Imagine a world where time has no meaning. Where the clock ticks yet stands still. Where it’s quiet but noisy, and scary yet calming.
Welcome to Peristal Singum in Berlin, a bizarre labyrinth made entirely of recycled materials that takes self discovery to a whole new level. Peristal Singum derives its name from the term “peristalsis” or the contractions of the human gastrointestinal tract that enable digestion. And a trip here will soon have you sucked into the guts of this otherworldly existence; climbing, crawling and emerging from orifices of all kinds. Down the rabbit hole, Alice.
Peristal Singum is located in the Salon – Zur wilden Renate bar in Friedrichshain. Head to the back of the bar to find the one who knows what you seek. For €10 you will receive your key to the labyrinth in the form of a gold coin. Given its popularity, expect to wait 45 mins to an hour to enter. Being a bar, you can conveniently grab a drink to bide your time. Don’t worry, when it is your turn, the one you sought will now seek you.
Sadly, after three years in operation, the Peristal Singum will close its doors forever on the 29th of March, 2014. If there is a chance you’ll be visiting between now and then, I suggest not reading the rest of this post. The Peristal Singum is best experienced for oneself, without prior notions or expectations. If, however, you will not make it to this rather unusual art installation and want to experience it virtually, welcome to my mind’s eye.
“Jessica?” I looked up from my drink. “Your time has come.” Nervously, I followed her to the curtained off corridor. “Do you still have what I gave you?” I handed her the gold coin. “Good.” She began blindfolding me. Without my sight, all I had now were my senses. She faced me and took me by both hands; as she walked back, I was led forward. Despite being blindfolded, I felt the light diminishing from my surroundings as we swept past the curtain. She was singing…sweetly, eerily. There was a slight breeze that caused my hair to lift from my shoulders. The ground was uneven and water was dripping from somewhere. It was cold. Why is it so cold?
Suddenly, we stopped. She removed the scarf from around my eyes. We were in complete darkness now. She handed me the coin, placing it in my palm and closing my fingers around it. There was a door in front of me. “This is where I put the coin?” “Shhhhhh,” she hushed softly. “No speaking now. Take your time.” Then she was gone and I was alone.
I reached out and placed the coin into the slot. After an infinite moment of nothing, the door finally budged. I pushed through it and it quickly swung back behind me. A took a deep breath. There was no going back now. What the hell is this place?
I started making my way forward, feeling my way through my surroundings. The strange decor and its feeling to the touch changed frequently. Sometimes it was dark, other times the light was blinding, while the intermittent flashes and sounds always kept things interesting. Then I came to a point. A dark tunnel. A slide. Where it went or what was down there, I had no idea. I started to feel panicky in this enclosed space. I sat in and then pulled myself out again. I doubted myself. The only way was to go forward. Breathe, Alice, and go down the rabbit hole.
I let out a nervous “Woooahhhh” as I slid down this path to no man’s land. After anxious moments of the unknown, abruptly, I was spit out at the other end into the beating heart of it all. I peered out into the large bulbous space that had me right in the middle of what appeared to be internal organs. There were options, three in fact. Which way should I go? I climbed down the ladder into the pit and after looking at what was in front of me, made a choice: down a long ladder that felt icy cold to the touch.
Time and time again, the path forked. This way or that way? Climb over this or crawl through there? Can I even go this way? The only way was to try. To touch and climb and push at things. Sometimes, it was a waiting game, your senses at a loss. Momentarily defeated, I sat still. Trying to stay calm, I focused on observing my surroundings and the rhythm of my own breathing. Then the flash I needed came, projecting just the split second of light on the subject that held the key to moving forward.
It was a matter of choosing your own adventure. Where am I? Have I been here before? Did I go that way already? Where do I want to go? Just when you start to feel a sense of familiarity, like you have exhausted all routes, another question alarmingly enters your mind: how the hell do I get out of here?
The Peristal Singum is designed to throw you head on with your fears. Leaving you with nothing and no one, and only yourself to pull yourself out, to pull yourself together. Described as a “landscape of wafting thoughts,” you need to wade through your busy mind, to explore your inner self, and then control it.
They say it’s strange when you emerge back to the bar setting, where things don’t seem to have changed from the moment you left, yet you couldn’t feel more different. As you move past the happy patrons having a laugh and a drink or two, you feel at odds with reality. What just happened and how long was I in there anyway? The bar is loud yet muffled, just as your mind is now strangely peaceful in a busy world, beckoning you to remain quiet for a while longer as you process your journey.
You’ve pushed past the battle of your mind and its whirlwind of emotions. You’ve learned to go with your gut and make peace with your choices and yourself. You may have felt like the Mad Hatter at times, but you’ve faced your Queen of Hearts; you’re ready to come back, Alice.
The Peristal Singum is located in the Salon – Zur wilden Renate Bar, Alt-Stralau 70, 10245 Berlin. Open Wednesday to Saturday, from 6pm – midnight. Last tickets at 10pm. Interestingly, it was featured on Season 22, Episode 9 of The Amazing Race.
While the labyrinth may be closing, that’s not the end for this unique space. Await the next transformation here.
Have you visited the labyrinth? Would you have wanted to? What do you hope they make the space into?