At Berlin’s futuristic new performance venue, even the walls make music | ET REALITY


On a Sunday night at the end of September, a group of Berliners waited at a metal gate in the industrial district of Rummelsburg, on the far edge of the city. The thud of techno music echoed through the air; Down the street, the renowned club Sisyphos had been going strong since the previous night. But on this block, the elegantly dressed crowd was more meditative. Behind the gate, beyond a courtyard and a recently renovated East German-era office building, stood a pyramid-shaped tower covered almost entirely with a thatched roof of reeds, rising from a small grassy field, with the river Spree flowing behind it.

Was this a nightclub made of dried grass? A work of terrestrial art? It was both and more: The Reethaus, as the building is called, is a new cultural venue that its co-founder Claus Sendlinger, 60, describes as a “modern temple” for sound-based performances and rituals. The concrete, glass and reed structure, designed by Austrian architect Monika Gogl, is the heart of a campus called Flussbad that Sendlinger along with his partner Peter Conrads and his team have been developing for almost a decade.

The Flussbad complex will soon be home to a hotel, operating lofts, a clubhouse and an auditorium, all of which will be completed within the next two years. For now, however, the newly opened Reethaus is the complex’s main attraction, and on that Sunday in September it had attracted a mix of curators; musicians, including Chinese composer Pan Daijing; artists such as Scottish multimedia artist Douglas Gordon; and the evening’s guest of honor, photographer and activist Nan Goldin. The main event was the live performance of the score to “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” the 2022 documentary about Goldin’s life and work, as well as her addiction to OxyContin and her fight against the Sackler pharmaceutical family. .

Upon arrival, visitors descended a wide ramp to the partially underground entrance of the Reethaus. Inside they passed through the cloakroom (where they were forced to hand over their smartphones), and to a wide hallway, from where they could look into one of The building’s glass atriums, in which a single birch tree grows towards a skylight, before continuing to a bar serving non-alcoholic drinks, including a tincture made with hibiscus tea and clarified raspberry juice. Some people walked through glass doors and onto a concrete terrace to socialize and take in the view of the Spree. In the center of the building is a 1,300-square-foot bunker-like room with asymmetrical walls and a trapezoidal roof with an integrated 360-degree sound system. A dramatic skylight gives the space the feel of an observatory or one of artist James Turrell’s contemplative Skyspace installations.

With the Reethaus, Sendlinger is also launching a new business initiative called Slowness, which explains as a “collective of people, places and projects that rethink the way we live.” The international company is also committed to well-being; Its various sites offer holotropic breathing and yoga sessions, as well as visits from mindfulness experts and artists. In addition to the Flussbad campus, Slowness is currently developing a community biodynamic farm south of Lisbon; a mansion and retreat in a village outside Berlin; and a set of Private cabins for Wonderfruit, a festival with a focus on holistic health. in eastern Thailand.

A performance venue, in a neighborhood of nightclubs and factories, may seem, at first, a strange addition to the group’s portfolio, but in Berlin, unexpected juxtapositions are common. “There are industrial spaces here that can host a ritual sound bath one night and then a nomadic rave another night with a film event in between,” says Nayme Hassany, co-founder of the queer party collective Mala Junta, who attended the performance of September. . “To have a space as radically designed as the Reethaus that crosses different worlds (spiritual, artistic, musical) is brilliant.”

Around 8 p.m., everyone entered the Reethaus theater wearing slippers provided by the venue and sat on black linen cushions scattered on the tatami-covered floor. Soundwalk Collective, an artistic project led by musician Stephan Crasneanscki and producer Simone Merli, performed the music they had composed for “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed,” with lead vocals by R&B singer Mulay. The room was mostly dark, and occasionally the spotlights followed the ensemble of two dozen singers as they moved slowly and expressionlessly through the space. Sounds echoed from all directions; space itself was an instrument. When, at different times during the performance, the doors were opened, the light filtering in from outside simply underlined the sepulchral nature of the theatre. The effect was both haunting and seductive, the experience a futuristic twist between either nighttime entertainment or religious exaltation or, as it was Berlin, it was something of both.

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