LOVEPARADE: Excavating the Past for a Better Future
By: Erin Osterhaus

Love Parade Poster 2001
Love Parade Poster 2001

1. Introduction to Theory: Intertextuality/Dialogism

Intertextuality is a term coined by the post-structural theorist Julia Kristeva, which contends “meaning is not transferred directly from writer to reader, but instead is mediated through, or filtered by ‘codes’ imparted to the reader by other texts.” Kristeva’s development of intertextuality was itself the result of its own tenets, as it was the synthesis and hybridization of previous theorists—most notably Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism and Saussure’s notion of semiotics. As Chandler states, “ the concept of intertextuality reminds us that each text exists in relation to others. In fact, texts owe more to other texts than to their own makers” (Chandler).

Intertextuality relies on Bakhtin’s notion of dialogism, in which ideas and new works of art are not created out of nothing and do not belong solely to their ‘author,’ but are rather the product of an ongoing dialogue with previous thinkers and artists. This was itself a reaction to—in turn a dialogue with—Saussure’s emphasis on the relationship of words to each other as components of discrete and closed off texts. Bakhtin’s elaborated on Saussure’s notion of semiotics, but instead of viewing texts as hermetically sealed entities, he viewed “the status of the word as a minimal structural unit [situating] the text within history and society, which are then seen as texts read by the writer, and into which he inserts himself by rewriting them” (Kristeva 36). In this sense, no creative work can be original or pure. Everything is already a hybrid, a remix or reorganization of thoughts that came before. This ultimately leads to Barthes notion of the eath of the author as such, and thus “…that individualism and personal identity is ‘dead’” (Jameson 17).

The death of the author and the rise of hybridity as an accepted method—indeed the only method—of producing creative works are major facets of post-modern thought. Even the name of the philosophical movement—post-modernism—relies on a dialogue with past philosophical thought, namely modernism, as it is a reaction—and therefore dialogue with—what came before it. The recognition of hybridity and therefore the lack of any one author led to the postmodern fascination with anonymity.

The confluence of these notions of dialogism, intertextuality and the death of the author have led to the prized positioning of anonymity in the postmodern age—which in turn has led to remix (hybridity) as the primary means of creation.
LOVEPARADE on Unter Den Linden
LOVEPARADE on Unter Den Linden

1.1. LOVEPARADE: A Postmodern Possibility

The LOVEPARADE, an international music festival originating in Germany in 1989, and its driving force—techno music—would not have been possible without the philosophical currents that came before it. The LOVEPARADE, as will be shown here, was only conceivable in a postmodern era in which the individual was no longer the most important element neither in the production of creative work, nor in society as a whole. in his seminal essay “The Death of the Author,” Roland Barthes states that “writing is the destruction of every voice, of every point of origin. Writing is that neutral, composite, oblique space where our subject slips away, the negative where all identity is lost, starting with the very identity of the body writing” (Barthes). According to this theory, works are not created by an author, but rather through him or her. Therefore remix, and authorial anonymity/ambiguity, are regarded as essential elements of artistic production.

Nowhere is this authorial ambiguity seen more clearly than in the figure of the DJ. As Nicolas Bourriaud states in his book Postproduction: “Notions of originality (being at the origin of) and even of creation (making something from nothing) are slowly blurred in this new cultural landscape marked by the twin figures of the DJ and the programmer, both of whom have the task of selecting cultural objects and inserting them into new contexts “(Bourriaud, Intro). The role of the DJ is to reorganize the past in order to make it relevant for the present. As Dario Robleto once said, “There is no such thing as a good DJ who is historically ignorant” (Robleto). This consciousness of the past is extremely present in the DJs who founded the LOVEPARADE—Dr. Motte and DJ Westbam.

The first LOVEPARADE was arranged on the initiative of several Berlin DJs, among them Matthias Rönig, aka Dr. Motte. These DJs served as cultural archeologists for a new generation of German youth, which came together in the Berlin underground Techno scene. The DJ’s ability to serve as a conduit to the past—not only through sampling previous music, but also by subverting the meaning of the past by placing it in a new context—is merely another variation of Barthes’ “death of the author.” The DJ does not claim to be the sole creator of his productions, but merely a conduit for change—change for the better. This is an important concept in order to understand the spirit in which Techno music is both generated and received.

The importance of anonymity, of being part of the crowd and something larger than oneself, is mirrored in Dr. Motte’s own reflection on the humble beginnings of the first LOVEPARADE in 1989, when he says, “Da war das Individuum aufgelöst in Europa, durch die Musik, durch den Spass” (The individual was dissolved in Europe then, through music, and through fun). The individual, through the music of the DJ—who in turn is operating through the filter of the past—becomes another link in the chain of human life.

But how did the LOVEPARADE facilitate this postmodern disintegration of the individual into the collective? The unification of the individual ego into a greater whole was made possible through the hybrid structure and democratizing essence of Techno music itself. Through the confluence of many previous events and the invention of new sampling technology, techno music and the LOVEPARADE have been able to spread across the globe, continuing the dialogue with the past to create a remix in the present with a message for the future.


In part, the LOVEPARADE was largely made possible by technology—not only the means of producing the music itself, but also the means of communicating the beats and samples, which would become the foundation of a the Techno subculture in Berlin. Techno music’s “neutral matrix of electronic sound…means that it can be understood in any culture or language” (Richard 165). The proof of this universal appeal, and a testament to German Techno’s continuing dialogue with other cultures, can be found in the movement’s origins.

The core of the LOVEPARADE’s success, namely techno music, can find its roots on an entirely separate continent. As Richard and Kruger state in their article “Ravers’ Paradise?” German techno music can trace its roots back to “the black community dance scenes of New York, Chicago, and Detroit” (165). But what created the phenomenon on the Berlin Techno scene was the DJs’ ability to take what they learned from a foreign musical style—which had arrived in Germany from the from the United States via London—and insert their own cultural sensibility by selecting objects from Germany’s own past and weaving them into a new context. Thus Technokultur was born.

The LOVEPARADE was a forum for a dialogue between different cultures. Just as techno music, the heart and soul of the LOVEPARADE, arrived from another continent, the festival spread to new venues in different cities on almost every continent. LOVEPARADEs were held in Sydney, San Francisco, Paris, Mexico City, Caracas and Santiago. The rapid spread of the techno scene, or Technokultur as it was know in Germany, was in large part due to the technology of the time.

Just as the sounds incorporated into techno music transcended national borders—the neutral matrix of sound being comprehensible in all languages—the technology that produced the music, also allowed it to be transferable worldwide. Techno was the first subculture to “use and exploit all the computer-generated forms of the digital age,” and because computers were available in most countries, young people interested in techno were able to create new music themselves (Richard and Kruger 161). As Lawrence Lessig says, the read-only culture of former times was transformed into a read-write culture with millions of new participants, or in the words of William Gibson: “Today's audience isn't listening at all - it's participating. Indeed, audience is as antique a term as record…[t]he remix is the very nature of the digital” (Gibson). The advent of the Internet, as well as advances in sampling technology did therefore not just contribute to Technokultur, the technology was and is the culture.


The song ‘Disco Deutschland’ by DJ Westbam is an excellent example of the DJ’s ability to serve as a cultural archeologist and conduit to the past. DJ Westbam mines history in order to create something new from the pieces of what came before him. Through the DJ’s ability to sample previous musical works, he or she creates a web of references that make sense only in relation to one another, similar to the type of intertextuality described by Kristeva. DJ Westbam’s techno track, as well as the video clips he chooses to accompany it, continues a dialogue with previous artists and philosophers by weaving in references to Germany’s past. However, in the process of cutting and pasting all these different elements, DJ Westbam is able to create a work of art that subverts and gives new meaning to the various parts that make up the whole.

4.1. DJ Westbam, Bakhtin, and Kristeva

One of the four founders of the LOVEPARADE, DJ Westbam (aka Maximilian Lenz) was an expert at fusing the past with the present, blurring national boundaries, and bringing people together through the medium of technology and music. In a 1988 music video for a track entitled “Disco Deutschland,” DJ Westbam skillfully subverted the meanings of Nazi and Cold War era symbols—removing from them their power to divide, and instead uniting all his listeners within the fette beats of the music.

4.1.1. Music as Dialogue

The most repeated loop in the song, which reiterates the phrase “work your body,” is in fact a sample from a song called “Body Work” by Jeux Floreux, which had in fact been sampled from the ‘original’ track also entitled “Body Work” by yet another group which went by the name of Hot Streak. This instance of sampling and re-sampling is an illustration of Bakhtin’s statement that the “…unique speech experience of each individual is shaped and developed in continuous and constant interaction with others' individual utterances. This experience can be characterized to some degree as the process of assimilation--more or less creative--of others' words” (Bakhtin). For DJ Westbam, and other DJs as well, music is the mode of speech with which they continue their dialogue with artists that came before them. Just as each note within a song reacts to the one before it and anticipates the one to come after, so too does the DJ exist in a constant state of reaction/anticipation. While Bakhtin was referring explicitly to the elements of speech—namely words—the same principles apply to techno music. The DJ, like the speaker, must react not only to what is said—i.e. previous artists’ contributions to the music world—but he also must react to his environment—namely his audience.

1936 Olympics

4.1.2. Image as Intertextuality

It is when considering the setting of the clip—as well as its intended audience—in West Germany shortly prior to the fall of the Berlin Wall, that Kristeva’s notion of intertextuality comes largely into play. According to Kristeva, texts have two axes: “a horizontal axis connecting the author and reader of a text, and a vertical axis, which connects the text to other texts” , 69). In this case, the horizontal access, which connects the author— or DJ Westbam—to the reader/listener—, is the music itself. The vertical access connecting the text—or track—to other texts/tracks is the sampled loops DJ Westbam reorganizes according to his own artistic preferences, as well as the imagery chosen to accompany the aural components of “Disco Deutschland.”

The clip of DJ Westbam’s “Disco Deutschland,” begins with shots of a club scene—an image that could be located in any country on any continent. However, as the video progresses, we begin to see images that relate directly to Germany’s past—hence the name “Disco Deutschland” whose name indicates the geographical and historical space occupied by the music.

The first image that connects the viewer, and the listener, directly to Germany is a shot of Hitler giving a speech at the 1936 Olympics, which were held in Berlin. The clip of Hitler does not use any of the original audio, but DJ Westbam rather ‘writes’ over the words of Germany’s former dictator with sampled loops—thus subverting the past and making Hitler speak in the language of the time-techno.

Next we see a shot of the Reichstag with the (in) famous inscription of “Dem Deutsche Volke” (meaning “For the German People”). As the camera pans down, we see DJ Westbam seated on the steps with his boom box. The juxtaposition of these two images seems to position DJ Westbam—and the entire Technokultur—as the new German Volk. However, instead of the systemized mechanical elimination of the Jews to achieve a pure German race, DJ Westbam seems to imply by his presence on the steps that the new generation of Techno lovers merely want one kind of mechanization in their lives—the mechanical movements of the dance, working their body to the music.

DJ Westbam on Reichstag Steps

Before ending the clip with another shot of a club scene, thus repositioning the viewer in the milieu of a broader international Technokultur, we see DJ Westbam dancing before the Berlin Wall. This scene could almost be seen as prescient of the events that were to unfold the next year. The visual linkage of DJ Westbam’s music and dance to the Berlin wall would seem to imply the unification two previously divided nations under the globalizing force of Techno.

Tanzen vor der Mauer

DJ Westbam’s ability to employ the principles of dialogism, continuing a conversation with the past through sampling others’ music, as well as his ability to mine the history of his own country for imagery, inserting it into the context of his present is a key example of how the theory of intertextuality, coined by Kristeva, found its place in the ‘real world’ scene of Berlin’s Technokultur.

DJ Westbam is therefore an exemplary practitioner of DJ culture/sampling’s primary ideal: “The idea that even if all we have is the wreckage of the past, so what— we are still going to make something out of it” (Robleto). Although the German past haunted much of the nation’s youth in the latter half of the twentieth century, DJ Westbam has used the remix to liberate himself and his contemporaries from the burden of West German guilt.

Both these components of Techno music—their participation in a continuing historical dialogue and ability to cite from other sources—made techno music and the LOVEPARADE excellent vehicles for the generation the 1980s to claim their place in the scope of history.

4.2. DJ Westbam and Warhol: Techno and the Machine

In addition to being dependent on Germany’s fascist and hypermodern past for meaning, DJ Westbam’s “Disco Deutschland” is also dependent on one of the most dearly held tenets of Pop and postmodernism—the death of the ego through one’s own voluntary mechanization. Perhaps the most famous Pop-artist, Andy Warhol, once said, “I want to be a machine.” According to DeDuve, Warhol’s claim, “Psychologically speaking…meant to Warhol the desire to be without desire, to be insentient, to be beyond suffering of the fear of death.” (DeDuve10) This desire to be a machine, unbounded by the constraints of time or mortality is also present in several facets of the LOVEPARADE.

4.2.1. Dance the Night (And Death) Away

As Borneman states “…the Love Parade most closely resembles a machine, or a world of machine simulation, and participants take the metaphor of ‘machine experience’ seriously” (Borneman 295). By the ‘machine experience,’ Borneman means something slightly different than Warhol, although the goal—to exist outside of time—is one and the same. While Warhol wished to be a single machine, producing commodities as art in an ironic mockery of the capitalist system in which he lived, Techno ravers wish only to be one of this machine’s parts. In this sense, the denial of the author as sole creator, which Warhol wished to produce through his repetitive and commoditized artwork, is taken a step further by the ravers of the LOVEPARADE. Anonymity and belonging to a greater whole have superseded any and all individual egos to the point that nothing at all is produced—only an escape from time.

This escape is achieved through the movement of the body, which is facilitated by “The frenetic, mechanical beat of techno” (Borneman 302). While Warhol imagined himself as a deathless machine through the reproduction of one object over and over again, ravers attempt to escape death through Techno’s repetitive beats, which “might be understood as a denial of time and its irreversibility, an expression of a fear or phobia that time will become meaningful, vary, become irregular, stand still, or cause something to fade or disappear” (Borneman 302). The music allows ravers to simulate a machine experience, which permits them to remove themselves from human time through repetitive motion, thus breaking free from the mortality of life and death.

4.2.2. Why Mechanize?: Effects of Ideology

Love Parade 2001
Love Parade 2001

However, while Warhol and ravers both seek to exist outside of time in an immortal mechanized form, their reasons for desiring this escape vary. Warhol wished to “…be the machine, and not its slave” (DeDuve 11). His desire for control over technology could in part be attributed to his experiences as a youth in an exploding consumer society, where the commodities produced by machines often determined a man’s worth.

While it might be argued that Warhol’s desire for control over technology was due to the influences of the capitalist society in which he grew up, it could be argued that ravers, specifically German ravers, desire to be a machine due to another philosophical ideology entirely—fascism.
Warhol was the product a society who held the ideals of capitalism close to its metaphorical heart, but DJs such as Dr. Motte and DJ Westbam had spent their formative years in a society ridden by the guilt of its Nazi past. In this past, the apparatus of the state had been used with machine-like efficiency to eliminate an entire race based on the principles of eugenics. Consequently, it can be claimed that during World War II average Germans were not entirely in control of their own bodies because the fate of their physical beings was ultimately determined by the state. The recurrent command in DJ Westbam’s “Disco Deutschland’ to “work your body!” could therefore be seen as a call to reclaim control over each individual’s own body, as well as the entire political body of the German state.

Through mechanical movements of Techno dancing, the raver of the 1980s and 90s claims back the right to determine his or her own destiny. At the same time, ravers’ desire to transform into a peaceful dancing machine subverts the historical notion of Germany and Germans as an efficient killing machine. In Technokultur, the listener and the DJ compose the working parts of one giant peaceful machine known as the LOVEPARADE, which “seeks…a romantic unity without hierarchy, without conflict, and without politics” (Borneman 305).


This essay was sparked by a quote, an idea lifted from another author, artist and imaginative reorganizer of already existing ideas—DJ Spooky. As this cultural archeologist once said: “Multiculturalism is the ultimate destabilizing category because, like sampling, it can absorb anything. It defies limits, and posits “the subject” as an imploded category - one that is, and always has been, basically a construct. What other constructs - the nation state, the idea of the “self” etc - are linked to this category that is slowly being pulled apart by the centrifugal forces of digital media?” (Simula). The LOVEPARADE is the culmination of many nations’ histories, of many artists and thinkers’ ideas, as well as the invention of new technologies. It is a global event in which all human beings are seen as equals in an ongoing conversation.

Just as the LOVEPARADE and Techno music have joined in the global conversation of creativity, so too has this essay. It has funneled the words of previous writers, reorganized them, and made something (not entirely) new. This essay, and everything I have ever written, I have absorbed and reformed. Culture, like humanity, is an organic entity, alive and ever evolving.

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