Intimacy through the uncanny: reflecting on Rewire 2022 & its return to closeness at a time of fractured connections

26 April 2022
Myxomy at Rewire (2022). Performance view. Photo by Pierre Zylstra. Image courtesy the artists + Rewire, The Hague.

Sitting in The Hague’s Page Not Found, an intimate crowd are perched in the sunlit space on chairs, pillows and rugs surrounding American sound artist and theorist Brandon LaBelle. Presenting one of his afternoon workshops as part of Rewire 2022’s discourse programme, LaBelle introduces the work of moral philosopher Stephen Darwall, honing in on his concepts of empathy and sympathy. It leads one to consider how such notions of care seem quite prevalent in art and theory discourse at the moment, after the pandemic outlined our culture’s brutal failings on these matters. 

LaBelle’s work responds to the ways in which sound is conducive to social connection and intimacy, and this is reflected here in practice with the nature of his workshop. It remains an odd feeling being huddled together with others even several months after pandemic restrictions have been lifted, yet this small gathering is a welcome pause from the sensory stimulation of the festival’s eventful lineup. “It was like ASMR,” someone whispers, as visitors shuffle out of the shop following the talk. Perhaps this could be interpreted that they weren’t focussing so much on the content of LaBelle’s presentation, though one can’t help but think that the artist himself would take a liking to this assessment of his mode of delivery. Beyond a comment on LaBelle’s manner of speaking, there’s something to be said of the comparison to ASMR videos, which emphasise closeness and intimacy in an age of fractured connection online. 

Holly Childs and Gediminas Žygus at Rewire (2022). Performance view. Photo by Stephan C. Kaffa. Image courtesy the artists + Rewire, The Hague.

Such moments of intimacy are peppered throughout the weekend, no less in a set on Friday evening by Myxomy, a new collaboration between James Ginzburg and Ziúr. Performing in Theater aan het Spui, the duo craft experimental pop balladry, spacious electroacoustics and frenetic sound design, punctuated by percussive interludes and rockish refrains. A highlight of which is a rendition of their track ‘My battery died’, with its broken pop and nervous energy, well encapsulated by the humorous anxiety of Ziúr’s vocals: “hey what’s the time? I hate looking at churches.” The venue provides a closeness between the audience and performers, not lost on Ziúr, who makes an emotional thank you to listeners between songs, stressing how personally important a return to the stage and performing has been for her.

At the same venue on Saturday evening, Holly Childs and Gediminas Žygus meld choreography, spoken word and moving image evoking anthropocene ecologies and planetary crises. With a live performance set to a screening of their new video ‘, Throw’ — made with Marijn Degenaar and Nicola Baratto — the work follows a poem written by Childs on a summer visit to Odesa in 2018. Being “a reflection on fleeting moments of desire entangled inextricably with an intoxicating sense of place” the “love letter to and from” the Ukrainian city has taken on a devastating new meaning after the Russian invasion, with a nostalgic sense of yearning and evocations of the Black Sea. The performance is sonically sutured with Žygus’ melodic synth arpeggiations and longing, melancholic electronics.

Golin at Rewire (2022). Performance view. Photo by Parcifal Werkman. Image courtesy the artist + Rewire, The Hague.

Later that night at PAARD, Golin presents her internet-native breed of hi-sheen pop, in a nod towards the cultivated identities of both idol culture and online identity. With elements of vocaloid, j-pop inflections and sharp choreography, Golin holds the crowd in thrall against bright LED lighting, translating the character seen in her digital concerts and music videos into an IRL pop idol.

Beyond club-oriented sets, Rewire covers a spectrum of performance modes. The Hague’s historic churches — Lutherse Kerk and Grote Kerk — host the extended saxophone and electronic atmospheres of Bendik Giske, and the expansive avant-pop of Eartheater. Nearby, the classical recital hall at Amare provides a site for avant-garde concert performances, including an engrossing performance of Ryoji Ikeda’s ‘100 cymbals’ with Les Percussions de Strasbourg. 

Evian Christ at Rewire (2022). Performance view. Photo by Stephan C. Kaffa. Image courtesy the artist + Rewire, The Hague.

In the superclub setting of PAARD’s main space, Evian Christ’s new AV show presents a sonic palette like that which populates his storied Trance Party events, elevating these euphoric atmospheres into a big room festival spectacle. There are huge washes of light, colour and strobing, accentuated with large rave stabs, buzzing synth strings and melodic vocal trance moments. With a show whose excesses seem to come from a place of authenticity and not irony, Christ’s performance demonstrates the best of a sound with which he has proven a lasting influence on the online underground this past decade.

The weekend evenings are rounded off with late night DJ sets and club environments. On Friday a pre-recorded set by Kenyan producer Slikback meshes high intensity electronics and white noise with the frantic glitch visuals of UK audiovisual artist Weirdcore, beaming via a large projection at PAARD. Hyperdub label-head Kode9 next launches into a deep dive of the hardcore continuum, with jittery breaks and sonic collisions. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the sweaty basement of arts hub The Grey Space in the Middle brings a welcoming feeling of DIY rave intimacy, with a pacy techno set from local Netherlands DJ Nelly.

SKY H1 & Mika Oki at Rewire (2022). Performance view. Photo by Jan Rijk. Image courtesy the artists + Rewire, The Hague.

After being starved of international concert atmospheres like Rewire for the past two years, feelings of overstimulation and a strange uncanniness can set in, in a European festival circuit that seems once taken for granted. As we return to live events feeling perhaps a little lost, their importance in community building soon tends to surface, due in no small part to the way in which live performances such as these foster environments of intimacy. As Rewire participant LaBelle has commented for his Communities in Movement sound art series, “intimacy is not only to come close to things, but to know of others in ways that profoundly shape one’s disposition and sensibility.”**

Rewire 2022 ran across various venues in The Hague, Netherlands, April 7 to 10, 2022.

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Eerie surrounds, pandemic gothic & collective delirium in the SHOOCK! L’Estasi di Sinto, Jacqueline e Mara group show presented by merzbau

29 March 2021
Garments by Junkie Foxx in SHOOCK! L’estasi di Sinto, Jacqueline e Mara (2021). Installation view. Image courtesy the artists + mrzb, Turin.

SHOOCK! L’Estasi di Sinto, Jacqueline e Mara, a group exhibition presented by merzbau (mrzb), was on at Lungo Stura Lazio, Turin, on February 6.

Featuring garment works on discarded mannequins by Anna Bolina, Good & Bad, mrzb and Junkie Foxx in the eerie surrounds of an abandoned club, the show evokes a sense of pandemic gothic. Also featuring text contributions by Ivan Cheng and Rada Koželj, as well as mixes by Kelman Duran, Golin, Trans Mom, Gigo8931, and Moody Monday, the exhibition creates “unstable forms and unforeseen meanings” in a space of “gargantuan collective delirium.”**

The SHOOCK! L’Estasi di Sinto, Jacqueline e Mara, group exhibition presented by merzbau, was on at Turin’s Lungo Stura Lazio, on February 6, 2021.

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Holding space: Mitte’s Traumabarundkino hybrid program disrupts the rapidly gentrifying map of Berlin from the eye of the storm

27 November 2019

As goes the age-old adage about any one place where you stand still for long enough, Berlin isn’t what it used to be. It’s a city that had seen countless regime changes since it was founded in the 13th century (not mentioning the three in the 30 years between World War I and II) long before it was synonymous with the emancipatory club culture that occupied the abandoned power stations, warehouses and office buildings post-reunification. Within the contemporary reality of accelerated capital, however, the very vibrant art and music scenes that have flourished around these often industrial or working-class areas has succumbed to the common cancer of gentrification and corporate crawl. Where once there were cooperatives, are now shared workspaces; where there used to be squats, now stand well-appointed pre-war apartments for rent on Airbnb.

Curl @ Traumabarunkino for 3hd Festival: ‘Fluid Wor(l)ds’ (2019). Performance view. Photo by Ink Agop. Courtesy Creamcake, Berlin.

At one and a half years old, Traumabarundkino does something different. It’s barely six months older than the new build on the old railway yard where it’s situated—between the Hauptbanhof central train station and government district of Berlin-Mitte—and yet it still holds space for the dynamic underground community it both supports and promotes. Wedged between a billiard hall, an architecture firm and a CrossFit centre, the relatively new hybrid venue has come to represent a haven of the old Berlin within the corporatised urban development around it since June 2018. The bar and cinema played host to 3hd Festival’s club night and screening program in October this year, where musicians and producers, artists and filmmakers performed and screened work in the dimly lit and grated interior. Hyph11E, bod [包家巷] and Sophie presented DJ sets, while Yen Tech, Curl and Akinola Davis Jr. played live in the encompassing multidisciplinary environment located on the East Berlin border.

Away from the usual subcultural centres of Neukölln and Kreuzberg, the diverse programming of Traumabarundkino has seen it collaborate with a spectrum of creative organisations and artists. It spans progressive showcases by CTM, Room 4 Resistance and LSDXOXO‘s Floorgasm event series, and the more established avant-garde of musicians like Alva Noto, Anne-James Chaton and New Age modular synth legend Suzanne Ciani. In its short history, coucou chloé, Golin, Faka and Giant Swan; Juliana Huxtable, Ziúr, Angel-Ho and Gabber Modus Operandi have played, along with a special event by Amnesia Scanner, Bill Kouligas and Harm Van Den Dorpel‘s Lexachast project. More recently, London-based producer Klein landed for the Berlin leg of her Lifetime album tour with Australian Bedouin Records artist Corin and Objects Limited affiliate Rui Ho. The list goes on.

Suzanne Ciani (2019). Performance view. Photo by Isabel O’Toole. Courtesy Traumabarundkino, Berlin.

Traumabarundkino’s relative isolation from the distinct networks and closed communities of East Berlin’s underground allows it to explore art removed of its usual context and in opposition to the venue’s very corporate environs outside. While the nearby Quartier Heidestrasse describes its mission as a “sustainable and future-proof” centre with all the amenities, this subversive pocket applies a similarly multipurpose approach to serving its entirely non-conformist ends. With an eye for running it independently in the near future, Traumabarundkino’s developing film program has screened Zach Blas’ rumination on internet-enabled state oppression and accelerated capitalism in ‘Contra-Internet: Jubilee 2033’. Artists Constant Dullaart and Jesper Just have shown work too, while queer dance and fashion has also found a home within the unconventional confines of the bunker-like space on the margins.

In reverence to this spirit of community, collaboration and survival in the face of capitalism’s neo-colonial imperative, Traumabarundkino will be presenting a night of contrasts headlined by ‘Birmingham sound’ industrial techno producer Surgeon’s The Transcendence Orchestra project with Daniel Bean on December 13. Their ambient drone uses electronics alongside esoteric instruments to explore its effect on consciousness, in the same way that Caterina Barbieri and Carlo Maria Amadio’s Punctum support looks at perception within minimal composition and analogue synths. Beirut-born, Chicago-raised Club Chai artist Thoom reflects on the constantly shifting landscape of the politically volatile Lebanese capital through her tense constructions of Arabic percussion crossing themes of Midwest American industry. Closing with a specialist DJ set from sound artist and composer Hatam, the event is just one of many evidences that the radical potential of art is still there, you just have to look harder to find it.**

The Transcendence Orchestra, Punctum, Thoom & Hatam perform Berlin’s Traumabarundkino on December 13, 2019.

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