Photo by Karolina Jackowska / @jackowska.karolina

72 Whole Hours Of Fun

At Whole Festival in Berlin, hot topics included the douching station, the SLINTA* "pillow palace" darkroom, and messy muscle gays.


I’m at the wokest queer festival on earth; sleep feels futile and performative. Walking my way back towards the bus and away from the peninsula of 20th century deserted strip-mining facilities referred to as ‘Ferropolis’, I chat with a cheerful nudist who, unlike me, is a regular festival goer. She tells me about the heartfelt connection kindled during the Kundalini Yoga session in the Chillout Cove, and I suspect she’s still sober. “Festivals are for the daytime.”, she says, “I want to feel the sun burning, I want to see people dancing in the mud.” We all agree it’s better when the gloves are off. But does Berlin ever truly wear any?

People from other places fail to understand that partying here is more than an identity. It’s a full-time job. We literally carry for days. Berliners don’t party because of anything, they party in spite of everything: indulgent, excessive, fun. Standards are high (pun intended), and the way we trash ourselves into oblivion is sophisticated. It has a history, a queer history.

In Bad Gays. A Homosexual History, Huw Lemmey and Ben Miller remind us that historical outcasts, like Frederick the Great, were not only tolerated but instrumental in turning the shitty swamp of infertile sand that was the Brandenburg electorate, ruled by tasteless ‘cabbage-Junker nobility’ (citing Karl Marx), into the cosmopolitan melting pot that it is today.

“Berliners don’t party because of anything, they party in spite of everything: indulgent, excessive, fun.”

First came the Jews and the Huguenots, aka Protestants, invited by Frederick I, who contributed to building the Baroque infrastructure of a becoming city. Then ruled Frederick William, a raging militant and homophobe. He drank beer, butchered some, terrorized many, especially his soft-skilled, effeminate, flute-playing son: Frederick the Great.

Once his asshole dad bit the dust in 1740, Frederick the Homosexual ascended the throne, and plans for a reactionary counter-yassification commenced. Ambitions of cultural patronage at court were top of the list: interior design, Greek art, greyhounds, hanging out with Bach and Voltaire, writing naughty poems about sex. Frederick continued ruling in semi-secular fashion – free press and all. Berlin became known as: “a city dedicated to humanistic pursuits at the center of a militaristic empire.”

Today, Berlin stands in contrast to Germany (and the world) like Frederik the Great stood in contrast to his savage father. That is where the concept of a ‘Berlin Bubble’ stems from. Queerness, Otherness and escapism, are embedded in the city’s foundations. Without them, it wouldn’t exist. And yes, partying is a humanistic pursuit.

“Queerness, Otherness and escapism, are embedded in the city’s foundations. Without them, it wouldn’t exist. And yes, partying is a humanistic pursuit.”

At Whole Festival, this year’s edition expanded into including queer-identifying music collectives from Uganda, Brazil, Portugal, Mexico, the US, UK, Turkey, Japan, Ukraine, the Netherlands, and China, along with a diverse group of Berlin-based initiatives. The existence of this event, a bubble within a bubble, provides a safer space for an international audience of artists, performers, and guests to experience the cultural peak of that bubble – and then to complain about it in the festival’s app forum. So, let’s spill some T; shall we?

As a homosexual, I live for the creation, elaboration, and culmination of drama. If drama reaches a certain threshold of wokeness, we call it discourse.

The douching station’s premiere resulted in a categoric culmination; let’s start with that. In exhibit-A of classy German mentality, i.e., the Instagram infographic designated to this initiative, Whole Festival wants you to know that: “⦋it⦌ is being offered in a shower container, so please don’t try to push your main shit of the day down the drain. (…) Pack some psyllium husk.” 5 € per use. One commentator incited audiences to gain class consciousness, calling for the rise of a Marxist revolution amongst Bottoms. Tensions ran high, and then they tumbled. A moment of silence for whoever managed to clog it. I don’t judge. You did what you had to do: a necessary evil. Which of you haters ever thought “about the others” when you had to douche?

One viral forum thread titled CIS GAY MALES MISOGYNY tries to spread awareness: “I was reflecting on the topic with some fellow SLINTAs while healing with our vegan ethically sourced mushrooms. When it occurred to us that men who don’t find women attractive are, in their core existence, misogynistic. It’s so embedded in their culture; how can we change this culture? Because who won’t find our Devine femininity attractive if it’s not too deeply ingrained misogyny.” ⦋sic⦌ Other commentators agree, calling the front stage podium at the Arena a “white gay networking event” and questioning if the demographic in question is even a minority because “there sure is a lot of [them].”

My white cis gay privilege only goes so far. I’ve been mistaken for a lesbian several times in my life and often excluded from the masc4masc girlies fondling each other on the dancefloor (both due to my short height and overall manic demeanor, which overwhelms most people regardless of age or identity.) So, here are my thoughts.

First of all, culturally, I love that ‘healing’ has become an active preoccupation.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the road?

A: To heal.

It's not that muscle gays high on G behave immorally – parties are only fun when they’re immoral – it’s the visible ignorance towards any form of living-being they’re not sexually attracted to that comes off as tacky and classless. Let’s face it: The concept of elevating marginalized identity is powered by a need to feel seen. The "Bronski Beat x Destinys Child – Smalltown Boy – Say My Name (Jay Bee Remix)" wasn’t on everybody’s favorite moments list coincidentally. The lyrics made it hot because most of us could relate. Refute any responsibility to act mindful of that, fine. But don’t act surprised when you’re getting called out for it at a queer festival.

The only thing hotter than a hot person is a hot person uplifting others around them, exuding ease with themselves, with you, with anyone they come across. Their energy fucks you from afar. What is there to resent about that? Nothing. Alas: life is defined by imperfections. When excluded, do as Tea Hacic-Vlahovic concludes: Become your own party.

“Parties are only fun when they’re immoral.”

Sunday morning at the beach, flashing wet penises of all sizes were juxtaposed by “evil twink energy vortex” outfits, according to @Ohmlaut, and “a woman with barbwire spun over her body carrying a big tree branch with flowers and twigs over her head”, witnessed by me and confirmed by @Vishaal Siriam. Her presence was rumored to be an active protest, though no one knew what about. She became her own political party, in that sense. Somewhere along the coast, bisexuals were spotted in attendance too. Controversial, to say the least.

Putting the cruising village aside and the fact that people of all identities could and did fornicate wherever they pleased (to the disdain of certain individuals), the SLINTA* (sapphic, lesbian, intersex, non-binary, trans, agender) darkroom was another of this year’s additions. It stood proud and slippery. Full capacity was reached at several points, which led people to complain about the long queuing times. Em~Body and Mare, sexological bodyworkers and political activists were hired to provide educational workshops and animate the (pink) pillow palace. It sounded like a success.

There was even a sober tent. I learned this because one group came over saying, visibly euphoric: “We had a foursome there for the past hour. It was amazing! Quiet and empty.” According to forum discussions, thinking it was always this way would be faulty. Shoutout to all the sober-queers who found another and mingled! You are inspiring, but I can’t relate.

I’m tripping ballz. Notification alert: “ARENA NOW.” I gather the remains of my mmc’s. I tell strangers I love them. I gotta go. I sprint over the hill and down a row of concrete stairs. They’re steep, but I don’t fall. I navigate the crowd and find a spot. It feels: right. The beats— vibrating; the douching station— out of order; the sun— rising; ass cheeks—jiggling; lips— smiling; jaw—chewing; nose— sniffing; crowd— sweating; music— outstanding; vibes— popping. No one gives a fuck. But then again: It’s Berlin – what else did you expect?

Hereby extending my thanks to all members of the crew, the awareness team, the artists and all participants encountered for their kindness and genuine openness. For an expansive overview of this year’s edition, including the art installations, performances, workshops, various talks, safe-spaces, and outstanding music sets, you can visit Whole Festival’s homepage.

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