Summer in the Temporary Autonomous Zone

Summer in the Temporary Autonomous Zone

At the same time, Berlin became the secret capital of the world sometime in the beginning of the nineties. The old order had collapsed and the new order had not yet been established. A gap had opened up. The magic word was temporary use. Almost all of Mitte, so it seemed, was used temporarily for a few summers and winters. Raves were held. Bars were opened, sometimes just for a few weeks, only to close down again.

Particularly the eastern part of the city was overrun by a network of bars, cafes, galleries, exhibition rooms and small clubs. A network, whose points of intersection were visible only to the initiated, whose addresses and events were announced by word-of-mouth and through flyers. In which Monday bar to go to on a Monday, which private showings to visit on a Wednesday, in which condemned house a rave was taking place on the weekend, what was happening in Elektro and in Friseur – this could be found out at all those places that were part of the international community of squatters, artists, DJs, party organisers and exhibition curators, who had collected in Berlin Mitte after the fall of the Wall.

The more intellectual ravers and artists of Mitte were in those days reading a small book by the American anarchist Hakim Bey titled „The Temporary Autonomous Zone“. There Bey wonders: “Are we who live in the present doomed never to experience autonomy, never to stand for one moment on a bit of land ruled only by freedom? Are we reduced to nostalgia for the past or nostalgia for the future?” Bey’s answer was the “poetic fancy” of a “guerrilla operation, which liberates an area (of land, of time, of imagination) and then dissolves itself to re-form elsewhere”. Hakim Bey imagines the temporary autonomous zone to be a permanent festival, a Dionysian place of immediateness. And even the new occupants of Mitte understood their new world in the same way.

Those who want to know what the temporary autonomous zone Mitte once looked like won’t find much material. In many places like Tresor photography was officially prohibited. But even at other places not much was documented. It was deemed important to enjoy the present celebrations and not to record them for the future, a future which in any case wouldn’t understand the summer of temporary use. The Wall had fallen; a vacuum was created at the former border between the blocs. Now, only in this moment could one enjoy the music and the people who had gathered in the no man’s land, like a community in Thomas Pynchon’s novel “Gravity’s Rainbow”. It would not remain unnoticed too long. The Government would once again establish its rule. The Parliament would return to the old capital. With that the civil sense of order would move in as well, at least in the beautiful old quarters of Mitte. Capital would transform run-down streets of houses into luxurious streets targeting consumption. The symbols of really existing socialism would be razed and old castles be built again.