Creamcake are presenting New Consumerism, Multimedia Dualism, & Spiritual Madness as a part of 3hdFestival, 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.
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.
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 ofSimon 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.
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.
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.
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. **
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 alongsideproducer Tokyo Hands in developing the online component of the project.
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.
Berlin’s Creamcake is throwing another massive party, this time with ‘post-national’ group Future Brown and a handful of other performers at Berghain Kantine this Saturday, February 28.
The Creamcake show brings Future Brown as its headliner, whose sold out ICA London show we wrote about here, and the Berlin one, like everything Future Brown seems to touch, is sold out as well. The Saturday performance is also celebrating the Berlin release of Future Brown’s new album, which can be streamed at NPR here.
“It’s like getting mad at the weather or something”, says Justin Swinburne, a visual artist and one half of cloud-based musical project 18+, about the (non-) ethics of appropriation, “this is just how the cultural media landscape exists now”. Swinburne’s voice is beaming from New York, bouncing off a satellite and running through my laptop speakers in London. His collaborator Samia Mirza is joining us from LA. This is a three-way conversation that is literally crossing time and space and I’m left with no doubt that said “cultural media landscape” is a very strange one indeed. The work of 18+ is even stranger.
The project is one that has been lingering just beneath the surface of online data noise since roughly 2011. It was a faceless audiovisual project with a frustratingly search-engine evading name that amorally seized and assimilated existing beats, images and video to produce some of the most intriguing work to come out of the obscured ‘internet band’ ether in the past few years. M1XTAPE, MIXTA2E and MIXTAP3 were released in that time, before the slick and sensual style built on a fetishistic approach to sculpting stolen content became something that could be sold. Hence the debut album, Trust, to be released on London label Houndstooth on November 10, and a growing list of live performances that are stepping out of the art scene and into the industry.
What sparked my own interest in the band – beyond a purely audiophile fascination as a part-time music journalist – was the beats credited to the likes of artists/art projects Kareem Lotfy and AIDS 3-D, as well as the fact 18+ had performed IRL at last year’s defining Venice Biennale, New York’s Artists Space and Trouw Amsterdam, at the same time as showing up on the bill at Berlin’s Creamcake and frequently being featured in straight up music websites. What was even more interesting was that the documentation of these events has since been somehow reintegrated into the 18+ oeuvre, whether in a field recording of a gushing fan in MIXTAP3 interlude ‘cologne’ or applause from a live audience at the Lithuania and Cyprus Pavilion in ‘venice feat raimundas’.
A recent performance at LA’s REDCAT Theater was prefaced by a YouTube video featuring music and CGI animation of images printed on virtual fabric, rotating in suspension to the tune of some kind of freakish nursery rhyme as Mirza and Swinburne moan “playing with your heart so broken up/ I’ll give you a bit of magic touch”. These are images of androids and Second Life avatars, a photo of a baby and model Sam Way, even a film still reappropriated from the already appropriated imagery of the 2013 promotional video for their Venice performance. In fact, all of them are stills of 18+ videos, made from images taken from the web and reintegrated into their work to eventually become these art objects that are essentially merchandise. Presumably they’re the kind that look like the animated accessories on the REDCAT video but ones you can touch (physically rather than ‘magically’). I haven’t actually seen these silk scarves for real but for now the jpegs will do because when it comes to 18+, I don’t think it makes a difference.
I had a friend who interviewed you a while ago and they said your names were John and Jane Doe.
Justin Swinburne: Yeah. That’s a by-product of a thing that was forced upon us by the internet. So when Google+ came about, it started forcing this anti-anonymity thing with YouTube accounts and Google accounts. They forced us to add a real name to our Gmail account, which is shared, so there’s no reason why there would be my name or Samia’s name. So ‘Jane Doe’ is just a generic female name for an anonymous body used by police/morgues. We just said that because it’s a placeholder.
So now you’re starting to mould into a format that’s got a lot of potential, in terms of being a very marketable; what are your thoughts on that, especially as visual artists.
JS: I think, no matter what creative field you’re in nowadays, you have to diversify your output in order to stay afloat economically. So what we’re planning is we want to design products – we want to design clothing, we want make art exhibitions, we want to collaborate with as many people as possible – but always in this way that seems somewhat critical of this need to capitalise or need to merchandise. I think a lot about Merlin Carpenter’s Tate Café show. We’re planning a lot of objects that are going to come out soon and it’s almost like banal design or something like that. It reminds me of the MoMA design store.
Samia Mirza: Yeah.
JS: There are a lot of interesting things going on in the store but it has this tacky quality to it because it’s so blatantly trying to further monetize an already established and globally recognized brand. I think your average creative person is constantly trying to balance these things and I don’t know if it’s positive or negative, but it’s just the way things are.
SM: I think we’ve built a triage within art and music without trying to do so. It places us there because they all demand something cool, sexy, exclusive, and anonymous, and popular [laughs] and it’s getting into fashion as well. That’s kind of how we’ve been operating, but these objects have been a new thing. They’re not merchandise and not quite artworks either. They’re something in between. We’re making these things that happen to exist in these realms.
I’m a bit conflicted about that. Obviously, it’s difficult to survive as an artist, so you become this industrial creative producer and at the same time some of the most interesting art now is exploding these distinctions between disciplines, platforms and formats. But then what are you left with? It’s like this loop of criticality and complicity but it’s also pretty emblematic of the time.
JS: Yeah, that sort of feedback loop and questionable morality is definitely on my mind all the time. Artists are small businesses that are driving an economy. It’s a very real aspect of being an artist, that if you’re getting play and you’re selling works in galleries you’re a legitimate and pretty healthy small business. It’s weird to think about artists that way, as being this driving force in capitalism that fuels our society. It’s discordant with the knowledge that most artists tend to align themselves with a very leftist ideology but then they go ahead and they fall in line with this laissez faire capitalist attitude. Yeah it’s conflicting. It’s confusing but it’s hard to escape and that’s the point.
When you mention the design store at MoMA, I was at a fair recently where I couldn’t tell the difference between the prints being exhibited as art and the editions being sold as design objects.
JS: Right, and it’s maybe uncomfortable but then there’s also the idea that if an object can be reproduced and syndicated and be in tonnes of people’s homes, then what’s wrong with that? Why shouldn’t there be a more accessible version? Then the conversation often becomes the ‘elitist versus populist’ problem.
Maybe that’s why there’s so much popular culture informing art.
SM: I would also say that a huge part of our process is that 50 per cent of the work that we do is appropriated – from the videos we use to the people we work with. Whether it’s Second Life videos that nerds are making to create their dream island or their dream girl… even in the way that we find objects that we want to make, it’s just taking things of the world and somehow integrating it into our practice and responding to it.
That includes all the beats, including the way we work with others. It’s something I think that people see often in the stuff that we’re doing, even in the way that we find objects. We’ve been making these dinner plates and at the Biennale, we had towels with the name of our favourite Korean restaurant on it; we’re just pulling things from around us and adding them to this ‘brand’, which is a product of our lives and tastes.
I suppose it’s just another medium, or discipline that you have access to. If you have access to all these different modes of expression and you know how to use them, then why not?
SM: We both still have our own practices, but being a novice or being new to some kind of genre or format in working, to me, was really refreshing and encouraging to keep doing this. Because there was also no definition to begin with and it felt really good to work in that because we came to it with no rules. Whereas with our practices, I think we had a style and had things defined.
SM: We also had desk jobs. We would go to the office and what we had were our computers so it was something I could do at work [laughs]. I had fast internet and what could I do? I could upload videos, download videos, send them to Justin and it just seemed like the most malleable format for making and communicating.
When you use other artist’s beats do you ask their permission?
SM: Some of them.
JS: It depends, now everything’s becoming legal so if we’re putting out stuff with beats that we’ve just taken, we’ve had to track down the people who had made them originally and get them to sign on to do something. But everyone seems really agreeable and willing to participate.
I guess the more popular you become the more trouble you’re going to start having.
JS: Definitely. But we also have more people helping us.
You might have to be taking down a whole lot of video.
JS: But then the scarcity of that video will increase, and its value might increase. I mean so long as we have the right lawyers it’s going to be fine [laughs].
I personally make a distinction between who you can and can’t steal from. Like if it’s a huge brand as opposed to a small time artist. And when you start making money from this content it’s a whole other issue…
SM: At least in the way it started with ‘Drawl’ and the video of the lady in the ocean, I thought that we were just as small, if not smaller than the person who made that original animation. And this was just us using what they were making as a visual accompaniment to our new activity.
At that point we didn’t even know we were making ‘music’. The initial gesture of appropriation was as light as other mashed content today, like a video of a girl from her bedroom singing over a Michael Jackson song or something. There was no money being made and there still isn’t, in terms of the visual stuff. So I don’t personally see it as stepping on anybody’s toes. I don’t even know what we would fight over, perhaps it’s just an issue of packaging.
JS: And even if it is, we’re maybe a symptom of a larger issue. Like tonnes of ‘original content’ that I’ve personally made has been assimilated into tonnes of contexts that I would never want but that’s just the way it goes. It’s like getting mad at the weather or something. This is just how the cultural media landscape exists now. And if you get mad about copyright of an image you took of a mountain or something, it just seems backward looking. I empathise, but you have to think beyond that at some point.
When you say you can get appropriated into contexts that you might not want to be appropriated into, it’s almost like a literal expression of what happens with creativity and invention: Einstein split the atom, then the military made the atom bomb.
JS: Yeah exactly. You can’t predict the future of your inventions. You basically decide if you want to participate in the world or not. You decide if you want to communicate with it and if you decide to communicate with other people, you’ve given up a certain aspect of yourself and you just have to live with that.
SM: Right, especially with the internet. Once you put something out there you can’t expect it to be yours anymore. Everything comes out of a context and everything is a version of something else.
It’s like how some cultures consider a photo to be a theft of the soul. In a similar way, you’re surrendering a part of yourself when you produce work.
JS: Yeah that’s absolutely true. And I think that’s something we’re probably going to deal with more directly in the future. We’ve been dealing with avatars as an idea in the past, and now as we start presenting our bodies more and more, as this almost public figure, our physical selves are becoming this sort of avatar for 18 + or something. Then there’s this division of ‘self’, of who we are as individuals – as people who do our own laundry and clean up after ourselves – and then this person who is a singer of a band that maybe becomes an almost two-dimensional character to our audience. That’s something we’ve been thinking about actively.
It’s content and it’s interesting and everyone is doing it to themselves now with internet accounts and stuff like that. Everyone is their own publicist and everyone is constantly presenting a flattened version of themselves, where they’re only having a good time and they’re only doing good things and they’re only…
SM: …looking good.
JS: You get to present the best case scenario at all times and its only just a sliver of your reality. **