Introducing artist and darkroom chronicler Rory Midhani and his Corner of Berlin: Ficken 3000.
Having lived in Berlin for five years now, Rory Midhani found his artistic muse in the dank of the Berlin darkroom.
His drawings, murals and cardboard scenes take an affectionate, comedic peek into Berlin’s darkrooms, shedding light on that “grimy” unknown that outsiders discuss with excited reverence and naive ignorance.
Rory recently provided the artwork for band SADO OPERA‘s single ‘In The Dark’, a song about a cruising encounter in Ficken 3000. His video will be winging its way to a number of queer and independent film festivals this summer.
Today, he’s going to illuminate those dark corners that make Berlin so special for him.
Rory’s Corner: Ficken 3000
I have chosen the shadowy corners of the basement of cruising bar Ficken 3000. Specifically, the corners of the booths on the left side of the downstairs basement.
In the bar area, Twink-on-Twink pornos play on multiple screens in black and white, even though the original films are colour. I have never worked out if the black and white is a fault with the screens or a stylistic choice to give the pornos a touch of… sophistication.
The CD-tiled ceiling bounces the colourful disco lights. The air is smokey and thick with sexy sweat. There are sex toys and gay porn DVDs in glass cabinets. Gambling machines are dotted around.
Despite the place being totally saturated in SEX, the early-night atmosphere has the vibe of a school disco. It’s mostly men standing awkwardly with their backs to the walls, glancing at each other and wanting to interact, but not.
But, go at the right moment and you will find yourself in a magnificent whirlwind of excess and debauchery. The small but animated dancefloor comes alive with people dancing, wiggling their bums, while others chat in the booths or by the bar. Everybody’s checking everybody out.
Downstairs, the darkroom fills with the sounds of indeterminate figures fucking in the shadows.
The first time I went to Ficken, I was eight weeks fresh out of the hospital for top surgery. My new, flat chest had me finally feeling like A Gay Man and I wanted to go out into the night and do things A Gay Man in Berlin does. Things like cruising for bum sex in shady basements!
I put on a leather vest from Humana (which was about four sizes too big) and strutted into Ficken. I was a small and effeminate trans man feeling like a Tom of Finland HUNK.
That first night, I did not cruise successfully. I returned a week or so later, once I had worked up the courage to descend those steel steps into the sex-filled basement.
It’s the bizzarro crowd Ficken 3000 draws.
It feels like a completely different bar each time you go in there, depending on the crowd it’s pulled in that night. I’ve met people from all over, and been delighted to meet some of the oddest oddballs in town. There is always someone interesting to encounter.
I love the journeys of sexual discovery I have found in the darkroom, and shared with others there.
The idea of disclosing my transness to the people I want to bone with can sometimes be daunting. In the darkroom, I don’t always need to disclose my transness. The shadows of a darkroom offer the safety to only disclose what I want, when I want.
Not saying trans people should be cloaked in darkness to be fuckable, but feeling out my sexuality in darkrooms has really been a great exercise in building my confidence and navigating my boundaries as a horny trans person.
I probably have 3000 fond memories of Ficken, but I have narrowed it down to two.
Ficken’s birthday party was approaching. My friend Ella and I decided it would be nice to bake and bring some birthday cupcakes along for the occasion. She baked them, and I decorated them with icing poppers bottles, condoms, and lube packets.
At midnight, cupcakes in-hand, I led a small group in singing “Happy birthday to Ficken, happy birthday to yoooou” and joyfully went around, offering our nice birthday cupcakes to the people in there.
Basically, nobody wanted one.
Now, I have gracefully accepted many a rejection in the darkroom at Ficken, but to have my cupcakes turned down left me feeling sorely disappointed. A friend asked me “Rory, if a strange man offered you a cupcake in Ficken 3000, would you eat it?”
…the answer is that actually I probably would. But I took the point – maybe people don’t feel comfortable consuming things from strangers in a cruise bar. One stoned-looking man ate about six though, which I feel made all that baking worthwhile.
Then, one weekend, me and some friends were coming down from another party. We decided to round the night off with a last beer in Ficken.
It was around eight in the morning and the atmosphere was sleepy. The people scattered around the bar were mostly Weird Daddies and people-with-nowhere-else-to-go.
I was ready to leave. Buttoning up my coat, I Have a Dream by ABBA start to play.
Independently of each other, the handful of Weird Daddies and people-with-nowhere-else-to-go began singing along. Not in an epic, arms around each other singalong kind of way – turned away from each other, they softly and sincerely sang the words to themselves.
I left the bar to a chorus of oddballs, all gently singing about how they believe in angels. It was one of the sweetest things I have ever witnessed.
Those are the kinds of surreal moments that make me love Ficken 3000, and Berlin as a whole. It’s the corners where sweetness and sleaze collide that I find the Berlin I love.
There are unexpected moments of softness and beauty in even the least likely of dark corners in this Sodom and Gomorrah town, and that is what keeps me here.
What a beautiful sentiment and sign-off. Thanks, Rory!