sketches from the hedonistic berlin nightclubs where photography isn't allowed

Berghain and KitKat Club come with a strict no photos policy, but Felix Scheinberger has found a colorful solution for documenting what's behind Berlin's toughest doors.

by Hannah Ongley
24 October 2016, 6:10pm

How to get into Berghain remains one of clubbing's perpetual mysteries. There are websites, games, and illustrated guides dedicated to making sense or making fun of the unwritten rules of gaining entry into Berlin's most hedonistic club: Wear black. Speak German. Go alone. The high temple of techno's allure is only magnified by its strict no photos policy. There are Instagrams and Tumblrs that demonstrate this to hilarious effect by posting pictures of the block-color sticker that's taped over your phone's camera if you do get in. German Illustrator Felix Scheinberger has found an equally creative way to circumvent the very concrete rule. He takes his sketchbook to record the scenes, people, and outfits he sees inside Berlin's most exclusive nightclubs, including Berghain, techno sex club KitKat Club, and high-end swingers spot Insomnia. "I like his slanted penstroke, the slight exaggeration of the female pelvis, and the warm hues he bestows on bodies," KitKat's Kristen Krüger writes in the foreword to Felix's new book Hedo Berlin, a depraved visual diary of his wildest nights out. "His subjects are often grotesque but they are always recorded with a benevolent gaze." We speak to Felix about getting behind Berlin's toughest doors and the constant fear of rejection. 

Have you always been into techno music and club culture?
As a teenager, I played drums in various German punk bands, and this was my first point of contact with music. However, I have always drawn and already sketched very early on concerts and in clubs.

What was the first sketch you drew inside a nightclub and what inspired you to do it?
I've always painted in different underground scenes. My first sketches from punk or underground scene — especially from Hamburg — I did in the 90s. On the one hand I like "underground," on the other hand, the protagonists are also great to draw. My first connections to drawing in Berlin's hedonist clubs came, however, through a professional job. In Berghain you can not take photographs and that is why in 2011 a large newspaper in Berlin asked me to make drawings for an article. And after this I drew more and more pictures in clubs like this.

What is a typical night out for you when making these sketches? What do you wear? Do you dance or just observe? Do you indulge in any substances? Do you ever get rejected by Sven?
I go out in normal clothes. When I'm in the university in front of students I actually wear the same clothes: black trousers, black shirt. Usually I go with friends, we drink something and go dancing. The only difference is that I always have my sketchbook with me. And if I am in the mood afterwards, or I see something interesting, I draw a little. Such kind of drawings can not be made "from the outside." These are works just from a "natural" point of view. When I am in a club, I have in one hand a sketchbook and in the other a drink. And the bouncers? In fact, I have never been rejected. Although I am afraid of it every time I stand in line. 

What is the reaction of people when you ask to sketch them or when they see you doing it?
This is a bit magical: people feel when you look at them and of course they notice when you draw them. But the most surprising thing is that the vast majority of people find it alright when you draw them, even in places where you are guaranteed not to be photographed. If you draw someone, you take time, too — even with a quick sketch. You take your counterpart seriously and bring attention and respect to them. Drawing is not photography — at least you are not a snapshot. Most people [appreciate being] shown positively, and are not even bothered when I tell them that I might use the images for my book. But of course I have changed some names. 

How long does it take you to complete a sketch?
Five minutes, or six with color. 


Text Hannah Ongley
Images courtesy of Felix Scheinberger

Felix Scheinberger
hedo berlin