If you believe the announcements for the 2022 Pop Culture Festival in Berlin, pop culture is above all “awareness”. The program booklet explains: “Collective approaches, post-migrant identities, intersectional discourses, inclusive projects, diasporic narratives, queer positions and the break with musical expectations contribute to creating a space for shared exchange.” A safe space should be the festival, the from August 24th to 26th an impressive array of German and international acts will be performing.
This Wednesday, May 25th, a kick-off event will take place in the Neukölln club Loophole (7 p.m., Boddinstraße 60, free admission), organized by “Ecoutes au Vert”, in English: Listening in the Green, a concert initiative that has set itself the task set out to offer a stage to talented young artists from a wide variety of genres, social and cultural contexts.
With the approach of diversity and “wokeness”, the festival is not striving to take stock of the existing pop world. If you look at the values it wants to proactively represent, it might represent a small part of pop culture.
But you can also think of pop in a completely different way. For example: In the recently completed exhibition “Ultrasocial Pop” by Filip Markiewicz in the building on Lützowplatz, pop was less enlightenment than counter-revolution. Pop symbols, such as those flashed at Pegida marches, the storming of the Reichstag or the Capitol, show a hollowed-out pop culture, unaware of itself, whose values are intricately intertwined with capitalism.
From this perspective, the concept of the pop culture festival is more reminiscent of so-called branding, as companies do to address target groups: a professional PR team has certain values and ideals written on their banners, with which one publicly wants to be associated. Awareness and diversity sell well. In the corporate world, a look at the actual values lived by the workforce has never been part of such self-portrayal.
However, a look behind the scenes of the pop culture festival is likely to look different: you can certainly believe the beliefs that the makers represent, which they so offensively represent. So no empty branding after all, more of a utopia? Perhaps the value-loaded program is an expression of the desire for a pop culture that is as described at the beginning.
And perhaps the staging of pop culture as so enlightened is a kind of autosuggestive mantra: as if the self-image expressed here should only be repeated often enough to make it a reality. And maybe the shows, readings, discussions now and in August will already give an idea of how this utopia could really be.