berliners got sent from the office into<br />

the hygienic bubble of their own homes, many<br />

welcomed the novelty. One year later, opinions<br />

are more ambivalent. We talk to four Berliners<br />

about how working from home has affected them.<br />

This has been the most challenging year<br />

of our lives. All the lines got blurred.<br />

Home office in general works better for<br />

single people, living alone, where they don’t<br />

have other roles and tasks to fulfill on a busy<br />

workday. For women with families, it’s impossible<br />

to separate home duties from work life.<br />

I get to be a different person at my<br />

company: I make executive decisions, I<br />

lead people, I figure complex things out, I<br />

am respected for my knowledge. This past<br />

year took that other person away, I didn’t<br />

get to be her. I found it way harder to work<br />

with my team from a distance. I’m a very<br />

hands-on manager and I liked having the<br />

opportunity to just chat to my colleagues<br />

about everyday stuff and learn more about<br />

them through that. But coordinating<br />

projects from a distance is rough.<br />

My husband has a government job so<br />

he could barely stay at home. We didn’t<br />

want to blow half of my salary on childcare<br />

(we also have a huge mortgage to pay).<br />

So I was juggling the work, the kids and<br />

the house. It was not going smoothly. My<br />

daughter just started school last year. Now<br />

I’m responsible for these early educational<br />

milestones. And the team that I manage<br />

at work. And the household and ordering<br />

groceries and taking care of all the meals<br />

because my husband has to go into work<br />

and I am – as he says – “in home office<br />

anyway”. I am full of resentment to be<br />

honest. Our marriage has suffered a great<br />

deal. I’ve often talked to my kids in a way<br />

I despise. On top of it all, some of my<br />

childless co-workers have expressed their<br />

disliking of me having my<br />

children around while we are<br />

doing Zoom meetings. By the<br />

end of last year, I was at my<br />

wits end, close to a nervous<br />

breakdown, so I asked for<br />

mornings off at work and we<br />

decided to hire a babysitter<br />

for the afternoons. I hope<br />

things will get back to normal and I can<br />

find that strong woman in me again who<br />

I used to be at work. We are also starting<br />

couple’s counselling next month.<br />

Alexandra Ager, a 44-year-old mother<br />

of two, has been struggling to balance<br />

working from home for a start-up<br />

company with keeping house and taking<br />

care of the kids.<br />

“I WAS JUGGLING THE<br />

WORK, THE KIDS AND<br />

THE HOUSE.”<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

27


WHAT’S ON — Film<br />

Off to the Freiluft<br />

Berlinale we go!<br />

It’s full steam ahead for this year’s unprecedented summer<br />

THE<br />

BERLINALE<br />

SPECIAL<br />

June 9-20<br />

edition of the Berlin film festival. With 16 venues and 127 films,<br />

our film editor gives you the lowdown. By David Mouriquand<br />

Cinema is not<br />

only films but<br />

other people;<br />

however, the<br />

quality of the<br />

programme –<br />

especially the<br />

Competition<br />

titles – just<br />

about made<br />

up for the<br />

lack of an<br />

IRL festival<br />

experience.<br />

Courtesy of Sandra Weller<br />

Finally, some good news. The<br />

decision has come down that<br />

the Berlinale’s Summer Special<br />

will take place in the previously announced<br />

slot of June 9-20. Hooray for<br />

renewed optimism in the shape of falling<br />

coronavirus infection rates and rising<br />

vaccine numbers, as it’s no hyperbole<br />

to say that the 2021 vintage is without<br />

a doubt one of the strongest line-ups<br />

in recent memory.<br />

It was touch and go there for a<br />

while. Last March, the Berlinale<br />

became the first of the ‘Big Three’<br />

film festivals (Berlin, Cannes and<br />

Venice) to go down the online<br />

route. The five-day streaming<br />

event, held exclusively for film<br />

industry professionals, was<br />

something of a mixed bag, with<br />

home viewing proving once again<br />

that it was no substitute for the<br />

communion that occurs in theatres.<br />

Cinema is not only films but other<br />

people; however, the quality of<br />

the programme – especially the<br />

Competition titles – just about<br />

made up for the lack of an IRL<br />

festival experience.<br />

Last month, the festival had<br />

warned that it might have to cancel<br />

the second leg of the 71st edition<br />

– what Artistic Director Carlo<br />

Chatrian dubbed “the real moment<br />

of celebration” – citing concerns<br />

over the pandemic restrictions.<br />

And for a festival that always prided<br />

itself on being a public event,<br />

its good reputation was at stake.<br />

The suspense is now over, as the<br />

Berlinale stated Part II will be an<br />

in-person, open-air festival, with<br />

Chatrian confirming what he told<br />

us earlier this year: the Berlinale<br />

had “the desire, but also the duty,<br />

to give something to Berliners,<br />

especially after all the grey<br />

lockdown days”. The outdoor June<br />

event is “geared towards re-igniting<br />

the desire to go to the cinema<br />

and contributing to the revival of<br />

cultural activities with an audience”.<br />

It will be held at 16 venues scattered<br />

across the city, with hygiene<br />

and security plans coordinated<br />

with the venues (natürlich).<br />

The “Kiez-Kino” screenings will<br />

take place at old favourites like<br />

Freiluftkino Kreuzberg, Freiluftkino<br />

Hasenheide and ARTE Sommerkino<br />

Kulturforum, and will be joined by a<br />

specifically created outdoor cinema<br />

at Museum Island as the main<br />

venue – where the awards ceremony<br />

honouring this year’s winners will<br />

be held on June 13.<br />

Audiences will finally get to see<br />

and discuss the winners, including<br />

Radu Jude’s 2021 Golden Bearnabbing<br />

Bad Luck Banging or Loony<br />

Porn, as well as unearthing the great<br />

discoveries to be found across all<br />

the sections. It’s not every festival<br />

that our coverage is a look-back<br />

void of surprises: the winners have<br />

already been announced and critics<br />

know what’s worth seeing. The<br />

plus side is that we can confidently<br />

point you towards the must-sees,<br />

and thankfully, Berliners will be<br />

treated to a significant chunk of<br />

28<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Film<br />

the original programme. So while<br />

there might be fewer screening<br />

slots available for certain titles,<br />

at least audiences will not be<br />

robbed of seeing award-winning<br />

films within the context of their<br />

sprawling sections. That said, when<br />

looking at the list of this year’s<br />

main winners, the awards were<br />

handed out to the deserving films<br />

and filmmakers. The only two main<br />

sticking points are the Silver Bear<br />

for Best Director – more on that on<br />

page 31 – and the fact that Berlinale<br />

darling Hong Sang-soo won<br />

Best Screenplay for his pleasant<br />

but uninspiring Introduction, a<br />

decision that reeks of an ongoing<br />

love story going stale. It’s worth<br />

noting that the 71st edition is an<br />

especially interesting year for<br />

German cinema: I’m Your Man,<br />

Mr Bachmann And His Class and<br />

Georgian-German co-production<br />

What Do We See When We Look At<br />

The Sky? are all standouts, and have<br />

firmly put Maria Schrader, Maria<br />

Speth and Aleksandre Koberidze<br />

on the map as some of the most<br />

exciting home-grown/trained<br />

directorial voices to keep a close<br />

eye on. There are always going<br />

to be disappointments: Christian<br />

Schwochow’s timely political<br />

thriller Je Suis Karl starts off<br />

promisingly but gradually devolves<br />

into eye-rollingly silly territory,<br />

ham-fistedly defusing any tension<br />

by spelling-out all tantalizingly<br />

ambiguous beats; as for celebrated<br />

German-Spanish actor Daniel<br />

Brühl, his valiant first-time effort<br />

behind the camera for the hotly<br />

anticipated, Berlin-set Nebenan<br />

(Next Door) would’ve worked so<br />

much better on stage, and never<br />

truly embraces the promise of<br />

its log line: “A tribute to the<br />

contradiction of Berlin in the 21st<br />

century”.<br />

But not even these minor<br />

blemishes spoil this year’s vintage.<br />

So, it’s off to the Freiluft-Berlinale<br />

we go! Tickets go on sale on June<br />

3. Check out our top picks (pages<br />

30-32) and get ready to watch these<br />

films the way their authors intended<br />

them to be seen: not from home<br />

with your attention divided between<br />

emails, texts, tweets and flagging<br />

wi-fi, but in a shared cinema<br />

experience. Let’s hope the weather<br />

is also in a celebratory mood. T<br />

A LOST GENDER CONVERSATION?<br />

The festival’s first-ever gender-neutral acting awards were doled out<br />

online this March, without the fanfare they deserved and robbing<br />

the public of an important discussion on how (and if ) the new prizes<br />

champion diversity in cinema.<br />

This year, the Berlinale became the first major<br />

international film festival to go genderneutral<br />

for its acting prizes. However, due to<br />

the lack of an IRL festival, it feels like the desired<br />

conversation around this landmark decision may<br />

have been lost in the white noise of lockdown.<br />

Berlinale directors Mariette Rissenbeek and<br />

Carlo Chatrian announced back in August<br />

that the four acting awards – Best Actor, Best<br />

Supporting Actor, Best Actress<br />

and Best Supporting Actress<br />

– are no more, and that there<br />

would now be just two prizes:<br />

Silver Bear for Best Leading<br />

Performance and Silver Bear for<br />

Best Supporting Performance.<br />

Rissenbeek stated that the<br />

decision to have genderless<br />

awards was intended to spark<br />

further discussions around<br />

gender justice, something<br />

Chatrian confirmed in our<br />

interview with him: “This<br />

decision is in many ways the<br />

result of living in a city like<br />

Berlin which is very much at<br />

the forefront of progressive<br />

elements in our culture. We don’t want to get<br />

rid of cultural difference and identities, but it’s<br />

good when these things are not barriers.”<br />

The decision was welcomed by screen stars<br />

such as Cate Blanchett and Tilda Swinton, with<br />

the latter saying that the Berlinale’s decision to<br />

consign gendered acting awards to history was<br />

“eminently sensible” and that it is “inevitable”<br />

that gender-neutral awards will become the<br />

standard across the film industry.<br />

While Swinton’s word is gospel for some, I<br />

can’t deny I go back and forth on this matter.<br />

When the decision was announced, my first<br />

reaction was to cheer. Too right, I thought,<br />

you wouldn’t have a gendered distinction for<br />

directing awards so why should there be one<br />

for acting? If Chloé Zhao and David Fincher can<br />

compete for a directing prize, then logic would<br />

dictate that Carey Mulligan and Riz Ahmed can<br />

do the same for acting. A performance is great<br />

regardless of gender and the Berlinale’s decision<br />

can only be a forward-thinking one.<br />

That said, consider the unintended<br />

consequences of doing away with sex-specific<br />

categories. Overarching sections mean fewer<br />

statuettes, reducing the potential for visibility;<br />

fewer worthy performers may get short-listed<br />

and removing barriers may inadvertently<br />

strengthen institutional disadvantages for<br />

women. Gender-neutral awards can be seen as<br />

socially-progressive and may help transgender<br />

and non-binary performers but the issue goes<br />

deeper than awards. The film industry is an<br />

uneven playing field, rife with institutional<br />

sexism, and one which favours cisgender men<br />

for lead roles. This year may have seen Maren<br />

Eggert (pictured above) win the Berlinale’s first<br />

ever gender-neutral Best Performance prize<br />

for her role in the ironically titled I’m Your<br />

Man and Lilla Kizlinger win Best Supporting<br />

Performance for Forest – I See You Everywhere,<br />

but with men still having more opportunities to<br />

perform leading roles, it’s only a matter of time<br />

before all acting awards in a given year go to<br />

male performers. Just imagine the potential for<br />

justified outcry.<br />

While an important part of the process in<br />

their own right, awards are only the glossy<br />

final step and equal opportunities need to start<br />

earlier in the filmmaking process. If genderneutral<br />

awards can further discussion and lead<br />

to meaningful change (which means more<br />

diverse studios, funding institutions and voting<br />

bodies), then they are to be championed.<br />

Without proper conversation and a decent<br />

amount of fanfare however, we run the risk<br />

of gender-neutral awards becoming a virtuesignalling<br />

cherry on a cake in dire need of<br />

better ingredients. Gender-neutral awards<br />

may be a welcome, well-intentioned start but<br />

filmmaking as an industry has a lot of work<br />

to do before it warrants the applause it so<br />

desperately wants. T — DM<br />

Courtesy of Berlinale<br />

JUNE 2021 29


WHAT’S ON — Film<br />

TOP BERLINALE COMPETITION PICKS<br />

You can’t go far wrong when it comes to<br />

booking tickets for this year’s especially<br />

strong Competition. That said, here are<br />

our top recommendations.<br />

Hot<br />

Berlinale<br />

tickets<br />

Book online<br />

from June 3<br />

BAD LUCK BANGING OR LOONY PORN Dir. R Jude<br />

A well-deserved Golden Bear<br />

The Berlinale has always been fond of radical filmmaking that leads audiences to confront their<br />

prejudices, and this year was no exception: the Golden Bear for Best Film went to Romanian<br />

filmmaker Radu Jude for his biting satire Babardeala cu bucluc sau porno balamuc (Bad Luck<br />

Banging Or Loony Porn). Described as a “sociological sex film”, it’s a trenchant – if messy<br />

– critique of contemporary Romanian society through the story of a schoolteacher (Katia<br />

Pascariu) who lands in hot water after her sex tape leaks online. Unpredictably constructed<br />

like a triptych, the film touches upon the social hypocrisy societies continue to have against<br />

women and is to be applauded for going beyond mere provocation and actually providing<br />

scathing food for thought. The jury stated that the film has “a rare and essential quality of a<br />

lasting art work”, and it’s hard to argue. It’s also one of those films that needs to be seen with<br />

an audience, as live reactions to the risqué content and its humorous beats will be a vital factor<br />

when it comes to fully appreciating this year’s frequently outrageous winner. — DM<br />

WHEEL OF FORTUNE AND FANTASY Dir. R Hamaguchi<br />

The must-see Competition title<br />

Our favourite film of the Competition is without a doubt Ryûsuke Hamaguchi’s Guzen To Sozo<br />

(Wheel Of Fortune And Fantasy), and if Radu Jude hadn’t provoked with Bad Luck Banging Or<br />

Loony Porn, this surely would have taken the Golden Bear. Instead, it was awarded the Silver Bear<br />

Grand Jury Prize. Billed as a collection of “short films about coincidence and imagination”, this<br />

superbly executed Japanese film is split into three unique chapters: a tortuous love triangle, a<br />

‘honey trap’ seduction that backfires, and a chance encounter set in a world where a computer<br />

virus has disabled most of the internet and sclerosed virtual lives. Equal parts Rohmerian<br />

and Murakamian, with all three dialogue-driven stories revolving around women, the overall<br />

tapestry it weaves brims with understated poetry and explores human dynamics with recurring<br />

motifs of chance, doubles and regret that echo and flow into each other in a remarkable way.<br />

It’s unpredictable, oddly tender and nothing short of an absorbing masterpiece, one that will<br />

be tough to avoid when it comes to end-of-year ‘best film’ lists. — DM<br />

MR BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS Dir. M Speth<br />

German documentary filmmaking at its best<br />

This year’s Competition selection was an impressive showcase of quality German films, and<br />

nowhere is this better seen than with the winner of the Jury prize, Maria Speth’s Herr Bachman<br />

Und Seine Klasse (Mr Bachmann And His Class). It is an expansive yet intimate observational<br />

documentary that will delight fans of Laurent Cantet’s Palme d’Or-winning Entre Les Murs,<br />

and answers the question “What if Frederick Wiseman had directed School Of Rock?” It<br />

looks at the classroom as a microcosm of German society, following a defiant 65-year-old<br />

teacher, Dieter Bachmann, in the small German city of Stadtallendorf in the state of Hesse,<br />

and his work with first- and second-generation immigrant pre-teen pupils. It’s a window into<br />

the German educational system, as well as a powerfully moving exercise in empathy that<br />

addresses the essential place of multi-ethnicism in the face of nationalist oppression. Don’t<br />

be discouraged by its runtime (it clocks in at nearly four hours): the journey is full of heart<br />

and humanity, and is worth every minute. — DM<br />

30<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WWHAT’S WHAT’S ON — Film<br />

I’M YOUR MAN Dir. M Schrader<br />

The German crowd-pleaser to beat<br />

While Mr Bachmann… might not to be everyone’s tastes, Ich Bin Dein Mensch (I’m<br />

Your Man) stands as the German crowd-pleaser to beat this year. Maria Schrader,<br />

best known for her Netflix series Unorthodox, gives a twist on the traditional<br />

romcom; the results are delightful, sincere, and yet cheekily wry. Her Berlin-set,<br />

high-concept romantic comedy can be loosely described as a gender-flipped Weird<br />

Science. It sees Alma (Maren Eggert) enter into a trial relationship with an android,<br />

Tom (Dan Stevens). The chipper latter has been designed to be her ideal partner;<br />

the resistant former sees the experiment as a means to professional ends. The script<br />

is sharp, its meditations on longing, satisfaction and individuality ring true, and<br />

both central performances are excellent. British actor Dan Stevens embraces his<br />

role with an uncanny verve, impressing with his physicality and delivery (in perfect<br />

German, no less) and places the viewer in a worrying crawl space between “Hmmm,<br />

powerful manly eyebrows” and “Stranger danger, stranger danger”. As for Eggert,<br />

she was awarded the first gender-neutral acting award for Leading Performance, and<br />

deservingly so. — DM<br />

All stills courtesy of Berlinale<br />

PETITE MAMAN Dir. C Sciamma<br />

The Bear that got away<br />

The Silver Bear for Best Director may have been awarded to Dénes Nagy for his<br />

absorbing Hungarian WWII drama Natural Light, but many felt that French<br />

filmmaker Céline Sciamma should have nabbed the prize for the follow-up to her<br />

stunning Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. Petite Maman is a transportive autumnal reverie<br />

that steals your heart in the space of a lean 72 minutes. It tells the story of an eightyear-old<br />

girl (Joséphine Sanz), whose grandmother has just passed away and who<br />

encounters a young version of her mother (Gabrielle Sanz) in the woods outside<br />

of her adult mother’s childhood home. Its fantastical premise has hints of magic<br />

realism and translates into a timeless fable that toys with classic fairy tale imagery<br />

to beautifully explore the grieving process and articulate the importance of the<br />

fleeting moment. Sciamma described it as a “time travelling film without the time<br />

travelling machine”, and while it’s undoubtedly a more low-stakes affair within her<br />

filmography (it was filmed towards the end of 2020 following the lifting of France’s<br />

lockdown restrictions), it’s by no means less affecting than her previous films. It<br />

certainly deserved better than to leave the Berlinale empty-handed. — DM<br />

WHAT DO WE SEE WHEN WE LOOK AT THE SKY? Dir. A Koberidze<br />

The other uncrowned gem of the Competition<br />

Alongside Petite Maman, another snub by the main awards jury was DFFB-alumnus<br />

Aleksandre Koberidze’s stunning Ras vkhedavt rodesac cas vukurebt? (What Do We<br />

See When We Look At The Sky?). The Georgian-German co-production is a gorgeous<br />

fairy tale which explores the magic of chance encounters… and the World Cup. We<br />

witness a Bressonian meet-cute between pharmacist Lisa and footballer Giorgi,<br />

who arrange a date. Disaster strikes when the Evil Eye casts a spell on them and<br />

transforms their physical appearances, meaning that when the two cursed wouldbe<br />

lovers show up to the rendezvous the next day, they no longer recognise each<br />

other. The lush cinematography by Iranian DP Faraz Fesharaki makes the Georgian<br />

town of Kutaisi feel like a timeless bubble through his mix of digital and softgrained<br />

16mm camerawork, creating a dream-like haze which unblurs in a gently<br />

poetic resolution that can be interpreted as an ode to cinema and its transformative<br />

effects. All in all, it’s a beautifully romantic, warm and at times mischievous folktale<br />

whose ruminations on identity, perception and the magic of the everyday strike an<br />

invigorating chord. Miss out on letting its magic wash over you on a summer evening<br />

and you too will be deserving of the Evil Eye’s dastardly ways. — DM<br />

JUNE 2021 31


WHAT’S ON — Film<br />

OUT-OF-COMPETITION GEMS<br />

Ten films in the sidebar sections that should be on your radar.<br />

with its attitude towards First Nations.<br />

Goulet manages to sustain a gripping<br />

mood throughout her mother-daughter<br />

story, crafting a clever parable<br />

about ethnic cleansing and the<br />

destruction of pluralism while avoiding<br />

clumsy exposition dumps and upending<br />

tired ‘chosen one’ tropes.<br />

All stills courtesy of Berlinale<br />

FESTIVAL<br />

SECTIONS<br />

BERLINALE SPECIAL<br />

The versatile section<br />

is usually famous for<br />

its Gala Premieres<br />

and attracting A-list<br />

stars. The international<br />

productions<br />

remain, even in the<br />

absence of red-carpet<br />

glamour.<br />

PANORAMA<br />

Arthouse gems by<br />

international auteurs,<br />

seen by many<br />

as a Competition<br />

selection that has a<br />

historically involved<br />

theme of LGBTQ+<br />

issues.<br />

GENERATION<br />

Films that are<br />

children and<br />

youth-centric, but<br />

definitely not just for<br />

kids.<br />

ENCOUNTERS<br />

The newest section,<br />

now in its second<br />

year, billed as a<br />

platform to foster<br />

daring works and<br />

support new voices<br />

in cinema.<br />

FORUM<br />

Curatively independent<br />

and part of the<br />

Arsenal (Institute for<br />

Film and Video Art),<br />

the section’s films<br />

boast experimental<br />

and risk-taking fare.<br />

BERLINALE SHORTS<br />

Domestic and<br />

international short<br />

films – this year’s 20<br />

shorts are of high<br />

quality and are split<br />

up in four sections<br />

which deserve your<br />

attention.<br />

TINA Berlinale Special<br />

Dan Lindsay and TJ Martin’s terrific<br />

Tina Turner documentary is an<br />

empowering ride that’s tailor-made to<br />

be seen in outdoor settings. The film<br />

doesn’t merely dwell on the cursed<br />

shadow that abuse casts on a life; it<br />

celebrates determination and love.<br />

Whether you’re a card-carrying Tinaholic<br />

or just up for a rollickingly good<br />

and frequently emotional music doc,<br />

Tina is… excuse us… simply the best.<br />

NORTH BY CURRENT Panorama<br />

Angelo Madsen Minax’ skilfully constructed<br />

essay film follows the trans<br />

filmmaker returning to his Michigan<br />

home town after the mysterious death<br />

of his two-year-old niece and the subsequent<br />

arrest of his brother-in-law as<br />

the culprit. By grappling with the fact<br />

that “when you speak the pain’s name,<br />

it dissipates”, Madsen Minax movingly<br />

delves into themes of childhood, grief,<br />

addiction and transgender masculinity.<br />

CENSOR Panorama<br />

Prano Bailey-Bond’s stylish debut<br />

feature is a valentine to Video Nasties.<br />

Set in Thatcher’s Britain, it follows a<br />

film censor who becomes obsessed<br />

with uncovering the secrets behind her<br />

sister’s disappearance. At times reminiscent<br />

of Peter Strickland’s Berberian<br />

Sound Studio, it ingeniously injects<br />

some timely social commentary by<br />

addressing Britain’s then tabloid-fuelled<br />

moral panic. A must-see for horror<br />

aficionados, who can champion<br />

Bailey-Bond as a thrilling new voice<br />

in female-led horror, alongside Relic’s<br />

Natalie Erika James and Saint Maud’s<br />

Rose Glass.<br />

NIGHT RAIDERS Panorama<br />

Executively produced by Taika Waititi,<br />

Danis Goulet’s feature debut Night<br />

Raiders is a Canadian film which<br />

would make for a fine double-dill with<br />

Beans (see next column). It’s a dystopian,<br />

Children Of Men-echoing feminist<br />

parable that sees Canada grapple<br />

BEANS Generation<br />

The Berlinale made a point of announcing<br />

that younger audiences<br />

would not be left out during the<br />

Summer Special, even if you don’t<br />

have to be a young’un to enjoy some<br />

of Generation’s excellent line-up. With<br />

this in mind, everyone should rush<br />

to watch Tracy Deer’s debut feature,<br />

Beans. Based on true events of the Oka<br />

crisis – the 78-day stand-off between<br />

Mohawk communities and government<br />

forces that took place in 1990s Quebec<br />

– Beans is a big-hearted and beautifully<br />

acted coming-of-age masterpiece.<br />

CRYPTOZOO Generation<br />

American animator Dash Shaw returns<br />

to the Berlinale following his wonderfully<br />

idiosyncratic My Entire High<br />

School Sinking Into The Sea. Co-directed<br />

with Jane Samborski, their latest<br />

animation adventure sees a veterinarian<br />

rescuing fantastical creatures. Trouble<br />

arises when the military schemes<br />

to capture the greatest cryptid, the<br />

dream-devouring chimera Baku, in<br />

order to destroy the dreams of the<br />

ever-growing alternative culture. Inspired<br />

by the psychedelic underground<br />

comics of the 1960s, this is a vibrant<br />

animation film that questions ideas of<br />

preservation and humanity in a trippy<br />

and wonderfully oneiric way.<br />

THE SCARY OF SIXTY-FIRST<br />

Encounters<br />

We weren’t exactly bowled over by<br />

the maiden voyage of the Berlinale’s<br />

newest section in 2020, but this<br />

year’s Encounters selection had us<br />

convinced. Part of the 2021 treasure<br />

trove is The Scary of Sixty-First, a daring<br />

gem directed by Dasha Nekrasova,<br />

who is best known as the co-host of<br />

the Red Scare podcast. It is a giallo<br />

pastiche set in the aftermath of Jeffery<br />

Epstein’s suicide (or was it murder?),<br />

which embraces conspiracy theories,<br />

anti-royal family sentiment, and tips<br />

its hat to early Polansky and Kubrick’s<br />

Eyes Wide Shut. It sounds like a messy<br />

hodgepodge but ends up being an<br />

invigorating breath of fresh air.<br />

THE GIRL AND THE SPIDER<br />

Encounters<br />

Swiss directing duo Ramon Zürcher<br />

and Silvan Zürcher won the Best<br />

Director award for The Girl And The<br />

Spider, a window into the comings<br />

and goings of lonely souls, who constantly<br />

stare at each other like lunatics<br />

and stumble across each other in<br />

the corridors of a shared flat. It is a<br />

beautifully filmed, claustrophobic gem<br />

that will either strike you as deceptively<br />

profound or exasperatingly hollow.<br />

Love it or loathe it, it’s the kind of<br />

unusual work Encounters should be<br />

championing.<br />

SKI Forum<br />

The Forum section can be a bit of<br />

an acquired taste, with its line-up of<br />

challenging and experimental filmmaking<br />

often testing the boundaries of<br />

convention. But patience is rewarded,<br />

especially with Manque La Banca’s<br />

ambitious feature-length debut Esqui<br />

(Ski), which won this year’s FIPRESCI<br />

Award. Initially a documentary on Bariloche,<br />

whose snowy mountains have<br />

made it Argentina’s go-to destination<br />

for ski tourism in the Andes, the film<br />

morphs into a multi-layered thriller<br />

of sorts that blurs fact and fiction. Its<br />

breathtaking landscapes and palpably<br />

disturbing atmosphere make this a<br />

captivating watch.<br />

MY UNCLE TUDOR<br />

Berlinale Shorts<br />

One of our main tips during this<br />

summer Berlinale is to embrace the<br />

festival’s oft-overlooked section by<br />

heading to a night of short films. Special<br />

mention goes to Olga Lucovnicova’s<br />

devastating Golden Bear winner<br />

My Uncle Tudor, which combines observational<br />

filmmaking with a focus on<br />

the warped poetry of human emotions.<br />

The filmmaker takes an initially idyllic<br />

trip back in time through her childhood<br />

in order to question the past and eventually<br />

confront a family member who is<br />

responsible for her trauma.<br />

32<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Stage<br />

Interview<br />

“Let’s<br />

try this!”<br />

As theatres make a<br />

return this month, HAU<br />

artistic director Annemie<br />

Vanackere reveals how<br />

she has kept momentum<br />

going. By Lucy Rowan<br />

Congratulations on your first<br />

public/analogue premiere of<br />

2021. How does it feel? As soon as<br />

we got the news we may be able to<br />

play in front of an audience again, we<br />

immediately tried to figure out what<br />

was possible, given the enormous<br />

organisational issues involved – production,<br />

technical and communication<br />

costs, et cetera. So, we’re really<br />

pleased we were able to schedule the<br />

premiere of Joy of Life at HAU1. It’s<br />

Ersan Mondtag’s first dance production!<br />

In addition, the HAU4 programme<br />

announced for June will also<br />

run, which is also very complex, but<br />

so well worth seeing!<br />

As we spoke last September, you<br />

were preparing to reopen to the<br />

public. Two months later, the<br />

theatre had to shut again and<br />

your plans were halted. How did<br />

it feel back then? After months of<br />

lockdown, being able to play for an<br />

audience was just lovely. That was a<br />

good moment for us, to regain our<br />

sense of purpose. Then we injected<br />

that sense of purpose into our online<br />

stage, which is something we’ve been<br />

taking very seriously. We invested<br />

and researched a lot on how to translate<br />

a performing arts mindset into<br />

an online world, where the contact<br />

with the audience is made remote. Of<br />

course, the yo-yo expectations – will<br />

we re-open? Or half reopen? Or not<br />

at all? – have been quite draining.<br />

But working on new digital propositions<br />

helped a lot to think about<br />

the future. This pandemic moment<br />

showed us how necessary it is to have<br />

a frame change somehow. We didn’t<br />

do streams of live shows - Constanza<br />

Macras’ Stage of Crisis was an exception.<br />

I’m not against putting a show<br />

on stage and streaming it, but that’s<br />

not what we wanted to develop. We<br />

were more interested in working with<br />

a new language, figuring out opportunities<br />

with those able to use the<br />

digital grammar.<br />

How hard was it for your artists<br />

to adapt and ‘digitalise’ their<br />

practice? Some adapted easily, turning<br />

their work into film for example,<br />

as Kat Valastúr did. She made a very<br />

beautiful film with a collection of<br />

solo pieces, which we will present<br />

in the fall as an analogue piece. For<br />

other artists, it was much more painful,<br />

and they really struggled transforming<br />

what they had created for a<br />

live audience into something online.<br />

So we had the whole spectrum from<br />

artists who were like “let’s try this!”<br />

to people who really were not happy<br />

at all. This has made the past year<br />

quite emotional for everyone. It was<br />

a lot of work – it always is! – but this<br />

time without having that catharsis<br />

‘Audience’<br />

isn’t even<br />

the best<br />

word any<br />

more, because<br />

sometimes<br />

it’s<br />

participants<br />

or users.<br />

JUNE 2021 33


WHAT’S ON — Stage<br />

DON’T MISS<br />

Hof-Theater<br />

Berliner Ensemble<br />

have launched their<br />

open-air, courtyard<br />

stage with over two<br />

weeks of theatrical<br />

and musical performances.<br />

Schedules<br />

are published a week<br />

in advance online.<br />

May 27-Jun 20<br />

La Fanciulla del West<br />

For the first time since<br />

November, the Staatsoper<br />

welcomes back<br />

Berliners with the<br />

premiere of Giacomo<br />

Puccini’s Fanciulla.<br />

Director Lydia Steier<br />

makes her house<br />

debut with this notso-typical-tale,<br />

set in<br />

California during the<br />

gold rush. Live performance<br />

at Staatsoper<br />

Unter den Linden<br />

but also available for<br />

online streaming.<br />

June 13, 16, 19, 24, 27<br />

Krieg und Disco<br />

For 48 hours, Volksbühne<br />

will cover<br />

controversial discussions<br />

about the abuse<br />

of power, racism<br />

and discrimination in<br />

theatre with a series<br />

of German -language<br />

performances, readings<br />

and discussions,<br />

as well as concerts,<br />

including live DJ sets<br />

and a performance<br />

from the VB’s house<br />

band.<br />

Jun 4-5<br />

we feel when we finally join in the<br />

theatre with the audience and launch<br />

the piece into the world.<br />

How has it been for you? Was<br />

it hard to keep motivated all<br />

along? I feel it’s my damn duty! As a<br />

leader of a state-sponsored cultural<br />

institution, I could not let go. I had<br />

to consider every single person’s<br />

situation, which were all so different.<br />

Our private lives became much more<br />

present, the particular situations of<br />

each member of the team, their families,<br />

et cetera. It was a chance for us<br />

to think about how we work, and how<br />

do we want to work? I always spoke<br />

about the holistic approach – it got a<br />

whole new meaning this year!<br />

So what else will stick with HAU<br />

after the pandemic is over? What<br />

we learned from working with digital<br />

tools will not disappear. This whole<br />

idea of more remote working – we<br />

won’t go back to 100-percent duty of<br />

presence in the offices for example.<br />

The possibilities offered by digital<br />

art won’t disappear either. When the<br />

first lockdown took place, we were already<br />

experimenting with Spy on Me<br />

2, a festival dealing with the digital<br />

present; so it forced us to move further<br />

into exploring the digital field.<br />

Last time we spoke, you were<br />

pretty optimistic about the<br />

advantages of remote or digital<br />

theatre. Are you still? It has<br />

to do with reach and accessibility.<br />

There are people who are not mobile,<br />

who may want to enjoy our theatre.<br />

Maybe they have no babysitter, a<br />

disability, maybe they’re sick or just<br />

simply don’t want to leave the house.<br />

Then they can choose when they<br />

watch something. It’s quite enticing<br />

to think, ‘Ooh, I can watch this later.’<br />

We’ve even discussed the possibility<br />

of branching out internationally,<br />

working with non-German audiences<br />

in mind, for example. So there are<br />

great aspects to that digital reach.<br />

I remember you saying this<br />

forced digitalisation was also a<br />

chance to become more inclusive<br />

of younger generations. Has<br />

this thought materialised? Even<br />

before the pandemic, my wish to invest<br />

in this full industrial revolution<br />

of digitalisation had to do with not<br />

wanting to lose touch with a younger<br />

Even before the pandemic,<br />

my wish to<br />

invest in this full industrial<br />

revolution<br />

of digitalisation had<br />

to do with not losing<br />

touch with the younger<br />

generation.<br />

generation that has grown up with<br />

this digital extension of their bodies.<br />

So it started there: and to thinking<br />

with formats, and with theatre artists<br />

who are interested in that. The<br />

feminist digital collective dgtl fmnsm<br />

is the perfect example - they are not<br />

necessarily theatre people but they<br />

connect with us.<br />

This month, you’re also launching<br />

the app-based Loulu, a hybrid<br />

of game and theatre aimed<br />

at teenagers. Right? Yes, it’s an<br />

app we developed with onlinetheater.<br />

live and it’s aimed at young people, 15<br />

to 17 year olds. You download the app<br />

for free and you’re able to follow the<br />

interactive story of a fictional lifestyle<br />

influencer called Loulu who is<br />

investigating research on right-wing<br />

milieus. It’s an interactive game that<br />

develops over a few weeks, so you<br />

have to stay tuned. That’s another<br />

exciting way of how we can use and<br />

communicate with these digital tools.<br />

How do you see the future of<br />

digital theatre in economic<br />

terms? People aren’t necessarily<br />

used or prone to paying for<br />

online content. What has been<br />

your experience so far? Our<br />

first experience with that was Gob<br />

Squad’s Show Me A Good Time, it<br />

actually was the first in Berlin with<br />

a paywall, and it got 711 bookings<br />

at the premiere in June 2020. The<br />

three revivals in November 2020<br />

sold between 150 and 215 tickets.<br />

Of the more recent productions,<br />

in March 2021, Kat Válastur’s Eye<br />

Lash sold 230 tickets and Adrian<br />

Figueroa’s film Proll sold 240. So<br />

it’s going pretty well. Meanwhile,<br />

we’re still investigating our results<br />

with free-access productions. It is all<br />

so new for us, we need the time to<br />

think things through. Also our ticket<br />

service team was not really prepared<br />

to think through what it means if<br />

people are buying online tickets<br />

only. If it’s on demand, then what<br />

does that mean? So it’s really about<br />

finding the needs of people and<br />

matching that with what we think<br />

is important. Some people say we<br />

should work like Netflix and upload<br />

more: for example, it would be €10<br />

per month and you can see everything<br />

that HAU is producing. But<br />

we’re still investigating options.<br />

In our digitally saturated times,<br />

theatre is also about escapism<br />

and having some time away<br />

from your phone. Aren’t you<br />

afraid to go too far down the<br />

digital lane? No, we will keep creating<br />

pieces for our stage, there are<br />

so many artists we love in the city,<br />

and we want to keep working with<br />

them. We have a great new piece by<br />

Gob Squad, which will premiere in<br />

the fall. We’re also working on two<br />

big productions with the feminist<br />

singer Christiana Rösinger – we<br />

know this piece only works with a<br />

full house… Meanwhile, we had a<br />

very inspiring talk with our team<br />

about rethinking what analogue<br />

presence means. To be able to come<br />

together again has another resonance.<br />

We can have hybrids – coming<br />

together to look at something digital.<br />

I’m almost afraid we didn’t learn<br />

enough from the pandemic. There’s<br />

so much to think about!<br />

Do you think theatre will be<br />

moving towards a dual system,<br />

by which there will be analogue<br />

productions catering to<br />

traditional theatre goers, and<br />

digital offerings for younger<br />

audiences? It’s not either-or, different<br />

people can be reached through<br />

different channels. In fact, ‘audience’<br />

isn’t even the best word any more,<br />

because sometimes it’s participants<br />

or users. I would not want to miss<br />

the chance for an institution like<br />

HAU to not look further into these<br />

developments, it’s important to stay<br />

tuned there! But no matter what, the<br />

theatre should remain a place where<br />

you can switch off from your own<br />

thoughts and get inspired again. T<br />

34<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Stage<br />

Preview<br />

Stage under the stars at<br />

Luxurious open-air settings at<br />

Deutsches Theater<br />

Few theatres in Berlin can boast one epidemic-proof<br />

open-air stage – never mind two! After much anticipation<br />

and months of online streaming, Deutsches Theater<br />

revived the squandered season with the premiere of<br />

PeterLicht’s Tartuffe or The Wise Men’s Pig at their cobbled<br />

Vorplatz stage last month.<br />

In June, there will be two more outdoor performances,<br />

this time in the Innenhof. Both will showcase winners of<br />

the annual Autor:innentheatertage festival, a competition<br />

for budding playwrights to have their script performed<br />

for a month on stage. The full 2021 instalment has been<br />

postponed to September, but Berliner theatregoers will<br />

be given a taste of the talent with Chris Michalski’s When<br />

There’s Nothing Left To Burn You Have To Set Yourself On<br />

Fire. It tells the story of Petra as she investigates why<br />

Jan L, a former school friend and Bundeswehr soldier in<br />

Afghanistan, decided to self-immolate. The Australianborn,<br />

Leipzig-based Michalski explores issues of loss<br />

and trauma, while asking how we communicate and<br />

process experiences in a fast-paced world. Then there’s<br />

Gaia googelt nicht (Gaia doesn’t Google), by previous<br />

Autor:innentheatertage winner Nele Stuhler, which<br />

transports the audience to the beginning of time. This is<br />

only the latest adventure with Stuhler’s mythical creator<br />

Gaia, who tackles life’s most pressing questions and<br />

confronts existential myths: why is the world built the<br />

way it is? Where do things begin? Where do they end?<br />

For those lucky enough to snatch a ticket to either<br />

one of these premieres, remember to pack your FFP2<br />

mask because you’ll need it – yes, even during the<br />

performance. – LR<br />

When There’s Nothing Left To Burn You Have To Set<br />

Yourself On Fire, June 5; Gaia googelt nicht, June 9, German<br />

with English subtitles, Deutsches Theater, Mitte<br />

Review<br />

Method to meta-madness<br />

Hamlet live stream at Gorki<br />

D: Christian Weise ★ ★★★★<br />

To see or not to see, that is the question. After premiering<br />

in February 2020, Christian Weise’s Hamlet<br />

makes a live-stream return this June. Weise effortlessly<br />

breathes life into this classic tragedy with a kooky<br />

cast and comedic rewrite of the familiar script. It’s<br />

a stylistically ambitious, playfully post-dramatic and<br />

intellectually compelling approach to Shakespeare’s<br />

most performed play – making it a must-see production.<br />

Horatio, an artistically frustrated student<br />

from New York based in Berlin, is directing an avantgarde<br />

Hamlet film in which he hopes to make some<br />

profound statement about Germany. What exactly,<br />

even he’s not quite sure. The haunting of Hamlet by<br />

what appears to be the spectre of Karl Marx – played<br />

by Gorki veteran Ruth Reinecke in her last premiere<br />

performance – is just one ironic, cul-de-sac attempt<br />

at enriching this meta-narrative. It’s associative, not<br />

definitive, and that plays to the piece’s strength.<br />

Then there’s the wall: a literal barrier that separates<br />

the action and the audience, as scenes are filmed<br />

on a painted movie set full of distorted perspectives,<br />

before being projected back onto the stage façade<br />

in an IMAX-style experience. Of course, this wall is<br />

broken several times, itself a metatheatrical act, and of<br />

course a historically symbolic one for Berlin. Particular<br />

highlights are Aram Tafreshian’s stone-cold, intense<br />

performance as Claudius and Svenja Liesau’s Hamlet,<br />

who replaces Shakespearean soliloquies with Gorkistandard,<br />

out-of-character rants, here caricatured<br />

in an exaggerated Berliner dialect with icks and juts<br />

aplenty. Overall, Weise delivers a refreshing, selfreflexive<br />

piece that is both surprisingly faithful and<br />

daringly innovative. Expect cartoon-esque knitted wigs,<br />

a touch of breast-grabbing and a lot of laughter. June<br />

9 with English subtitles - 7:30pm available online for 24 hours<br />

DON’T MISS<br />

How the Time Goes<br />

Forced Entertainment<br />

is back with a<br />

video performance<br />

in seven parts.<br />

Recorded between<br />

March and May<br />

2021, it explores<br />

and pokes fun at<br />

the strangeness of<br />

the pandemic, from<br />

Covid tests to Zoom<br />

quizzes. Each episode<br />

lasts between<br />

25 and 60 minutes.<br />

Episode one kicks<br />

off on June 23,<br />

20:00, free VOD<br />

Pugs in Love 2021<br />

Gorki’s annual<br />

Queer Week will<br />

be fully digital this<br />

year, meaning you<br />

can celebrate,<br />

commemorate and<br />

educate yourself<br />

about Berlin’s LG-<br />

BTQIA+ community<br />

from the comfort of<br />

your sofa. Podcasts,<br />

workshops, theatre<br />

films and live talks<br />

can all be accessed<br />

from Gorki’s website.<br />

Events in English<br />

and German.<br />

Jun 17-19<br />

DEUTSCHES<br />

THEATER<br />

BERLIN<br />

For programme and tickets visit<br />

deutschestheater.de/en


WHAT’S ON — Music<br />

More than music and mojitos<br />

Fête de la Musique has always had a special place in the heart of our<br />

music editor. Now Berlin’s favourite street party is finding its stride as a<br />

world-leading online event. By Damien Cummings<br />

That the Fête de la Musique is<br />

happening at all this month ought<br />

to be considered some kind of<br />

miracle. Think about it: a free-form<br />

street party, an expulsion of urban<br />

drudgery, a musical manifestation<br />

of the power of community – all of it<br />

accepted, encouraged even, only in<br />

this city. The challenge, of course, is<br />

moving all that online.<br />

When I first moved to Berlin,<br />

some days after unpacking my meagre<br />

selection of ill-fitting jumpers<br />

onto the floor of an unfurnished<br />

room, I saw my flatmates rushing<br />

out the door with a viola, a trombone<br />

and several kilos of limes.<br />

“What are you doing?” I asked. “It’s<br />

the Fête, come!” The door slammed<br />

closed, limes hit the deck, and –<br />

bewildered, if not a little excited – I<br />

stumbled into my first experience of<br />

live music in Berlin. My flatmates,<br />

while accomplished musicians, were<br />

there to flog mojitos, get drunk and<br />

play some music in the streets – in<br />

that order. Of course, not all the<br />

Editor’s Choice<br />

musicians, venues and institutions<br />

taking part that day had such a<br />

laissez-faire attitude to liquor licensing<br />

laws, but all of them agreed:<br />

summer is unthinkable without the<br />

Fête de la Musique.<br />

So of all the events to be struck by<br />

pandemia, this was the hardest to<br />

take. This year, just like the last, the<br />

event moves online through a series<br />

of partner venues, from the worldrenowned<br />

Friedrichstadt-Palast and<br />

the Deutsche Oper to Kiez initiatives<br />

like Unpluggedival Pankow and<br />

the charming Wendenschloss lido.<br />

Community is at the core of<br />

everything the Fête does. In 2021,<br />

the festival partners with Marzharn-<br />

Hellersdorf, and in doing so, drags<br />

its infectious influence to an underloved<br />

part of our city. Björn Döring,<br />

curator of Fête de la Musique, says,<br />

“We launched the concept of the<br />

partner district three years ago to<br />

show what’s happening in districts<br />

that are not usually the centre of<br />

attention when it comes to music.<br />

Marzahn-Hellersdorf will present<br />

itself as a musically diverse and<br />

surprisingly green district with<br />

music at 13 different venues.” The<br />

Fête will be live-streaming from<br />

these locations, with plans to host<br />

balcony concerts in the courtyards<br />

of housing estates and bring live<br />

music to the Schlosspark Biesdorf,<br />

Marzahner Bockwindmühle and the<br />

Gärten der Welt.<br />

While it might enjoy the reputation<br />

of being a carnival free-for-all<br />

(which it is), the Fête’s organic appearance<br />

is down to an exceptional<br />

The live-stream<br />

concert era has only<br />

improved as these<br />

last two years have<br />

gone by.<br />

36<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Music<br />

Album reviews<br />

Fritzi Ernst - Keine Termine<br />

Bitte Freimachen<br />

One half of what was Schnipo Schranke, Fritzi Ernst’s<br />

solo debut album Keine Termine stands surprisingly firm.<br />

Like a dusky Kneipe karaoke lock-in, this brave record<br />

wobbles to centre stage all red wine and Pils, tears its<br />

eyes from the floor, and where some might croak, Ernst<br />

belts it out. “Everyone wants to experience something,<br />

I might throw up,” goes the opening line, setting the<br />

tone for the whole album. Keine Termine heaves and<br />

swells. Sloshing melancholic ballads and toe-tapping<br />

charmers go hand-in-hand here, and in its dauntless<br />

lyricism, you’d have to be pretty cold not to find a glint<br />

of camaraderie. Whether it leaves you with your head<br />

on the bar or weak at the knees, everyone deserves a<br />

wish in the well, and this, without doubt, is hers. June 6<br />

amount of hard work and political<br />

wrangling. The motto of this year’s<br />

celebration is “making music possible”.<br />

That applies not only to the<br />

exceptional live-streaming technology<br />

built to accommodate more than<br />

50 channels and hundreds of livestreamed<br />

concerts simultaneously;<br />

but also to the swaths of musicians,<br />

music lovers and concert houses that<br />

have signed up to ensure that this is<br />

no Fête de la Musique-light.<br />

This is a fully-fledged and<br />

fabulous event whose existence<br />

can be seen as one of the pioneering<br />

achievements of the live-stream<br />

concert era, which has only improved<br />

and become more dynamic<br />

as these last two years have gone by.<br />

It is by far the most ambitious and<br />

diverse music-streaming festival in<br />

the city, if not the world. And that<br />

aspiration is vital because the Fête<br />

has always been a space of joyous<br />

encounter. Not just for sounds, but<br />

for cultures and now for a metropolis<br />

in crisis. When people must<br />

stay locked inside, paranoia slowly<br />

creeps as solidarity wanes. Today,<br />

the global happening that is the Fête<br />

de la Musique feels more important<br />

than ever. T<br />

Fête de la Musique, June 21, online at<br />

fetedelamusique.de.<br />

Jim Kroft<br />

VA - No Photos On The Dance<br />

Floor! Berlin Techno 1992-Today<br />

Above Board Projects<br />

Heiko Hoffman’s who’s who hits all the right notes but<br />

somehow struggles to strike a tune. Yes, there are some<br />

proper cuts on this comp, bona fide crowd melters<br />

even, but the longer it plays, the more you wonder why<br />

it came about in the first place. On the surface of it, a<br />

double album stacked with bangers from Berlin’s best<br />

and brightest, past and present, shouldn’t go down badly,<br />

but then again, the tracks on this record have already<br />

earned their own plaudits. Crucially, there’s a distinct<br />

lack of elbow room here. Where the multimedia project’s<br />

photographs and book revelled in the rich vitality<br />

and diversity of Berlin’s techno culture, the album itself<br />

falls short. Club culture is culture, it says. There was an<br />

exhibition to prove it and everything. Now, kindly exit<br />

through the gift shop. June 25<br />

Anez - Haze<br />

Self-released<br />

A 10th-anniversary release for Anez, Haze casts its line far<br />

into the inky void. Crank by crank by crank, it becomes<br />

apparent that something far brawnier has its saw-toothed<br />

jaws clamped on the other end of the line. That thing<br />

is what Anez does best. Haze is unsettling, sparse and<br />

uncertain, but always rich in power and theatrics. Make<br />

no mistake: these are the further edges. But out there,<br />

the oddball duo finds the breadth to rewild the genres.<br />

It’s one of those records where if you can follow the<br />

thread, you’ll never forget it. For most of us, the hope<br />

that we might just catch a glimpse of what lies on the<br />

other side is more than enough for a good few spins.<br />

And a definite reason to dig back through the catalogue<br />

of one of the stalwarts of Berlin’s smouldering independent<br />

music scene. June 25<br />

JUNE 2021 37


WHAT’S ON — Music<br />

Interview<br />

“We want to reinvent ourselves<br />

with each project.”<br />

André De Ridder is the artistic director of Stargaze, an international<br />

orchestra of accomplished musicians that like to do things differently.<br />

Ahead of the eponymous festival, we caught up with him to find out<br />

what makes his institution tick. By Damien Cummings<br />

Everyone<br />

brings skills<br />

to the group<br />

as individuals<br />

but the result<br />

is greater<br />

than the sum<br />

of its parts,<br />

and that’s<br />

fascinating.<br />

We’ve seen Stargaze in so many<br />

settings, from Boiler Rooms<br />

to orchestral halls. What is<br />

Stargaze to you? It’s a moving<br />

target, almost chameleon-like, a<br />

system for adapting to different<br />

situations and collaborating with<br />

different musicians or bands. When<br />

we started, Stargaze was more<br />

like a think tank: a group of likeminded<br />

curators and a collective<br />

of primarily classically trained<br />

musicians with a broad mindset.<br />

It then developed quite quickly<br />

into a fixed ensemble of 12 people<br />

and created satellite groups of<br />

musicians, not just in Berlin, but<br />

also Dutch musicians, people in<br />

Italy and London. It’s grown into<br />

this European network of musicians<br />

that have grown up with both<br />

classical but also electronic, folk<br />

and indie music.<br />

How important is fluidity in<br />

organising an orchestra? We<br />

want to reinvent ourselves with each<br />

project. This is the third festival<br />

we’re doing at the Volksbühne<br />

and each one had a very different<br />

idea behind it. We see ourselves<br />

as both initiators of genre-defying<br />

projects and as interpreters,<br />

collaborators, musicians and multiinstrumentalists.<br />

For example, the<br />

horn player is a superb arranger and<br />

plays the drums brilliantly. We thrive<br />

on that and we enjoy that most.<br />

Why did you create Stargaze?<br />

Before Stargaze, I’d been working<br />

as a conductor in a more classical<br />

career with big institutions. Most of<br />

them are fairly heavy organisms and<br />

heavily subsidized, so it can be quite<br />

bureaucratic. Their plan can run<br />

three or four years in advance, and<br />

I was like, “How do I know what I<br />

want to do musically in four years?”<br />

Maarit Kytöharju<br />

Stargaze is a kind of escapism for<br />

my more instinctive, immediate<br />

creativity. It’s also about authorship.<br />

Classical musicians often just get<br />

other people’s music put in front<br />

of them and are told what to do.<br />

There’s this idea of the composer<br />

in their ivory tower, who writes the<br />

symphony, and then passes it on<br />

to the musicians. We work more<br />

like a band and hear the ideas; we<br />

compose, collaborate, and then we<br />

all own it so much more.<br />

Classical music is often viewed<br />

as a genre in stasis. How does<br />

Stargaze challenge that? We<br />

always keep our ears to the ground<br />

in terms of what’s going on and<br />

where there are new voices, like<br />

up-and-coming composers who are<br />

working in more experimental ways.<br />

We build networks of musicians,<br />

composers, venues, promoters and<br />

producers across the world who<br />

share the same passion for these<br />

liminal zones.<br />

And how do you manage to keep<br />

refreshing your work? Over<br />

the years, we’ve put a lot of effort<br />

and time into honing trust and<br />

developing a particular reputation,<br />

but at the same time we try not to<br />

repeat ourselves. It is hard because<br />

some might say, “Oh, Stargaze,<br />

that’s the classical group that works<br />

with bands.” Well, we do that<br />

sometimes, but we also created a<br />

dance piece for Irish dance company<br />

[Teaċ Daṁsa], and we toured it to<br />

Australia and New Zealand, and<br />

London. We do so many things<br />

because we are more interested<br />

in the whole creative process and<br />

trying to be active through that.<br />

Is there an issue with rigidity<br />

in classical music? Rigidity in<br />

higher institutions is like a business<br />

model: you become known for doing<br />

something exceptionally well and<br />

get hired for that. And that’s okay.<br />

People can make a living from it. But<br />

the symphonic world and the opera<br />

38<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


houses are relatively rigid.<br />

There’s basically a grid that<br />

tells you how many concerts<br />

you do a year. Guest conductors<br />

or soloists get flown in from<br />

week to week, which is very<br />

questionable, especially right<br />

now with the pandemic and the<br />

climate crisis. So there are a lot<br />

of elements questioning that<br />

system.<br />

How is Stargaze different?<br />

Stargaze is about a meeting<br />

of minds. It’s about thinking<br />

outside the box and creating<br />

new formats. It’s a laboratory<br />

of experimentation, and all<br />

of us have access to that tool.<br />

Everyone brings skills to the<br />

group as individuals but the<br />

result is greater than the sum of<br />

its parts, and that’s fascinating.<br />

Is it a question of creating<br />

new juxtapositions? In our<br />

time and decade and century,<br />

it’s all about finding new<br />

hybrids of different styles that<br />

create new genres. We enjoy<br />

those clashes that lead you on<br />

a different path from where<br />

you’re coming from. Suddenly,<br />

there’s something else there,<br />

and you can bounce off those<br />

boundaries, and that’s what I<br />

find exciting.<br />

Tell me about the Stargaze<br />

festival. The idea for this came<br />

when the programme for the<br />

250th Beethoven anniversary<br />

was almost wholly cancelled.<br />

For most orchestras, playing all<br />

the symphonies of Beethoven<br />

is the pinnacle. At first, I<br />

thought, “Spare me another<br />

Beethoven cycle!” But then I<br />

realised we’re the last group<br />

you would expect to do that.<br />

So, naturally, Stargaze does a<br />

Beethoven cycle – with a twist<br />

of course. Each symphony has<br />

a different collaborator and<br />

artists from various art forms.<br />

We were asking ourselves what’s<br />

left of Beethoven in music, of<br />

his thinking, musical influence<br />

and philosophy. Is there pop<br />

culture? Is there a line that we<br />

can find going back to then<br />

from today? We’re looking at<br />

Kraftwerk, we’re looking at<br />

Stockhausen, and we’re looking<br />

at that German electronic<br />

scene around Cologne. There’s<br />

something about a culture<br />

in itself with these insistent,<br />

intense, repetitive rhythms,<br />

which is typical of Krautrock<br />

and then Kraftwerk and then the<br />

Neue Deutsche Welle. We have<br />

a project with Boards of Canada<br />

that has never been played in<br />

Germany. When you come to<br />

this festival, you don’t need to<br />

understand the context; you<br />

realise right away that it is going<br />

to be a fascinating journey.<br />

How have you gone about<br />

putting the festival online?<br />

What’s exciting about our<br />

stream concept is that we’re<br />

working with a new pioneering<br />

concert stream provider, zart.<br />

tv. They create different rooms<br />

you can move between. You<br />

can hang out in the lounge or<br />

you can enter another room.<br />

We’re going to put the sound<br />

installation based on one of<br />

the movements of Beethoven’s<br />

9th in a space you can enter<br />

virtually, so you feel like you are<br />

at a live gig.<br />

Does this city feel like<br />

‘home’ for Stargaze? Berlin<br />

is an interesting one for us, and<br />

for me personally. Volksbühne<br />

has felt like our natural home<br />

for a while now, even though<br />

we’ve only done three festivals<br />

there in seven years. With<br />

the classical establishment in<br />

Berlin, it’s different: we’ve tried<br />

to approach them, but they’re<br />

not coming towards us. There<br />

is great potential for audiences<br />

in Berlin who like this kind of<br />

music. But we lack production.<br />

There’s no independent artistic<br />

director who would have an<br />

open mind for these different<br />

streams of consciousness. I<br />

think Berlin could thrive on<br />

something like that. The city<br />

has the vibe, the subculture,<br />

everything. I just wonder how<br />

– and when – it will be taken<br />

advantage of. T<br />

Stargaze Festival, Volksbühne<br />

Am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz, June<br />

9-10, 19:00, zart.tv.<br />

BERLIN’S ONLY OPEN-AIR CINEMA<br />

WITH MOVIES IN ORIGINAL VERSION<br />

MOST GERMAN FILMS WITH ENGLISH SUBTITLES<br />

www.freiluftkino-berlin.de<br />

#freiluftkinoberlin<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>_AZ_FH_115x152_5_04.indd 1 21.0<br />

JUNE 2021


WHAT’S ON — Art<br />

Editor’s Choice<br />

Beuys<br />

believed that<br />

every time<br />

the human<br />

mouth spoke<br />

and moved<br />

air it was<br />

producing<br />

‘real<br />

sculptures’.<br />

Joseph Beuys at 100<br />

A new exhibition celebrates the birth of the<br />

artist by focusing on his unique use of language.<br />

At the opening of his landmark<br />

show at the Schmela Gallery<br />

in 1965, Joseph Beuys could<br />

be seen whispering inaudibly into the<br />

ear of a dead hare that he cradled in<br />

his arms like a Madonna and child.<br />

With honey and gold leaf stuck to his<br />

face, he moved from one picture to<br />

the next, his muffled words drowned<br />

out by the scrape of a metal sole he’d<br />

tied to his right foot. Beuys’ seminal<br />

performance, ‘How to Explain Pictures<br />

to a Dead Hare’, was not meant to be<br />

interpreted by words or linguistic expression.<br />

Instead, it aspired to a more<br />

natural form of communication that<br />

required the viewer to feel their way<br />

into his ideas.<br />

This so-called ‘Action’ was typical<br />

of the imaginative, complex and<br />

idiosyncratic manner that Beuys<br />

approached communication: to<br />

lead humans beyond the rational<br />

and to expand their potential for<br />

thought and expression. “Even a<br />

dead animal,” Beuys later wrote,<br />

“preserves more powers of<br />

intuition than some human beings.”<br />

Communication and language is at<br />

the centre of Starting From Language:<br />

By Duncan Ballantyne-Way<br />

Joseph Beuys at 100, a new exhibition<br />

opening mid-June at the Hamburger<br />

Bahnhof that’s been timed to<br />

coincide with the centennial<br />

anniversary of the artist’s birth.<br />

“Language was very much a<br />

sculptural tool for Beuys,” says<br />

Nina Schallenberg, the curator<br />

of the exhibition. “And at the<br />

beginning of his artistic process<br />

was always an idea, which needed<br />

to be expressed through language.”<br />

Beuys believed that every time the<br />

human mouth spoke and moved air<br />

it was producing “real sculptures”.<br />

It ties in with his most famous and<br />

revolutionary belief that “everyone<br />

can be an artist”, says Schallenberg,<br />

“as long as they act in a conscious<br />

way and with conviction then<br />

everyone has the potential to create<br />

and potentially change society”.<br />

Beuys was a mercurial figure<br />

in part because of his selfmythologising,<br />

elevating himself<br />

and the role of the artist to a kind<br />

of modern-day shaman with the<br />

power to heal the world’s ills and<br />

re-energise spiritual thinking. After<br />

his death in 1986, he left behind an<br />

extraordinarily eclectic body of work<br />

which despite its huge significance<br />

is often considered abstract and<br />

impenetrable to those unfamiliar<br />

with his oeuvre. To address this and<br />

to allow visitors to get a foothold<br />

into his back catalogue, each room in<br />

the exhibition has been thematically<br />

choreographed to bring some<br />

coherence, starting with ‘Silence’<br />

until finally reaching ‘Speaking’ in<br />

the final room of the museum.<br />

This language-focused exhibition,<br />

which brings together sculptures,<br />

drawings, installations, films and<br />

posters from the Nationalgalerie’s<br />

own collection, is coming at a<br />

critical moment, according to<br />

Schallenberg: “The discourse on<br />

language can so easily take a polemic<br />

direction. It seems that now you<br />

are either for something or against,<br />

when with Beuys he is always in the<br />

in-betweens! Instead of seeing two<br />

separate positions, we need to think<br />

about what connects them.” This<br />

is where Beuys comes in, revealing<br />

language’s plastic possibilities,<br />

moving beyond binary oppositions<br />

to connect to a deeper, more<br />

spiritual existence.<br />

Starting From Language: Joseph<br />

Beuys at 100 From June 13 through<br />

September 19 Hamburger Bahnhof,<br />

Mitte.<br />

Winfried Göllner<br />

40<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Art<br />

Review<br />

​Berlin goes dotty!<br />

Haven't scored a ticket for the Yayoi<br />

Kusama exhibition? Our art editor fills<br />

you in on what you're missing out on…<br />

Yayoi Kusama is a phenomenon, renowned<br />

for her kaleidoscopic installations filled with<br />

mesmeric polka dots and reality-defying<br />

mirror-rooms. But for all their poppy vitality,<br />

don’t think for a second this is just Instagram<br />

cannon fodder. Scratch beneath the surface and<br />

you’ll find yourself drawn into a hallucinogenic<br />

cosmos that is unsettling, challenging and often<br />

far from joyful. With this being the first German<br />

retrospective of the Japanese-born artist,<br />

the Gropius Bau has spared no expense and<br />

commissioned a new site-specific installation,<br />

‘A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the Universe’, for<br />

the central quad of the Gropius Bau. Off limits<br />

until the end of the exhibition, its vast luminous<br />

tentacles extend like poisonous fungi up to the<br />

mezzanine above. It’s a taste of what’s to come.<br />

The exhibition is arranged chronologically<br />

and kicks off with works the artist made in the<br />

immediate aftermath of World War II. Sombretoned,<br />

with twisted and barbed vines, nothing<br />

you’ve seen before prepares you for these bleak,<br />

menacing landscapes of postwar Japan in the<br />

1950s. Things begin to change by 1958 with her<br />

move to New York, and the appearance of her<br />

infinity net paintings. ‘Pacific Ocean’ is a white<br />

apparition made of gently curving white lines<br />

and is the first indication of her self-obliteration<br />

where her obsessive painting often led her to<br />

paint beyond the canvas, spreading out onto<br />

the table, the walls, even onto her own body.<br />

Later, in one gaudy yellow room, identical black<br />

dots cover every available surface like some<br />

visualised psychosis. There’s nothing upbeat<br />

about them. You feel this even more in ‘Infinity<br />

Nets (TZA)’ with its blue lines of interlocking<br />

cells or shattered ice that stretches out across<br />

five canvases. It’s so painstakingly put together<br />

it’s almost a shock to get up close and see the<br />

brushstrokes.<br />

There are six infinity rooms, filled with either<br />

lights, orbs, pumpkins or phalluses. Some are<br />

more successful than others – but the couple<br />

that are truly transportive somehow make you<br />

feel self-conscious and isolated all at the same<br />

time. If there’s a drawback to the exhibition, it is<br />

perhaps the rigidity of its structure, adhering so<br />

closely to the course of her life it can at times feel<br />

a bit stifling. The weight of responsibility is heavy<br />

and this is clearly a show they didn’t want to get<br />

wrong, which on the whole they haven’t, and the<br />

documentary photographs and films reveal the<br />

revolutionary zeal of the artist, especially in the<br />

1960s and 1970s. When the show breaks out, it’s<br />

dazzling, like in the last room, which is stuffed to<br />

the rafters with 60 or more canvases spread from<br />

floor to ceiling. By the end, after barely pausing for<br />

breath, you’ve seen an entire art museum’s worth<br />

of installation, happenings, collages, drawings,<br />

clothing and paintings. The same unyielding<br />

intensity runs through them all.<br />

Yayoi Kusama’s A Bouquet of Love I Saw in the<br />

Universe Through August 15 Gropius Bau, Mitte<br />

Online Live Tour<br />

Every Saturday at 6.30 pm<br />

Luca Girardini<br />

Online Tour via Zoom<br />

50 min, € 3<br />

www.museumbarberini.de/en/<br />

JUNE 2021


WHAT’S ON — Art<br />

Interview<br />

Europe on display<br />

Things are getting crowded under the roof of Tempelhof’s Hangar II<br />

ahead of the Diversity United exhibition. We talk to curator Walter<br />

Smerling about what this ambitious show can achieve. By Duncan Ballantyne-Way<br />

You’re squeezing 90 artists<br />

and the whole of Europe into<br />

one art exhibition. What’s the<br />

motivation here? The continent<br />

of Europe has at least 47 countries,<br />

depending how you count, and each<br />

one has its own character, its own<br />

mentality, its own problems, its own<br />

people. Each country is independent<br />

from each other in a way but they<br />

all belong together. That makes this<br />

show very strong.<br />

The artists<br />

decided<br />

what came<br />

into the<br />

show and<br />

what didn't<br />

– not the<br />

curators.<br />

It’s a hugely impressive list of<br />

artists, and it promises to be<br />

a blockbuster of a show. What<br />

can visitors expect to see? It's<br />

a broad and timely intercultural<br />

dialogue between artists from 34<br />

European countries. When did that<br />

last happen?! We’re not focusing<br />

on one specific issue. Each artist<br />

describes their individual positions,<br />

which then shed light on our<br />

societies. We want to provoke a<br />

dialogue, and you can see that with<br />

Lucy and Jorge Orta's 'Antarctic<br />

Village', whose tents symbolise a way<br />

of living without borders. Then we<br />

have Monica Bonvicini taking over a<br />

whole room with her neon tubes that<br />

bring illumination and truth. Anselm<br />

Kiefer’s 'Winterreise', a never-beforeseen<br />

work, shows the dangers hidden<br />

in romanticism. It’s a vast list.<br />

The Berlin-based Olafur Eliasson<br />

is also present. His work<br />

will be the first thing visitors<br />

encounter, right? Yes, at the entrance.<br />

It’s quite an experience: a yellow<br />

light that wipes away all distinction<br />

between people, that neutralises<br />

difference and in doing so questions<br />

our relationship towards travelling<br />

and citizenship and the environment.<br />

The exhibition is by no means<br />

limited to Western Europe;<br />

Eastern Europe and the Balkans<br />

are well represented. Any names<br />

to watch there? In Europe, you<br />

don't need to travel far to be in a totally<br />

different world. This is what we<br />

see in Shoes for Europe, a film made<br />

by Moldovan artist Pavel Brăila,<br />

which shows how a train is lifted<br />

onto a new base while its passengers<br />

wait. For a long time, Moldova was<br />

part of the Soviet Union and so it<br />

had the wide railway tracks shared<br />

by other republics that made up that<br />

huge federation. As a result, Moldovan<br />

carriages had to be hoisted onto<br />

new wheels before they went on to<br />

neighbouring Ukraine or Romania or<br />

other European countries. The film<br />

is a visual description of the competing<br />

interests of Europe's different<br />

blocs and the problems we have<br />

communicating between them.<br />

You mentioned a new piece by<br />

Anselm Kiefer. Are there any<br />

other stand-out works debuting<br />

at the exhibition? I think around<br />

30 percent of the works haven't been<br />

shown before. And it's important to<br />

note that the artists decided what<br />

came into the show and what didn't<br />

– not the curators. For instance,<br />

Chinese painter Yan Pei-Ming had<br />

proposed paintings about Napoleon;<br />

but then the pandemic started so he<br />

decided to add a new piece to the<br />

show: an unbelievable painting of a<br />

cave from which the viewer looks out<br />

into a dangerous world. It's really an<br />

impressive work.<br />

How else have artists responded<br />

to challenges faced by Europe<br />

today? One of the strongest works<br />

for me is by Fernando Sánchez Castillo.<br />

The Spanish artist came across<br />

the famous photograph of a crowd<br />

of men giving the Nazi salute. Only<br />

one man, thought to be the Hamburg<br />

labourer August Landmesser,<br />

refuses. He stands bravely in the<br />

crowd, arms crossed, with a sceptical<br />

look on his face, and the artist has<br />

built an unusual monument to him.<br />

He reproduced 5000 plastic figures<br />

of the labourer and lined them up as<br />

an army of pacifist resistance. Where<br />

is there a need for moral courage or<br />

resistance like that today? The point<br />

is that every visitor can take one of<br />

the small figures in return for writing<br />

their idea of democracy on the wall.<br />

Lucy and Jorge Orta<br />

42<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


WHAT’S ON — Art<br />

Over time, a whole new work of art<br />

will emerge from the audience's<br />

comments. That's fantastic, I think.<br />

So the exhibition sheds light on<br />

modern-day authoritarianism.<br />

How does that square with criticism<br />

you've come up against for<br />

collaborating with the Russian<br />

foreign office to put on the<br />

show? Diversity United is a good<br />

basis for bringing people together,<br />

because art brings people together.<br />

We do not collaborate with the politicians<br />

of Russia. We collaborate with<br />

the curators of the Tretyakov Gallery.<br />

We had a very good experience with<br />

them and I think it's very important<br />

to create a basis for communication<br />

in this way. Ultimately, art gives us<br />

a fantastic chance for dialogue. Of<br />

course, art is not the only way to<br />

communicate, but it adds something<br />

crucial to scientific and economic<br />

discourses: it can allow things to be<br />

seen differently. Art can help us find<br />

solutions – there’s no guarantee, but<br />

we might have a chance.<br />

After Berlin and Moscow, the<br />

exhibition will show in Paris…<br />

Why these cities, and not London,<br />

for example? We wanted the<br />

exhibition to be shown at the very<br />

heart of Europe’s cultural scene,<br />

so Berlin and Paris were obvious<br />

choices. They are on the axis of<br />

central Europe and connect east and<br />

west. By bringing the exhibition to<br />

Moscow, we hope to encourage cultural<br />

dialogue, especially in light of<br />

current political differences. It would<br />

also be great for the show to travel<br />

to London, a city that will always<br />

remain part of the European cultural<br />

sphere. The exhibition actually has<br />

a wonderful Grayson Perry work,<br />

‘Battle of Britain’, which focuses on<br />

Brexit<br />

The pandemic has put European<br />

solidarity to the test and<br />

EU countries seem to be constantly<br />

at loggerheads. How<br />

does this exhibition address<br />

these tensions? Jean Monnet, one<br />

of the founders of the European<br />

Union, once said that Europe will<br />

always be a work in progress. It is not<br />

complete; it is an identity conveyed<br />

by fundamental ideas such as respect<br />

for people, and embracing diversity.<br />

But of course there are problems and<br />

we need to talk about them, like for<br />

example the fear of foreigners and<br />

refugees. This exhibition aims to address<br />

these highly complex issues by<br />

inspiring debate as well as conveying<br />

the freedom and respect that are a<br />

part of the European identity.<br />

Diversity United, June 9 through<br />

September 19, Flughafen Tempelhof,<br />

Hangar 2+3<br />

Over time, a whole new<br />

work of art will emerge from<br />

the audience's comments.<br />

That's fantastic, I think.<br />

YanPei Ming<br />

Review<br />

Oliver Roura<br />

Solid Earth, Liquid Wind<br />

Through August 28 ★ ★★★★<br />

With its cavorting humans and unexplained circus-inspired installations, what<br />

may at first seem like a terrifically fun exhibition by German-born artist Ulla<br />

von Brandenburg soon turns into an enriching one as you find yourself swept<br />

along with its infectious energy. Investigating the fine line that exists between<br />

play and earnestness, the soundless video work ‘Solid Earth, Liquid Wind’ pays<br />

homage to an early Swiss dance school that pioneered the use of contemporary<br />

dance as a form of artistic expression. It’s a wonderful watch, the dancers<br />

moving in unison, hurling themselves in and out of shot, then suddenly standing<br />

deadly still but always performing with abandon. The artist believes that<br />

expressive dance can lead the body and spirit to a state of ecstatic experience<br />

– and watching this film, you can believe it. Upstairs, alongside multi-colourful<br />

watercolours, life-sized fabric models of the dancers are slumped together in<br />

a heap, no doubt exhausted by their excursions. There’s a palpable feeling of<br />

expectation to the show, a sense that’s perfectly encapsulated by the circuslike<br />

installations made up of vivid blue and red fabric, pointed cones, confetti,<br />

fans and an assortment of dice and photographs. What alchemy is all this, you<br />

wonder? — DBW<br />

Meyer Riegger, Charlottenburg<br />

JUNE 2021 43


BOOKS BY ALEXANDER WELLS<br />

SPOTLIGHT<br />

“This book is<br />

me saying, I’m<br />

a subject, not<br />

an object!”<br />

Prize-nominated essayist<br />

Asal Dardan on prejudice in<br />

Germany, the absurdity of<br />

Heimat and the value of selfcriticism.<br />

The furore over the Leipzig Book Fair Prize’s<br />

all-white shortlist has prompted many to<br />

reflect on the wealth of great literature by<br />

diverse authors in Germany today. One recent<br />

standout is Betrachtungen einer Barbarin<br />

(Observations of a Barbarian, Hoffmann &<br />

Campe) by the Tehran-born Berliner Asal<br />

Dardan. This series of linked personal essays<br />

interweaves reflections on Dardan’s<br />

own life – beginning with her childhood in<br />

Cologne as the daughter of Iranian refugees<br />

– with insightful commentary about race,<br />

migration and gender in modern Germany.<br />

Dardan called us to discuss her book, which<br />

has been nominated for the prestigious German<br />

Non-Fiction Prize.<br />

Essays are not a very established literary<br />

genre in Germany. Was this a hard sell<br />

to publishers? It’s true. A lot of publishers<br />

I approached said, “Oh, we love it, but could<br />

you make it into a novel,or a memoir?” But it’s<br />

not really a book about me – I didn’t set out<br />

to tell my story, although it is often about me.<br />

Were you ever tempted to write a memoir<br />

as they asked? I’m interested in other<br />

people’s memoirs, but not my own. I wanted<br />

to offer myself up as an example – I wanted<br />

to say, this is me in the world, here is how<br />

I perceive things, and here is how these<br />

specific debates and themes affect my life.<br />

I wanted to make it more approachable, and<br />

less abstract. And there are extra dimensions<br />

when you write yourself in. For example,<br />

when writing about the NSU trials, I discuss<br />

how as a migrant to Germany, I have stories<br />

of guilt and family trauma of my own – my<br />

father worked for the Iranian secret police.<br />

And I feel it’s a political act, sort of, to show<br />

yourself and make yourself vulnerable.<br />

There is a lovely part about the importance<br />

of seeing yourself in other people<br />

and other people in yourself – and how<br />

challenging that is. Are you advocating<br />

more empathy? For me, it’s not really about<br />

empathy. If you’re talking about ways of living<br />

together, about solidarity, then I think it’s<br />

much more about looking at oneself – about<br />

being self-disciplined and self-critical. For<br />

example, I can never completely understand<br />

what it’s like to be a trans person. I can never<br />

truly understand what dysphoria is, though I<br />

can read about it. But do I really need to say<br />

I fully understand it in order to feel solidarity<br />

with someone – and to demand a world<br />

Sarah Berger<br />

I wanted to say that this is<br />

my language, and I know<br />

how to use it. And the<br />

barbarian is talking back,<br />

looking at you. Poor you.<br />

And I’m pretty sure it hurts.<br />

where they are more visible, have more rights,<br />

face less obstacles in their lives? So with the<br />

book, I didn’t want to manipulate feelings.<br />

I just wanted to make people start thinking<br />

about themselves, by seeing how I do that.<br />

My hope is that it lingers with someone who<br />

reads it – that it starts a conversation they<br />

then have with themselves.<br />

In the opening essay, you use the contradictions<br />

and confusions of your Ger-<br />

FROM THE DUSSMANN BOOKSHELF<br />

“A spy, like a writer, lives outside<br />

the mainstream population. He<br />

steals his experience through<br />

bribes and reconstructs it.”<br />

Thus wrote John Le Carré,<br />

grandmaster of spy fiction. The<br />

spirit of Le Carré pervades A<br />

Lonely Man (FSG/Macmillan),<br />

a novel by British writer and<br />

critic Chris Power that begins<br />

with two Englishmen reaching<br />

for one Bolaño in a Prenzlauer<br />

Berg bookstore. One of them,<br />

Richard, is a failing author who<br />

feels his family is impeding<br />

his ability to write; the other,<br />

Patrick, claims to be on the run,<br />

having seen too much while<br />

ghostwriting the memoirs of<br />

a now-dead Russian oligarch.<br />

The two become friends, with<br />

Richard increasingly fascinated<br />

by Patrick’s tales. But who is<br />

telling the truth – and how high<br />

are the stakes? Like Le Carré,<br />

Power intertwines elements of<br />

the thriller and literary novel.<br />

But Power’s novel, for all its<br />

cloak-and-daggery, doesn’t<br />

quite transcend its basic theme<br />

of what it means to write another<br />

person’s story – a theme<br />

more interesting to critics and<br />

novellists, one suspects, than<br />

readers.<br />

From contemporary Berlin<br />

to last century: The Dead Girls<br />

Class Trip (NYRB Classics) is a<br />

fine collection of short fiction<br />

from Jewish-German communist<br />

author Anna Seghers,<br />

translated by Margot Bettauer<br />

Dembo. These diverse stories<br />

– written from 1925 to 1965 –<br />

represent Seghers’ early steps<br />

as an author, her wartime exile<br />

in France and Mexico, and her<br />

life in East Berlin as a GDR intellectual.<br />

The collection shows<br />

off Seghers’ considerable narrative<br />

skill, her ethical clarity and<br />

her innovative spirit. The title<br />

story is particularly excellent: it<br />

weaves the life trajectories of<br />

the narrator’s classmates – one<br />

of whom betrays another to the<br />

Nazis – into an account of a<br />

prewar school outing. “No one<br />

ever reminded us of this trip we<br />

took together while there was<br />

44<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


man childhood to interrogate<br />

ideas about belonging, migration<br />

– and above all Heimat. Isn’t it<br />

an outmoded idea? Well, I think<br />

Heimat is a German obsession –<br />

even more when I was growing<br />

up in pre-Wende West Germany. I<br />

really wanted to show how absurd<br />

the idea of Heimat is. I thought, if I<br />

want to talk about otherness, about<br />

the ‘barbarian’, then I’ll have to address<br />

how absurd it is to call a kid<br />

who was still a tiny child when she<br />

arrived here a ‘migrant’. It’s also<br />

about how, if you are the child of<br />

refugees, then you grow up with a<br />

kind of nostalgia for the old homeland,<br />

which can repeat nationalistic ideas. I<br />

wanted to confront that and say maybe there<br />

should be no Heimat for anyone. There’s<br />

definitely none for me.<br />

Instead of Heimat you use the idea of<br />

Fastorte, ‘almost-places’, which you<br />

come to terms with individually. That<br />

sounds like a more engaged kind of<br />

belonging… Totally. Belonging, society<br />

– it’s a process, it’s something you have to<br />

actively partake in. It’s also about building<br />

relationships, including to myself, and to<br />

the language and culture and political and<br />

material realities of a place. What defines<br />

me more? That Goethe and Schiller once<br />

lived in this proximity and wrote in more or<br />

less the same language? Or that I’m living<br />

now in this place where I know people are<br />

struggling to pay their rent, or dreading racist<br />

attacks? It’s important for writers to make<br />

still time. No matter how<br />

many compositions were<br />

to be written about our<br />

homeland and its history<br />

and one’s love for the<br />

homeland, no one ever<br />

mentioned that our group<br />

of girls, leaning against<br />

one another while sailing<br />

upstream in the slanting<br />

afternoon light, first and<br />

foremost belonged to and<br />

were part of this homeland.”<br />

Another communistera<br />

classic is Mircea<br />

Cărtărescu’s Nostalgia<br />

(Penguin). One of Romania’s<br />

most celebrated<br />

authors, Cărtărescu has<br />

never commanded much<br />

of a readership in English<br />

– but hopefully this Penguin<br />

Classics edition of<br />

his 1989 masterwork, in<br />

Julian Semilian’s translation,<br />

will boost his reputation<br />

among Anglophones.<br />

Nostalgia is a remarkable<br />

novel in five stories, which<br />

are linked less by plot or<br />

setting than their recurring<br />

themes of stories,<br />

games, imagination and<br />

fate – although the rundown<br />

apartment blocks<br />

of 1980s Bucharest make<br />

numerous appearances.<br />

Cărtărescu’s playfulness<br />

and love of language will<br />

remind some of Umberto<br />

Eco or Jorge Luis<br />

themselves aware of how they’re connected<br />

to the real place out there, instead of some<br />

abstract notion like Heimat.<br />

How did you come up with your title?<br />

Well, it was first inspired by Heinrich Böll’s<br />

novel Ansichten eines Clowns (Opinions of a<br />

Clown): the clown, like the barbarian, is a<br />

figure that is looked at – the clown entertains<br />

you while the barbarian lets you define<br />

yourself as superior. But ‘Betrachtungen’<br />

sounded better. The barbarian, I mean, I<br />

only really think about my otherness in this<br />

society because someone else has treated<br />

me like that, whether knowingly or not. So<br />

I thought, OK, I’ll talk back as that figure –<br />

as what you view me to be. I’ll talk as her,<br />

and show that she can look back as well.<br />

And maybe the other doesn’t have to be so<br />

threatening.<br />

‘Barbarian’ comes from the ancient<br />

Greeks, as a word to call people who<br />

didn’t speak their language. Writing<br />

this book in German as an extremely<br />

cultured German – is that part of the<br />

irony? It’s cheeky, isn’t it? [laughs] I wanted<br />

to say that this is my language, and I know<br />

how to use it. And the barbarian is talking<br />

back, looking at you. Poor you. And I’m pretty<br />

sure it hurts, when you’re used to being the<br />

one that looks and rates and decides – and<br />

chooses who gets to speak and be heard<br />

– then it’s painful when people suddenly<br />

turn around, and they have autonomy, and<br />

they’re a subject not an object any more. In<br />

a way, this book is me saying: I’m a subject,<br />

not an object! T<br />

Borges, but there is a<br />

gritty, vertiginous side to<br />

Cărtărescu that distinguishes<br />

him from more<br />

genteel postmodernists.<br />

Some of his meditations<br />

on sex and gender feel<br />

decidedly outdated, but<br />

readers who want a break<br />

from the clipped, savvy<br />

minimalism currently<br />

dominating the literary<br />

Anglosphere will be<br />

cheered by this boisterous,<br />

unusual and deeply<br />

compelling work.<br />

All books are available at<br />

Berlin English Bookshop<br />

EDITOR’S NOTE<br />

REDISCOVERING REIMANN<br />

Alexander Wells has been<br />

reading the diaries of<br />

unconventional East German<br />

author Brigitte Reimann.<br />

Last month, Seagull Books published the<br />

second volume of Brigitte Reimann’s<br />

1960s diaries under the title It All Tastes<br />

of Farewell (translated by Steph Morris). Following<br />

last year’s I Have No Regrets (translated<br />

by Berlin’s Lucy Jones), these books bring<br />

to life a highly talented and unconventional<br />

author, a woman determined to live life to its<br />

fullest despite the constrictions of her time.<br />

Now is a fine moment to (re)discover Brigitte<br />

Reimann (1933-1973).<br />

Reimann wrote from a young age and<br />

had a promising career within official GDR<br />

literature, yet she never published a novel:<br />

her great, unfinished Franziska Linkerhand<br />

(1974) was only released following her early<br />

death from cancer. Published during her life,<br />

Riemann’s diaries recount the everyday life of<br />

an author (and chronic adulterer) with great<br />

wit and style. She goes to Berlin and hobnobs<br />

with luminaries; she has money problems,<br />

gives readings, gets hit on by dreadful older<br />

men; she complains that only talentless hacks<br />

get prizes, and is thrilled when she herself<br />

wins one. “Oh and yet again Berlin finished us<br />

off,” she writes. “That city eats people. ... The<br />

stress is mind-bending, the agitation, the gossip,<br />

all the convoluted intrigues our friends<br />

report.” So far, so classic for the literary life.<br />

But East German politics relentlessly<br />

intrude. Reimann grows “increasingly alienated”<br />

by GDR authorities demanding obedience<br />

from the nation’s authors; she never<br />

stops being a socialist. Ultimately, her loyalty<br />

– above all political and romantic entanglements<br />

– is to her art. This passion comes<br />

through in her diaries, haunted as they are by<br />

her frustrations and failing health. Reimann is<br />

a brilliant observer of social milieus, a ruthless<br />

self-analyst and often strikingly humorous.<br />

One hopes Franziska Linkerhand will be<br />

translated soon.<br />

Meanwhile, we have her diaries. They are,<br />

in a sense, the other unfinished novel of her<br />

life. “I know full well the book is made up<br />

solely of digressions,” she notes of Franziska,<br />

“but I can’t explain why I want to write it that<br />

way right now: intense clusters of life, the<br />

everyday with the random and unnecessary. A<br />

protest against plots, against the novel form,<br />

which seems too crystalline, too purified, too<br />

artificial, too clear in our unclear world.” — AW<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

45


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46<br />

<strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


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JUNE 2021 47


BERLIN BITES BY JANE SILVER<br />

Jaja<br />

Mamida<br />

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Nea Pizza 1889<br />

The Neapolitan pizza-demic<br />

Pizzas never went out of style, but these days it's puffycrusted<br />

pies or nothing. Here are four newbies to try.<br />

Best pastries Nea Pizza 1889<br />

This is how ridiculous the pizza situation in<br />

this city has become: when someone says,<br />

“Meet me at the new Neapolitan pizzeria<br />

across from the German federal intelligence<br />

headquarters,” you have to ask, “Which<br />

one?” Nea Pizza 1889 and the very un-<br />

Googleable Pizzeria opened several months<br />

apart on the same bleak-looking stretch of<br />

Chausseestraße, the former a tiled takeout<br />

nook just barely bigger than its Izzo oven,<br />

the latter a slick beige-bricked date spot<br />

with a full bar. At Pizzeria, flashy combos<br />

like the truffle-scented Della Casa Bianca<br />

and the egg yolk-topped Fiorentina can’t<br />

make up for a too-salty crust. Nea Pizza<br />

1889, on the other hand, is as religiously<br />

Italian as Silvio Orlando in The Young Pope,<br />

with a performance to match. Chef Oscar<br />

Eisa and most of his staff were born and<br />

raised in Naples, and every ingredient<br />

gracing the chewy, blistered dough comes<br />

straight from the motherland – from the<br />

organic olive oil on the exemplary Queen<br />

Margherita to the Cetara anchovies and<br />

wild Sicilian oregano spicing up the Napule.<br />

And while sweets at most pizzerias are<br />

an afterthought, the traditional pastries<br />

baked here will make your nonna sigh with<br />

recognition. Pick up a ricotta and candiedorange<br />

tart for dessert, and a cornetto or<br />

two for tomorrow morning.<br />

Chausseestr. 49, Mitte, daily 8-22<br />

Gambino’s Pizza<br />

and Highballs<br />

Best pop-up Jaja<br />

Have you heard of the Roccbox? It’s a<br />

portable UFO-looking gizmo that heats up to<br />

nearly 500 degrees, and it’s the reason why<br />

you’re suddenly seeing pizza at restaurants<br />

that never had it before. That includes places<br />

like the natural wine bar Jaja in Reuterkiez,<br />

whose former chef and new co-owner Hannes<br />

Broecker has been firing up absolutely stellar<br />

pies on an irregular basis since late November.<br />

The crust is sourdough, flavourful and chewycrisp,<br />

but it’s the ingenious, always-changing,<br />

local, seasonal and artisanal topping combos<br />

that keep Neuköllners coming back for<br />

more. Depending on the weekend, your pizza<br />

might come with homemade sauerkraut and<br />

sustainably caught Nordic sardines, morel<br />

mushrooms and cheese from Brandenburg<br />

dairy Urstrom Kaese, or – the one that<br />

won me over – a spicy-meaty-earthy mix<br />

of fennel salami, padron peppers, buffalo<br />

mozzarella and hot sauce. Locavore scene<br />

star Otto has been doing something very<br />

similar across town, but for the price<br />

(€10 versus €12-15) and risk of the pizza<br />

Best pregaming Gambino’s<br />

Pizza and Highballs<br />

For a place that sounds like it belongs in<br />

a strip mall off the New Jersey interstate,<br />

Gambino’s Pizza and Highballs takes its<br />

food seriously. Head pizzaiolo Robert D’Elia<br />

has made the rounds from Cecconi’s in Soho<br />

House to Moabit gem Mangiare, and he’s<br />

got the crust to show for it: perfectly formed<br />

and ultra-light, an ideal canvas for tangy<br />

tomato sauce and smoked mozzarella or a<br />

gut-busting four-cheese blend with knifelike<br />

shards of baked Parmesan. It’s not for<br />

vegans – the sole meatless, cheeseless pie on<br />

the menu, the Vegana, is a rather sad affair –<br />

and Futura up the road might have a better<br />

overall product. But given Gambino’s cluband<br />

bar-adjacent location, its scene pedigree<br />

(the tatted-up, Naples-born owner was last<br />

seen co-running Mitte BBQ and nightspot<br />

Chicago Williams) and those highballs<br />

(basically long drinks served in smaller<br />

glasses), expect it to be a whole lot of fun<br />

once restaurants are back in full swing.<br />

Sonntagstr. 30, Friedrichshain, daily 12-21<br />

Best promise Mamida<br />

Those who unleash strings of Italian curses<br />

at the sight of pineapple on pizza should<br />

probably avoid Prenzlauer Berg’s Mamida.<br />

The menu starts with margherita and<br />

marinara, then immediately veers into wilder<br />

territory: pickled pears, crumbled almond<br />

tarallo (mini breadsticks), or – vaffanculo! –<br />

pulled pork and pineapple ketchup. Blame<br />

former Gazzo head chef Mikel Plasari, who’s<br />

going for a “contemporary international”<br />

vibe with this new project and stresses that<br />

his pizza is not Neapolitan, despite sharing<br />

some crust similarities. About that crust: it’s<br />

sourdough, a new formula developed with<br />

the help of a chemist, and dominates to the<br />

point where I had to ponder whether I was<br />

eating pizza or puffy-edged flatbread with<br />

stuff sprinkled on it. But there was something<br />

alchemically delicious about the combination<br />

of celeriac veloute, wild garlic pesto and<br />

truffle oil on the vegan Truffle Sensation, or<br />

the pureed asparagus, bacon spread (from<br />

Gazzo salsiccia supplier The Sausage Man<br />

Never Sleeps) and violet-coloured potato<br />

chips on the Purple Jam. Toppings change<br />

every few months, and you can bet I’ll be<br />

back to see what else the crew has in store.<br />

Dunckerstr. 80a, Prenzlauer Berg, Tue-Sun 17-22<br />

48 <strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


| 100% MADE IN BERLIN | PRINTED ON RECYCLED PAPER |<br />

| €4.90 |<br />

COLUMN— The Gay Berliner<br />

A different kind of grind<br />

As lockdown measures bear down on queer<br />

communities, the Gay Berliner pays tribute to hustlers<br />

who are down but not defeated.<br />

“She works hard for the money,”<br />

wailed Donna Summer in her 1983<br />

signature song of the same name.<br />

Just over a year ago, no one would have<br />

thought the diva’s drudgery jam applied<br />

here. In shiftless Berlin, the town where<br />

(pre-pandemic) nobody seemed to work<br />

and people spent all day sitting around<br />

in cafes, the reality is that queers were<br />

keeping that illusion alive with, well,<br />

hard work. It takes sweat<br />

to make life look this<br />

cheap. Think about it:<br />

the people working the<br />

stages, the drag shows,<br />

the bars, the DJ decks;<br />

the staff corralling people<br />

into the things we called<br />

nightclubs; the folks that<br />

organise the parties; then<br />

there’s the waiting staff<br />

and restauranteurs…<br />

They’re all queers, busting<br />

their asses to keep<br />

Berlin and its reputation running!<br />

When corona hit though, they were the<br />

first to feel the pain. It certainly wasn’t<br />

bankers or start-ups whose livelihoods<br />

were put on pause; queer businesses<br />

took the hit. Many bars and clubs are<br />

fighting for their lives, and two of the<br />

city’s most beloved have bitten the dust<br />

since the pandemic hit: Prenzlauer Berg’s<br />

gay watering hole Greifbar and cult dive<br />

institution Barbie Deinhoff’s (one of the<br />

first places I used to fall apart in when<br />

I arrived here) have both hung up their<br />

feather boas. SchwuZ, perhaps Berlin’s<br />

most recognisable queer institution, has<br />

turned to some surprising merchandising<br />

to stay afloat, including coffee mugs that<br />

say “Homo Office”. Aren’t clubs the places<br />

we go to in the hope of forgetting the<br />

mundanity of our jobs? Then again, who<br />

can blame them? Honestly, with a glittery<br />

gold and pink finish, the mugs are pretty<br />

cool. I got one.<br />

And what about the livelihoods of<br />

queer people on the ground? Many<br />

lost things key to their identities. My<br />

friend Sandy ran a popular rock club in<br />

a Friedrichshain darkroom bar which<br />

was abruptly ended by the pandemic.<br />

She’s not the only queer I know who had<br />

to give up their own slice of that tasty<br />

JUNE 2021<br />

nightlife pie. She’s now taken up courses<br />

in coding, which is tough and pretty rad<br />

and almost pandemic-proof. Queers<br />

are nothing if not resilient, but I’m sure<br />

she would have appreciated not having<br />

the rug ripped out from under her feet.<br />

One of the city’s biggest underground<br />

drag queens has grown exhausted of<br />

the live-streaming runaround and now<br />

works in a vaccination centre. This is<br />

obviously commendable<br />

– a much-needed hustle<br />

at the moment – but she<br />

was doing well enough<br />

before the pandemic hit<br />

and would have continued<br />

down her own yellow brick<br />

road had she not been<br />

forced to find something<br />

else.<br />

Walter Crasshole<br />

The sectors hit the<br />

on queer Berlin hardest by the pandemic<br />

were the culture and<br />

restaurant industries,<br />

sectors staffed overwhelmingly by queers<br />

– and there’s been barely a bail-out done<br />

about it. It’s heartbreaking, really. Like I<br />

said, queers are resilient, but it’s tough.<br />

We are used to being failed by the systems<br />

and people around us. Most of us grew<br />

up failed by parents, schools and the<br />

communities we were born into. Now<br />

we are being failed yet again. But not<br />

necessarily defeated. You bet when this<br />

thing is over, we’ll be the grafters working<br />

hard for that money, honey. So treat us<br />

right. T<br />

One of the city’s<br />

biggest underground<br />

drag queens has<br />

grown exhausted of<br />

the live-streaming<br />

runaround and<br />

now works in a<br />

vaccination centre.<br />

13.06.— 19.09.2021<br />

Hamburger Bahnhof<br />

Museum für Gegenwart – Berlin<br />

www.smb.museum/hbf<br />

Von der<br />

SPRACHE<br />

JOSEPH<br />

BEUYS<br />

aus<br />

zum 100.<br />

Geburtstag<br />

Starting from<br />

LANGUAGE<br />

JOSEPH BEUYS<br />

at 100<br />

<strong>205</strong><br />

J U N E 2 0 2 1<br />

SPECIAL<br />

Jobs &<br />

jobbing in<br />

Berlin<br />

49


SHORT ESCAPES BY EMILY MCDONNELL<br />

MECK-POMM<br />

A whole<br />

lot of lake<br />

For months, even a trip<br />

to Wannsee has felt like a<br />

daring journey beyond the<br />

city parameters. As summer<br />

sets in and lockdown eases,<br />

Exberliner’s travel columnist<br />

takes us further afield to the<br />

sandy shores of the Müritz.<br />

Hands up who’s been taking the<br />

same weekend day trips. Aren’t<br />

we all guilty of visiting a handful<br />

of forests and lakes on a rotating schedule?<br />

And as amazing as they are, maybe<br />

it’s time we remind ourselves of a world<br />

beyond Berlin and Brandenburg, even if it<br />

is just Mecklenburg-Vorpommern for now<br />

(baby steps).<br />

Now that the weather is getting<br />

warmer, take yourself to the Müritz to<br />

get that summer seaside feeling without<br />

the overwhelming crowds. Just 1.5 hours<br />

by direct train from Berlin, you’ll find<br />

the biggest lake inside Germany (Lake<br />

Constance, or the Bodensee, is larger, but<br />

we share that with Austria and Switzerland).<br />

The Müritz is at the heart of the<br />

Mecklenburger Seenplatte and sits on<br />

the western edge of the richly bio-diverse<br />

Müritz National Park, known as the ‘Land<br />

of a Thousand Lakes’.<br />

Get the train to the medieval spa town<br />

of Waren, the perfect base for exploring.<br />

It’s easily accessible from Berlin, there<br />

are lots of restaurants serving fresh fish,<br />

and there is kilometre after kilometre of<br />

unspoiled nature, from forest to lakes.<br />

One of the most perfect things about<br />

the Müritz is that you feel as if you’re in<br />

another world, and the longer you stay,<br />

the more stress you feel slip off your<br />

body. The lack of manmade noise in the<br />

forest is restorative, you can eat fresh fish<br />

that’s sustainably caught, and there is<br />

always a selection of lakeside beaches on<br />

which to laze.<br />

Favourite swimming spot Badestelle<br />

Feisnecksee looks as if it’s straight from<br />

a Wes Anderson movie, thanks to its<br />

colourful lifeguard lookout that stands<br />

atop a small sandy cove and is backed by<br />

pine trees.<br />

Must not miss fish You have to get a<br />

Fisch-Brötchen (ask for whatever is freshest!)<br />

from the Fischerhof Waren, it is an<br />

institution. Warm bread rolls, smoked fish<br />

and tangy pickles: it’s the perfect taste of<br />

the region.<br />

Take your bike You can cycle around<br />

the entire Müritz, or escape the crowds<br />

by following the paths south of Waren,<br />

on the right side of the lake, where you<br />

can ride through forests past smaller<br />

lakes and adjacent to meadows full of<br />

wildflowers. T<br />

TMB<br />

OFF TO BRANDENBURG!<br />

TMB<br />

Family water fun<br />

The sun is peeping out, the<br />

lockdown is easing up – time<br />

for your little ones to embark<br />

on some outdoor adventures.<br />

Luckily, Brandenburg doesn’t<br />

just offer lots of green space,<br />

but also over 3000 lakes and<br />

endless water activities. Why<br />

not make the most of it?<br />

For instance, Ziegeleipark<br />

Mildenberg has its own<br />

adventure park where there’s<br />

a cable ferry over Herzbergstich<br />

lake for children to pull<br />

themselves from one bank<br />

to the other; there’s also<br />

the opportunity for them to<br />

drive a train and make brick<br />

sculptures in the old industrial<br />

building. Two particularly<br />

family-friendly canoe tours<br />

are the 9km loop at Hohennauener-Ferchesarer<br />

See and<br />

the 4km Burger Fischpass-<br />

Tour in Spreewald. For those<br />

with older kids, stand-up<br />

paddleboarding is ideal; head<br />

to the Wassersport-Center<br />

at Wolziger See or Hotel<br />

Döllnsee-Schorfheide to rent<br />

boards and cruise around<br />

lakes that are never too<br />

crowded.<br />

Go to brandenburg-tourism.<br />

com for a complete list of<br />

family fun and water activities,<br />

as well as real-time<br />

updates on Covid restrictions<br />

and travel and tourism<br />

regulations.<br />

50 <strong>EXB</strong>ERLINER <strong>205</strong>


How the<br />

Time<br />

Goes<br />

(Episode 1–7)<br />

FORCED ENTERTAINMENT<br />

23.6., 20:00 / Premiere /<br />

Online on www.HAU4.de<br />

➞ www.hebbel-am-ufer.de


Photographs by Fred Stein<br />

Report<br />

from Exile<br />

11.12.2020–20.6.2021<br />

Pei-Bau, Hinter dem Gießhaus 3, 10117 Berlin<br />

dhm.de/FredStein

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