The first class invites composer and pianist Coverdale, who recently performed ‘PICL (Pieces in Caps Lock)’ at Creamcake’s 3hd Festival, to discuss her practice as part of the “New Music & Internet Avantgarde.”Using a mix of piano, keyboard and organ, the Montreal-based producer works between ‘traditional composition’ and contemporary ‘electronic’ sound to explore the intersection of human and machine. The session will provide tips, insight and a space for audience members to ask questions.
The new mentor program will be host to a number of artists, musicians, and composers to share experience and advice, providing a space to ask questions like, “What was the moment you decided to become a composer?” and “How do you make a living?”
What happens to the present when we’re stuck in the future? AQNB editor Jean Kay, and Video in Common (ViC) presented the ‘Staying Present’ screening, reading and discussion at Berlin’s Vierte Welt, as part of the Creamcake-organised 3hd Festival, on Wednesday October 12.
In referring to the title of this year’s festival topic ‘There is nothing left but the future?’ AQNB x ViC focussed on the question mark, interrogating what is actually meant by ‘the future’ and whether the past has a role in determining it. The programme presented artists, musicians and ideas drawing on convention and tradition to comment on the contemporary condition by integrating old aesthetics, formats, media, practices and logics into producing new work.
‘Act I, Scene II’ of Jaakko Pallasvuo‘s The Hunchback of South Bermondsey sound piece — originally produced for quarterly podcast Status Effect— opened the event with a glimpse into a near neofeudal future. Armed with an “iPod Shuffle, your Master’s degree, the keys to your apartment”, a character called Lancelot navigated a play and a scene full of “wizadry, alchemy, allurement, sorcery”, while London-based producer Klein talked about the influence of Gospel music and the internet on her visceral vocal ambient project in an AQNB x ViC editorial video production.
Meanwhile, Gary Fembot and Eastercombined and conflated contemporary issues and ideas with traditionally transgressive queer-punk aesthetics and outdated filming techniques in excerpts of their respective ‘Scream of the Mandrake’ and Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me videos. Maxwell Sterlinglaid fielded footage of Los Angeles’ surreal landscapes over his ‘Hollywood Medieval’ music production, while Institute for New Feeling looked into the oracle of the online in a custom massage chair and screen experience in ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’. Finally, writer, artist and witch Martha Windahlof MW Tarotscopesdrew up an astrological chart prediction and joined the Berlin event from her base in Los Angeles to predict the future of Europe, live and via Skype.
‘Staying Present’ follows a series of previous events organised by AQNB and video production partner ViC in Berlin, London, and Los Angeles –all key cultural centres in the collaboration’s network. Titled ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’, ‘At the Backend’ and ‘Accessing Economies: Engagement & Withdrawal’ together these programmes interrogated the systems and infrastructures embedded in networked communication, and how this affects distribution, flows of information and power, as well as language, community-building, identity formation and assimilation.
Below is the full programme of video, audio and stills of the works presented in their running order:
Jaakko Pallasvuo: The Hunchback of South Bermondsey, ‘Act I, Scene II’ (2015) [27:17 min]
Helsinki-based artist Jaakko Pallasvuo explores a dystopic future with a view of the contemporary, as well as the past, in a co-production with Roy Boswell. The sound piece, drawing from three years of three different eras — 2555AD, 1677 AD, and 2015 AD — presents a narrated play that mixes and confuses historical signifiers, only to draw parallels between systems of power and hierarchy across ages.
Klein: ‘Key Changes’ (2016) [6:54 min]
London-based producer and performer Klein talks about her influences spanning the breadth of the internet, from Kim Burrellto Pavarotti, and how it feels to be a self-taught musician and artist being embraced by the greater “electronic realm”. Klein released her first EP Lagata on September 1, where she produces a unique blend of athletic vocal exercises that clash and combine with noisy ambience.
Gary Fembot: ‘Scream of the Mandrake’ (2015) [16:00 min]
San Francisco-based musician, director and zine-maker Gary ‘Fembot’ Gregerson bids farewell to the old days of his Bay Area city’s liberal activism and queer counter-culture, now overrun by Silicon Valley tech employees and bourgeois boutique lifestyles. Using blanched Super 8mm film, Sta-Prest and Puce Moment band member Fembot draws on a specific aesthetic tradition of San Francisco’s radical punk past, while revealing the hollow corporate sprawl left at its disemboweled core.
Easter: Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me, Episode 4, ‘The Age of Corn’ (2015) [17:06 min]
Berlin-based art and music duo Stine Omar and Max Boss of Easter present what their press release, written by Vika Kirchenbauer, calls a “soap opera in the guise of an essay film”. The four-episode series produced between 2014 and 2015 stages a world described as being in “absence of present”, one where multiple pasts emerge through the subconscious and internal worlds of its characters. Filmed with a camcorder and narrated by queer icon Vaginal Davis, Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me contrasts high quality sound with the low resolution video material to construct its own “ambiguous future”.
LA-based, Manchester-born musician and producer Maxwell Sterling takes his classical training in double-bass and experience in scoring film to produce live renditions of cult-producer James Ferraro‘s ‘Burning Prius’, as well as releasing his own music in recent album Hollywood Medieval on Los Angeles Memory No. 36 Recordings on August 6. Through cut-up and collaged images, and layered and augmented synthesiser samples and recordings, Sterling develops an audio-visual experience at the point where nature and the city collide.
Institute for New Feeling: ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’ (2016) [3:48 min]
Pittsburgh- and LA-based art collective Institute for New Feeling echo humanity’s age-old obsession with future-telling via the dystopian narrative of modern clairvoyance and its corporate co-option. A live personal session in a massage chair VR that uses personal internet search histories and online surveillance to produce a future reading, ‘seek: a self-fulfilling prophesy’ presents an oracle that offers a false sense of calm in the face of uncertainty.
Martha Windahl: Live Skype psychic Reading
LA-based artist, writer and witch Martha Windahl uses alternative logics and practices to make sense of a universe in chaos. Her ongoing performance and clairvoyant work emerged in the grip of the 2008 Global Economic Crisis, not only as a practical solution to fiscal insecurity but also in response to a growing demand for a new source of reason in an increasingly complex world.**
French producer coucou chloé drops her first official release, entitled Halo EP on October 5. She’s already developed a strong following through a series of internet uploads, such as ‘tears for fears’ — an emotional and delicately barren track composed of guitar and affected voice — as well as more hi-tech, futuristic sounding songs such as ‘Pearl’, a collaboration with Egyptian producer 1127. The EP, with its lead single ‘skin like sin’, comes via Berlin-based platform for digital culture Creamcake.
Aside from her solo music, chloé is also one half of Y1640 — a collaborative project with producer Sega Bodega, who presents a monthly soundtrack series on London’s NTS Radio. Tracks like ‘SPIT INTENT’ offer something arguably more dance-oriented. Indeed, she’s currently more focused on making music for the club as opposed to her more contemplative, ambient side, and while her solo music is generally slower, more vocal-laden, chloé regards her two projects as being in dialogue with one another.
coucou chloé is due to perform at Berlin’s 3hd Festival on Wednesday October 12 at OHM for a night of ‘Speculative Futurism’, alongside other acts like Music For Your Plants, ssaliva, and Ink Agop. “Playing live is the occasion to make my music inhabit a brand new space”, she says. “I’m going to play a lot of unreleased things… I’m going to sing a lot”. According to the festival program, “her crooked ballads offer romance without sentimentality on wavy vocal pitch-shifting and contemplative simulated environments that posit a passion for the future”.
From making initial contact via Soundcloud, the relationship with Creamcake came about online-organically. “I followed them… and they followed me back”, she explains on Skype, highlighting the ease of building internet connections. “They proposed to me to be a part of 3hd Festival and then asked if I wanted to release some tracks on [the Creamcake label]. I had in mind to make an EP really soon so it was good timing”. The facility of the internet extends to access and autonomy, as well as being a catalogue of chloé’s own musical preferences. She singles out niche act Kid Kishore (who also plays at 3hd as HVAD) and English Baroque composer Henry Purcell as two favourites.
Originally from Nice, she studied contemporary art at the Villa Arson and is now based in London after deciding to focus solely on production. “I started to take [music] more seriously in the last couple of months”, she says. Listening to it, you’d think she’d been honing it longer, which might be down to its weight in narrative; music for her is “a space to create and recreate stories”. In conversation, chloé talks about her upcoming release, her musical friends and Soundcloud likes, performing at 3hd, and her own thoughts on futurism.
You have a new release coming — what can we expect?
coucou chloé: This is the first time I’m really thinking about a project as a whole. I made the first track and it built quite naturally. I wanted to have a really aggressive kick, something quite clubby. I have one track that is more chilled, really soft, which I kept for the end of the EP.
Are you pleased with how it’s turned out?
cc: I can see that my music has taken another direction and I’m really happy with that. I’m practicing a lot and learning how to make beats. I see it growing as I learn more. To put it into an EP is really cool for me.
The night you’re playing at 3hd is called ‘Speculative Futurism’ — how do you think this theme relates to your music?
cc: The futurism thing I can elaborate on, in how easy it is today to have all these things in your hands. You can just sit on the bed and make an orchestral piece without knowing any theoretical things about music. The possibility to share it. I think it’s a generational thing, everybody is becoming very autonomous.
What does your live show involve?
cc: I’m going to play a lot of unreleased things and tracks from my side project Y1640. I’m going to sing a lot. When I’m recording or producing, I’m building things in an intimate space, in my room or studio. Playing live is the occasion to make my music inhabit a brand new space.
Can you tell us more about Y1640? How did you get to working together with Sega Bodega?
cc: I went to London to meet him and we began to make a track. We decided we wanted something more clubby, more rhythm, so we tried to do that. We were happy with it so [we] were like, let’s continue to make music together. We have some tracks that we’re going to release, really clubby tracks.
How does your music as Y1640 differ from that as coucou chloé?
cc: Sega Bodega showed me a lot of things to make beats. Of course it fits the way I make music too but I think it’s different. I think Y1640 is more club. I try to make things like this too but it’s more in a classical song structure for me. I think in my own music there’s more voice and it’s more slow. It’s hard for me to say but, in a way, Y1640 and coucou chloé are talking to each other, like they are in link.
Where does inspiration for your music come from?
cc: It’s hard for me to answer because I don’t have a specific process of inspiration. I think I can be inspired by a tune I heard, the ambience of a room, a bunch of words that someone said in the street, the way I want to move in a club. I don’t really know where all my tracks come from.
What are you listening to lately?
cc: Can I check on my Soundcloud likes? I have different periods when I’ll listen to only one thing. There’s one track that I’m really crazy about. Do you know Henry Purcell? I’m going to link you… [sends link] One person I really admire is Arca, for the complexity and richness. Also Kid Kishore.
You’ve also done radio shows on Hotel Radio Paris — can you tell us about this?
cc: It’s a common misunderstanding that I had a monthly show. I played on Hotel Radio Paris twice and I probably will in the future. It supports me and I support it. I think it’s amazing to have this kind of radio in France. It really needed it and it’s great to watch it grow.
What can you say of the ‘scene’ in France?
cc: I don’t think in terms of a French scene or London scene because, for me, I can be in my bed and have access to, talk to, or be a part of lots of different scenes because of the internet and community with Soundcloud and all these things. What I can say, a French thing that is different for me than all the others is the Jorrdee crew, the 667. This is the scene I follow a bit in France.
Is there anyone you’d like to invite for potential future radio shows?
cc: I didn’t really think about it. I’d like to make one with Y1640. For my first show I was supposed to do it alone and I saw Jorrdee the night before and was like, ‘what do you do tomorrow because I have a radio show, if you want come with me and we make something together on it’. This is how it happened, so I don’t really plan every artist.
Having studied contemporary art at Villa Arson, do you think your art education has informed the way you make music?
cc: I think so. It’s a bit weird. I stopped piano when I was younger and I wanted to find a way to make music but not have to learn everything again. I think I used art maybe to be like, ‘okay, you have to experiment a lot because you have the freedom to’. I think I tried a lot of different things with that, thinking about process. It was a way for me to make sounds without learning a lot of technique, though of course there’s a lot of technical things to know. I understand that that was not what I wanted to do. I just wanted to sit on a laptop and try to make music so I said, ‘okay, now I want to stop art school and just focus on music’, because all I wanted to do is music.**
Rianna Jade Parker is an expansive character who can’t stop learning. Taking from other people and planting seeds — metaphorically speaking — the London-based curator and writer lets these seeds grow over time. Parker unites with collaborators at specific times, in specific spaces and then continues on her own path, while still connected to an international network of peers through the internet. Visits to extended family in New York City as a teenager triggered an ever-growing interest in contemporary art, a field which remained foreign to her until then. For that reason, the idea of studying art never actually crossed the artist’s mind, studying psychology and international development instead. Landing in the art world by chance, this same knowledge contributed to a varied current practice, where Parker is determined to challenge standards that for her feel unfair and exclusive.
Interning at institutions like Black Cultural Archives enabled Parker access to valuable research material, collaborating with other people becoming the modus operandi within contemporary art contexts, like as recent pop up project ‘Queenies, Fades, and Blunts‘. Working with a handful of artists, this one night event at Freedman Space in Brooklyn brought together ideas of social, political and cultural beautification illustrated in the form of posters.
Right now, Parker is also preparing a contribution to the 3hdFestival, a project by event organisers and label Creamcake in Berlin, where she will be travelling for the first time to present an essay around the gendered and racialised body, as well as a candid panel discussion called ‘Body in Context‘ in order to include more voices into a larger discourse.
Parker is also co-running collaborative platform Lonely Londoners, along with Pelin Keskin and formerly Kareem Reid, explicitly devoted to building visibility for artists of colour and their practices, particularly if they remain underrepresented by the mainstream. Exhibition projects prompting transnational POC connections, such as Crossing The Black Atlantic, have happened through this platform, as well as external collaborations with organisations like Tate Modern or MoCADA (Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts) in the form of conversations and an Instagram takeover, respectively.
Gentle Dust, which took place on August 25 at London’s Jupiter Woods, is part of a long-term project created to address urgent structural issues of exclusion in major art institutions. Artists and writers Isaac Kariuki, Imani Robinson and Caspar Jade Heinemann reflected on the current canons in major cultural organisations and on what they lack. The spoken word ran over the top of Sami El-Enany’s musical composition. The moving imagery was conceived by artist Dorine van Meel and acted as trigger for the poetic, yet political responses of the invited artists to the question of what (or who) is missing in mainstream artistic narratives.
In order to expand on all those projects and future ones, I met Rianna at a Costa Café across from Brixton station. The South London neighbourhood is where Parker was born, raised and currently lives. I find her immersed in the music coming out of her headphones, before beginning a concise and passionate chat about her projects and her role, in art and in life.
Tell me about your background… because you studied psychology and international development.
Rianna Jade Parker: Psychology was the compromise I made with my parents for not staying on the Medicine route but I got to the second year and then I thought: ‘I can’t do this’. I found it very boring, I just was not stimulated in any real way.
RJP: The way in which undergraduate Psychology is taught in the UK is particular… essentially you study under their logic of the psyche because you have to and deriving from that doesn’t win you points with your lecturers. So I thought, maybe I can find a degree that I can enjoy regardless so I made the change to international development because, why would I not want to learn about the structure of the the world as we know it and how we got there? For a few different reasons, studying art was never an option for me. In my home art was treated as a hobby at best, so it was very difficult as a teen to justify doing something different and funnily enough, as an adult it’s even harder to explain to them what I do now.
I had to figure out art and creativity by myself, more specifically what ‘art’ even means to whom, where and why. Spending so much time in New York helped, the intensity and the pace of output exhibited by my over-worked family and friends helped to develop the work ethic I have now. Every time I returned to London it was as if I had new Duracell battery in my back and I just started pushing out these ideas via whatever medium I had. But in the past two years I have been blessed to work collaboratively on The Lonely Londoners and parallel to that I’ve grown up independently and artistically.
Is this when you started with the Lonely Londoners, while doing this internship?
RJP: Yes, during that year in the summer, Pelin (Keskin) and I met on Tumblr and started going to see the art that London had to offer together. We were mainly friends having conversations about where we went and we always had a (valid) complaint about something fabricated or simply overlooked. We started The Lonely Londoners (LL) trying to address those gaps and misconceptions with no tangible or fiscal resources and without a recognised background in art. Relying on a community of friends we also met online, artists we knew and whose work we admired as well as the older people we were meeting and became our mentors.
Rather than hold an exhibition every two or three months, which is not impossible but rather unnecessary, with LL we want to make sure the kind of conversations that challenge the dominant narratives in art continue to happen and that we remain mobile, flexible and ever changing.
How does this interaction with the online community work, how is this conversation?
RJP: We all live in or are based in different cities and continents so we rely on the internet, a lot. We’re very accessible online via our social media pages and we’ve been working like this for years. We’ve always found new artists and collaborators this way. The best feeling is knowing that our artists trust and believe that we genuinely are here for them. These are artists of colour, immigrants and other marginalised people trying to work in an industry that will happily take and not compensate or credit.
I am not checking blogs or other trend forecasters, rather I take much more joy in finding content creators and creative people organically… we’ve done this by relying on a very good mixture of people who we respect and value. And, in turn, we do the same for them. That’s how we do it, so far.
You always work collectively, including other people in your multifaceted practice.
RJP: We started the collective because we wanted to work together to do something for everyone. We are all able to work individually and have done so before but I don’t like any variant degree of attention to be on me as a singular person, as I’m not here just by myself. I don’t think I am shy or inwards in that way but for me it’s a weird position to take when I feel influenced by so many people and so many things. I like to reference everything I can, as it has been a lot of people on the internet and IRL who for many years have been a silent teacher to me, maybe not even actively or intentionally. Some have no idea they’ve impacted me in this way, others I had to reach out to just to say: ‘This is the role you played in my life’.
I would like us to remain flexible, honest and adaptable; the world is reforming so how could we not? We are trying to figure out what that change is going to be and at the core of our practice is to represent narratives and artists that are not often seen in main or ‘contemporary’ galleries and art spaces.
I see your practice as very platform-like. You say that you want to have your voice heard before you are given the chance.
RJP: Yes, we have to do it. Now it’s easier, after two years, to find spaces. Most of the artists are coming from outside academia and/or the white cube as we know it, where there is little to no support. We learned very quickly that it is not just about the physical space but what is done in the space and who feels welcome to enter that space. It’s easier, for instance, when it’s a one time event, it’s easy to be radical and different. But a sustainable art practice requires a lot more action with real intention behind it to create this kind of bridge.
In terms of a relationship with music, I have the feeling you are very connected with it.
RJP: My relationship with music has changed dramatically in the last three years or so. I always felt an affinity with music but never explored it further than my iPod and my mum’s vinyl player. Recently, I’ve been surrounded by more musicians and DJs who have infiltrated my understanding and uses of music in the best way.
These days I’m actively thinking about new ways to incorporate music and other sound into the art spaces I curate. Sami El-Enany was actually the first artist Dorine and I commissioned for Gentle Dust. Many musicians, old and new, have definitely changed my world. People constantly assume I’ve worked in music before working in art but its definitely not me, I don’t have that talent, it’s my friends!
Yes, I thought it was surprising and inspiring when I saw in an article you wrote featuring five contemporary digital artists and you mentioned NON Records as one of them.
RJP: I was introduced to Chino Amobi and NON some months prior to that article, through mutual friends. In that piece, I spoke about the art I care about the most. It’s not that I don’t care about visual art or art that you can hang on the wall but digital art allows certain freedoms and removes parameters in a way that doesn’t require as much time as traditional media, nor does it have as big of strain on finances.
How do you make art when you don’t have money? As art making becomes more convenient and cost effective, does the value of the work automatically decrease? Where does the ‘value’ come from and how do we measure it? Someone making art via their computer and software doesn’t mean it should be given away for free. There should be a balance, of course, but how?
If art is not sustainable generally and in your own life, then I don’t see the point of it, honestly. If you wake up everyday and you’re stressing out about new materials, hoping a curator somewhere pays attention, hoping you will garner a crowd at your opening, hoping the gallery doesn’t take too large of a commission fee, hoping for lack of any other option, then that is not the kind of art anyone needs to be making. But a community of supporters that includes locals, patrons, curators and space holders who truly engage with your work… these people can help to generate this sustainability.
Right now, I continue to work in the arts anticipating that something or someone along the way is saved, like I was. We can maybe even change the whole structure of the world! But that would take much more than art. So for now, I’m happy for us to use it as and when we can, however we can. That’s the kind of power you find in a people’s art.
I wonder whether art has the power to change things, to shift ideas?
RJP: Art has done that, and art can do that but I don’t think we can rely on it, at all times, in every instance. I think, with art having this potential power, we need more now than before, artists who believe that as well, and actually care about that tapping into that potential.**
Keiska has dropped his debut EP Powerpoint via Berlin event-organisers and label Creamcake/3hd on July 29.
Inspired by the likes of Araabmuzik, Lorenzo Senni and Evian Christ, the record emerges from a difficult period for the Finnish producer, turning to the synth-heavy breakdowns of euro dance as a way to release. Devoid of any implied ironic distance, Keiska’s is a response to the nihilistic “post-industrial” sound of the electronic music of the day, offering instead tracks like ‘LIFE’, an ongoing vocal and a looping of synth sweeps that Keiska himself describes as “excessively melodic and colorful”.
The Powerpoint EP follows lead-single ‘Powerpoint 1‘, dropped on July 8, and pre-empts a string of releases and events by Berliners Creamcake in the lead up to the second edition of their 3hd Festival programme, this year running October 11 to 15.
Finnish producer Keiska has released the first single from his upcoming Powerpoint EP release, ‘Powerpoint 1’, via Berlin event-organisers and label Creamcake on July 8.
The full EP will become available on July 29, to be launched at the German capital’s OHM venue with supports from the likes of Ana Caprix, Forever Traxx and more. The first track from the four-to-come looks back at late 90s and new millennium euro dance through the lens of a contemporary online EDM micro-culture informed by bass and trap, with its signature syncopated snare drums and gun shots. There’s a tension there, between the joy and apprehension of Y2K-era technophilia and a somewhat bleak technocratic present.
The Powerpoint EP is just one in what’s to be a stream of releases and event but Berliners Creamcake in the lead up to the second edition of their very good 3hd Festival programme, this year running October 11 to 15.
Hosted by events organisers Creamcake, the event kicks off the lead up to the second 3hd Festival, happening in the German capital in October.
Taipei-based producer and rapper, Aristophanes is best known for featuring on LA-based pop star Grimes‘ 2015 Art Angels album on the song ‘SCREAM’, while Eartheater is a New York-based artist-musician working with the voice, synths, guitar and electronic production.
Finnish artist AGF and Berlin-based producer Dis Fig will follow the event with DJ sets in the WAU restaurant next door.
“Maybe, the music lost the war,” posits Ji-Hun Kimat the final panel titled ‘Global and Local Music Scenes’ of 3hd Festival, running across venues in Berlin from December 2 to 5. Given the overall theme of the rather meticulously curated event programme –‘The Labour of Sound in a World of Debt’ –it’s possible to see how that might have happened. In a climate of big brand sponsorship and accelerated media uncovering, exposing and mining the so-called ‘underground’ in the flattened space of the internet, the outlook of what could have been counterculture appears rather bleak. But then, when it comes to a project like 3hd –where its Creamcake organisers Anja Weigl and Daniela Seitz manage an international cast of musicians, producers, desginers, writers, brought to the German city on a tiny budget –it seems there is still hope.
Here, it’s the sense of community, however dispersed along the global online, that really is palpable. Attendance, for one, is healthy. Crowds vary nicely in demographic depending on the night and engagement with the discussion series –moderated by Adam Harperand including topics like ‘What is the Musical Object in the 21st Century?’ and ‘Visual Pleasure, the Impact of Image Making’ –is lively. The latter takes place in Kreuzberg’s Vierte Welt, surrounded by the art of 3hd’s The Labour of Sound in a World of Debt exhibition. It includes sculpture by Ella CB and Per Mertens, the heavily branded graphic design of Simon Whybray’s JACK댄스 night posters and Kim Laughton’s ‘TIDAL (tone-on-tone)’ video featuring a billboard screen ad for the title music streaming sitein what looks like an industrial wasteland.
Vierte Welt is also the setting for 3hd’s official opening, where the multiple wall-mounted LED screenings of Emilie Gervais’ ‘Brandon aka Kamisha’ CGI animation and Lawrence Lek’s ‘Unreal Estate (The Royal Academy is Yours)’ projection is shown up by Easter’s short but striking live performance. With it they unveil their ‘True Cup’ video, a film that’s part of a sort of distributed art project featuring the artists, Max Boss and Stine Omar, staring at their flip phones and moving, model-like, around Galerie koal where they also have an exhibition. The show features a serialised video piece, Sadness is an Evil Gas Inside of Me, running at the same time as 3hd and featuring a cast of global creatives, including voice over by Vaginal Davis and cameos by actor Lars Eidinger and Britta Thie. The latter Berlin-based artist similarly has an episodic video work, drawing on Leigh Bowery and showcasing an international art scene in her Transatlanticsweb series. It’s for that she’s been invited to join the ‘Branding–Hype–Trends’ discussion of 3hd, with its focus getting lost in the panelists’ understandable inability to identify and deconstruct the complicated, inextricable inter-relationship between creativity and capital.
That collusion, or obsession even, is unsettlingly present at the HAU Hebbel am Ufernight of performances the following day. The plastic palm trees and cartoonish props of the exotic Contiki-esque Aurora Sander-designed ‘Love Jungle’ sets the scene for Dafna Maimonand Adrian Hartono’s performing the high-life in a massage for ‘Dear Unkown One’. Conceptions of luxury, money, power, feature heavily tonight. Classically-trained cellist Oliver Coates performs the disturbing soundtrack to a live rendition of Lawrence Lek’s ‘Unreal Estate’. The 3D animation travels through the empty rooms of an imagined London Royal Academy of Art, now up for private sale. Lek’s bilingual voiceover reads English and Mandarin translations of instructions on running a wealthy household from Russian Tatler magazine: “Learn how to do everything yourself. That’s how to stop the servants blackmailing you”. Colin Self’s multimedia performance of his sequential opera ‘The Elation Series’ is a festival highlight, while Aaron David Ross (ADR)’s ‘Deceptionista’ presents an assault of noise and real-time Vine videos shattered into violent shards of visual information fed through the Tabor Robak-developed VPeeker software.
Repeatedly, a blurring of boundaries between what you might consider ‘pop’ versus ‘underground’ circulates throughout the four-day event. Malibu opens a queer, vocoder-heavy sung performance at OHMwith Justin Bieber’s ‘What Do You Mean?’. A video presentation by Nicole Killian opens the ‘The Media, Fan and Celebrity Culture’ panel live via Skype from her home in Virginia. The Richmond-based artist talks Tumblr aesthetics and self-started teen girl culture as not only a subversion but a kind of hack into the power of celebrity by not just ‘killing’ their idols but by ‘eating’ them too.
That kind of pop culture cannibalism is something that Danny L Harle and DJ Paypal do in their own way at Südblock on the last night. The former does so by weaving his high-classical background with ‘low’ pop music appreciation into the slightly manic electronic opuses he and his PC Music peers have become known for. DJ Paypal, meanwhile, hijacks dance to develop an almost aggressive pursuit of a pure high. The subject of Justin Bieber again emerges at Vierte Welt as Simon Whybray shows the global superstar’s latest Purpose album cover as an example of bad graphic design in his opening lecture for the ‘Branding–Hype–Trends’. It seems that Whybray, too, is unsure of the distinction between what is and isn’t ‘bad’ when considering counterculture and its position within the mainstream, but then that’s probably, vitally, the point. **
The 3hd Festival has announced more participants in their inaugural events programme under the theme of ‘The Labor of Sound in a World of Debt’, running at various Berlin locations from December 2 to 5.
Launched by the event series Creamcake and curated by Daniela Seitz and Anja Weigl, the festival is devoted to artists, performers, musicians, academics, and journalists who examine “the labor of sound” and question both its cultural causes and its social consequences.
Creamcake are presenting New Consumerism, Multimedia Dualism, & Spiritual Madness as a part of 3hdFestival, running at Berlin’s HAU 2 on December 4.
The hybrid stage performance is their latest project, mixing a wide range of musical genres – from classical music to experimental violent sounds – with the art collective Aurora Sander‘s visual environment.
It will lead viewers and listeners to interpret not only music itself, but also the interdependence between sonic elements and “spiritual madness of modern technology”, ultimately to examine “the labor of sound” today.
It had never occurred to me to look at what the word Creamcake actually means. The top definition on Urban Dictionary calls it “A warm heaping stream of MASTURBATION! :D”. A Google search yields several baking recipes but that’s if you skip the website and the Soundcloud for the Berlin-based events organisers that come up at the top of search results – but my algorithm is biased.
If you visit the Creamcake website you’ll be met by a video of a preteen girl in a chlorinated pool swimming to the soundtrack of ‘DRAKE – OVOXO (TEAMS ∞ TRUST EDIT)’, and an impressive list of producers, performers and artists with links. The assumption is they’ve been part of the Creamcake party roster and if you’ve been lucky enough to be in Berlin to attend a Creamcake event, then you’d know that said assumption is right.
An ongoing club night organised by Berlin-based Bavarian-born DJs and academics, Daniela Seitz and Anja Weigl, the ongoing Creamcake programme has been happening with limited promotion and loads of kudos in the German city for the past four years. It’s featured the likes of Felicita,Elysia Crampton, and Club Cacao; Hanne Lippard, DJ Paypal and Kamixlo, and it’s a cog in an international art and music scene that is way ahead of the mainstream curve –one that started in bass music and expanded into anything dark, weird and, oddly, pop.
But Creamcake’s is a different kind of pop. It’s one that holds Berlin’s long-established tradition of the disruptive potential of the club, long after that potential was lost to the mainstreaming of techno culture. Now it can be found in the Twitter identity theft and cuteboy design aesthetic ofSimon Whybray, the Dutch hardcore and gabber influences of Nkisi,and the opera compositions and drag performance of Colin Self. These are but a few of the artists announced for the upcoming 3hd Festival, the first organised by Creamcake, running online and off for the coming months and culminating in a four-day IRL event across four venues in Berlin, running December 2 to 5.
The live programme (see the first line-up announcement in full here) lists performances, DJ sets, a music video premiere by Easter, and discussions moderated by writer and academic Adam Harper. Online will be a series of essays, exclusive tracks and interviews in what is better described by the 3hd press release as a “label – magazine – festival” project, focused on art, music and the “hybrid practices” that have emerged from the era of the internet. Titled The Labour of Sound in a World of Debt, Seitz and Weigl spoke with aqnb on Skype, to point straight to the theme’s core and its articulations in art: Money, capitalism and the struggle to survive within it.
These concepts you’re working with in 3hd Festival, are they things that you had applied as you were programming the Creamcake parties, or did they reveal themselves in the process of putting them on?
Daniela Seitz: Creamcake started as a party restricted to the club environment, a place that brings people from different backgrounds together in a safe place. Everyone drinks and dances, gets wasted, and happier and happier as it’s happening. This was always fun, but we’ve been doing Creamcake for four years now, and we’re also getting a little older [laughs]. We kind of felt that with the HAU Hebbel am Ufer evening [Fragments of a Scene] back in April –where we had our first chance to work with an internationally established theatre –as a team, we really wanted to get more out of the concept, out of what we always had a vision for.
Anja Weigl: Yeah, exactly. It was a very inspiring opportunity.
Do you think if you took the music out of that context, which in this case would be Creamcake and put it on MTV, then it no longer is that interesting, like it’s exactly the same thing?
DS: I would agree with this. More people are adapting to our taste, including new parties and organizations. It helps to establish our community, a certain sound and taste in music, but we’ve always pushed past the mainstream. I wouldn’t say that we would succeed being on MTV or other mainstream channels, but, that would probably help our financial situation.
You say that all this is on the internet, and then that there are these constant shifts in your interests. Do you think, then, that change is integral to Creamcake, in the same way that for information to continue to exist on the internet that it needs to constantly be in circulation?
DS: The internet opens windows for creativity and solidarity, and also transcends genres. Music is being shared among strangers across distances of megabytes and culture. There is so much content you can click on, read, and listen to. We’re very inspired by the cultural diversity online. But this also comes at the expense of exhaustion from having to check out everything.
AW: If we hear a musical style for too long –we also DJ –we feel the need for a change. First we were in touch with artists who explored EDM-flavoured pop, then it was more dark stuff, then Vogue for a while, then we were like ‘oh yeah, now we need something else’, or ‘oh, wow that sounds fresh’. Then the PC Music bubblegum sound was really inspiring to us, but we were feeling like ‘oh yeah, there still needs to be more’, in between the windows, you know? And there’s experimental music and new club music playing in the frame. There’s always change, change is important.
It’s an interesting way to think about that in terms of dogma because I often think about there being some kind of end goal or conclusion to a pursuit but in this case I don’t think there is, and having one would be unhelpful.
DS: The approach comes from innovation and change as the biggest shift in our society. When I was in university, I had to prepare presentations and papers about change management and innovation strategies in cultural institutions. When I wrote my Master thesis, I was researching about how a museum can be a platform for social change, and what it means to be a ‘responsible’ museum. That is to say, a new area in present museum work, and it will take years to transform such exclusive institutions, especially here in Germany. You always have to ask yourself, “what’s my role in this society?” So there you go. Creamcake’s current role is to empower smaller artists of the internet, offer them a platform to perform, and connect them with others in IRL.
I’m thinking about that in relation to the theme [The Labor of Sound in a World of Debt], as much as you’re inspired by capitalism, there’s very much an anti-capitalist sentiment.
DS: Yeah, it’s very nonpolitical, but also political, if that makes sense. We love to invite artists who are discovering new paths, or have just started their career. We find them on Soundcloud and/or through our own social network. These new online sources have outpaced the older capitalist logic, and signal a movement where something quite new and groundbreaking has arrived in music culture.
So say we’re in late-capitalism now, is there something after that and is that even desirable?
DS: Hmmmm. I mean, everything we do, we do as if we were a ten employee start up company, even if it’s just the two of us (and our assistant Sam). We focus heavily on strategy and marketing. But we also really love what we do: discovering new artists either for the performances or for the images, and introducing them to our community. This inspiration came always first in curating the general aesthetic, sound and images for Creamcake. The variables of money, time and work are barely connected, and a basic income is helpful for our team.
So in terms of your marketing strategies, where you find a stylish point of difference, you’re the Apple Computers, circa 2000, of music events.
DS: Yeah, you can say that [laughs]. I thought Apple Music failed.
I don’t mean Apple now, Apple now has become the status quo, in the same way that MTV has. It started as an alternative then became mainstream.
DS: I don’t think this is going to happen to us [laughs]. This is also the money question again, connected with taste and fairness. We always pay our artists, and would like to be able to pay more, so they can actually live from making music and art. When we hear how much bigger people get paid to work with more mainstream platforms and brands, it’s insane. It’s really insane.
AW: With Creamcake we really enjoy working with newer artists because it’s more fun and inspiring. You can feel their passion and excitement shine when you’re at Creamcake night. So Creamcake as a brand will always stay niche. But maybe the new babe, 3hd Festival, has full potential to perforate the mainstream.
Your attitude towards parties reminds me of Sick Girls…
AW: Yeah, they had started when we were still discovering Berlin’s nightlife, before we started putting on nights. When we moved to Berlin in 2007, we went to a show at a club called Picknick where they played alongside Jahcoozi. We’ve presented both of them separately at Creamcake in 2012 and 2013, I think.
It’s similar to them in the way you prefer emerging styles and scenes over ones that are too established.
AW: Yeah, definitely. Actually, they started to present the first bass music events here in Berlin, but then they stopped for some reason. Being a promoter who likes to take risks is definitely not going to bring you enough money for living, and that can be exhausting. With help from Musicboard Berlin, where we got our first cultural funding for 3hd Festival, we are able to bypass the financial issues that have prevented us in the past from really creating a more diverse experience for our audience.
I heard Claire Danes mentioned the Berghain on The Ellen DeGeneres show.
DS: Haha. Anja showed the video to me yesterday. She sees it in a funny way, which I’m thankful for. I get easily offended by people thinking Berlin is only techno, using it for their image, that they here discovered it, and it was all so crazy, and people were so crazy there, etc. And then Anja is like, ‘oh, this is so funny’.
AW: This is also really funny because techno is the big thing here, especially for Americans. Come on, Claire Danes is promoting techno music on the Ellen DeGeneres show? It makes me smile. **
The project has emerged in response to the contemporary moment, where art practice and mediation is becoming increasingly hybridised, while aiming to provide access and open creative processes through a comprehensive complementary online programme, including essays, exclusive tracks and interviews.
In recognising these aesthetic transformations, the event is set to include a line-up of innovators and newcomers working in this new realm of art and music-making across a “label – magazine – festival” format. The programme is yet to be announced but will no doubt be impeccable given past Creamcake events that have hosted the likes of Future Brown, 18+ and Felicita to name just a few.
Graphic and web designer Jon Lucas will also be working alongsideproducer Tokyo Hands in developing the online component of the project.