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Four-to-the-Floor: The Techno Discourse and Aesthetic Work in Berlin


In public and popular discourse Berlin is often ascribed a particular atmosphere, sometimes depicted in the idea of “Berliner Luft.” At the same time, people living and working and visiting Berlin are still aware of the city’s recent history. This history is embodied in the city’s architecture as well as in the discourse about the need to remove “the wall in people’s heads.” This article is based on a study that has been conducted at the techno club Berghain, which has become a symbol for ‘the Berlin spirit,’ being embedded in the social and historical tradition of the formerly divided and radical Berlin that is celebrated in popular media. The club stands in a historic tradition of techno music in Berlin that once helped the process of joining two parts of the divided city together, and that today, about 25 years after the fall of the wall, is a reference for a wave of publications on the techno scene. The article examines how this discourse is kept alive by aesthetic practices of interaction in contemporary Berlin techno clubs, which are jointly performed through the intertwining of architecture, DJing, dance, and music. This aesthetic work creates an experience that exists in disembodied form and instantiates “Berliner Luft,” keeping the discourse going, in the media and in the clubs.

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Correspondence to Brigitte Biehl.

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Biehl, B., vom Lehn, D. Four-to-the-Floor: The Techno Discourse and Aesthetic Work in Berlin. Soc 53, 608–613 (2016).

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  • Atmosphere
  • Berlin
  • Dance
  • Discourse
  • Germany
  • Techno music