Essay: The Age of Loving Pioneers by Jella Haase

vor 10 Monaten

We stand at the threshold of a new world. Will it be closed and cold, or ecstatic and free? A declaration of love to overcoming this moment.

I’d like to be one of those people who goes home at two in the morning instead of two in the afternoon.

My name is Jella. I was born in 1992 in Berlin Kreuzberg and am too young to have personally experienced the incredible anarchy of Berlin in the 1990s.

Instead, I went to a school in Schöneberg, together with a group of free-spirited friends, who led me into a world of unofficial parties and brought me back to life there – in a Berlin that was already at that time becoming more reserved and hipper. We conquered new spaces and sites that had not yet been occupied by commercial clubs or built up by investors. We captured our city, secretly and mostly unnoticed.

My first techno festival was Fusion at age fifteen. Life changing. Groundbreaking. Trail blazing. I didn’t want it to end, I didn’t want to return to reality. I was young and felt truly free for the first time.

Everything was different after that.

This place, this parallel universe with its own rules, captivated all of us. After that, we organized our own festivals – as often as we could, on small and large scales, legal and not so legal raves.

Right from the start, I had a hard time with leaving, the separation, the end of the party. The transition from immersive freedom to emergent reality: I dragged it out more and more.

Why was and is it so, why will it always be so?

My friends and our universe are the center of everything. They are sacred to me. It was not always easy. How could I combine a life out there in the daylight and this world inside, the obligations and the essentials with the rush of the night? I decided that both must exist in parallel, and so it began: a life in two worlds, which have nothing to do with each other.

When we went out together in the dark, we were a group of loving pioneers. We were thinking thoughts that freed us from the hardships of the social system. A system that we had not chosen, but in which we were meant to fulfill some kind of functional assignment until the end of our lives.

In the night, we were free from the expectations of this external world, free from the expectations of ourselves. This may sound privileged, but we were also free from being labeled privileged, from being labeled anything at all. For a moment, we were allowed to just be, and for a moment, we could be nothing. Will it always be like this?

Every generation experiences this longing anew. Every generation has its own confrontation with predetermined roles and searches for answers to the questions that the zeitgeist has prescribed to them.

We wanted to renounce these obligations from the outside world, to be above them, at least in theory, in our universe. For there is a universal law that dictates your priorities must change as you enter new stages of life. If you do not do so, you’re wasting your life, damaging your body, cannot cope, are stuck, et cetera.

Why am I allowed to be unreasonable in my youth, yet I must cut off this free part of my personality if I want to be taken seriously as an adult? Theater, our entire culture, is based on the institutionalization of excess. The Apollonian and the Dionysian. Why should my conscience feel guilty if I freely expand my boundaries, while compulsive self-optimization is championed?

I confess: When I couldn’t go to a party because of a movie shoot, I cried and felt dead inside. To this day, it is still the case that in many areas of my life, I don’t like it when things come to an end. This life is one that takes place at night. Yet I am not allowed to tell anyone. I prevaricate, tell people I’m going out a lot less. Which is met with an approving nod and a “we told you so” smile because it is so responsible.

But why must I hide something I love just because others devalue it? Why can’t we invent our own form of adulthood? Why can’t we search for the spaces in which we are free, in which we grow while dancing?

I have found my answer to these questions: We have no other choice than to redefine adulthood and the way to get there for ourselves. Because the world has never been more decoupled from that which we knew and that which existed than it is now. What is true today will be history tomorrow.

How does it feel to find your self in this world?

Besides this city’s biggest and most famous clubs, there are so many others: The spaces in which this self-discovery of one’s own being is still possible. Which so many people need in addition to their everyday life to exist, especially in the confusion and turmoil of our time.

There is a Berlin that is not occupied by party tourists. The few inhabitants of this universe cannot resist the temptation to spend weekdays and weekends in the most ecstatic manner. A utopian space of unbounded bodies and freedom without selective door politics. No Berghain. No Bar 25. A finely knit network of small, dirty oases, in cellars, on roofs, in ruins, on the water, and somewhere in between. A world held together by a few unknown people who have decided against what is considered normal and in favor of creating free, self-determined spaces. Spaces for fantasies and visionary ideas of freedom.

Is it possible to live such a life based on the highest possible renunciation of social obligations and still be happy? How far do you have to be rooted in legality to be able to abandon yourself in illegality? How do you love multiple people in a world that is still mostly constructed in the linear narrative of mother, father, child?

But I see that something is changing. A new form of acceptance is emerging, our generation is changing. Greta, the Kardashians, Trump, China, TikTok, GNTM, MDMA, LGBTQ, CBD, FB, CSD. Let us be courageous and ask ourselves openly and without boundaries:

What kind of world do we want to live in?
Is excess the answer to compulsion?
Which longings are fulfilled in this excess that remain unfulfilled in real life?
What is this happiness that we seek and find in the free spaces?

All these questions are part of the story I tell myself. And I know: Everything is open in a world that lays everything open to you.

Written by the German award-winning actress, Jella Haase

This essay can be found in our Fall/Winter 2020 print issue of Fräulein Magazine 
You can order it here or email: order@oor.berlin

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