Berlin Stories–Looks Like Hell, Feels Like Heaven

柏林--看似地狱,却更接近天堂

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清晨世界的微光渐渐透入五层楼高的废弃发电厂,更加凸显内里的残旧,野生。没有一丝雕琢,向上望去,一扇扇长方形窗户垂直延伸至天空,透着外面世界混合的红色炫光,让人心生一股圣洁的安逸。震耳欲聋的重工业base,迷幻的烟雾,缭绕在这似乎战场一般的舞池中。没有性别、性向、种族、年龄之分,没有任何偏见,包容世界的一切光怪陆离。或赤身裸体,或皮具加身,这是世界上最没有拘束和规则的无政府狂欢。碰撞的铁门,哐当地敲醒每一个迷失的灵魂。一个没有镜子的地方,让你不再在乎自己的缺陷和不足。似乎永不停止的音乐,让你完全忘却外面世界的规则和理性,沉陷在最自我的灵魂世界。

The twilight starts sneaking in from the rectangular windows of this five-floor-high parallel universe, stuffed inside an abandoned electronic powerhouse, exposing even more of all the ruggedness and rawness of the interior. Looking up, the church-like windows extend almost limitlessly to the sky, mixing and reflecting with colours of bizarre red and steel blue, giving me a sense of stability and comfort. It makes me doubt my sensibility as the base is hitting harder than ever in my ears, the fog is covering my eyes, and I can feel the sweat, the heat and the flames coming off from every person around me. As the day arrives, the people dance harder than the long long, endless night, as if a brutal war has reached a new peak. Regardless of gender, sexual orientation, physical disabilities, race, height, body type, containing all the abnormality of today’s human society. Some fully naked, some covered in leather, the banging of the iron doors in the toilet, the staircases that leads to mystical destinations, all of these fragmented moments all construct in my head a whole new surreality. What is reality? I couldn’t remember.

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这一切,看似地狱,却更接近天堂。

It looked like hell, but felt like heaven.

柏林,代表着不仅是后冷战时代的象征,德国的政治文化首都,同时也是世界叛逆青年的大本营。这是一个近乎无政府的社会,却又是政府体现最明显的社会之一。

Not only a post cold war symbol and the cultural, political capital of Germany, Berlin is also the home of all restless, sleepless youth of the world. It is an near anarchist society, but also a society where good governing has the most obvious effect.

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这里建筑并不如巴黎精致,也丝毫不如纽约繁华。城市街道中弥漫的共产主义和包豪斯主义的气息,人们也并不十分富有。但正因如此,却也是一座自由的城市,阶级文化浅淡的城市,多元的城市,永不入睡的城市。

It is far less delicate compared to Paris, or can’t even come close to the glamour of New York. The constructive bauhaus seen everywhere in the city screams post-soviet. People are not rich, nor do they have a life in extreme poverty. But thanks to these preconditions, it is a city where people are not judged, where subculture can prosper to the fullest, where class stratification is less extreme and where almost any culture has a space to breathe.

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为什么当今世界上有如此多的前卫文化青年都不断地前往这个城市朝拜?

Why has this city become the Mecca of all the avant-garde youth of today?

首先,柏林不是一个外表美丽的城市。她更像一个孤儿。外表残破,却坚贞不渝。柏林墙倒塌以后,东西德的年轻人们疯狂的涌入对方的世界,而一时间东柏林的管制变得模糊。各种废弃的工厂大楼都被人们占据,彻夜地进行实验性的狂欢。艺术,表演,毒品,techno,电子乐,性文化都在同一时间迸发开来,并且成为了人们生活的正常组成部分。这也许是世界上少有的亚文化几乎占据主导地位的城市。和高度发展并且早已富裕的西德城市不同,柏林的贫穷让全德国,全欧洲,乃至全世界的青年人都搬到此地,在这个极其包容和多元化的地方生活,创作,挥霍青春。

First, Berlin is not a pretty place. She’s like an orphan who looks damaged outside, but is incredibly powerful inside. Even before the mauerfall, West Berlin was always a unique island buried inside Russian-ruled East Germany. It had the culture freedom of the West, but had less control from the authorities with regards to social order. People go out until 9, 10 in the morning, and the nights were infinitely long. It was possible to live next to nothing in the city, and those typical 4 meters high ceiling gigantic space were all up for gab. After the country reunified, there were even more abandoned facilities and empty space that were free to occupy by the youth. Thus, a new wave of experimental raves and parties kicked off. From art, performance, punk, post-punk, drugs, electronic, techno and extreme sex culture all exploded in this city, and became the normal consistence of people’s daily lives. This is perhaps the only places in the world where sub-culture has in fact become more dominant and understood by the mainstream society. Unlike other highly developed West German cities, Berlin has thus attracted all the young people to come and live, create, and embrace their youth to the fullest.

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来过三次柏林,每一次都让我有一种新的体验,而每一次也能让我更加爱上这个地方。这里人的思想可谓超越世界的开放。而他们都是些什么人?

It is my third time in the city, and I can always find a brand new perspective in life when I am here. And these inspirations makes me love this place even more each time. But who are these people living in Berlin, really?

他们是刚意识到已经怀孕,就已计划好在产子后直奔Berghain的周日下午场跳舞庆祝的年轻德国恋人;是正在进展柏拉图式恋情,互相平等相爱的三男一女;是旅居巴黎伦敦纽约最后还是留在柏林的波兰艺术家;是辞去国内工作前来追寻自己DJ梦想的年轻女孩。这是一个不愿意屈服于理性的土壤,而并不高昂的生活开支,政府的住宅、社会保障,都给予了这些人们追寻自由的权利。

They are a young couple who just got pregnant, and rationally decides to raise the child unmarried, then goes to Bargain on a Sunday afternoon to celebrate the birth of their baby in 10 months. They are three men and a woman who are currently madly in love together in a platonic relationship. He is a Polish artist who eventually settled back in Berlin after living in the craziest cities in the world. She is a young girl who quitted her job and studies in China to pursue her DJ dream. This is a land where non-conformists rule, and irrationality seems to have its way around. Inexpensive cost of living, well-rounded social security system, student scholarships and a less-material driven culture enabled the such social norms.

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再谈到柏林的时装文化,这里不仅存在着一个世界上都极其独特的衣着文化,也同时在影响着世界许多不同的设计师们创作。贫穷,作为这里时尚的发源理念,深深充斥在每一个人的造型选择中。人们似乎不约而同地遵循和一个秘密,却又众所周知的时装信条。用极具故事感,随机感和不刻意却有十分刻意的古旧衣物,打造比例、色调都和这个城市冲突又协调的个人形象。似乎没有什么限制,却有充满着潜藏规则。如今在巴黎兴起的Gosha Rubchinsky, Vetements等以亚文化和后苏主义贫穷放荡少年为灵感的流行,正是抽离其意,却有深深符合其宗旨的延展。

Speaking of fashion in Berlin, the city has an extremely unique creed of attire, and  also extends its influence to inspirational mood boards of designers across the globe. “Poor but sexy”, as a core value that Berlin fashion grew on, can be found in almost everyone’s way of dressing. This dress code is an open secret that takes some time to get hold on. Berliners like to have random yet carefully thought out matching between new pieces and vintage clothing, creating coordinated and curated colour palettes and silhouettes that contrast with the city blandish background, but still perfectly mashing in. It seems limitless, yet this dress code is filled with rules and faux-pas. The poor, post-soviet, communist suburban style, perfectly illustrated by Gosha Rubchinsky and Vetements, that is sweeping through street style of fashion week in Europe, is exactly using such Berliner dress code standards to create this nouveau high-street sensation. Nothing fitted, looking like you found a Russian Grandpa’s ankle long jacket with shoulder pads that drop till your mid-arms, but still wore it with a perfectly effortless “I threw on this randomly and came out” spirit, is what’s causing mainstream fashion to rethink street style today. Indeed, Berlin is about looking somewhat poor, random and not following what mainstream is telling you to wear, while actually spending a lot of effort into building such image of your own.

不过,我们也在讨论的是,这种独特的时装品味仿佛在世界上其他许多地方却格格不入。也许是柏林这座城市本身建筑的简约,甚至破败的冷感,令到它犹如一张材质独特的白色宣纸。相比其他较为繁复而浮夸的城市,例如巴黎、伦敦、纽约,这种服装又会变得过度残破儿不入流。不过当然,拿捏每一个城市的着装脉动,也是人们在不断探讨的一门学问。究竟有没有一种风格能拥有融入每一个地方的魔力,却又不会沦为普普众生的呢?

However, what we are also discussing is how such unique fashion taste is difficult to apply in other cities in the world. Perhaps it’s the vast blandness and minimalist constructions of the city that makes it seem like a piece of white paper with a rare texture. Compared to other more glamorous cities like Hong Kong, Paris or London, such way of dressing would seem a bit too out of place. But of course, feeling the pulse of every city’s fashion scene is something fashion workers are always passionate in discovering. But is there a certain style that can blend into the magic aura of each city, yet not drowning into the general crowd?

而另外一点让我不断感到十分有趣的是,在柏林这个城市里“活在过去”的简易性。一个朋友对我说,他常常觉得自己被困在了过去的时光中。他无法接受现代科技的不断更新,而总是在缅怀过去不久的文化、音乐、服装和生活方式。这种”Golden Age Syndromne” 是当今人类社会对过快发展和信息爆炸的现代文化所产生的一种抵触和自我反击。他们永远觉得过去的政治信仰,新闻准则,甚至是电子游戏,卡通动漫,都远比现在层出不穷的新鲜版本要好得多。而柏林的许多带有浓浓后共产主义的街区,以及城市随处可见的历史沉淀感,都让这种生活方式变得可能,变得理性。

Another thing that interests me very much is the easiness of “living in the past” in this city. A friend said to me that he always feels very trapped in the past eras. He finds it very difficult in accepting the speeding development of technology, and is always reminiscing about the culture, music and fashion scene in the past. Such “Gold Age Syndrome” is a self defence mechanism against the over capacity of development, and the accelerated explosion of modern day information. They always find the old political beliefs, news standards, even video games and cartoon animations much better than the ones today. And it seems possible and achievable to live such a lifestyle in Berlin with neighbourhoods combined with that sexy post-soviet feel and classical historical heritage.

恰逢我从柏林回到香港,Alessandro Michele的新Gucci 2016 春夏广告,就将拍摄地点选择在了柏林。也许这座城市外表上那股恬淡的悲伤沉重感,以及它充斥着空白和石灰感的城市建筑,恰好和Gucci极繁主义的文艺浪漫格调创造出的强烈对比感,更加突出了这种视觉和感官冲击。不过,在柏林街头穿这一整套Gucci华丽的蕾丝缎面刺绣男装,还真的是一丝疯呢。

Right when I returned to Hong Kong from Berlin, the 2016 Spring Summer Campaign of Gucci was launched. And coincidentally, Berlin is the background. The heavy grey concrete and the enjoyable sense of voidness really make the maximal Gucci romanticism by Alessandro Michele stand out perfectly.

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Gucci 2016 SS Campaign shot on a Berlin Rooftop
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Gucci 2016 SS Campaign shot in Berlin

带着许许多多对文化,人性,生活方式的艺术,性,未来和过去的沉思,我离开了这个让人感到无尽自由的城市。不过,相信这一定只是短暂的分别。

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2015年12月24日,写于柏林–>巴黎的晨曦中

2015, Dec 24th, in the air.

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