Creamcake

COOL FOR YOU but not everybody: Vika Kirchenbauer talks community, institutions + the violence of looking

10 February 2017

The gaze comes in many guises. There’s the colonial and patriarchal one, of course, but there’s also the broader institutional one, of which there are many types of institutions. There’s community, for a start, a kind of participatory, almost ritualistic practice predicated on conformity. Then there’s mass surveillance, hierarchy and the popular notion of ‘normativity’ – museums, schools, art galleries; hospitals, prisons, psychiatry. For Vika Kirchenbauer there’s a violence inherent in all of these social constructions, and a complex network of connections and relationships that create a confluence of elements that are ultimately oppressive.

COOL FOR YOU, ‘ GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE (2016). Video still. Courtesy Vika Kirchenbauer.

Hence, the Berlin-based artist’s COOL FOR YOU music production project. It’s part of a wider creative practice that includes video and performance, yielding insight and examination into power and self-understanding within all this gaze. For the first video premiered on aqnb to accompany her second EP, MOOD MANAGEMENT – released via Berlin’s Creamcake label on February 2 – the frame of a thermal vision camera is poised on two colourless people in action. It’s hard to tell what they’re doing, but it seems sexual, at least intimate, and there’s an ambiguous substance being consumed from various parts of the body throughout. One can only assume.

“The materiality is unclear, just because it’s reduced to heat and we don’t have any information on colour or a more detailed understanding of the texture,” says Kirchenbauer, via Skype from Berlin, webcam-to-webcam, “so whatever associations, or suspicions we have will be had much more, although that might not be the case if you look at it outside of thermal vision.” The video for the ‘MOOD MANAGEMENT’ title-track is one of an ongoing series by Kirchenbauer, which includes ‘GIVEN YOUR CONVENIENT ABSENCE’ and ‘SHE WHOSE BLOOD IS CLOTTING IN MY UNDERWEAR’ – grey-scale heat signatures of people moving beneath, or looking back at this military technology used in warfare. The music that drives them is equal parts brutal and compelling, contorted samples of human harmonies (Sacred Harp choir music to be precise) languishing in a milieu of heavy breathing and nervous rhythms. It’s hard to tell where these vocal samples come from but their dissonant tones imply someplace unfamiliar.“The new video talks more about the material quality of things and interaction, as well as the outside gaze and reading of that; our automatic associations and responses to things. And how – through our suspicions, or readings, or associations – that can be triggered and add this strange firing that doesn’t really succeed in the sense of either disgust, or interest, or joy. It just stays at a high level of intensity.”

COOL FOR YOU, ‘SHE WHOSE BLOOD IS CLOTTING IN MY UNDERWEAR’ (2016). Video still. Courtesy Vika Kirchenbauer.

**I’m curious about this suspicion of institutions, did you study?

Vika Kirchenbauer: No, I tried briefly but it didn’t really work. Also, I don’t come from a background where it was ever really considered a possibility to study, so I think I have been intimidated by institutions of education for a long time. I ended up actively studying in a ‘prestigious’ school for two years but then I figured it was not for me… But there are so many different institutions that are not only art institutions. There are systems of psychiatry, or medical, legal institutions that I have also had to deal with in relation to gender stuff that have also shaped me as a person; the hierarchy of having to explain oneself and what kind of hierarchy that builds and how a person can be dependent on validation of institutions, and of being convincing enough in order to get what one needs.

There are so many different institutions in our society and I think they all normalize, and discipline, and leave marks on people, in very different ways. I think it’s particularly important to stress that, with a particular focus on class, (or other marginalising social markers that also, again, often relate to class): how we relate to those different institutions, and to which institutions.

** I first heard of your work through that performance you did at NGBK called COOL FOR YOU: SEPARATISM, can you tell me a bit more about the concept behind this?

VK: That performance had a lot to do with symbolic institutional inclusion and power struggles/violence within feminism and something that at the time I named “casualties of conviction.” But that separatism thing also connects to Sacred Harp music in a way that is interesting, because it’s set up in a way that does not assume an audience; everybody who sings is participating. You cannot be there and be in any other position than that of the singer. Of course, you might end up not singing but you will be amongst the singers, and, in a way, it’s a metaphor for how communities work.

COOL FOR YOU, ‘MOOD MANAGEMENT’ (2017). Video still. Courtesy Vika Kirchenbauer.

I think there is the idea of inclusion there, in the sense that it’s not about how well people sing  — because it’s meant to be God playing the different vocal chords of the people like a harp — so it will always be right, as God apparently favours passion over skill. That, I find remarkable, that musically-speaking there’s a lot of room for dissonance, although on a more general level that’s often not so much the case in such groups or communities. There is also obviously a strong sense of exclusion because it’s only for those actively participating under a certain set of rules, which also speaks to a larger sense of how belonging works in groups and subcultures, or communities. There is a certain set of expectations, or almost ritualistic behaviour that is demanded of those who want to belong in order to be considered part of the group. That, to me, is a fascinating sense of separatism and conditions of inclusion. Who gets to sing, however poorly, and who’s excluded from the choir?

** I did some reading on Sacred Harp, and I found its position within colonialism to be a complex one…

VK: The point is that many Sacred Harp songs stem from the early 18th century in England, before the sounds were brought into the US where Sacred Harp then originated. The first book of Sacred Harp songs collects music, or material to be sung in that set up. It developed between 1760 and 1820, or something like that, so it is very, very old and obviously didn’t just originate in North America out of the blue but comes from England through settlers. The reason why it sounds different to us now, and has this kind of an ‘exotic’ feel, I think, is that the harmonies are a bit different. They de-emphasize the thirds of a scale and favour harmonies that go with the fourths or fifths. My argument is that harmonies and music have been used immensely as a form of colonizing. So it’s not only been Bible texts, or physical violence but – especially in Christian missions but also in State colonialism, which has a history of over 500 years – music has played an important part.

I think it’s strange that people in the West nowadays can look at ‘world music’ and understand it as something that is ‘authentic,’ and ‘untouched,’ and ‘real,’ and ‘different,’ and not bear in mind that, of course, over centuries music has also been used as a colonizer, harmonies have been used to colonize and they have obviously left influences. All these kinds of music have existed in relation to each other. If we can listen to something now that comes from parts of the world that feel ‘remote’ to us, of course that link and that kind of economy is only possible because there is a history of colonialism. We cannot think that colonialism has not impacted the music, or the people that have been colonized. That’s why I find it interesting to go back to very old, white, Protestant Christian music and look at those harmonies and see how they might, or might not have also influenced the course of music in very different places in the world (or perhaps been influenced by them, of course).

COOL FOR YOU, ‘SHE WHOSE BLOOD IS CLOTTING IN MY UNDERWEAR’ (2016). Video still. Courtesy Vika Kirchenbauer.

** Now that I think about it, your EP and your music is really, very cohesive. Everything applies, in that it all relates, musically and conceptually, in a really interesting way. Especially, also with your visual work, these associations, like talking about institutions, while the word ‘institution’ can apply to so many different things.

VK: It’s important to me that there is a sense of atmosphere or aesthetics that is kind of ambiguous, that there is some sense of violence and hysteria but also almost a kind of ecstasy or enthusiasm that’s uncanny, in a way. Depending on how you listen to it, it can also be sad but still almost like a drug or something. I want to craft things in a way so that, affectively, one can connect with them in different moments or moods, in quite different ways and discover different contradicting elements in terms of affect and emotion.

** So you take this Sacred Harp music, which already is loaded with contradictions. Where even beyond the exclusion of someone that isn’t participating, there are also people, I’m assuming, that aren’t even given the option of participating in the first place…

VK: Based on their faith or for other reasons institutionalised churches or community churches exclude people, obviously…

** There’s this other element to it, where you’re basically recreating this choir live by pointing this infrared camera at your audience. They don’t have a choice and also it’s achieved via technology. It’s this idea of surveillance — self-surveillance and surveillance of others, even, within small communities, which runs through your work.

VK: Yeah, most of it deals with or discusses looking as a violent act, which doesn’t make my work less violent, I just accentuate or discuss ways of looking back, or acts of looking back. I emphasize that violence, as well, and I think in performance setups, where people are used to not just look at something but also un-look at themselves, that’s interesting to actually shift that dynamic and discuss what is actually being looked at, who is an agent in the situation? Does it need to be different, or how can we actually deal with that situation?

COOL FOR YOU, ‘MOOD MANAGEMENT’ (2017). Video still. Courtesy Vika Kirchenbauer.

With the infrared vision, it makes the audience look at each other through that enhanced gaze. I think shifting that focal point away from the stage and having people look at each other through technology, that’s interesting to me. And of course, I work with very particular technology of thermal vision or infrared cameras. It is mostly used in military or border control, so this kind of camera that I use is what is being used at the EU land borders to detect heat signatures at night, of people who want to enter a country. I deliberately use that technology and bring it into contexts where most of the people do not have to deal with any of that kind of gaze — or where the stakes of inclusion or exclusion are very low, in comparison.

**Talking about the gaze, and the violence of the gaze, is this something that you personally have experienced and where that interest comes from?

VK: Yeah, I think so. In a lot of ways, whether I perform on stage or not does not make much of a difference in the way that I am being looked at, and also since my understanding of myself, of course works a lot through the reflection through others. I think I have learned to look at myself through the eyes of others but, also, you obviously cannot know for certain how someone perceives you, how they look at you. So it also instills some sense of suspicion in you, in a way, you always presume to know how somebody looks at you, and why. I think psychologically that does something special to someone who has learnt to look at themselves through the eyes of others. I think a reaction towards the inability to blend-in as ‘normal’ is always there. There’s always this moment of being aware of one’s difference and that is constantly confirmed by the way people look. It’s kind of a moment where you’re constantly on stage, and that kind of ‘off-stage moment’ is not really happening.

**Do you think that ‘off-stage moment’ is possible if you found the right community?

VK: No, not at all. I think that sense of judgment is a fundamental problem. When people realise that the Other is not themselves, then everyone gets angry. I think that, in any kind of context, it should lead people to, not accept difference but to actually accept not understanding someone else, or not fully grasping or getting someone. We’re all different and that’s where a lot of problems come from.

I think for people to get that things are complicated — and that different people and different aspects of social markers they bear come with certain privileges and privations that also play out differently, at different stages of time in their lives — it’s very hard to deal with, it seems. There’s also a lot of trauma, envy and hurt in people and I think it’s honestly hard for most to actually deal with the fact that the Other is Other and not ourselves. It’s frustrating the we can probably not understand the Other, but it might then, perhaps, be preferable not to make that the basic condition in order to legitimize and validate someone, to understand their suffering.

Only once they can argue and make their suffering understandable to us, we then legitimise their suffering and generously try to include them. I don’t think this is how it should work but this has been the history of feminist struggle, for instance, or its internal organizing logic, in which it confirms the hierarchy much more if those with more privilege or power have to be convinced of other people’s privation or suffering, in order to generously say ‘yes, I now get it… please step inside.’

I think that kind of understanding and that kind of disclosure that is expected from the one who is different, exactly that entitlement, is actually where the hierarchy gets stabilized, in a sense. That’s also in acknowledging that, apart from the gaze and the violence of looking, there’s also that violence of understanding.**

Vika Kirchenbauer’s MOOD MANAGEMENT EP was released via Berlin’s Creamcake label on February 2, 2017.

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Discwoman x Creamcake workshop + after-party, Aug 13

5 August 2016

New York­-based collective Discwoman and Berlin-based event organisers Creamcake have organised a DJing workshop and after-party at Berlin’s OHM on August 13.

In keeping with the transatlantic project’s mission statement —”collaborating to empower women and LGBT in electronic music” —the free event includes an intensive two-hour workshop to learn how to use CDJ 2000. No experience in music production is required, participants need only register at hi@creamcake.de and bring a USB key with their favourite music.

The workshop, running 7pm to 9pm on the Saturday will be followed by a live DJ set and after party, also at OHM, featuring DJ Haram, Bearcat, HDZiúr and Yanling.

See the FB event page for details.**

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Keiska, Powerpoint EP release, Jul 29

29 July 2016

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 EP —which includes tracks titled ‘Powerpoint 1′,’Powerpoint 2’ and ‘Entrance’ —launches at Berlin’s OHM venue with supports from the likes of Ana Caprix, 333 BoyzBlue Stork (aka Nicolas Humbert) and Creamcake DJ Larry.

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.

Listen to the Powerpoint EP in full below.**

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Keiska, ‘Powerpoint’ release, Jul 8

8 July 2016

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 CaprixForever 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.

Listen to ‘Powerpoint 1’ below.**

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Aristophanes貍貓, Eartheater &c @ HAU, Jun 29

28 June 2016

Aristophanes貍貓 and Eartheater are performing Berlin’s Hebbel Am Ufer (HAU) on June 29.

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.

See the HAU website for details.**

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Ms Banks, Spinee &c @ Akademie der Künste, May 20

19 May 2016

The ‘Night Shift’ live music and performance event is on at Berlin’s Akademie der Künste on May 20.

Organised by Creamcake and Making Spaces (‘c/o’ Niche Berlin), artists and performers taking part include London-based emcee Ms Banks, producer Spinee, Liyo Gong, Ziúr, Mary Scherpe, and DJ Larry.  

The evening comes as part of the three-day 36-Hour Factory of Thought programme (May 19 – 21), running alongside the Akademie der Künste’s DEMO:POLIS – The Right to Public Space calendar, happening from March through May.

Together, woman-run events organisation Creamcake and interdisciplinary cultural agency Niche Berlin, along with online platform concerned with “female spatial practitioners”, Making Spaces, come together to present “new perspectives, freeing up space and presenting their discoveries in Berlin.”

See the FB event page for details.**

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Creamcake @ Südblock, Jan 7

5 January 2016

Creamcake will be hosting a live music party at Berlin’s Südblock on January 7.

Anja Weigl and Daniela Seitz, organisers of Creamcake curated the music festival 3hd Festival early last month. For the event held in Berlin that merged pop culture with underground local and global scenes they also arranged discussions around topics and questions like: ‘What is the Musical Object in the 21st Century?’, and ‘Visual Pleasure, the Impact of Image Making’.

The participating artists for the upcoming party titled Sweet 20 Sixteen are SPINEEDJ WarlordMEGATECH, DOWNTOWN ILJA, and LARRY.

See the FB event page for times and (limited) details.**

Daniel Swan, Screenshot trailer 1st of May 2013. Courtesy Creamcake
Daniel Swan, Screenshot trailer 1st of May 2013. Courtesy Creamcake, Berlin.
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A look back at 3hd Festival

17 December 2015

“Maybe, the music lost the war,” posits Ji-Hun Kim at 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 Harper and 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 site in what looks like an industrial wasteland.

Aurora Sander @ 3hd Festival (2015), Berlin. @ 3hd Festival (2015), Berlin.
Aurora Sander @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.

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 Transatlantics web 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 Ufer night 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 Maimon and 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.

Colin Self @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.
Colin Self @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin.

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 OHM with 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. **

Creamcake’s 3hd Festival was on across venues in Berlin, running December 2 to 5, 2015.

Header image: Nile Koetting @ HAU. Courtesy 3hd Festival, Berlin. 

 

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3hd Festival, Dec 2 – 5 new announcement

9 November 2015

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.

Among the many new events recently announced are Parisian composer Oklou and Berlin composer Soda Plains at OHM Gallery on December 3, Berlin artist duo Aurora Sander and London-based cellist Oliver Coates at HAU on December 4, and London producer Nkisi and Berlin producer DJ Paypal at Südblock on December 5.

See the 3hd festival for details. **

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3hd Festival announcement #2

27 October 2015

Creamcake are presenting New Consumerism, Multimedia Dualism, & Spiritual Madness as a part of 3hd Festival, 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.

The event will open with ADR, Aurora Sander, Colin Self, Dafna Maimon, Fawkes, Nile Koetting, Oliver Coates, Lawrence Lek, and Vipra.

Creamcake was previously featured on aqnb, with the first 3hd Festival line-up announcement and an interview.

See the 3hd Festival for details.**

Creamcake
Daniel Swan, Screenshot trailer. May 1, 2013. Courtesy Creamcake.

 

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An interview with Creamcake

20 October 2015

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.

Creamcake
‘c r e a m c a k e’. Photo by Lucy Locket.

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 of Simon 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.

AW: [laughs].

Jon Lucas, "Correlating statistics: big business and audio data" (2015). Courtesy of 3hd Festival, Berlin.
Jon Lucas, ‘Correlating statistics: big business and audio data’ (2015). Courtesy of 3hd Festival, Berlin.

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.

Kelela live @ Creamcake. Photo by Darryl Natale.
Kelela live @ Creamcake. Photo by Darryl Natale.

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.  

Creamcake csd-greenguy
Liam Morrison, ‘CSD – green guy’. Courtesy Creamcake, Berlin.

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. **

Creamcake is a Berlin-based events organiser. Their first 3hd Festival is running in the German city, December 2 to 5, 2015.

Header image: Hannah Diamond, Screenshot Creamcake 4. Februar 2014. Courtesy Creamcake, Berlin.

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3hd Festival, Dec 2 – 5

21 September 2015

Event organisers Creamcake are presenting a new “hybrid project”, 3hd Festival under the theme of The Labor of Sound in a World of Debt and running offline across Berlin’s Vierte Welt, HAU 2, OHM Gallery and Südblock from December 2 to 5.

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 alongside producer Tokyo Hands in developing the online component of the project.

See 3hd Festival website for details.**

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Creamcake presents @ OHM Gallery, Aug 8

6 August 2015

Berlin’s Creamcake party is returning this month with a handful of music acts at OHM Gallery on Saturday, August 8.

The monthly Berlin cultural event series takes over the Köpenickerstr. gallery with live performances from New York-based K-pop and rap act Yen Tech and Berlin-based act Mind:Body:Fitness, as well as music from Munich-based DJ and producer Mechatok, London/Brixton-based producer Kamixlo, and Creamcake-founder Larry.

The last couple of parties included the 14th marathon on Kreuzberg CSD 2015 with Boo Hoo and Queerblock at Südblock, also featuring Mechatok, as well as Ziur and 333 Boyz among others, and May’s Creamcake with DJ Paypal and Dinamarca

See the FB event page for details. **

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