DAU Freiheit

DAU Freiheit – Trailer
© Phemonen Film

DAU Freiheit

An installation by Ilya Khrzhanovsky

DAU is a world premiere in three cities, combined with a unique four-week city installation in the heart of Berlin. It’s a social experiment that will change the perception of Berlin. In the middle of the city centre, currently shaped by various building projects, the temporary construction of a wall will mark a zone that will become a special space for experience over the course of four weeks. It will open up historical echo chambers that offer the opportunity to have a political and social debate on freedom, totalitarianism, surveillance, coexistence and national identity – 29 years after the fall of the Wall.

The Berliner Festspiele are the organizers of the art project DAU, which is to take place as a four-week guest performance in Berlin’s Mitte district between 12 October and 9 November. The art project is produced by Phenomen Film, which, together with the Berliner Festspiele, is responsible for discussing and agreeing with the residents and local institutions on the associated demarcation of the area by the temporarily reconstructed Berlin Wall.

This process is in full swing and, together with the administrative procedures at the Berlin authorities, creates the prerequisite for a unique penetration of urban life, European history and artistic fiction.

DAU The Film – A gesamtkunstwerk (2009–2011)

The Idea

From 1938 to 1968, the Soviet Union operated a top-secret “Institute for Physical Problems of the Soviet Academy of Sciences”, which also employed the physicist and Nobel Prize winner Lev Landau (1908–1968).

In 2005, Russian film director Ilya Khrzhanovsky began preparatory work for a singular film experiment. In Kharkiv, Ukraine, where Landau lived and taught between 1932 and 1937, Khrzhanovsky founded “The Institute”, a gigantic 12,000 square metre laboratory and film set, actually a separate district in which up to 400 people lived between 2009 and 2011. While the original idea was inspired by Landau’s life, its realization increasingly moved away from the historical-biographical reality. Non-linear concepts of time and space as well as of man and nature permeate the work and life at the institute, building on research discourses about the principles of physics and mathematics elaborated there.

Over 700 hours of film material were produced in three years, from which 13 feature films and many series have been created. Contributors include cinematographer Jürgen Jürges, who worked with Fassbinder, Wenders and Haneke, composer Brian Eno, performance artist Marina Abramović, director Romeo Castellucci, Massive Attack and acclaimed conductor Teodor Currentzis, among many others. Currently, prominent personalities record the German voice-over in Berlin. The films will not be presented as a competition entry at a festival but as an encounter with another reality created by a large-scale installation. The complete work will have its world premiere in Berlin, before traveling to Paris and London.

The director

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, born 11 August 1975 in Moscow, studied in Bonn and Moscow. His feature film debut "4" won him numerous awards, including a Golden Cactus and Tiger Award at the Rotterdam International Film Festival; the prize for best director at the International Festival in Buenos Aires; the Grand Jury Award for best new director at the Seattle International Film Festival and a nomination for the European Film Prize of the Fassbinder Prize. In 2005, Khrzhanovsky started working on the DAU project.

The filming

In 2009, 400 people went back in time to the Soviet Union: ordinary street cleaners, waiters, families, famous artists, Nobel Prize winners and shamans. Cut off from the modern world, for over two years they lived and worked at a secret research institute.

Here, they discovered a familiar yet strange world and transcended boundaries, both personal and scientific. They fell in love, betrayed their friends, cheated on their lovers, ran experiments, were arrested, had children and grew old. They travelled through three decades of Soviet history, ending up in 1968 and the winter of 2011.

The extraordinary living conditions and experiences at the institute were partially documented. None of the films were made according to a script, none were played by actors or actresses – life at the institute became life in the film.

DAU Freiheit – A Berlin Art Project

Berlin will open the world premiere course of DAU on 12 October 2018. The presentation of DAU at the Kronprinzenpalais Unter den Linden will be surrounded by a special experiential space that will encompass the area between Spreekanal and Oberwallstraße. The motto of the four-week presentation in Berlin is “Freedom”; “Fraternity” will follow in Paris from 23 November 2018 and “Equality” in London at the beginning of 2019.

The idea is to define an area in Berlin-Mitte that temporarily becomes a self-contained city within the city, like the “Institute” that Ilya Khrzhanovsky built for the filming in Kharkiv. To this end, the recorded area will be surrounded by a temporarily installed wall – an identical reconstruction of the original Berlin Wall. Within the enclosed area, a place will emerge that combines the fictitious world of the project with the concrete situation of the district and creates a narrative space the size of an urban quarter.

Berlin was a city pierced by the wall – nowhere else did the conflict of the post-war empires intervene so directly in the everyday life of an urban population as here: The Berlin Wall, the Berlin blockade, escapee victims, tunnels and watchtowers – the time of division has deeply engraved itself in the memory of the Berliners. “Freedom” was never just a word in Berlin, but always a fragile, defensible, longed for and fought for condition. It’s obvious and of great symbolic value that the DAU project starts its world premiere course in Berlin.

The spaces

The site for the installation is the area from the Spreekanal to Oberwallstraße, and from Unter den Linden Street to Französische Straße / Werderscher Markt. In this area, the DAU world will expand into the real world without, however, restricting the everyday activities of the residents and institutions. The visitors and employees of the institutions can enter unhindered through special gates and no deliveries or other services shall be disrupted. Life in the area goes on as usual, shops and restaurants are open, people go to work, etc. Only certain elements of the scenery (street design, lamps, signage, etc.) point to a second level, but not to create a visual reference to the Soviet Union and/or GDR. The aim is rather to give an impression of a trip to a foreign country.

The premises of the Kronprinzenpalais are the main venue. Here, the screenings of the films will take place, and the facade of the Kronprinzenpalais will be illuminated by a light installation that depicts the events inside via a live stream. However, to make visitors feel like they enter a parallel universe, the neighbouring buildings and outdoor sceneries within the wall play a major role. The Schinkel Pavilion, the Bauakademie, the premises of the Barenboim-Said Academy with the Pierre Boulez Hall, as well as various commercial and residential spaces in the area. Intensive discussions are currently taking place with the users and/or owners of the respective buildings.

A pedestrian zone will be set up in the entire enclosed area, in which only the traffic necessary for the residents and institutions will be permitted. The gates in the wall are manned around the clock and serve as access points for residents and delivery services and as emergency exits to evacuate the area in case of an emergency. The wall will be illuminated from the inside via lighting towers, and the outside area can be observed from viewing platforms.

“Kabinki”, small single or double boxes, will be set up at various locations in the area to hold discussions about the films and experiences. Various café areas will offer catering and technical assistance for all kinds of questions (help desk). In addition, mobile café units and food trucks will be operating. Toilets are available at the Kronprinzenpalais and at the Bauakademie and are otherwise strategically located on the grounds.

DAU Freiheit – Information

VISA application and visitor flow control within the area

VISA application

DAU does not offer tickets in the traditional sense but issues visas, which visitors can apply for online in advance. The website contains all the necessary information for visiting the area. Visitors who decide to attend spontaneously can apply for a visa on site. Once the visitors have received their visa, they swap their mobile phones for a DAU device (smartphone without network). This device allows for an individually curated route to the various events. The site will be accessible 24 hours a day.

What type of visa can DAU visitors apply for?

  • Day visa: grants 24 hours admission to the area and attendance at all DAU events
  • Residence visa: grants 72 hours admission to the area and attendance at all DAU events
  • Diplomatic visa: grants admission to the area and attendance at all DAU events for the entire duration of the event

Visitors are advised to allow about 4-6 hours to fully experience DAU.

Like any visa, the DAU visa is subject to a fee, which is between 25 and 45 euros. The usual discounts at the Berliner Festspiele apply to pupils and students up to the age of 27, trainees, those doing Federal Voluntary Service and recipients of unemployment benefits, and are valid for DAU.

Visas are only issued to persons aged 18 and over.

Residents and staff of local institutions

Residents and staff of local institutions are granted an honorary citizenship free of charge, which also allows them to attend DAU events free of charge. Visitors of residents and local institutions also have free access to the area at all times. Residents, staff of institutions, and their visitors will of course retain their mobile phones.

Before the visit

To apply for a visa, applicants fill in an application form with personal questions. An algorithm uses these answers to develop an individual programme for each visitor. There is no verification whether the visitors’ personal details are authentic. The data is treated confidentially and is not passed on to unauthorised third parties; the use of the data corresponds to the current GDPR.

During the application process, a date and time window will be chosen. As soon as the visa has been issued, it can be collected at the issuing counter (container on Hinter dem Gießhaus). A photo identification is required (passport, driving licence, identity card). The visa can be collected on the day of the visit.

DAU visitors are not allowed to bring electronic devices into the area. This includes mobile phones, tablets, laptops, iPads, cameras, etc. Visitors will be made aware of this regulation when applying for a visa. Anyone who brings their mobile phone will have to hand it in for the duration of the visit. Mobile phones (or other electronic devices) can be stored safely in cloakroom containers (bus lane Unter den Linden). The security staff in the area is available for urgent calls.

The visitors can leave the area at any time by selecting “Exit” via the device. They are then guided to the exit, where they receive their personal belongings. In addition, the device has an SOS function for emergencies.

Visitor flow control within the area

After a security check, the visitors enter the DAU area through the visitor entrance at the archway of the Staatsoper Intendanz and Prinzessinnenpalais. Through the signpost guidance system, they reach the device issue desk on Oberwallstrasse. Upon handing out the device to the visitors, its functions and handling are explained. The device resembles a smartphone and serves as a personal companion.

There is no calendar of events from which visitors can learn about the activities in the area or create their own programme plan. Instead, they are guided by the DAU device. The device suggests programme items which the visitor can accept or reject. The algorithm develops a profile based on the visitor's decisions and can thus make individualized suggestions. Visitor 1 may be invited to a scientific conference whereas visitor 2 is invited to a discussion with a pastor. Like a video game, the more time the visitors spend in the area the more levels will become accessible to them.

The device leads the visitors to programme items such as screening rooms, listener boxes for conversations about the visual experience of the films, conference venues for events with scientists who have participated in the DAU project, Marina Abramović’s art performance “Come, wash with me” or a project that Romeo Castellucci is currently developing, and concerts with Teodor Currentzis and his musicAeterna. All venues are only accessible by invitation through the device. The admission staff at the venues will check whether each visitor is in the right place. In addition, a signage system will facilitate orientation in the area. The device enables the organiser to control the visitor flow and thus prevent overcrowding or the formation of long queues.


Before leaving the area on the north side of the Prinzessinenpalais, visitors are asked to return their DAU devices at the container on Oberwallstrasse. The exit then leads them directly to the cloakroom container, where their personal belongings are returned to them.


Answers to questions concerning DAU Freiheit in the DAU FAQs

DAU Freiheit

FAQs for the project

Answers on the FAQ page

DAU Freiheit