I don’t live in Paris or Berlin. Neither are my home and neither are for most of us. This is more of a response aligned with relevant commentary, than of a systematic deconstruction and review of the media that I received in an email last week from Amélie Ravalec. It was regarding a documentary she directed – “Paris/Berlin: 20 Years Of Underground Techno”. It delineates a clarion contrast, and in many ways a consistent comparison, between Berlin and Paris and their respective circuitry evolutions. There’s nothing that hasn’t already been said about Berlin, and this documentary doesn’t change that. I didn’t expect it to and ultimately that’s not the point. For me this isn’t really about Berlin or Paris. Or Detroit. Or London. Or Chicago. That’s an implied accomplishment that sonic citadels accept in all their passive modesty and it’s their success that reverberates globally.
This is about taking away what you can from the social experiments that act as the foundations for cultural freedom, and reflecting on how you can formulate a relevant local response, where ever your place of residence in the world. I think that’s what this piece of film achieves, deliberately or not.
Laurent Garnier’s experience at Hacienda and how he incorporated it into his life in Paris is an appropriate illustration on successful urban assimilation. Perhaps authorities perceived it as his sequel to compulsory French military exercises and dealt with the cultural movement accordingly. Irrespective of the analogy, Paris wasn’t ready to acknowledge the freedoms its counterpart resided in. It takes a certain degree of decadence and carelessness to foster that kind of society, and outside of Europe the situation deteriorates substantially. It’s the perception of a lack of personal responsibility that facilitates adverse law enforcement strategies and with that you start to realise that Berlin is one of the few cities without a wall. Ironic or not, combating the scenario is the source of our creative insurgencies, and the byproduct is the identity you contribute to that effortlessly transgresses any movements vitality.
At an individual level, you can only do the best you can to incite the deliberate audaciousness that drives innovative advances. Christophe, Garnier and Adam X reinforce this better than anyone else in the film. You can immediately tell when someone is freely speaking from their heart because it stops your own heart momentarily. That’s just enough time to reinforce your own impetus and deduce a plan that’s worthy of execution. Even with that motivational ideology, it’s your environment that harbours broader success.
The identity of your city is important. It’s your actions that define it and it has a consequence on not only yourself, but everyone in your life. It inspires them to adjust their focus accordingly, and if you want to change the way people perceive the world they live in for the better, it requires a unique presence. Maybe every city requires a reenactment of the events that transpired throughout May 1968 in France to discern it’s true character, though realistically the scale of that revolution isn’t easily imitated. The illegal street and warehouse parties that relentlessly littered Europe would be a more realistic approach to encouraging the spirit of electronic music, and as that last party you attended recedes, albeit with police assistance, you would like to think it leaves an impression that catalysis the contribution of others.
With that though, there are some obstacles we often find ourselves trying to navigate aside from local law enforcement policy, and that’s primarily ourselves and it’s discussed in the film. It’s no secret that some techno artists have completely lost sight of what this music is about. For me, living in Australia, the fees that are sometimes sought are questionable at best when tours are undertaken outside of Europe, especially when they traverse smaller scenes. Aside from the artist, it’s the artist’s booking agent(cies) who can accept a portion of responsibility. Primarily though, it’s the promoters and tour companies who actually pay disproportionate fees elsewhere. It sets an unwarranted expectation that’s to the detriment of the wider techno community. With that said, none of this should have an effect on anyone’s vision for tomorrow. Changing the cultural attitude of your local community certainly doesn’t require flagship artists to be booked week in and week out, in fact it’s better off without that routine. It’s a costly exercise that doesn’t provoke the necessary passion of attendees if they’re not across the music to begin with.
Furthermore, promoters only have themselves to blame if they insist on providing repetitive club experiences. If people are aware of a platform that’s contrary to their expectations, they’ll attend. It may take some time, but without perseverance it only assists in disheartening and alienating the people they want to influence. I’m sure both Paris and Berlin would coordinate their own support of that concept as those caustic lights drift off with your own thoughts. Those thoughts and the story of these two cities matter. Not because it should change your perspective on electronic music and what it means to you, but despite the most sincere of calculated intentions, they only shadow the achievements of their residents. Just like everywhere else in the world given the opportunity and stimulus.
It’s now 11:50 AM Monday here in Brisbane Australia, and 3:50 AM in Berlin Germany along with Paris France. At any given moment there’s nothing I’ve said that isn’t resting heavily on someone else’s mind. Maybe those walls aren’t so big after all.
Elliot Clarke, Monday June 10 2013
Photo credits: Hacienda, Manchester. Laurent Garnier.