I can’t remember my first time in the Tuntenhaus. Those early visits are blurred together as a hazy mix of speed and cheap alcohol in the basement bar and the feeling of being absolutely crushed by hundreds of other sweaty queers, partying at the overly packed Hoffeste and having sloppy, drunken sex or nude breakfasts on the roof. I do know that I felt this amazing rush of liberation when I was within those walls, basking in that alternative queer culture I could only dream of back in San Francisco. I did not know that this Tuntenhaus was by no means the first.
The summer of 2022 has been a summer of Tuntenhaus memories thanks to the boisterous exhibition at the Schwules Museum called Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: Gay Communism’s Short Summer, which is running through February next year. For those who don’t know, Tuntenhaus (“House of Queens”) is the queer alternative housing project currently located in Prenzlauer Berg.
I can’t remember my first time in the Tuntenhaus. Those early visits are blurred together as a hazy mix of speed and cheap alcohol
But there were two iterations before it that were squatted by radical gay men. This exhibition covers the second Tuntenhaus (we may never see one about the 1981 first iteration in Schöneberg) in newly reunified Berlin-Friedrichshain on Mainzer Straße, which was squatted on May 1, 1990 – less than six months after the fall of the Wall. At that time, it was a row of squatted houses, each with separate organising principles but similar politics.
I can’t give you the full context of Tuntenhaus Forellenhof (“trout yard”, for a provocative and humorous touch). That’s what the exhibition by Forellenhof resident Bastian Krondorfer is for. Its 10 chapters tell the colorful story of the gay paradise, set during the most anarchic summer that the streets of Friedrichshain have ever seen. From its roots and connections with housing projects and its links to the other squats of Mainzer Straße and communes of the past, to its run-ins with neo-Nazis to playlists from the gay bar its residents opened in an old hair salon on the ground floor (with the first darkroom in by-then-former East Germany) – the exhibit covers a lot in a relatively small space.
…gay paradise, set during the most anarchic summer that the streets of Friedrichshain have ever seen
And ah, yes… The Battle! That summer came to a hard end when then-mayor of Berlin Walter Momper decided to move on the squats… well, the squats fought back, resulting in a three-day battle between the police and various houses! These battles had their own spotlight this August when Freiluftkino Friedrichshain screened documentaries The Battle of Tuntenhaus Parts I & II by American director Juliet Bashore. Rumour has it she will now be directing Part III, checking back in with those protagonists – but you can still watch Part I & II on YouTube if you missed them.
The pièce de résistance of the exhibit, however, is the walk-in replica of the Tuntenhaus kitchen of 1990, complete with post-Wende ephemera – newspapers, milk cartons, an old TV playing clips of the docs and lots of cigarette butts – and somehow that glorious stench that alternative queer houses always have. If you don’t have your own invite to a queer housing project already, this show may be the closest you’ll get. In short, experience a piece of Berlin’s radical queer past while you can.
- Tuntenhaus Forellenhof 1990: Gay Communism’s Short Summer Through Feb 13, 2023 Schwules Museum