Pornceptual: Sex, Art & Club Culture
PORNCEPTUAL EXPLORES SEXUALITY AND BODY POSITIVITY IN BERLIN’S CLUB SCENE.
Berlin: a playground for sexual experimentation over the generations. From the dark rooms of cabarets in the 1920s, to the modern dark rooms of the famous nightclub Berghain, the throes of passion and partying in the German capital have always been inextricable.
That set the stage for Pornceptual, one of Berlin’s most popular parties. Since 2013, crowds numbering in the thousands descend upon Berlin’s former State Mint wearing skimpy costumes and glitter streaks.
“What are you wearing tonight?” asks the party’s bouncer, a dragged-out Saint Peter guarding the gates of Pornceptual in lace and straps. Partygoers that answer, “Nothing!” are granted cheaper access to the labyrinth of techno chambers, art installations and performance areas running the gamut from burlesque to BDSM. Fully-dressed patrons are welcome, but pay the full ticket price.
“Pornceptual is often described as a sex party for beginners,” organizer Raquel explains. Sex is not obligatory, but very much accepted, with dark rooms and free contraception at every event.
But the organizers strive for it to be more than just a nightlife event for escapists. Founders, Brazilian expats Chris Phillips and Raquel Fedato, work to ensure that their art project promotes LGBTQI inclusivity, as well as a healthier, more open attitude towards sexual pleasure in both clubs and regular life. Pornceptual is also a unique staging ground for artists who expand upon perceptions of explicit imagery.
“WE WANT TO CREATE CONFUSION AROUND THE CONCEPT OF PORN”
An online shop sells unisex and body-positive fashion from young designers. There’s even a magazine financed from party profits. The latest volume, Guerilla, compiles more than 210 pages in vivid color of 50 visual artists exploring the themes of social resistance, uproar and – of course – sex.
“We want to create confusion around the concept of porn,” says Chris.
Just take a stroll through around a Pornceptual party, and you’ll quickly see what Chris means.
Wedged between banging beats and glaring strobe lights, couples tuck themselves away into brick alcoves to discover one another, bathed in the glow of blue and red lights for the benefit of voyeuristic passersby. Just down the hall, muscled men tricked out in glittery wings and jockstraps discuss politics, driving home the party’s concept: Pornceptual is a safe space for discourse — albeit verbal, intellectual or physical.
With a steady cult following in Berlin, the founders hope soon to take the party on the road.
“There are other cities that really need Pornceptual,” says Chris. “We've been to Turkey, we've been to Brazil, places where having a party like Pornceptual is totally unimaginable. It's really important for us to take our project to other countries that don't deal with sexuality in such an easy way as Germany.”
Check out selected images from Pornceptual’s latest magazine Guerilla (Warning: NSFW!) or listen to a recent podcast from the collective below.