Underground Berlin Light Expert’s ‘Dancefloor Design’ (interview)
“Nobody likes a party where the music is bad. A bad DJ will empty a venue a lot faster then a bad lights operator. But with lights you give a venue character, and you can turn an event into something special.”
Learning his craft via marathon sets at Berlin’s underground institution Sisyphos (followed by prestige slots at Fusion’s Turmbühne stage amongst others) Dr Strebel (known to his friends as Floris) clearly puts a lot of thought into what he does, labelling his lighting role as ‘Dance-floor Design.’
“That means mostly lighting and decoration for festivals, clubs and promotors. It can mean abstract video powered LED lighting installations. Or it can mean an installation with metal skulptures and fire,” he explains.
“I also design lamps and make skulptures to special order. Or anything in-between.”
Growing up in Amsterdam’s fiercely underground squat culture, he found his vocation through a serendipitous set of circumstances that brought him to Berlin’s Sisyphos.
“I’d never have imagined I’d end up doing lights, I initially planned to create an art project and travel around the festivals with it,” he admits.
“But before the tour was even finished, I was asked to hang it in the Hammerhalle in Sisyphos, and do the lights there. I just told them: ‘If you show me how to, I will!’ So I kept coming back, and things just developed from there.”
Five years on, he’s moved on from Sisyphos, splitting his time between Amsterdam and Berlin, with parties, in particular underground parties, remaining his core client constituency as well as favourite creative canvasses.
He’s also doing exactly what he always wanted,‘travelling from festival to festival with art,” he says, “but in a whole different way I imagined in the beginning”.
“A good design is very important for a dance-floor and one of the great things about doing lights for electronic music is that there is usually so much additional space for installations,” he points out.
“When you work with bands or theatres, you usually have to work mostly two dimensional environments whereas at club events you can play with the whole area, and make mad installations around the audience, which intensify the music, play with the architecture of a place and can be a piece of art on its own. You can build a spectacle around the audience.”
Skrufff: How did you first connect with the Berlin underground club scene?
Dr Strebel: “I like raving very much, that’s how I came to Berlin. I have done a lot of dance-floor research. One of my housemates with whom I started the first art project is the brother of one of the owners of Sisyphos. That’s how I got to know them.”
Skrufff: How did you approach working in Sisyphos’ giant tech floor hammahalle?
Dr Strebel: “Working in the hammahalle was great. We changed the dance-floor design constantly. We could think of new installations the whole time, and develop the place and ourselves at the same time. Before we got bored of one installation it was time to make something new. That way we challenged ourselves to get better and could always offer the visitors and ourselves a fresh experience.
Also I think it is very important to feel what a DJ is doing and dive into the atmosphere he/she is creating, and intensify the experience of the music by laying the focus on the audience instead of just on the DJ.”
Skrufff: What exactly do you do at Fusion?
Dr Strebel: “I have been working and volunteering on Fusion for many years and I have done many different things over the years. The more I got into lights the more my Fusion jobs started to go into that direction too. Last year I got the possibility do the Turmbühne. We made six five meter long dragons of metal that spit fire over the dance-floor. We also did the light installation. And, of course, we had a blast.”