Let´s talk about: BERLIN + FETISH with HART Magazine
Taken from our last print issue! HART Magazine is a bi-annual magazine for post fetishism and queer culture. Based and created in Berlin — one of the world’s most vibrant, queer cities. We had a chat with the two founders Niklas van Schwarzdorn and Léon C. Romeike about their work, fetish and why Berlin is the place to be for them.
What does Berlin mean to you? Moving to and living in Berlin for both of us meant a big shift in many parts of our identity. How we identify, what we value, what we want from life. We both come from smaller cities. Even if we thought back then we knew who we were, in the context of such a different city, that all changes dramatically.
What are your favourite spots in Berlin? And why? Hm, I could definitely name clubs, bars and café that we love to go to but it’s more about the people than the spot itself. The same club can vary depending on the party and if the party attracts the people that make us feel home. I would definitely say that GEGEN at KitKatClub means a lot to us but even in the last year, it has changed a lot.
If you could use just 3 words to explain HART Magazine to my mother, what would they be? She wouldn’t probably know what queer means, so that’s already a problem. It’s pretty abstract but I would say: honest, unafraid, forward-thinking. I know that’s 4 words.
We are in LOVE with your magazine. Tell us more about it. Who came up with the idea? And when did you found it? Well, it started as Niklas’ university project. He and I realised that we had such productive energy together so we worked on shooting. That to this day is one of my most favourite ones.
That was in summer 2017. In the beginning, it was a free editorial but none of the magazines we sent it to would have it. For some, it was too much fetish, for some too much fashion. Niklas was just sick of it and said, “We are going to do our own thing.” He always dreams big.
HART is all about post-fetishism and queer culture. What is post- fetishism? And how do you translate it into your content? OK, so myself, Léon, am the one who came up with the sub-line. I have to explain both of these words. At that time I was really interested in how queer people formed a kind of culture that ideally isn’t based on nationality, skin colour, gender or whatever. What connects people and how they identify.
What is interesting is that the idea of queerness is very hard to define. It’s an idea that takes its power from not being “definable”. It describes people that are usually discriminated against because they don’t fit into the way most people understand identity. I have to say that this is the ideal vision. In reality, even queer-identifying people can be extremely exclusive. However, when I thought about the origin of modern queerness the connection to the fetish scene was very apparent to me.
What I learned in Berlin was that sexual freedom and freedom of sexual identity almost go hand in hand. Again, ideally. We want to talk about queerness we have to think about the post-fetishistic movement. I loved the word post-fetishism because again it’s hard to define. What even is that? For me, it describes a new interest in the aesthetics of fetish. Suddenly everyone wears a harness and lots of small and big designers use this aesthetic to create fashion. It is still a phenomenon that we have to investigate and think about what that means for our society.
What’s the difference between sexual preference and fetishes? Well, the lines a very blurry. We hear a lot about fetishising of black bodies and there are people that for example would say they have a foot fetish or a fetish for redheads. The word used to describe sexual excitement caused by inanimate materials or objects. I think when we talk about fetish, we talk about the fantasy that comes with sex. That it is not just an act of reproducing.
Where do you believe most fetishes come from? More past experiences of more innate/genetics? Do you think everyone deep down has a fetish? It’s the most natural thing for me. It is so human to disconnect from the natural act of doing something. I think eating is a good comparison. We obviously have to eat, but the food is such a huge cultural factor. It has turned into so much more than receiving energy to live. It’s not that different from sex. It’s a natural urge that offers the possibility to create a huge storyline around the thing itself. There are so many things that play into that. It’s hard to tell where fetishes come from exactly but to me, they are very natural.
Why do you think fetishes are still so taboo? It makes people feel unsure about structures of power. Fetish plays with that, dominate and submissiveness. And of course, everything that has to do with sex still makes people uncomfortable.
What do you think the most important things are when beginning to explore a fetish, especially in the queer world? Being safe. There is not much open discussion about the practices of fetish and some of them need experience. In Berlin, we are fortunate to have organisations that specialise in sexual education.
Do you think it’s more difficult for women or for men to begin exploring their fetishes and entering the scene? First and foremost, it is always harder for women. In many aspects, women are over-sexualised but their own desires are mostly overlooked. I don’t really know any lesbian sex-positive parties for example. I guess there are some but they are definitely under-represented. But I can’t really speak for the female experience.
You have just published your second issue. Tell us more about the theme. Who is in the issue and what is the topic? We don’t have a topic for each issue. I guess “Magazine for post- fetishism and queer culture” is already quite a special topic. However, this issue is a big improvement for us. We dig deeper into our mission to analyse, document and celebrate the scene. We had the chance to work with people that have inspired us even before HART, like Love Bailey, Sussi and Miss Meatface. We are able to provide a platform for small and big artists, all of them exciting forerunners.
As an indie magazine, we know it’s not always easy to print. How do you find a way around that? Oh god, yes it’s a huge challenge. We can’t pay any of the people that we work with. Considering that, it’s even more exciting those artists let us publish their work. For the first issue, Niklas invested his own money, for the second one we did a Kickstarter to cover the printing costs. Niklas has done most of the work when it comes to getting the money. Trust and believe me, this queen has so much willpower, it’s unbelievable.
Are there any artists who you would die to work with for HART Magazine? Well, there are, and we might soon work with them. So I won’t say too much!
If you could have dinner with any two queer people in history, who would they be? Divine and Marsha P. Johnson,
Let’s get personal! Léon, who is Niklas? What are his strengths and weaknesses? I said before Niklas is extremely ambitious. His willpower is the reason why HART exists. It can definitely get exhausting to keep up with him but what we created together is very rewarding. He always knows exactly what he wants, which also means that our shootings usually go pretty fast. We have this amazing productive energy together. I know that whatever I style or whatever idea I have he will make it look stunning. If I would have to name a weakness, I would say that he doesn’t like to rethink an idea. Even if there are concerns on my side, it can get difficult to change an idea. But I guess that’s my job.
Niklas, who is Léon? What are his strengths and weaknesses? Léon is a person that sometimes needs a kick in his ass to see how talented and amazing he is. And I feel that together we form a good union. I kick ass, and he brings me down when I am sometimes getting a bit too hyper. When I met him he still was really insecure, shy and now he really blossomed into the creative person he is today.
Since you’re also in a relationship outside of HART, is it easier to produce the magazine as a couple? Or is it more of an obstacle? I have to say that there is no separation between life and work. It means that the work never really stops but also that it never just feels like work. There are actually a lot of stylists/photographer couples. And as I said, we have pretty good energy together.