August 13th, 2006


Berlin's darkest scene

I first stumbled across Peres Projects in 2003 in LA -- sort of by mistake. I was in Chinatown with friends, trying to find Aaron Rose's Alleged Gallery; my favourite New York gallery had up and left for LA shortly after 9/11. I never found Aaron's gallery (I think he may already have closed it down by that point) but there on the super-picturesque Old Cheung King Road I found Peres instead. Peres himself was milling around, and told us there was some sort of performance happening later that night.

Performances are a Javier Peres thing, he likes to create events, gathering a hipstery, well-connected audience by word of mouth and e mail alerts. Here he is in a little video clip asking us to show him something "because words alone don't really do much for me".

Click Opera noted the Berlin opening of Peres Projects last September; in the year since then, the gallery (in a warehouse at Schlesischestr. 26 in Kreuzberg) has become Berlin's most fashionable place to gather, attracting a younger, more interesting crowd than the fusty galleries up in Mitte or at Jannowitzbrucke.

Peres opened in Berlin with a performance by Terence Koh, aka Asian Punk Boy. A couple of weeks ago I attended another Peres performance involving a bizarre musical theatre group (very reminiscent of Ford Wright's Rhymes With Adventure, the campy am-dram group I documented in Fakeways: Manhattan Folk) called My Barbarian.

Last night Koh was back with a performance called SPRUNGKOPF ("Jump Head"). Peres events are always dark; they take place late at night, in a dark space between the Spree river and a series of watery locks, with a big crowd gathered in an unlit courtyard. Koh exaggerated this effect by decking the walls and ceiling of the Vilma Gold gallery space next door to Peres with thick sheets of black plastic.

Supposedly "debuting his new album", Koh teased the audience -- once they'd filed into the blackened Gold building -- with 15 minutes of silence. A densely-packed audience consisting of mostly young Anglophone Berliners stood still in the pitch-black space, waiting for something to happen. In brief camera flash glimpses, a few were able to make out three naked boys, pretty rough trade / Hedi Slimane types, sitting on the stage. I stood up on a bass bin to get a better view, and when the "music" suddenly started it was like riding a crashing plane; my whole skeleton vibrated violently. It was kind of fun in a what-doesn't-kill-me-makes-me-stronger way.

The music was horrible digital distortion topped with drumming and Terence, dressed like Sadako from Ringu in a long black wig (beware, you have just one week to live if you watch that tape) screaming insanely over the top. Fingers-in-ears stuff. It lasted about ten minutes, and then the audience gingerly moved forward to photograph the remains on the abandoned stage: two charred, melted black drum kits.