Different from the Rest of the World – The Berlin Foundation “Respekt!”
The Archive of Youth Cultures carries out research into why young peoples’ clothes, music and language cause friction with their parents. Research has been carried out in a backyard building in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg since the late nineties, shedding light on the significance and attraction of youth scenes. No one knows how long it will be there because financially, the archive is in dire straits – it was threatened with closure back in the summer of 2010. Then, celebrities such as musician Jan Delay, the band Ton, Steine, Scherben Family and writer Rafik Schami campaigned for the youth archive, collecting € 100,000 in donations within a few months.
Not a theme for politicians
Youth culture is not a theme that interests politicians because many of them do not have the faintest idea of what hip-hop is, for example. Graffiti and street art are equated with vandalism and so anti-graffiti measures are included in the youth culture budget of almost every city,” says journalist Klaus Farin, the archive’s founder, who comes from the Ruhr district.
The foundation Respekt! was set up to change that. It has been appealing for donations since 2011 and is organising an online petition to the Bundestag. Its aim is to draw politicians’ attention to the plight of the institution, which is largely run by freelancers in the hope that they will do more to help young people. However, Farin says that the foundation is still a long way from achieving its goal of obtaining government financing.
“We are a lobby for young people.”
The foundation sees itself as a lobby for young people. Its main aim is for adults to learn to respect the worlds in which young people live, and to understand them to some extent. For example, interviews are held regularly with scene members. Due to a shortage of funds, however, they are often not evaluated or published. The aim of interviews, workshops and exhibitions is not only to document the distinctive features of the emo, punk, hip-hop or skater scenes, but to put the public discourse about “today’s young people” on a new course. Farin and his 30 co-workers agree that media reports about the “porno generation” or “teenagers who drink until they drop” unfairly stigmatise young people.
“Young people are often cited as scapegoats when addressing failings in society at large. Alcoholism, drugs and right-wing extremism are always discussed with reference to young people although older men tend to be the ones prone to alcoholism,” says Farin. Thus, youth researchers are interested in subjects such as gender relations in sub-cultures or the extent to which Facebook and other social networks change youth peer groups. “The new media enable everyone in the whole world to take part in in youth cultures. People in Iran know what is happening in youth cultures around the world although a few decades ago, not even people in the Sauerland knew what young people in Berlin were getting up to,” says Farin. That meant that to some extent the youth culture one happened to belong to was a matter of chance, but global networks have made the scenes more diverse.
Young people have their say and present their views on these and other subjects in exhibitions and workshops, and did so most recently in the photography exhibition Träum schön weiter, for which young people used texts and photographs to portray their everyday life in the Berlin district of Neukölln. Parts of the project have been documented in the book Jugend in Neukölln, which was published in November 2011.
Being different and finding friends
The archive is a lively record of Germany’s most influential youth scenes since the nineteen-fifties. Rebels, rock 'n' rollers, hippies, the extra-parliamentary opposition and the techno scene are popular here. The shelves bend under the weight of fanzines, dissertations, school newspapers and magazines such as Bravo and twen. In the library, visitors find books on international scenes such as English hooligans, Malaysian punks and the global influence of American hip-hop. A tour of Berlin is offered for street art and graffiti fans to visit much-photographed graffiti and murals.
Farin is not surprised that the graffiti tours are among the Kreuzberg foundation’s most popular events because many youth cultures attach great importance to their appearance and creativity, which is also what makes them attractive. “For the people actively involved in the scene, the do-it-yourself principle plays an important role. What is important is not just consuming and going to parties, but also organising parties yourself. Not just wearing young urban street wear, but also being able to stand on a skateboard. Basically, what it is always comes down to is finding friends and being different from the rest of the world.”
is a freelance journalist. He lives in Berlin.
Translation: Eileen Flügel
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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