“How does your garden grow?” 3hd 2020’s ‘UNHUMANITY’ edition still thrives despite a relentless year of adverse conditions

, 27 October 2020

Everything is complicated. Whether it’s interacting with another person or putting on a festival, 2020 is a year that has presented all of us with innumerable hardships. Between pandemic and political instability, climate change and economic slowdown, never have we been more aware of ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the world. We’re all a part of a vast and tangled web of cause and its effects, and this merciless year of rupture and catastrophe has led many of us to reconsider every aspect of life and how we live it. It’s been a long time coming.

3hd 2020: ‘UNHUMANITY’ (2020). Artwork by Jon Lucas. Courtesy Creamcake, Berlin.

Creamcake‘s 3hd 2020: ‘UNHUMANITY‘ has made this impulse a part of its program, naming its sixth edition after this Great Undoing that has forced us all to reconsider our impact as humans, both on each other and the rest of the planet. Guided by the coronavirus health crisis and its fallout, the scene-defining cross-disciplinary festival in Berlin has had a year to completely rethink how it operates. It spread itself out and allowed for contingency by starting in August with some outdoor summer performances, like Isabel Lewis‘s masked and disinfected ritual gathering ‘An occasion to consider celebration futures‘. There was the apocalypse-referencing double features of performance evenings ‘Waterworld‘ and ‘Dune‘, and the four-day sound exhibition called ‘Echo Chamber‘—’airing out’ intermissions and social-distancing measures included. These were all held in the haunting, cylindrical surroundings of the old Wasserspeicher water tower, and featured musicians and producers Ange Halliwell, Iku, Thoom and Nazar, among others. Meanwhile, the aforementioned group show included multimedia work by artitsts likes of Tea Stražičić, Oli XL, Emilie Palmelund, Alice Z Jones and more, as well as musical interventions by performers Alpha Maid and Battle-ax.

The structure of the festival beyond this isn’t uncomplicated either. There’s the extended ‘UNHUMANITY’ program, which started with Annamaria Ajmone and Felicity Mangan’s ‘LUGLIO‘ on August 15 but it also includes a smaller, more experimental companion program called ‘ECO-centers‘. It’s inspired by the ecological political philosophy of ‘ecocentrism’—one that exists in opposition to anthropocentrism and shifts its focus to nature—and it spreads across oceans into partnerships with organisations in other cities. These have included events and projects from Tokyo, New York and Navel in Los Angeles, including AQNB’s own contribution, spearheaded by associate editor Jared Davis and featuring a ceremonial performance by Ewa Awe for ‘Hyperobjectivity‘. That event managed six-person gatherings in an undisclosed location in London, just days before government regulations on groups contracted. Others, like Steph Kretowicz and Ben Babbitt‘s ‘BSAD (buy shit and die)CURL Recordings video premiere, were entirely disembodied. Milan’s Terraforma was one of many international festivals being postponed this year, but here they made up for it with Ruben Spini‘s oddly calming eight-hour livestream of a bird nest and a screening by Natália Trejbalová.

The Institute of Queer Ecology, ‘Emergence (Episode 3)’ (2020). Video still. Courtesy the artists.

Yet to come, is the Symbiotic Agencies group exhibition, opening at the gorgeous Galerie im Körnerpark in Neukölln on November 5, where artists like Timur Si-Qin, Jenna Sutela, The Mycological Twist and Sandra Mujinga, among others, will respond to the symbiotic and parasitic relationships between human and non-human actors. The Institute of Queer Ecology has already made it their mission to act as a collaborative organism that “works to imagine and realise an equitable multispecies future”, so they’re a part of it too. Regular partner venue HAU Hebbel Am Ufer will host a scaled-down two nights of performances—called ‘Vessels’ and, aptly, ‘Crisis Management’—during the the November 3 to 7 “UNHUMANITY” week, while the exhibition will continue until January 31, 2020.

All that said, the festival circuit has had to completely—along with the rest of the music and entertainment industry—review how it operates. It helps that 3hd has always been very networked. It’s had years of practice with commissioning online projects, working with artists from across the world wide web; building and sustaining a decidedly global community. It’s difficult to know where this time will take the festival and its programming into the future but for now, at least, it’s done pretty well under pressure.**

3hd Festival’s ‘UNHUMANITY’ festival week is on across venues in Berlin, running November 3 to 7, 2020.