The former power plant is a fitting venue for Berlin Atonal, which itself is a revival of something from the past. Founded in 1982 by Dimitri Hegemann and continuing until 1990, the original Berlin Atonal hosted acts like Einstürzende Neubauten, Psychic TV and 808 State—acts that brought together artists and musicians operating on the fringes, challenging how and why music and art are supposed to be made.
Marcel has been working with Berlin Atonal since 2013, when the festival made a triumphant return within the newly renovated Kraftwerk under the direction of Paulo Reachi, Laurens von Oswald and Harry Glass. The cavernous space is daunting in size, with three floors that are wide open, yet the many, uniform support pillars and dark corners make it easy to lose track of where one is. Even Marcel, who has carefully studied every inch of the building in designing the lighting elements at Berlin Atonal, finds himself at times confounded by the space, “On one hand I got to know the building very well but then I still discover new beams that I was never aware of.”
Each new iteration of Berlin Atonal serves as a tabula rasa for Marcel when he is creating the concept for how the lighting and visuals will appear within the space. At the 2016 festival, a 20-meter tall screen stood proudly behind the main stage, “Often I find my work is less about creativity than understanding—the needs of the space or how the space wants to be… triggered so to say. Every venue speaks—you need to listen to what it says. That’s how this big screen came into being. It felt like the building was reaching upwards. It’s almost like a cathedral of concrete so I thought: ‘it needs a vertical screen!’” he says.