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A virtual stage to keep Berlin culture (a)live

INTERVIEW! Launched last week and already with 500 events planned in the coming days, Berlin(a)live is the Corona-emergency livestream platform bringing Berlin artists and audience back together. Founder Armin Berger tells us about the new resource.

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Photo courtesy of Armin Berger. With artists and audiences alike flocking to Berlin(a)live, we find out more about the new Berlin-based livestreaming platform.

Armin Berger, 52, founded his agency for digital communication 3pc on Oranienplatz (Prinzessinnenstr.1) 25 years ago. He had just finished his studies at the FU Berlin in film and media and his plan was to become a film director. But when he heard about Mosaic, one of the first browsers for the internet, he was convinced that this would change the world. He started his agency with just three computers, hence the name 3pc.

Last week he and his team launched the platform Berlin(a)live, as a response to the current Corona crisis. It aims to artists and creatives of all feathers to livestream and promote their shows, as well as collect direct donations for them. With almost 500 events planned for the next days, from DJ-sets to theatre pieces, to poetry slams to movies, Berlin(a)live is the most comprehensive go-to resources for culture vultures kept captive by the Corona.

How did you come up with the idea of Berlin(a)live?

On the weekend of March 14-15, I was talking with my partner in life and in the agency, Julika Matthess, about all our friends who work in the culture field in Berlin. We realised how devastating the whole situation was for them – all the people working in art, music or on stage made overnight unemployed, but also voiceless and invisible. Some had already started livestreaming concerts or performances, but it was all happening at different places that nobody knew about. Our idea was to bring all artists together on one platform. We sent a little brief to the Kultursenator Klaus Lederer, who my partner was already in contact with about another project. It felt like 10 minutes later when he called us back and said, “let’s do this”. 

That was fast!

With this Corona crisis, the whole world has to transform a little faster: use video conferences, work from home… We only had five days to build our platform, which is unusual. But it’s not just an average project: it has a real meaning. It’s meant as an antidote to the current depression prompted by the epidemic. It’s a battle that we’ll win altogether. And believe me our team is working hard on it. And we’ve had a very positive feedback from the community. Meanwhile we’ve received a lot of e-mails from other cities and states who want to have the same thing. We strongly felt this platform was needed and apparently people agree!

It reminds me of the beginning of the internet. In the 1990s, everything was free and open.”

There’s already over 500 livestreams on offer… So, who’s uploading their shows on the platform?

We have some big institutions like the Schaubühne or the Deutsche Oper. But I am hoping the platform will prompt people to come up with new ideas: you could stream a discussion between two people about a philosophic work, or do all kinds of weird, creative and fun stuff. We’re giving people a new tool: they can do whatever they want with it. You can discover impressive big things, but also impressive small ones. We have a daily ballet class from a teacher’s living room, a reading of the book Desintegriert euch! (Desintagrate yourself!) by Max Czollek and many more… The other day I watched a dance performance where two people danced at different places, but together, using some video conferencing programme. At the end, it’s about culture in its broadest idea: everybody can participate. That’s something that I hoped for, and it feels like it’s working.

Do you filter the events that get uploaded?

No, anybody can register an event, in Berlin or elsewhere. We gave it to the community, we trust people, and hope it works this way. So far, it went very well. We are in a crisis and this platform is an experiment. It reminds me of the beginning of the internet. In the 1990s, everything was free and open: no laws, no cookie banners, everybody was experimenting. I have the feeling that at the moment we can bring a little piece of this spirit back to Berlin.

How has the agency been impacted by the crisis so far. You have many clients in the cultural field, right?

It’s true that nothing is happening at the moment for theaters or museums, but we haven’t lost  any clients yet. In comparison to those who work there, it’s not really dramatic for our team yet. We currently have 78 employees, and most of them work from home right now. We’ve actually been busier than before, also because we’re still learning the ropes of remote working! (laughs) At the end of the day, having so much work, is helping us keeping sane – we don’t have so much time to think about the virus! The question is more about what the future will bring, in three to four weeks. There are less orders, less money is being spent, less pitches, like a slow poison. But for now, we can keep all our employees.