Berlin in the '90s: 'Loud, colorful, unique'

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

A platform for DJs in "Tresor"

The clubs stayed open all night, and there were plenty of abandoned industrial sites to house them. Renunified Berlin was tailor-made for all-nighters in abandoned cellars. At the birth of the techno scene, many DJs began their careers in legendary nightclubs like "Tresor." This historic turntable at the exhibition "Nineties Berlin" is an homage to raves in the 90s.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Creative space

Concerts, theater, readings, artwork, discussions: There was no limit to creativity at the "Kunsthaus Tacheles." Occupied in 1990 by an artists' initiative, the ruins on Oranienburger Strasse became a cultural institution over the course of the decade. After years of dispute, the remaining artists had to finally abandon the site in September 2012.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Berlin, the "divided island"

Named "Berlin Island," one room in the exhibition recalls the once divided, later reunited city. A 270-degree screen 55 meters (180 feet) wide takes visitors on a voyage of discovery through the 90s – from the night the Wall fell to the Love Parade. Original photo and video recordings play to the accompaniment of a soundtrack with music of the decade.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Movement of the masses

Celebrating peace and joy, the first Love Parade kicked off modestly in 1989 with about 150 techno fans - but in a few years morphed into one of Europe's biggest musical events. In 2010, the last Love Parade ended in tragedy in the city of Duisburg, with mass panic taking the lives of 21 partiers and injuring hundreds.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Taking the dragon on a worldwide tour

Suspended over visitors' heads is this impressive exhibit, the original, one-time fire-breathing head of a dragon that the internationally famous German rock band Rammstein took around the world on their "Sehnsucht" (Longing) Tour in 1997. The cult band had formed three years earlier in Berlin. Rumor has it that a new album is scheduled for release in 2018.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Were you there?

Curator Michael Geithner interviewed 13 former clubgoers. Their voices make the 90s experience as vivid as though the visitors had actually been there,too, he says. The politicial celebrity Gregor Gysi and Inga Humpe, singer in the Band 2Raumwohnung, were among the persons interviewed. "In the end, what they all have in common is a love-hate relationship to the city," adds Geithner.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Berlin-Mitte in artists' hands

Pop music icon Inga Humpe was one of many westerners to move to central Berlin, the "Mitte." In cultural terms, the newly-discovered city district was a clean slate. The many decrepit, faded structures from the Communist era in East Berlin were soon occupied by artists, who advocated "intermediary use." Weekly bars opened everywhere, serving drinks only one day of the week.

Taking visitors back to "Nineties Berlin"

Wall casualities

This installation with kalashnikov rifles recalls the 140 persons who died between 1961 and 1989 while trying to breach the Berlin Wall dividing the eastern and western parts of the city and tells their stories. Not all died of machine gun fire. Some drowned in border waters or fell to their deaths.

Many compare Berlin in the '90s to New York in the '70s. The entire city was as a playground for art and night life. An exhibition recalls wild times in the exotic, unpredictable and productive capital.

Until February 28, 2019, party-hungry East Berliners, hooligans and squatters populate a new exhibition at the "Alte Münze," once a coin-manufacturing plant in central Berlin.

One of the exhibition's curators, Michael Geithner, told DW that the time was ripe: "Nearly 30 years have passed, and the cityscape has changed. Many who remember Berlin in the 90s have a need to reconnect to those times," says Geithner. "And those of us at the GDR museum telling the history of former East Germany also need to tell the story of what happened after the Berlin Wall fell." 

Many of the sites commemorated still exist, and much of the music that made the soundtrack to the 90s is still familiar, but Geithner says that young people today are fascinated by the heady spirit of freedom that excited an earlier generation.

Titled "Lost Berlin," one exhibition space leads visitors through a labyrinth to various locals that no longer exist, including "Tresor," the original techno club where the first big raves in the eastern part of the city took place, to a pirate broadcaster and to houses occupied by squatters. The journey ends in a small mirrored room dedicated to the Love Parade.

Nature and Environment | 09.08.2018

The Berlin Wall and the vacant green space left behind after it was torn down – empty territory that symbolized a wall remaining in people's minds – are further subjects of the exhibition.

"Poor but sexy" was once the description for reunited Berlin, but that, says Michael Geithner, no longer applies. "Now Berlin is confronted by an identity crisis. The city has to actively work to establish creative spaces for artists, students and other young people," says Geithner. "Berlin shouldn't just be sold to the highest bidder," he adds.

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