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  • The Dark Rooms Vertical curator Clara Sauer: “We wanted to bring the art back to the people”


The Dark Rooms Vertical curator Clara Sauer: “We wanted to bring the art back to the people”

Following the opening of The Dark Rooms Vertical installation, we talked to its curator Clara Sauer about what it means to bring digital art to previously unseen spaces.

Photo: Clara Sauer

Since 2016, Himmel Unter Berlin has been immersing Berliners in captivating underground experiences, always keeping the exact location a secret until the day before the event. With The Dark Rooms Vertical, they’re taking their thrilling sound and light installations above ground again. Here’s what to expect.

What can visitors expect from The Dark Rooms Vertical?

This one is going to be special because we’re focusing on just one artist, Boris Acket. He approached us, which was an honour! We’ll be bringing together 12 of his artworks from around the world, all themed around natural phenomena. Each installation gives visitors an incredible, powerful experience and will introduce them to six levels of darkness. It’s held in a really old building, which was also pretty important for Europe… but as always, we’re keeping the location top secret!

You’re encouraging visitors to stay for two hours, even giving them a yoga mat. Why?

This is to make you just be in the moment – the artworks really invite you to lose time. You can lie anywhere with the mat, stay as long as you want and connect with the people around you.

Boris Acket installation at Dark Rooms Vertical. Photo: Dark Rooms Vertical

Why do you think people are attracted to digital simulations of natural phenomena?

We’re all living such urban lives, so we don’t experience nature in the same way anymore. Boris is giving us back the feeling of valuing what we have as nature. And when people go into this exhibition, they will experience a sense of sublime as intense as seeing sunlight touching the water during a sunset.

Does the intense darkness enhance these artificial recreations?

It’s really about emotion. Our whole body reacts to light and darkness and in combination with sound, your senses open. It’s the same when you go to a club, you have the capacity to be free and to just be yourself. Of course, it is artificial, but our memories from childhood or recollections of a beautiful encounter on holidays are simulations, too.

Is there a building you’ve been desperate to get?

For two years, we’ve been working on a massive old bunker that’s completely empty and unused. It’s beautiful. When you go inside it looks like The Matrix because of all these yellow-greenish reflections. We actually have approval from the owner to go ahead, and we handed in the architectural and fire safety plans. In fact, we’ve spent €12,000 on getting it ready! It’s very frustrating, but the authorities in Steglitz just don’t have the time to sign off on it.

Why do you keep the location secret?

It is not about creating hype. We had a dramatic incident when we put on the Lost Art festival in 2017. We had “LOST” in big letters on the roof, and on the day of the opening, a man climbed up and jumped from it and killed himself. It was dreadfully sad. For the family and everyone connected to him. But that is why we keep it secret.

You’ve reclaimed and repurposed lost spaces of Berlin, like the 100-year old catacombs of Himmel under Berlin Vol. 2 in 2023…

Completely, and most importantly we clean everything. For that project we had 800 helpers clearing out the rooms, taking all the aluminium, iron and stone out of the basement. We basically make it accessible for all future projects.

Nonotak installation at Dark Rooms Vertical. Photo: Nonotak

It sounds like a genuine Berlin initiative…

In a way it is. A lot of these helpers were at our first exhibition in 2016. That exhibition was born out of our frustration with the Berlin art scene. We kept on seeing these people outside the gallery, having a drink but not looking at the art! We wanted to bring the art back to the people, and the way we found to do this was to switch off the lights. Then they are invisible, then it’s not about being seen, it’s about looking at the art.

Are you positioning yourselves in opposition to the traditional art world?

We don’t hear so much from the art world because we are in a different scene. Most of our artists establish their artworks at big festivals or art shows and are not typical gallery artists. Galleries are always white, and their artwork wouldn’t work in our blackness. And anyway, the art scene here is so stuck-up, you know you have to be dressed in a certain way…

But you also often impose a dress code, and ask everyone to dress up in black…

But it’s about being invisible. It’s not about trying to look a certain way. Because you’re in complete darkness, all it takes is one guy wearing neon to disturb your eyes. We want to be more open and for all Berliners.

  • The Dark Rooms Vertical, through May 10, details.