Feelings forward: Manifesting emotions + elusiveness in a preview of two programmes, Berlin’s CTM + transmediale

, 3 February 2017

The theme of this year’s CTM Festival in Berlin consists of three simple words: Fear, Anger Love. Certainly it is a timely theme. A quick look at your favourite news source (fake or otherwise) will yield an overabundance of the first two, and the third hasn’t gone completely out of fashion yet, if pop songs are to be trusted at least — and why wouldn’t they be? The programme precedes the grand extravaganza of transmediale, the German city’s annual exploration of the variations of digital cultures. transmediale itself will focus on elusiveness this year, and speakers and artists including Rasheedah Phillips, Hortensia Volckers, and Harm van den Dorpel, among many others opened the proceedings on February 2, but before that flood hit, I spent the days preceding it at CTM’s various locations recording the ways in which Fear, Anger and Love are being manifested.

Critical Costellations of the Audio-Machine in Mexico @ Kunstquartier Bethanien. Exhibition view. Photo by Udo Siegfriedt. Courtesy CTM, Berlin.

CTM opened at Kunstquartier Bethanien in Kreuzberg with the exhibition, Critical Constellations of the Audio-Machine in Mexico. What the title may promise in grandiosity it at least repays  in accuracy. Mexico, is another label with a number of implications, frequently appearing in the news as the president of a country sited on nearly two-thirds of the landmass of historical Mexican territory seeks to impose further imperial boundaries on the violated land of the Americas. The Mexico of the exhibition is a country forging its own version of modernity, not least via the sonic convergence known as Indio Futurism, an attempt to embrace the pre-conquest history of the territory by musicians and artists including Antonio Zepeda and Jorge Reyes, known for a sound that fused European melodies, modern electronics and indigenous rhythms and visual aesthetics. NON Worldwide‘s ‘The Great Disappointment’ at HAU 2 was a searing audio-visual spectacle tearing open the wounds of contemporary forms of racial violence. I saw the January 29 performance. The event was an at times delicate at others throttling dialogue of light and shade, with halogen lights flooding the theatre, sometimes blindingly, at others movements were almost invisible in the dapples of brightness that penetrated smoke and darkness. The cathartic punk climax to the show left the room feeling almost spent of energy as the dancers and programmers collapsed into a pile in the centre of the stage calling out “NON today, NON tomorrow, NON forever,” evoking the horrific cadences of the segregationist presidential candidate, George Wallace, a man deemed too crazy to lead the United States more than four decades before the country’s current crisis of authoritarianism.

NON Worldwide @ HAU2. Photo by Udo Siegfriedt. Courtesy CTM, Berlin.

On February 1, I caught the powerful contributions of Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and Hazel Hill McCarthy  as they discussed their film, The Bight of the Twin, exploring the history and practice of vodou in Benin. Their talk preceded a film about the life of the musician, filmmaker and thinker, Tony Conrad and together the event and the films highlighted the boundaries of knowledge, and the temptation such boundaries provides to succumbing to anger or fear. But P-Orridge, winsome in a gleaming white suit, took pains to remind the audience, that such temptations could just as rightly, just as organically be pathways into love and acceptance. On that hopeful note, transmediale awaits, more soon.**  

Berlin’s CTM Festival is on across venues in the German city, opening January 27 and running to February 5, 2017.