This closing concert brings together a spectrum of experimental and progressive sonic and cross-genre live acts to explore its themes of intense transmission between bodies of all kinds, in the tranquil ruins of an inner city monastery. Following the more contemplative and eccentric earlier events, ‘Paradise Found 3’ dials up on its pop inclinations, with Los Angeles-based rising pop star Dorian Electra presenting their futuristic sound and queer satire, along with the wit and humour of London lyricist and DJ Shygirl. Multidisciplinary artist and Quantum Natives artist i.Ruuu, as well DJ and curator of “post-gender avatar” Agatha Valkyrie Ice‘s mixtape series Brooklyn Bridge also take part.
“What I most remember about the exercises is that everybody took the simulated disaster very seriously but at the same time enjoyed it,” writes artist Nile Koetting about the school evacuation drills he remembers as a child growing up in Japan. He’s discussing his performance and installation ‘Remain Calm’ via email ahead of its latest iteration, taking place at Creamcake’s second of three Paradise Found music and performance events at Berlin’s Klosterruine on July 27. “There was no simulation of collective panic or excitement; it was a case of immersion in the same situation, while maintaining a sense of distance from others,” the Berlin and Tokyo-based artist adds about these emergency exercises that were a major source of inspiration for the work. “We were also able to act out the scenario of ‘remaining calm.’”
Koetting’s practice combines installation, performance, light and sound in a manner that considers the connections between artist and audience, drawing from the tropes of theatre with an interest in technology, human solidarity and crisis. As he notes: “I have always been interested in space[s] that can be redone or changed in the context of the connectivity arising in the work.” Take, for instance, his collaboration with Tokyo-based electronic musician Nozomu Matsumoto last year at London’s Somerset House, ‘Climatotherapy’. In this project, electric blue carpet, lighting, ambient sound and an Alexa smart home device set the stage for guided listening sessions by Matsumoto that evoked contemporary wellness culture as much as technological over-saturation. This theatrical approach—that Koetting describes with the term ‘scenography’—points towards the strange sense of passivity and confused collectivity in the present day, where human agency is rethought in the face of technological extensions and environmental unpredictability. It’s an approach that’s reinforced by a Bruno Latour quote sent to me by Koetting from 2018’s Down to Earth, which poignantly raises such questions through the language of theatre:
“Today, the decor, the wings, the background, the whole building have come on stage and are competing with the actors for the principal role. This changes all the scripts, suggests other endings. Humans are no longer the only actors, even though they still see themselves entrusted with a role that is much too important for them.”
With this in mind, Koetting took the time to talk about the aestheticisation of disaster, elevator music and the role of the artist in the age of algorithms.
**‘Remain Calm’ is inspired by nationwide fire and evacuation drills in Japan. Is there a particular cultural history regarding disaster and risk that’s specific to Japan in the project? How does this translate globally?
Nile Koetting: The disaster-prevention exercises I experienced in schools in Japan are a major basis of ‘Remain Calm’. The Great Hanshin Earthquake, which did great damage to the city of Kobe, occurred when I was five years old. To raise awareness of the need to prevent disasters is an extremely vital part of school education.
In the evacuation drills at my school, we were informed of the day on which there was going to be an exercise but not the time when it would start. So that day we were in class as usual when suddenly an announcement came over the PA system that a major earthquake had just occurred. For several minutes the speaker emitted recorded rumblings and the sound of buildings collapsing. During this time, we students stayed huddled under our desks. Then came another announcement that a fire had broken out in the science room. A fog machine made it look like smoke was coming out of the doorway there. We held hands with our classmates and evacuated to the playground outside, making sure not to go down the corridor by the science room. It was very easy to understand and like a little play.
This odd group performance was not put on for a certain audience. At the starting point of its creation we were students and felt a vague solidarity in the environment surrounding us. How can we find a solidarity of the sort needed to confront intangible crises such as climate change in the post-globalism age? This question is of keen interest to me in my production of works. ‘Remain Calm’ grew out of my experiences in Japan but I think at its core is something very fundamental, something deriving from physical commonality.
**Do you think much about the aesthetics or aestheticisation of disasters and risk? For instance, I feel like airline ‘in flight safety demonstrations’ are almost a genre of video in themselves.
NK: That’s a very interesting question. I have put a cabin safety instruction in some of my works.
Actually, Air France has recently been using a safety instruction video that is choreographed like an upbeat ballet performance, and I hear Virgin America is producing one that will look like a musical. As I mentioned earlier about my experience of the disaster-prevention exercises, serious actions do not have to be boring. They can be charming because of the serious nature and just about anything can have a playful element, I believe. Under capitalism, all sorts of things are converted into value. In this situation ‘safety demonstration aesthetics’ somehow strikes me as a term in touch with life.
** Is there a relationship between your work and any of the discourses around ambient music?
NK: I have never felt any relationship with ambient music as a genre but I am highly interested in music existing within a relationship with place, and its psychological and physical action. I am thinking of [Brian] Eno’s ‘Music for Airports’ and [Erik] Satie’s furniture-like compositions.
In my university days, I researched the history of elevator music. I read that it began with music that was played in the elevators going up to the observation deck on the Empire State Building in the 1930s. Those elevators moved at high speeds, which was very rare at the time, and they played waltzes to allay any fear that might be felt by the passengers. In a sense, it is an act of choreographing people. In my art as well, I handle sound as that kind of linguistic material. I think ambient music provides an example that is readily comprehensible.
** Do you have any particular thoughts on smart home technology? I know you’ve used Amazon’s Alexa before in your work. What are your thoughts on our behaviour and domestic experiences getting guided by algorithmic suggestions?
NK: I think of smart home technology as something like friendly aliens. Even more than the newest technology of other types that has still not taken shape, smart home technology is being animated and finding its way into our lives. Like microbiomes, it is melting into our lives as a kind of alien companion.
Animism is not something confined to the Orient or indigenous cultures; I sense a connection bearing a strong resemblance to it in new technology, and especially the commercialised variety.
On the subject of algorithms, I would like to mention my work ‘Sustainable Hours’. I created it with products that were suggested to me by the algorithm on Amazon, with the idea of using ready-made objects in the Amazon Age.
So we are in transition from the paradigm of artist as agent to that of artist guided by algorithms. As I see it, acceptance of this will allow a mirror-like reflection of the circumstances around our present and the environment we inhabit.**
Time has long been recognised as life’s most precious commodity. While money or power can be lost and regained, time is irreplaceable. It’s a resource that is becoming increasingly scarce in this Age of Acceleration and it’s up to organisations like Berlin’s Creamcake to combat a capitalist culture of human disposability in the so-called “experience economy”. Hence, the ‘Paradise Found’ triple event, which reaches into the interdisciplinary art and music platform’s network and brings back artists they’ve worked with before, alongside greener up-and-coming talent of a similar ilk or ethos.
Happening in the monastic ruins of Klosterruine on June 7, July 27 and August 17, the music and performance series picks up on the Berlin event space’s summer program, focussing on its medieval yard as a place of change and transformation. Katrīna Neiburga & Andris Eglītis’ “Playground – for accepting your mortality” hybrid outdoor installation will host visitors and performers alike, while expanding on the overall theme of survival and utopia in a nod to Old Testament notions of the Garden of Eden and eternal life.
A clear play on English poet John Milton’s epic 17th-century poem Paradise Lost, ‘Paradise Found’ responds to the Franziskaner-Klosterkirche’s Catholic setting with a secular sequel to Adam and Eve’s origin story and ultimate exile. It examines the subversive potential of queer feminist gestures and agnostic rituals in a historical location by creating a vital orchard of diversity and hybridity. In welcoming back musicians, composers, producers and performers into the Creamcake fold, it cultivates these artists’ ongoing practices by offering support and recognition.
Kara-Lis Coverdale returns after 3hd Festival 2016 with her electronic and acoustic compositions exploring a patient concentration on “sonic afterlife, memory, and material curiosity”. COOL FOR YOU (aka Vika Kirchenbauer) recently dropped her COMMUNAL MESSalbum debut via the Creamcake label and is another 3hd alum, as is Lamin Fofana. The latter Berlin-based producer and artist creates instrumental electronic music that contrasts the reality of our world with what’s beyond and explores “questions of movement, migration, alienation and belonging”. All three of these artists appear for the first ‘Paradise Found’ event on June 7, alongside a collective sonic mediation and “hyperobject photosynthesis” by Creamcake event newcomer Judith Sönnicken.
The series as a whole presents as a sort of triptych of moods and themes, where the almost devotional tone of Coverdale and Kirchenbauer’s Sacred music influences meet the transcendent realities of Fofana’s crumbling, other-worldy ambient and Sönnicken’s spiritual contemplation, on the first night. Bendik Giske’s creaking saxophone loops, Cucina Povera’s layered vocal cycles and Nile Koetting’s immersive ‘scenography’ that obscures the distinction between performative space and its audience creates a certain tension of definition. Michelle Woods interdisciplinary ‘tastesounds’ further intensifies this friction for the second ‘Paradise Found’ edition on July 27.
The closing event, on August 17, goes full hedonism in the debaucherous pop of rising star Dorian Electra, along with the sarcasm and dark humour of London lyricist and DJ Shygirl. Meanwhile, 3hd 2017 participant i.Ruuu hacks, scrambles and destroys its popular cultural references with an overdriven assault of what could be described as the sonic equivalent of ‘too much of a good thing’. One thing that there could never be too much of, though, is the care, attention and time that the ‘Paradise Found’ program offers its artists and their audience. It takes the etymology of the English word ‘curation’ (as coming from the Latin word for “to cure” or “take care of”) seriously, offering space for spontaneous community to flourish.**
Week-long festival インフラ INFRA is taking place at various locations across Tokyo, running August 19 to 26.
Organized by Berlin-based music platform 3hd Festival and Japanese-run online gallery EBM(T), the roster of events brings together artists, performers and musicians who work at the intersection of art and technology, proposing “a break from institutional and market-based boundaries,” with a focus on those who are under-represented. Looking at the infrastructures that ‘rule the modern world,’ the festival is an ecosystem of thought dedicated to a “global, interdisciplinary and independent state of mind.”