Yesterday’s rainy Wednesday was the first day of rest during this year’s European football championship. At the .HBC (formerly Hungary’s cultural embassy in central East Berlin, now a fine and diverse venue) however, hundreds of people lined up to attend New Order’s debut showcase of photographs and artwork, hosted by Electronic Beats. Prefacing their widely-anticipated concert at Berlin’s Tempodrom, New Order: An Exhibition featured photographs by former NME photographer Kevin Cummins and the collected New Order record sleeves by Peter Saville. Both were present at the opening, as was Bernard Sumner and (the rest of) New Order.
As the offices of Electronic Beats Magazine happen to be located at the .HBC, we happened to witness the hanging of the pictures and the opening from the first row. Two light-blue neon letters, N and O, marked the starting point of the exhibition, casting a silent glow across the foyer of the immense venue. The exhibition explores the visual history of—considered by many—Britain’s most important group since the Beatles. Since their earliest incarnation as Joy Division, the group’s members have embodied artistic integrity for over thirty-six years, and Cummins’ photographs captured the band over the course of more than three decades. There is possibly no other musical group of such import being documented by the same person over such a long period. While it rained heavily across Alexanderplatz, Bernard Sumner, Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert (as well as their entourage) dined on shellfish and asparagus at the club’s restaurant. Legendary techno producer Mark Reeder, who was Sumner’s special guest of the evening, stated that it took “a lot of effort to organize rainy Manchester weather” in time for the band after weeks of sunshine in Berlin.
“Ask Peter Saville about why he did the covers in that way”, Bernard Sumner stated in an interview he gave to Electronic Beats Magazine in early June. “I recently read a book in which he said ‘The band never asked me about the sleeves. So I don’t think they understand them.” Martin Hossbach, former booker at Berlin’s legendary Berghain and now co-ordinating things at Electronic Beats, asked the group’s founding members as well as Saville and Cummins to join a public interview at .HBC’s cinema. “I didn’t think of the music when I designed the sleeves”, Peter Saville told Hossbach about his New Order designs. Sumner’s reply: “And we didn’t think about the sleeves when we recorded the music.” After more than one hour of public conversation and thirteen slides of photos and artworks, the estimated 500 visitors stayed until early morning; taking the chance to chat with one of the group’s members or just enjoying the exhibition in its decade-spanning complexity.
As often in life, the best things happen last. As a gift, every visitor of the exhibition was given a catalog of the exhibition and the new issue of Electronic Beats Magazine, featuring an in-depth interview by Max Dax with Sumner and stunning photographies of the band members by Andrea Stappert.
See you tonight at New Order’s Berlin show at Tempodrom.
All photos: © Kai Müller / Electronic Beats