29.3.15

Rhythms of Resisd@nce: Making Waves by the Pool


If you were passing through the Wiener Strasse area yesterday, you might have noticed that it was not a day for 'business as usual', down at the local pool.  Semi-nude bathers inside the pool clustered by its windowed walls to goggle at a swirling pool of dancers outside on Spreewaldplatz, making waves of the sonic kind... 

Yes, that's right: the Spreewaldplatz was briefly reclaimed by an underrepresented Berlin demographic: the ravers.  Not just the people who go to raves, but those who organize them, as well: living, eating, sleeping and breathing in the liberty that is found in the city's underpopulated, undiscovered nooks and crannies.

Around 90% of inner-city Berlin used to be comprised of such nooks & crannies before the relentless march of commercialization began.  So it may be fair to say that many of the people at yesterday's Reclaim the Gorli party embodied the untamed spirit that put Berlin on the map in the first place.

As often reported on this blog, the city's free spirit has been bruised and disfigured by business interests, city officials and others who would prefer to box it up & sell it in some sort of cheesy supermall.  Recently however, the free party scene has been breaking through the limitations imposed on it by the rich and powerful, and refusing to be sidelined in some distant obscure part of town. The Reclaim the Gorli party seems to be the latest symptom of that fightback: ravers using their wits to secure a free space in the center, a free platform for their vision, even if it only lasts a few hours.

While it was definitely a party, yesterday's event was technically a protest as well.  (At one point, a super-chilled speaker answered a man in the crowd, ranting about having been unfairly arrested earlier that week, by burring, 'Well if you are angry, you are welcome').  But the 'speech' was a largely non-verbal barrage of repetitive beats that transformed the stale, formulaic and predictable scene into a hallucinogenic one, where trippers led each other in Qi Gong under the shade of trees, whistling to the baffled birds overhead.

If they were demonstrating anything, it was that some freedoms just can't be summed up on a placard or a pamphlet: they need to be exercised like an inflexible limb. 

What else happened there?  Well, there were speeches about racial profiling and refugees rights, a proud father dancing with his kid on his shoulders to speedy tekno in a 150-strong crowd, a guy in a blond wig strumming a ukelele, passionate speeches in praise of the sunshine, friendly nutters handing out apples and "Riots Not Diets" stickers to little girls, and other random & assorted mash-ups and crossbreeds of scenes that exist above, below, beside and perpendicular to Berlin's mainstream.  Which is either saying something or nothing at all, because I'm not even sure if Berlin has a mainstream, or whether that's just a current that broke through when the dam of the wall opened under the pressure from everywhere else.  

The line of riot vans leading up to Spreewaldplatz from Gorlitzer Bahnhof served as a trail of breadcrumbs for any party people that were tracking the site, providing better publicity than any flyering campaign could have done.  They kept a tight rein on the sound though, only allowing the freetekno-playing DJs to increase it increments as the crowd swelled, on what seemed to be a decibel-per-head basis. But as friends were phoned and passers-by encouraged to join in, the music got louder through the day... it lasted late into the night.

Cautiously curious tourists loitered around the edges, checking out the sub-cultural 'sight' before being gradually sucked in by its sound and movement.  They may not all have been into the music that was playing, but the atmosphere had a special appeal of its own. 

This was the third Reclaim the Gorli event that has happened around Goerlitzer Park recently.  There is another one planned for this Sunday afternoon (today).

Kreuzberg seems to be in constant danger of becoming an expensive showcase of itself, where tour groups can goggle at street life from behind a cafe window, as if the streets are some sort of display piece, out of the hands of the people.  Yesterday, those roles seemed to be reversed, with the gaping voyeurs on display in their cafes while the chock-a-block street life cut off their 'view'.  When it comes to saving free public spaces, it is usually a case of 'use it or lose it'. Kreuzberg's not quite lost it, not yet. 

Note: The police decision to relocate these demos outside of Gorli's walls seems like a passive-aggressive tactic to ensure that the neighbours will complain about them eventually, due to a lack of sound barriers between locals & the rhythms of resistance.  That hurdle needs to be gotten around eventually - it's not hard to see how the cops may start to use residential noise fears as a reason to silence this political party broadcast.  But in the meantime, you should get down there and help them make some sonic waves of your own... with your feet!

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Berlin, Germany
...is NOT a fashion blogger! I write about underground music, activism, social media rights. Other publications that I have written for: OpenDemocracy, Urban Challenger, Siegesaeule, Alternative Berlin and Sensanostra.