Last weekend, an unassuming parking lot in one of Berlin’s many famous bohemian districts became an unlikely host for a 24-hour celebration of art, design and fashion. Reference Berlin, founded by renowned communication agency, Reference Studios, in collaboration with 032c Magazine founders, Maria and Joerg Koch, was an exercise in free artistic expression and a boundary-melting approach to design, as hundreds of fashion kids and industry folk were invited to explore the angular multi-story concrete structure, engulfed in smoke, lasers and trippy visuals, reminiscent of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner.
The strong sense of science-fiction was heightened with a number of immersive, future-facing installations, performances and panel talks from the likes of Dover Street Market, Comme des Garçons Parfum, 032c, Selam X and 1017 ALYX 9SM, in addition to live augmented reality, a cyborg horse, a robot band and a fully-functional ecstasy production machine. The Highsnobiety team was on the ground to get an eagle-eye view of everything that went down at the event, going so far as to cover the stairwells, parking bays and gathering spaces of the labyrinthine car park in state-of-the-art CCTV cameras as part of our own installation titled “THEY ARE BEING WATCHED.”
“For a long time, Berlin’s been a city of often drastic changes,” says Mumi Haiati, CEO of Reference Studios and the key curator of the event, speaking to Vogue Magazine. “People here know how to cope with uncommon situations. I guess you could also call that creativity: There’s a sense of freedom which makes it a place for experimentation.”
The opportunity for such displays of experimental expression was jumped upon whole-heartedly by Reference’s exhibitors. For example, the attention-grabbing One Love Machine Band by Kolja Kugler and 032c, saw a robotic musical ensemble channel the teachings of 1970s California and the Whole Earth Catalog, built using the “materials and spirit of 1990s Berlin,” and in doing so presented not only a novel performance piece of semi-automated music at the intersection of analogue and digital technology, but also hinted a wider theme of the detritus of the Soviet Union, and the freedom of rave culture.
Up on the top decks, still under the careful watch of our CCTV instillation, Alyx’s Matthew Williams teamed up with artist Haruka Hirata for a live display of Japanese ikebana flower arranging, consistent with the brand’s preparation for their upcoming show at Paris Men’s Fashion Week. Just a few feet from the calming presence of Hirata’s flowers stood an enormous cyborg horse by Gentle Monster x Frederik Heyman. As part of Gentle Monster’s ‘13’ campaign, in collaboration with the 3D artist Frederik Heyman, a life-sized horse extended by robotics was intended to depict ‘Nature Adaption,’ which according to Haiati, was “based on the drastic change of climate explained by the Gentle Monster campaign.”