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Despite this Tillmans has never lost touch with his own sub-cultural roots that inspired the subjects of many of his best-known photographs. His style is characterized by taking what appear to be snap shots and motives that belong to everyday photographic subjects: his friends, nature, things observed in passing and along the way. Tillmans’ photographs however, have a magic quality generated by attention to subtle details that makes them stick in the viewer’s mind. A simple photograph of a tree for instance, which might be simply banal in less able hands resonates in the mind long after first seeing it. Tillmans has also continued to contribute photographic series to magazines, treating their pages with as much seriousness as a viable context for art as a museum wall. It is no surprise then that Tillmans’ work turns up in Berghain and in this context its frankness invites reflection on gender, biological essentialism and determinism as well as perhaps directly confronting some people’s misogyny with progressive frankness.

Work by Marc Brandenburg at Möbel Olfe, Berlin, 2004
Photos: Maria Morais

Marc Brandenburg is best known for his black and white drawings, which like Tillmans, draw on everyday experience, his circle of friends and the mind-expanding strangeness of interior details and objects that find their way into them. Brandenburg often deals racial and sexual stereotypes in his work too. One of his main ideas was to draw from photographic negatives revealing a world in which black is white and white is black. The Deutsche Bank’s collection includes his drawing Ohne Titel (1994) depicting a view on glittering disco balls seen through the palm of a mystic hand. For Berghain he was invited to produce an image for the January 2005 club flyer, which shows a gathering of people at an anti-Nazis demonstration (Ohne Titel, 2004).

Marc Brandenburg, January Flyer for Berghain, 2005

Aside from in galleries and museums and collections his work can also be seen in another infamous queer bar Möbel Olfe on Kottbusser Tor - the both loved and hated armpit of Berlin-Kreuzberg, a part of a city that is currently enjoying a vibrant comeback amongst the young and creative because over ten years of relentless property development and gentrification in the East of the city has slowly sucked the life out many neighbourhoods. In the grungy bar, Brandenburg covered a window of the bar with drawings on plastic transparencies with images of friends and cult figures.

Damien Hirst, Biotin-Melamide, 1995
Deutsche Bank Collection

To understand what the inclusion of art works by now established artists in their mid-career in a Berlin club perhaps represents its necessary to go back in time a bit. In the 1990s Berlin not only began to establish itself as a vibrant new centre for young contemporary art but it was also famed for its club and electronic music scene. Both scenes benefited from the unique post-Wall situation in particular in terms of affordable studio project room and gallery space as well as incredible club venues ranging from illegal bars in squatted real estate and the musty cellars of bombed out buildings on Friedrichstrasse (something which today seems completely unimaginable) to enormous abandoned industrial buildings elsewhere in the East of the city.

The gritty, harsh humour and ambiance which Berlin is famous for, and of course, the constant encounter with the physical scars and remnants of the worst and most deadly ideological battles of the 20th Century, as well as the reunification of Germany were and remain important influences on culture makers in the city.

Amelie von Wulffen, Untitled, 1998
Deutsche Bank Collection

In the early 1990s some of the most progressive art making was incubated not in galleries but in collectives and off-spaces that sprung up in the former East, while the best music wasn’t on major labels but rather distributed through a growing and successful network of small independent labels. Some of the principal figures, who may or may not have been willing to consider themselves, back then, as ‘artists’ as such were deeply sceptical and critical of the art business and anything that smacked of 1980s Cologne and Düsseldorf style art world professionalism. One of the results of this is that artist bars and projects also flourished, places where club style, music and art and their different protagonists regularly mixed. Take for example the Elektro or the Panasonic Bar were Daniel Pflumm video pieces and the music of the like of DJs Mo and Kotai were played to an art scene in-crowd in the mid to late 1990s. At the time the word ‘crossover’ for a while was in vogue and DJ turntables became more and more expected fixtures at visual art events, and a good club to go to afterwards an absolute must.

Marc Brandenburg, January Flyer for Berghain, 2005

These developments weren’t confined to Berlin think for example, one has only to think of the work of Gerwald Rockenschaub who has on occasions cross-pollinated Neo-Geo with the cool minimal aesthetic in vogue in the electronic music scene, and even Damien Hirst’s obsessive depiction of pills and drugs as well has his dot paintings like Biotin-Malemide (1995) are not so far removed from the nightlife perception and consumptions. But Berlin was the place that this approach was perhaps played out more directly and to greater extreme than elsewhere.

Carsten Nicolai, syn chron, 2005, exterior view
Photo: Uwe Walter, Berlin

Many of the works or the artists represented in the Deutsche Bank Collection reflect these roots and the surrounding discussions. One current example is Carsten Nicolai whose project Syn.chron: Architektonische Körper als interface: Raum Licht: Ton. (2005) in the Neue Nationalgalerie attempted a club related synthesis of electronic music laser lights and an experimental housing consisting of a polygonal shape placed in the middle of Mies van der Rohe's iconographic pavilion. All reflecting that at the end of the day it is people that make scenes are: Mark Brandenburg’s drawings, and recent paintings of Frank Bauer shown in Kunsthalle Bremen – one of which depicts young men busy at DJ turntables, and lastly Amelie von Wulffen, whose work is typified by her socio-political conscious exploration of the edge of photographs such as in Ohne Title (1998). Incidentally this collage depicts the much-maligned social housing project that encircles Kottbusser Tor. Her other drawings in the collection Record Release Party (2001) and Frisuren Release Party (2002) also relate to the social intersection of art and music. They also show fragile social groupings suggestive of tensions between the idea of collective and subjectivity- the same kind of friction, which by the way can make a good club great.

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