Lost & Found (VII)



»Berlin Super 80« looks back at the punk, New Wave and Super-8 scene of the early eighties



Christian Höller




»Our music isn’t notes any more, and it’s not important what sort of sounds it is: the only important thing is what it is and that it’s biased.« This bon mot by Blixa Bargeld is to be found in the introduction to the programmatic book »Geniale Dilletanten« (Brilliant Amateurs), published by Merve in 1982. This book, with its misspelled title, was put together following the »Große Untergangs-Show« of September 1981, an event at Berlin’s Tempodrom presenting a cross section of the scene whose legendary potential still lives on today. This, despite the fact that most careers in this scene, with a few exceptions (Einstürzende Neubauten, Malaria), fizzled out soon afterwards or didn’t even really get launched at all. But the »Berliner Krankheit« (Berlin Disease) – as a tour package at the time was called – had something very contagious about it, not least because it created new and surprising incubation focuses between the visual, sound and performance sectors. A sort of concentrated quarantine area that produced a degree of intensity unmatched anywhere else in the German-speaking world at the time (with the possible exception of Düsseldorf). After all, the source of this illness was a walled-in enclave, a fact which was often enough to become a theme in crossover works of this period.

»Berlin Super 80« (monitorprop entertainment), a box with DVD, booklet and CD, has now taken on the task of making re-available these incubation zones between the music, film and performance scenes. This lavish project does not stop at compiling long-lost pieces of music ranging from pneumatic-hammer aesthetics to depro funk (from Sprung aus den Wolken to Mona Mur & die Mieter): »Berlin Super 80« also gives the Super-8 scene, which survived, barely, as a vital force amidst the general torpor, with its numerous über-amateurs from Frieder Butzmann to Rolf S. Wolkenstein, its digitised resting place, belated but well-deserved. The result is a spectrum of sounds and images whose historical horizon has already been excellently outlined by Jürgen Teipel’s »Verschwende Deine Jugend« (2002), though by no means exhaustively, let alone examined in all its intermedial ramifications. The fact that live documents of the »Große Untergangs-Show« (on the label http://www.vinyl-on-demand.com) are also to be issued later this year testifies to the newly awakened and widespread interest in concrete visual instruction about the early eighties.

The music and film underground in West Berlin: it started around 1980, when Super-8 became a sort of visual counterpart to punk, and filmmakers who were also musicians began to illustrate the hammering and blaring of musicians who were also filmmakers. Because all of them, despite (or perhaps because of) the widespread apocalyptic mood, had strong ambitions to produce »performances«, the result was media hybrids that found an outlet not only in Super-8 festivals like »Interfilm« or »happenings« at scene venues like Risiko or S.O.36. In fact, the work of many groups was per se already situated at the interface between the above-mentioned areas. »Fragment Video« (1983) by the group Notorische Reflexe is a striking example. At first we see a graffiti-covered section of the Berlin Wall being whitewashed to create a projection surface; then high-velocity car rides through the city, visually contradicting the feeling of acute claustrophobia; in between we see appearances of the performance group in the White Cube or on concert stages; then, towards the end, a street fight filmed from the midst of the turmoil, probably May 1 protests in Kreuzberg, which mirror at a realpolitical level the reflective nature of the entire situation. At the end, we again stand at the Wall, with even starker and more heavily charged images. Besides little finds like these, the DVD section is dominated by radical experiments in form (»Spanish Fly« by Frieder Butzmann and Thomas Kiesel), classic happening films (»Berliner Küchenmusik« by Die Tödliche Doris) and the first personal testimonies by directors who later made a career for themselves (»Mein Papi« by Jörg Buttgereit or »3302« by Christoph Doering). The number of documentaries is surprisingly small – the only exception, but all the more worth seeing for that, is »So war das S.O.36« by Manfred Jelinski.

»Die Maschiene [sic] funktioniert, alle sind wir Geiseln« - »The machine works, we are all hostages« -, wrote Blixa Bargeld in the above-mentioned preface to »Geniale Dilletanten«. This still resonates at its most threatening today in the music of the Neubauten complex: for example, in the gruesome »Satisfaction« cover version of Sentimentale Jugend or in Alexander Hacke’s death waltz »Hiroshima, wie schön es war«. Here, the right notes truly are not what matters; it’s more about taking sides – with the damaged, or even doomed. The fact that the Berlin Super-80 period is being revived today, of all times, does not contradict this.


On May 5 2005 the »Berlin Super 80 Traumtour« with Wolfgang Müller (Die Tödliche Doris), Frieder Butzmann and others will be making a guest appearance at the Zeiss Planetarium in Vienna.




Translation: Timothy Jones