Video from Canadian Berlin-based video artist Dan Hudson.
I flew into Berlin on New Year’s eve, at around 8pm. As the plane descended through the clear night, the city sparkled with thousands of tiny explosions. What a remarkable welcome back: it as if to be one of the lucky few to spot phosphorescence, bioluminescence, across a still nighttime ocean.
Berliners love their fireworks, for weeks beforehand the kids in my neighbourhood of Kreuzberg have been practising, sometimes on each other, aiming fireworks at their friends’ feet, throwing little bombs at passers-by. A pal visiting from Brazil kept thinking he was back home, and hearing gunshots.
The kids have bigger bombs to play with this year thanks to the conformity of German law with European standards: 500g of explosive compared to the 200g allowed before January 2011. Then there are the illegal crackers, like the hand-held Polenböller (‘Polish cannons’). Hundreds this New Year’s were injured, firetrucks were deployed more than a thousand times, 300 required medical attention and about a quarter of those were brought to hospital. One woman lost her hand.
At ground level, my taxi coasted through the explosions. I asked the driver if it was dangerous if a bomb lands under his carriage. He laughed at me and told me to go and have fun. I got home, dressed for a costume party, and went outside for midnight. Standing on a bridge in Kreuzberg, over the canal, there was the collective countdown, the exhiliration of the crowd, and then the sudden increase of explosions. It was like we need something visible in the air to tell us that the change has happened. Without it, or our watches, one moment would have seemed just like the next. I’m sure others felt the irrevocable change and onward march of time, as the sounds of sirens rose up through the spectacular air.