Elec­tron­ic Music, Gen­der, and Re-Loca­tion of Self  

"When I arrived here I felt home, a real con­nec­tion between me and the city…" (Sil­naye)

"Raw Chicks Night" began in Berlin a few years ago in a well known elec­tron­ic dance music club called “Raw Tem­ple Club.”  Women who iden­ti­fy as “female” are giv­en a voice and space to per­form elec­tron­ic music in a field that is oth­er­wise dom­i­nat­ed by males. A unique and exper­i­men­tal plat­form for DJs, musi­cians and visu­al artists devel­oped, that has grown far beyond the bor­ders of Berlin.

In her Eng­lish-lan­guage doc­u­men­tary film, “Raw Chicks​.Berlin”, Beate Kunath por­trays eleven extra­or­di­nary women from this new scene who have cho­sen Berlin as their home. They come from a range of coun­tries, includ­ing Israel, Croa­t­ia, France, Poland, Japan (two con­tri­bu­tions), Ger­many (two con­tri­bu­tions), the Czech Repub­lic, Spain and Italy.  Like the venue of their music, Kunath’s doc­u­men­tary serves as a forum for a new voice of exper­i­men­ta­tion. The women use the film as a can­vas, as a field for pro­ject­ing them­selves and their music. The struc­ture of the film lends itself to this rela­tion­ship. The artists are shown per­form­ing their music either at the Raw Tem­ple Club or else­where, and talk­ing about their art work. How­ev­er, nobody asks ques­tions. There is no vis­i­ble inter­ven­tion, no nar­ra­tor com­ment. The view­er sees and hears the women per­form and talk about their music. These two lev­els of nar­ra­tion some­times over­lap. Through voice-over the women are heard com­ment­ing on their music at the same time as they are shown per­form­ing their art.

What the diverse per­form­ers have in com­mon is a suc­cess­ful search for their space, and that space is clear­ly Berlin. They have all been look­ing for a means of expres­sion that allows them to tran­scend gen­der lim­i­ta­tions and inscrip­tions. As the film makes clear, elec­tron­ic music enables them to cre­ate that kind of space. In this music genre, as most of the women empha­size, they are able to live this new and authen­tic kind of expres­sion. They are cre­at­ing their own lan­guage, which they can use to with­draw from and cam­ou­flage pre-inscribed gen­der expec­ta­tions, and sim­ply be. It seems cru­cial for these artists that only noise/sound/tone are of inter­est to the audi­ence. The artists and their gen­der are sec­ondary, even though the dif­fer­ent facets of their gen­der and per­son­al­i­ties inform the doc­u­men­tary.

As the new-found home of these sound artists, Berlin opens up a point of ref­er­ence to locate the self in a “post-home­land era”, a space for try­ing out what is not pos­si­ble else­where. Berlin seems to cre­ate room for these artists to expe­ri­ence a new sense of self. As Sevil­la born Sil­naye, puts it, "My real life was some­where else, not there”, but in Berlin. Berlin is described by the dif­fer­ent musi­cians as a ref­er­ence point for get­ting in touch with oth­er like-mind­ed peo­ple. It also stands for the oppo­site of vio­lence and hatred which, as some of the artists argue, dom­i­nate many oth­er cities around the globe. Berlin can be seen in this film as a place where artists are able to trans­form them­selves into a “total work of art” (Gesamtkunst­werk), thus, becom­ing a state­ment them­selves.

All of the musi­cians fea­tured in Kunath’s film clear­ly iden­ti­fy Berlin with free­dom of expres­sion. Play­ing with gen­der and its flu­id­i­ty is some­thing cel­e­brat­ed in Berlin, in con­junc­tion with the abil­i­ty to exper­i­ment with sound and noise. As one of the artists telling­ly puts it, "Nobody is just woman, nobody just man." The spaces in between the cat­e­gories of “male-female” are inves­ti­gat­ed, explored and played with. Lim­its are exam­ined and pushed.

The ulti­mate lib­er­a­tion from pre­fab­ri­cat­ed mod­els and inscrip­tions means for the artists the neces­si­ty to pro­duce some­thing new and nev­er heard before. This includes falling out of one’s per­son­al com­fort zone. It also means explor­ing and extend­ing one's own bound­aries. On this theme, KRITZCOM (of France) states that Berlin has the per­fect struc­ture for such an endeav­or, even though Berlin con­fused her at first. She describes her real­iza­tion that such a struc­ture is exact­ly what enables her own music: the absence of a cen­ter.

A look at a Berlin map con­firms KRITZCOM’s view of Berlin, as it has no obvi­ous cen­ter. With­out any cen­ter of pow­er, bina­ries can be opened up so that some­thing new and in-between might emerge. As the film makes clear, this is par­tic­u­lar­ly true for elec­tron­ic music where artists expe­ri­ence an open­ness that is not rule bound. The fea­tured musi­cians believe that elec­tron­ic music is excep­tion­al­ly exper­i­men­tal and free.  Light and sound, film and per­for­mance meld into a new kind of art. This type of art is not eas­i­ly digestible. Indeed, it resists easy con­sump­tion. An aware­ness remains, how­ev­er, of the roots and tra­di­tions inher­ent even in this pro­gres­sive cre­ative activ­i­ty. In this vein, some artists expand the pos­si­bil­i­ties offered by clas­si­cal instru­ments. The piano is not just a key­board instru­ment; it might be used as a string instru­ment. This allows artists or “sound researchers” (Erck­lentz Neu­mann) to cre­ate new spaces of sound, allow­ing some­thing that has nev­er been heard before to come forth.

Although the musi­cians indi­vid­u­al­ly explore their bound­aries and those of soci­ety, many of them refer or belong to dif­fer­ent groups with com­mon inter­ests. Through­out the film, the city of Berlin remains their cen­tral focus. It is an artis­tic home, but has noth­ing to do with tra­di­tion­al con­cepts of home­land or father­land. It can­not be pin­point­ed – because it has no tra­di­tion­al cen­ter. This decen­tralised view facil­i­tates a new per­spec­tive regard­ing women and pow­er, depriv­ing appar­ent cen­ters of pow­er and empow­er­ing new voic­es. Some of the artists' stage names help to cov­er up (offi­cial) reg­is­tered iden­ti­ties and rec­og­niz­able gen­ders. More­over, Mimicof/Midori Hira­no has giv­en her­self two dif­fer­ent names for two dif­fer­ent musi­cal per­spec­tives: clas­si­cal music and tra­di­tion on one hand (close­ly con­nect­ed to her native Japan); and then pure sound/noise on the oth­er hand, con­nect­ed to her new-found home, Berlin. These two names also stand for two very dif­fer­ent ways of access­ing the world. Indeed, all of the women artists por­trayed in Kunath’s film seem entire­ly at home with them­selves. Geo­graph­i­cal­ly, artis­ti­cal­ly and per­son­al­ly, they have “arrived” in Berlin.

Over­all this film is an engag­ing cin­e­mat­ic con­tri­bu­tion, redefin­ing what home and belong­ing can mean with­in the con­text of an inter­est­ing elec­tron­ic music scene orig­i­nat­ing in Berlin.  The lim­its of lan­guage and gen­der bound­aries are explored through the use of a new lan­guage (elec­tron­ic music) and through­out, Berlin appears as the topos of the women’s endeav­or. It is no utopia, of course -  but the place for the “re-loca­tion of self” to take place.

Raw Chicks Berlin is sched­uled for dis­tri­b­u­tion in the sum­mer of 2018. On April 27, 2018 there was an online release,VoD/streaming and down­load­ing (https://​vimeo​.com/​o​n​d​e​m​a​n​d​/​r​a​w​c​h​i​c​k​s​b​e​r​lin).

 

Review­er 

Mar­ti­na Cas­pari, née Eideck­er, received her M.A. from the West­fälis­che Wil­helms-Uni­ver­sität Mün­ster, Ger­many (1992), and her Ph.D. from UCLA (1996). She held the posi­tion of Assis­tant Pro­fes­sor of Ger­man (tenure-track) at Geor­gia State Uni­ver­si­ty from 1996, moved back to Ger­many in 1999 and taught at the Inter­na­tion­al School Stuttgart and the Swiss Inter­na­tion­al School in Fell­bach, Ger­many, for sev­er­al years. She has been an adjunct lec­tur­er at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Applied Sci­ences in Esslin­gen since 2005 and pub­lish­es in the fields of Ger­man lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture, the didac­tics of lit­er­a­ture, as well as for­eign lan­guage acqui­si­tion.