Yusuf Etiman has been Berghain's creative director since 2004. He stepped into the role from his position as a design apprentice at Berghain's predecessor, Ostgut. Aside from devising logos and the occasional record cover, his eye and "intuition" have been fundamental in developing the institution's overall visual aesthetic—more a facilitator in terms of the label, and with primary influence over the club's monthly flyer. But had it not been for his simultaneous project, Basso, things may have ended up looking quite different.
More or less at the same time when Berghain opened, I rented this space. We did about a thousand events in seven years there. I showed a film every Wednesday. We had parties, mostly private parties. There were meetings of underground communist groups to whom we gave the space for free. We had artist talks, installations. We had a lot of concerts, a lot of performances. There was a series of dance nights called Creature Features that Jeremy Wade curated.
It became more and more like a group project, with a fluctuating community of people from different corners coming together. This community made Basso survive because it was never advertised, only through private mailing and by word of mouth. It was a financial disaster, obviously, but it was a disaster that I really enjoyed backing. And in that time I learnt a lot of things from that space, from the people who came there. I grew with the space and the space grew with me. I wouldn't have access to so many great artists and people if I didn't have Basso at that time.
I always try and break away from what is usually on club flyers, in a way. Of course there is high-end artwork on some of them, and some are based on a joke. Ostgut [the club] had a very different system. They always used a found photo or image with very funny commentary, something that gave a twist to the picture, always done by one of our bosses. It was a really great series of flyers. For Berghain we wanted to have something different.
For me, the image itself is what's important. I don't like to separate between art and not art—or what is art and what is not. There is certain imagery, a certain line, a certain colour, a certain taste and a certain thing to all of them. There are people who have never made art before or after but have done a flyer. Some of them are professional artists, others are doing very different professions and then want to do a flyer because they like the club, and they go there all the time. It also depends a little bit on who is around me. It's a funny thing to say but I go through life, I see things, I meet people, I see exhibitions and I always have the slot of Berghain flyer in my head.
You don't think of 100 records when you start. Northor was one of the owners of Berghain, and when the label was really new we used a lot of his photos.
Marcel Dettmann, Shed and Ben Klock usually bring their own stuff and have a certain taste. Nick Höppner always uses abstract, black and white drawing. In Marcel Fengler's case, I used a photo of mine that has a big contrast between light and dark, and mostly repetitive geometric shapes that fits techno. But in every instance I am working very closely with Jenus and Nick from the label, and the artists of each release.
After the Rolando release I am doing another of his, in a similar style. When they renovated the bathrooms they took off the Funktion One bass boxes, and they were stuck together with all the sweat. There's a millimetre space and when they were lifting them, there was light shining from behind. They took a picture of how the dirt pulls like string and sent it to me for a flyer, but I said this is a Rolando cover.
Viron Vert and I come from the same city, more or less. He grew up in Germany but also comes from Istanbul and used to work at the door of Ostgut and Berghain from the beginning. He was also in the Basso studio. He is really obsessed when he has a vision. I am a much more technical person. Of course, I have my own art but in this case I am more his assistant. His technical support, let's say, more than a real collaborator. It's always a pleasure to work with Viron because he makes such crazy things, and always purpose makes. He doesn't take something from his drawer. He sits down and actually does it.
It's very complicated to explain how I work, and my connection to art, because I work with artists but I have a particular way, a curatorial idea about how to choose artists or work for things. I do performance art and photography myself. I use my photography on the flyers sometimes, but I don't do photography exhibitions. I don't see myself as a photographer, but I occasionally get hired as a photographer. So there are many faces, sides—and none of them are so thoroughly professional or so thoroughly consistent that I can say, "I'm an artist, I'm a photographer. I'm this. I'm that." I do what curators do, but I don't want to call myself a curator. And I do it with maybe a different intention, or from a different background.