AQNB editor Steph Kretowicz‘s ‘BSAD (buy shit and die)’ audio-narrative collaboration with producer Ben Babbitt also features—which premiered as part of Berlin’s 3hd 2020 last year. Kretowicz took part in CURL’s performance around recent Artist Statement podcast interviewee Akinola Davies Jr‘s ‘Mayonnaise, Corn on the Cob and My Car’ short film screening at an earlier edition of the festival. The filmmaker’s own musical field recordings make several haunting appearances throughout Curl Compilation 2.**
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.
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.
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.**
The live event accompanied the Content Prole: A journey into the depths of the online gig economy broadcast series — produced by AQNB in collaboration with Matthew O’Shannessy — and included a conversation between these artists and writers about their own experiences with the often harsh realities of trying to sustain a practice as a working creative.
The new work includes “spoken and musical elements that looks at the abstracting tendencies of contemporary high finance” and is the final commission of 2017. Exploring an imaginary where “money no longer bears any relation to the production of useful goods or services,” the work also includes a doom metal cover of ABBA’s Money Money Money by London-based band Henge.
Every year, somewhere around the world, Angelo Plessas asks an artist a question. Usually filmed, sometimes audio recorded, he holds a phone up to their face and delves, deep and incisive, into an observation about their character, and it’s eerily, surprisingly, appropriate.
Once, on the shores of the Dead Sea, Angelo asked me what I had against the internet. Paranoid, insecure and pretty depressed at the time, I’d taken to disguising my identity online behind pen names and insisting no one take my photo during the 10 days on a West Bank resort bordering Jordan, Israel and Palestine. I had consciously disconnected from the internet, ironically, at The Eternal Internet Brotherhood (since adding a binary ‘Sisterhood’). It was the 2014 edition of a nomadic residency, where a number of invited and ‘internet-aware’ artists, technologists, writers and ‘other’ congregate for a time in a space with spiritual and mythical qualities.
The next time Angelo would ask me a question, it would be in the neoclassical fake ruins of Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel three years later. It was a month before documenta 14, the institutional event that was funding this smaller, colder, iteration of a self-started project that has included meetings by different people, from different walks of life in a part of Greece, Mexico, Italy, Sri Lanka. This time there would be a storm brewing while my slightly sassy answer on camera was interrupted by soft rain, a crack of thunder and Angelo’s Pomeranian, Lupo, barking. He’d asked something about what I thought of the concept of ‘free time.’ I never have enough of it and I’d been spending most of it at Lebensbogen Commune in my room working. Angelo is a leader and a community-builder, and with being a leader and a community-builder there’s a certain level of detached observation necessary to see how people can work with, or, as the case may be, against each other.
Pirate utopias of the past and data heavens of the future
“Anafi was inhabited by pirates in medieval times because it was an island with open seas to the east and the west, and it was on the edge of the Cyclades. There is a huge rock/cliff, which is standing as a portal on the edge of the island, appearing from the archipelago like a new discovered country, it’s tip covered by clouds.”
New modes of experience: computing naked outdoors.
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Las Pozas, Mexico, 2013 Video game library meets peer-to-peer / friend-to-friend
“Las Pozas is the surrealist garden of Sir Edward James, a British socialite and wannabe artist. The garden is probably his only masterpiece, in the 40s he was inviting his surrealist friends to hang out in the lush inland jungle. The journey is long and dangerous.”
New modes of experience: Projecting night time movies on the jungle bushes.
Dead Sea, Palestine, 2014
Electrically charged particles versus electrical theology.
“The Dead Sea is the most eerie place I have ever been; super energizing particles of salt floating in the air in the least elevated part of the world. No birds, no fish, just some weird animal echo from the Masada rocks. Your vision disappears into the shades of brown and blue.”
New modes of experience: Swimming at night while knowing it’s surveilled by the Israeli or Jordanian army.
Castello Malaspina, Fosdinovo, Italy 2015
Ghosts or avatars; holograms or pixels?
“It’s no wonder Dante Alighieri spent his exile here but also Bianca is the welcoming ghost; feeling worried and restless but amazing hosts and magic food make you forget the unfriendly WiFi, thick stone walls and the basement dungeon. No nightmares and unexpected sound sleep.”
The end of the world is an accepted fact in here.
New modes of experience: Sonar bells and singing loud as the most essential way of communicating.
Rock of Sigirya, Sri Lanka, 2016
Orgonic transmuter and elephant electroshocks
“We stayed at Back of Beyond, a tree house compound in the most dense Sri Lankan Jungle. The Airbnb pages says no check-in after 6pm, as wild elephants roam the compound’s nearby lagoons, breaking the electrical pillars and cables. Elephants and rain make electricity a scarcity.”
New modes of experience: Fireflies navigating us to our treehouses at night.
Dörnbeg Commune, Essen, Germany, 2017 Transgender occultism and Noospheric realness
“This is the first time an edition has taken place in a temperature below 18℃. It’s late April and still cold. The first day coincides with Walpurgis night. In and around the commune is full of women who look more like witches performing a ritual that reminds of us something like Germanic pagan revival, very feministic.”**