Reference Festival 2021


Text  Marc Andrews

Images  Reference Festival / Various


Regular Berlin Winters can already feel rather grey and dreary. The vastness of the city, which can seem so liberating and inspiring during Summers, can turn into a fairly hostile zone during those colder months, encouraging quite reclusive behavioural patterns. This Winter though, after almost a full year of pandemic restrictions, with all the usual cultural escape options closed, one can sense people’s need and desire for any form of sensory input. In a way, this obviously also reflects most people’s current state of mind in the Northern hemisphere. Against this backdrop and with tight restrictions in full-effect, the team at Reference Studios in Berlin cannot be credited enough for managing to put together a full-blown interdisciplinary festival, that actually delivered on its promise. Albeit mostly confined to the digital space, they gathered an impressive roster of collaborators and contributors for concerts, panels, exhibitions and performances, including artists Anne Imhof & Eliza Douglas, curator and writer Hans Ulrich Obrist, musical powerhouses Honey Dijon & Michel Gaubert, designer Kenneth Ize, fashion brands 032c & GMBH, celebrated label Pan Records and many others.


Anne Imhof & Eliza Douglas - Photography: Nadine Fraczkowski

GMBH Collection "Welt am Draht" - Photography: Thyago Sainte & Benjamin A. Huseby


The presence and collaboration of significant members from the local art-, fashion-, music- and performance scenes, emphasises a unique aspect of the city, which distinguishes Berlin from other cultural capitals in the world. The interconnectedness of these various cultural scenes is one of the main driving forces and also the source of the ongoing allure of Berlin as a safe haven for any types of creatives and open-minded thinkers. This sometimes rather unfiltered and unchanneled energy can hardly be contained in traditional formats, such as a fashion week, as it exists in cities like Paris, Milan or New York (which is also the main reason why the Berlin fashion week was such an utter failure in years past). Reference Festival, with its tastefully curated combination of participants on the other hand is putting in very valuable groundwork to establish a platform, which can showcase and emphasise all the raw potential, which this city and its inhabitants have to offer. And as the city council of Berlin has supported this second edition of the festival, one can only hope that this signifies a rethink in the council´s ambitions to empower local creative scenes. Ultimately the festival also reminded us of all the exciting cultural options we can look forward to, once restrictions and social distancing will be a thing of the past. It can’t come a day too soon.


Impressions of Reference Festival 2021 - Photography: Various


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