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Short biography of Florian Burkhardt
My brother dies in a car crash. I am conceived to fill the gap. After a strict, religious upbringing I move out to conquer the world. I end up as an actor in Hollywood and then become a successful fashion model. I host legendary parties in a time where everything is said to be louder, larger and more special. I repeatedly redefine myself. And I am torn down from highs by the past, by the family history. This imprisons me with anxiety that I ultimately must fight in a psychiatric ward.
A story of the search for integrity, of highs, lows and discovering my own self.
The origin of my life is my brother’s accidental death (1973) und my consequent conception (* 1974, Basel) in order to fill the gap. Raised with highly controlling, religious care, followed by five years in a catholic boarding school, which, against my will but at my parents’ urging, trained me to become a primary school teacher. On the side, I was very enthusiastic about the new sport snowboarding. I founded the first snowboard magazine (1993), was repeatedly sponsored as a rider and chosen by the press as the voice of “these new wild ones”. After receiving a teaching certificate (1995), I spent half a year in the snow until I had enough of the “weight of the mountains” and am allured by the distance.
I move out of the confining circumstances into the big wide world (1996), looking for integrity, for a life that correlates to me and not to my surroundings. I seek challenges and avoid binding situations. Love, affection und dependence are things I remember as confining. Admiration for the actor River Phoenix, in my mind a figure of integrity of a new generation, gives me the idea of moving to Los Angeles, a place where nothing seems to be as I know it, a place where anything is possible. I am convinced that anything can be achieved if you believe in it. I dive into show business which is exciting and playful. A world that accepts me and is interested in me. I sign a contract with the renowned agent Gregory D. Mayo in Hollywood and receive assistance from experienced coaches (Ivana Chubbuck, Robert Easton). Additionally, I get jobs through a model agency. Modelling soon becomes so successful that I move to Milano and later New York, sign various contracts with model agencies (including Wilhelmina, Boss und Why Not) and leave acting behind me. I work for labels such as Prada, Gucci, Moschino and Dolce & Gabbana and with photographers like David LaChapelle and Albert Watson. Away from home, I meet people who support and accompany me in a way I wish my family had. In my acting agent and one of the model agents (Urs Althaus), I discover two father figures and, in a friend, I discover a mother figure, who all support me privately. Thus, I have constructed an artificial family that accords to my ideal family, encourages me in what is important to me and does not force me to anything.
Funnily enough, my first serious love arises while visiting friends at home. Besotted, I break off my well running international career and exchange all freedoms of the world for being at home in a little apartment with my lover in the homely Zurich. I unpack the two bags that have accompanied me through the previous years, not knowing that the relationship would not last long.
I remember wishing to attend the school of arts and crafts when I was young. I start a one-year study programme at the school to become a multimedia designer (1999) and work in an advertising agency on the side. After graduating, I find employment at the most well-known advertising agency to work as a concept developer. The owner supports my ideas and allows me to create my own, differently named department that develops innovative content for the internet such as a video portal. Thus, I become a creative businessman who works day and night and rules his company like a monarch.
Yet, even though I am emotionally distant from my origin and never really think of my family and hardly in contact with them, their history catches up with me. This is how the psychiatrists later reason my irrational anxiety, which suddenly surfaces and keeps me captured in the apparently safe apartment for months until I cannot bare it even there anymore and let an ambulance take me to a psychiatric clinic (2001).
In the clinic, I have to deal with my childhood and youth, and I have to decide to fight. I must learn to confront my fears, use the elevator, go out, walk to the bus stop and someday even ride the bus and endure the severe panic in order to then drop into bed exhausted and drenched in sweat. Besides the various therapies, two individuals are crucial in me being able to leave the clinic after four months and move to the self-determined exile of Bern to gather strength and continue therapy.
In Bern, I write a book about my memories and sentiments, during which the goal is to write, not to make a purchasable product. Further first attempts of work in advertising agencies are taken. However, they fail, because my fears are ubiquitous even though, privately, I function reasonably well again. After a year, I am tired of exile and move back to Zurich (2003).
In Zurich, I plan my 30th birthday party as a small, yet public occasion. I call it “electroboy”, as solely electronic music is to be played, and the target audience is gay. Due to the positive feedback, “electroboy” turns into a party series, which challenges me and allows my ambition to make each party more unique and elaborate. At the same time, I found the newspaper for electronic music in Switzerland, the kommerz.ch portal and the Swiss Electronic Music Awards. When the fifth party is voted party of the year, I decide to pursue a new path and produce my own music under the same name. It should be authentic, stand out, muck about and be raw. I call it “post-Dadaistic trashism”. Correspondingly, the first CD-baptism takes place in the “Cabaret Voltaire” Dada-house. A major label thinks that “electroboy” can be marketed well and publishes my quickly produced second album and demands live shows. The club tour sprung up from nothing and began in Switzerland’s biggest club with a thrown together show team on stage and me at the very back sweating behind a laptop. After the Swiss tour, I release another two albums and let them be handed out for free, pack all my bags and move to Berlin (2006), because I want to leave Switzerland, I like flexibility of Berlin, and the cost of living is much less there.
In 2008, due to an article in a German magazine, I am asked if I am interested in having my life turned into film. First, it is supposed to be a movie, then a documentary film project for the cinema. The “electroboy” film project takes seven years to develop, changes its production company twice and involves me in front of the camera but not in planning and implementation.
In 2009, I open “Cabaret Voltaire” with my then husband in Berlin, a space with a café, stage, market, exhibitions, plays, radio studio with a full time programme, library and shop.
In 2011, I move to be with my new partner in Bochum for three years. Since 2013, I am a sculptural designer. I produce graphics based on vectors that I have printed on contaminant-free acrylic sheets. Furthermore, I produce high quality, ecological clothing in small batches and work as a columnist for a popular Swiss online newspaper.
Florian Burkhardt, Berlin 2014
© 2014 Florian Burkhardt