a berghain devotional

sam holleran, bernd riedel& kitty gunther

Berghain, the famed club in a former East Berlin power station, needs no introduction. It’s 72-hour-long parties, epic lines, and dark rooms are the stuff of lore. When Katrina “Kitty” Günther, of Berlin’s Ellery Studio, started on this illustration she had never been there. Instead she created a cut-away diagram based on hazy memories from friends, news reports, and urban legends. The illustration is a bit like Dürer’s Rhinoceros—a vision of a fabled beast through a garbled line of transmission—and a bit of oral history, graphically recorded with a magical realist flourish.

The Berghain depicted here is part heaven, part Boschian hell. Guarded by twin sphinxes, guests are ‘selected’ and ushered in, or disgorged into the pit below. Inside, the club is a Thunderdome of sound and revelry, but with a despondent black-clad hedonism that makes it a far cry from predecessor party spots like New York’s Studio 54 and London’s Fabric. One can’t forget that the festivities take place in an industrial site built by a totalitarian state on the ruins of a fascist state. The intensity of the partying is undergirded by the idea that things could be much much worse.

The main dance floor is guarded by a dragon, fog from its nostrils that provides a mysterious air and powers the entire operation via massive turbine. Bold men in harnesses disappear into dark rooms and cubby holes. For those who have ingested too many substances in the busy bathroom stalls, a swirling ‘k-hole’ vortex provides an alternative exit from the premises. A ‘lady boss’ DJ hovers above the crowd on an Aztec pyramid ready for sacrifice, she is topped by the bass: goddess, ruler of the kingdom.


Published on: 25th April 2019