Trauma Bar und Kino presents Songs for Attunement, an “exhibition of live works” featuring durational performances on July 1 and 3.
With performative installations from six artists including Colin Self, Iceboy Violet and Steven Warwick, the project will immerse Trauma Bar und Kino in activations spanning spoken word, movement and electronics. Also featuring Golin, Lil Asaf and Stine Janvin, the events explore the terms ‘attunement’ and ‘enaction’—borrowed from psychology and biology—to dissolve barriers of traditional musical performance. As noted in the press release: “Without beginning or end, and without the separation of “stage”, visitors can engage with the artists (and vice-versa) with no predictable linearity or outcome. The live works function individually, but also as a whole, creating a sonic/performative ecosystem, with the body and the voice both medium and artwork.”
Steven Warwick is releasing album MOI on Berlin’s PAN on November 8, with an exclusive stream of the LP premiering on AQNB today. The Berlin-based artist and producer officially switched from his Heatsick moniker with 2016’s Nadir, which opened up his approach and sound to a more ambient direction, along with a focus on vocals.
That concentration on Warwick’s lyrical cheek continues with the new record, where lead single ‘Open Fire Hydrant’ delivers the producer’s wicked social observations in devastating couplets over crunching, rhythmic garage percussion: “social interaction/ feels like a transaction” or “such a metrosexual/ more like heterosexual”.
Including titles like ‘Kaleidoscope’, ‘Consolatio’ and ‘Danke’ (featuring influential artist Josephine Pryde), the rest of the record carries on this impulse towards trend-busting both sonically and conceptually. That’s whether it’s in the lo-fi trance mimesis—along with trap-like clicks and syncopations—on ‘Salvation’, or the broken beats and synth sweep melodies of drum n bass revivalism in ‘Over There’.**
“Right now, we could be anywhere and I think that’s a really good feeling,” says producer, musician and artist Steven Warwick, in a German shopping centre in the Berlin suburb of Neukölln. “I’m in Hermannplatz but I don’t feel like I am. It’s because you only see the top of the buildings. It feels like you’re in Paris,” he adds chuckling, “which is cool.” Warwick is wandering through his interview location of choice — a once modern 1920s department store, now a modest mall called Karstadt — talking about some of the inspiration for his latest album Nadir.
Dropped digitally and by surprise by PAN on November 18, the record is billed as a ‘mix tape’ and is released sans Warwick’s usual musical moniker, Heatsick, which last surfaced as part of the vinyl-album release Re-Engineering,almost three years ago to the day in 2013. “Around that time, someone passed away and I had no time to process it and it didn’t stop and I wasn’t allowed, I mean, I had to function,” he says about the death of someone close that lead to a period of grief postponed, while promoting and touring Re-Engineering, as well as working on various other visual art projects. “It wasn’t until last year when I actually had some time to process what had happened, and then this year has been bleak.”
Carrying on from the release of Nadir, Warwick now shares “Snapchat-style” video for the song ‘CTFO’ (web-slang for “chill the fuck out”), which was shot on an iPhone and features the emoji-art, fast-cuts and squiggly pixel lines recognisable to anyone familiar with the popular image messaging app. “The song is about miscommunication so it felt pertinent,” he writes in an email about the video which features Warwick wandering through this same mall where our interview takes place. “What I like about Karstadt is it isn’t artisanal. If I come in here and feel relaxed, it’s because I don’t have to think about the over-curation of the space.”
The ambient, yet urgent ‘The Mezzanine’ follows its pulsing synth sweeps with the deep-voiced spoken-word of the artist himself delivering the droll quip, “neon signs float by,/ whilst I curate my eye roll”. That track, like many others on Nadir,evokes the numb senselessness of shock, except that it has the familiarity of a lived, daily reality for most of us. “Feeling alone/charging my phone,” bounces album closer ‘Millennial Vague’ on a spiralling and spare sound of plucking strings.
‘CTFO’, meanwhile, rolls on an anxiety-driven loop, expressing some sort of analysis paralysis while the dialogue continually contradicts itself: “why you call/ you know that i’m not answering/ why hang up/ you know that i’ve got no credit.” It’s a song that evokes a feeling that’s in opposition to the calm of walking around the Karstadt top floor buffet on a rainy autumn afternoon. There are decorated ice cream portions in a cooler, a chilled fruit display with melons, apples, oranges, a pineapple, and a chalkboard with text that Warwick translates from German as “wine is bottled poetry.” Amongst the potted trees and benches of a laptop-working area, there features a wall-length mural of EU landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Gaudí’s Park Güell, and the Millennium Wheel. “It’s the European dream, right here. Maybe that’s why I like it.”
I’ve actually never been in this building before, when did you discover it?
SW: In the summer. I didn’t know about the rooftop cafe until the summer when a friend said he was there.
Is there any discomfort you feel in a space like this?
SW: No, I actually really like it. It’s just very ‘as is’. It’s very matter-of-fact and I don’t have to think about if I’m making a decision by coming here. It’s kind of ‘over,’ in a way.
‘Over’ in what sense?
SW: Well, it doesn’t feel ‘curated.’ I don’t think I’m going to run into anyone I know here. I feel like I’m in this strange German middle class provincial film.We literally could be anywhere right now. We could be in a Biennial. We could be in any city. We could be anywhere, it’s great [laughs].
It’s like going to McDonald’s anywhere in the world because it’s always the same.
SW: Yeah [laughs]. I mean, yeah, well it’s reaffirming. People like familiarity don’t they? I’ve been travelling less this year in comparison to previous years. I’ve spent a lot of time in Berlin and when I was in Los Angeles I pretty much spent my time there. I didn’t travel much, I just lived and worked in one space, and I kind of liked it.
Where did you record ‘Nadir’?
SW: I started recording it in 2015 so was on and off for a year. It started in LA during a residency [Villa Aurora], which was in a building 10 times larger than I’m used to and then in a tiny box room downtown. I wrote a bit on sofas in New York and finished up in Berlin.
How did these places influence you and your work?
SW: My interest in the Californian desert is society’s fantasy of the retreat; the great outdoors, the desire for danger, authenticity, solitude. But this is a paradox as luxury, like the latest models of cars offering a tech savvy version of a camper van, still rely on state of the art technology to deliver the outdoor experience. A skylight for a bunk to look out at the stars. Outdoors culture and ‘self care’, or wellness retreats are prevalent in both California and also Germany, not mentioning the Californian desert’s influence on tech culture be it Silicon Valley or Burning Man Festival.
As a travelling producer, or musician, what does it do to your psyche, all that time spent in airports? There’s a loneliness and alienation in that that’s palpable.
SW: Of course, but I don’t think you have to travel to sense that because we can come here. It’s just that places are becoming more like that. I mean, you know, you have hospitals which were rebuilt to resemble airports.
I was thinking about how historically vital places, cultural centres like Spitalfields market in London, for example, retain this identity and yet have been totally subsumed by concrete and chain stores. It says something about the drive of capital which needs to destroy and rebuild in order to function. There’s a Subway on Brick Lane now.
SW: There’s a Subway there now? [laughs] I mean, you could say that about a Wetherspoons pub. It changes the function. In Berlin they want to rebuild the palace, which used to be the Palast der Republik but originally it was the Hohenzollernand now they want to rebuild it but only the façade and house a shopping mall.
In Poland the Communist Headquarters in Warsaw became the Stock Exchange.
SW: Yes, in Berlin there’s the building where Karl Liebknecht gave a talk – one of the legendary talks of the Weimar Republic – is now a business school. Politics does crazy things to buildings [laughs].
It is interesting that you say politics does crazy things to buildings just after mentioning this one being converted to a business school, especially at a point where there seems to be zero distinction between politics and economics.
SW: I think business has replaced politics.
Even with the fact the UK exchange rate has been fluctuating like crazy because of a political decision [Brexit].
SW: I don’t even know if it’s political. I think it’s people creating false narratives of paranoia, post-modern narratives of something that never existed. Everyone knows that these things never existed. There was never a better time but people have to pretend there was and then some people start to believe that. But I’d say that’s ideology, I don’t know if it’s political.
Would you say the album is a response to a certain climate or feeling?
SW: Yeah because it’s now. It’s happening now. Do you know what I mean? It’s not a direct commentary. It’s not a record about something, it’s just a record which I’ve made in this time, which happens to have a certain set of conditions.
So everyone is kind of feeling pretty sad right now, was everyone ever feeling happy?
SW: Maybe people were just on Prozac [laughing], and it wore off. Things could always be worse, couldn’t they?**
The artist and producer also known as Heatsickwill join writer Khan in presenting their research into some seminal X-Files episodes in relation to 90s internet culture, and paranoia in the “American networked imaginary” during the Clinton era.
Images, clips, and ephemera compiled for a short film in development will be presented, along with the psychological anxieties of the time they appear to represent: “Aliens replaced Communism, and fear of ghosts, and the paranormal prefaced our current Islamophobic climate, with deregulated neoliberalism continually hovering, like an invisible man in the room.”
Last Friday, on March 4, aqnb editor Jean Kay, and Video in Common (ViC) founder Caroline Heron visited Berlin’s Import Projects to present a screening and short discussion with the title, ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ —inspired by the William Gibson interview quote from an article in The Economist.
As harbinger to an ongoing collaboration with Import, we shared some of the inspiration behind our ongoing video editorial partnership, available to view at the ViC YouTube account, with a selection of films that also address the theme.
At a time when it is becoming increasingly apparent that the global and democratising potential of the internet has been and continues to be restricted by surveillance, commercialisation and imperial neglect, the aim of the ‘The Future Is Here, It’s Just Not Evenly Distributed’ screening was to explore its implications on art and artists on a political and economic, social and personal level. Where Rezaire advocates for challenging the visual aesthetics of exploitative structures and narratives of a western-centric internet via projects like WikiAfrica in her ‘AFRO CYBER RESISTANCE’ video essay, Schmoetzer presents the insipid effects of branding and corporatisation on mediated experience in ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’. And while Al Qadiri questions the construction of narrative fictions throughout history up to the newly established “heritage of oil” in the Gulf and its alliances with a largely English-based web and economic culture, Warwick explores an imaged reality through Google Maps renderings of the Californian landscape that teems with a history that’s couched in “dotcom neoliberalism”.
The conversation to follow touched on some of these themes, as well as the multi-dimensional nature of so-called ‘internet culture’ and the necessity for open discourse and communication across platforms —online, offline, and beyond.
Below are the full videos and excerpts of the films screened in their running order:
London-based Lithuanian artist Ulijona Odišarija presents a half-hour mix of music across media distribution platforms to produce an unsettling mash-up of mainstream popular culture, tourist videos and self-made social media celebrities to express a fragmented worldview through the ‘eyes’ of the web host.
Monira Al Qadiri: ‘Portraits of the End of the World’ (2015). [7:46min].
Amsterdam-via-Japan-and-Beirut-based Kuwaiti artist Monira Al Qadiri explores history as construction in a contemporary milieu of global capital and linguistic imperialism. In an age of networked communication, driven by the internet, the role of the English language and corporate branding becomes central to economic development and rapid cultural change in regions like the Gulf.
Johannesburg-based, French-Guyanese-Danish artist Tabita Rezaire explores the social, cultural and political context of online and networked art hegemony as one replicating ongoing colonial interests and othering of African narratives. Using Wiki Africa as a starting point, she presents an argument for a critical awareness of the world wide web as one controlled by exploitative western concerns and a need for digital resistance.
Steven Warwick: ‘A Postcard from LA‘ (2015). [7:23 min].
In this part anecdote, part observation video piece, Berlin-based British artist Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) relays his experience of Los Angeles and its surrounds while on residency at German-US exchange programme Villa Aurora in 2015. Here he takes the viewer on a tour of the Californian region via Google Maps and muses on the self-actualisation narratives and neoliberal ideology that dominate its Silicon Valley tech culture.
Maximilian Schmoetzer, ‘Preliminary Material for 2022’ (2015). [9:17min].
Berlin-based German artist Maximilian Schmoetzer presents the dominant narrative of capitalism and corporate culture through a visually striking video where the empty absurdity of branded content, advertising taglines and entertainment tropes threaten to engulf human experience and potentially destroy its very existence.
J.G. Biberkopf performance at Sonic Acts 2016. [2:00 min, excerpt]. Courtesy Sonic Acts, Amsterdam.
Vilnius-based Lithuanian artist J.G. Biberkopf interrogates the images and technologies of the so-called Anthropocene era through live A/V performance. His work defines the mediated human experience through conceptual interpretations of speculative ecologies, hyperformalism and new materialism in a world of online information.
Hannah Black, ‘Fall of Communism’ (2014). 5:23 min. ‘All My Love All My Love’ (2015). 6:34 min.
Berlin-based British artist-writer Hannah Black explores what Rhizome describes as “the conditioning of bodies, or the condition of being bodied”. Her two video works tell of the tension between the interior and exterior self through text and moving image, where theory and autobiography, intimacy and commodity, desire and identity become conflated.
Neutral is a text-heavy tour de force, revealing an apathetic subset of Berliners, the so-called ‘staylienz’ who, intending to visit for a short time, end up living in the city for a decade “sat on a beanbag, splifta in one hand”. Musician-artist Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) develops a series of similarly catchy neologisms throughout his solo exhibition at Exile, running January 30 to March 5. The central narrative ‘NEONLIBERAL’ is a tale of two bubbly Brits –Spirulina and Chorella –who embark on a spontaneous road trip from London to Berlin in their driverless car to check out the hottest new nightclub, the next Berghain, Club Nutri. Thinking they’ve arrived at the venue, they find themselves trapped in a maximum security prison-vessel for Jeremy Corbyn supporters, drifting offshore. In a mounting procession of absurdities, they decide that the only way to free themselves is to take “Testo Gel”, grow Appalachian folk singer beards and bore the guards to sleep with their prosaic music. Success. They make it to Club Nutri and are admitted after only a nine-hour wait. Disappointed by how easy it is to get in, they immediately turn back for home. Berlin. Is. So. Over.
The screenplay is hand-scrawled on a chalkboard in the gallery, taking up the length of a whole wall. The only other thing in the large room is a bed, a blow-up mattress in the centre of the floor, sheets printed with an unambiguous message: “CAN’T BE ARSED”. Complementing the ‘NEONLIBERAL’ characters’ names, a bag of fresh large-leaf spinach stands in for the plump pillow at the head of the bed. Visitors are invited to sit or lie on the bed to read the script –a strange reversal of the usual lazy experience: instead of watching a projected film we are confronted with a wall of densely-packed script and only our imaginations to add colour to the story, in this almost clinically neutral setting. The show’s other props –houseplants, a pair of sneakers, Heatsick’s own grated u-bahn platform record sleeves –corroborate the oozing neutrality, comfort, placid health goth style, and lack of ambition until we feel almost at home in our own spacious, minimal Berlin apartments, wandering between rooms unfazed and uninspired.
A text by philosopher Robin MacKay accompanying the show elaborates the theoretical underpinning of Warwick’s self-mocking visual shtick. Mackay’s biting essay considers the cultural dominance of the word space. Places are imbued with creative capital in their transformation to spaces: the project space, the research space, the gallery space. This neutralizing word is unparalleled in the art world, a strong signifier for a transitory and white-washed cultural landscape, devoid of meaning and positioned towards boundless potentiality. While a certain Berlin lifestyle (and the reverence afforded to it abroad) is critiqued, Neutral acknowledges a more structural problem. The insatiable desire for newness propels the creative class toward cities like Berlin, but the by-product of their appearance is an emptying out of substance –they seem to take everything and add nothing.
Neutral, the exhibition, and the staged living ‘space’ in which it is enveloped, are united in a “serene streamlined integration”. The cybernetic nomad is at home here, in this exhibition and in this city: futily suffusing it with creative desires and energies until they are left hollow, a “superfood-guzzling grindr-swiping concept-hungry pitch-shifting multi-desking gentry for whom every glancing encounter is a creative opportunity”. Faced with Warwick and Mackay’s eminently quotable texts, the art critic (a cultural parasite, guilty as charged) wonders to herself for the umpteenth time: “Do you really have anything to add?” **
Steven Warwick‘s NEUTRAL solo exhibition is on at Berlin’s Exile gallery, opening January 30 and running to March 5.
The show announcement comes accompanied by a text called ‘Figuring ‘Space” by philosopher and editor Robin Mackay, a detailed examination of the notion of ‘space’ as part of the “architecture–retail–real-estate–contemporary art complex”, and its inherently parasitic nature of “artisanal violence”:
“There is nothing that Berlin really stands for, except being cheap and cool, and drunk and druggie…it’s the potential to shape something, says a tech pioneer of his proposed ‘startup campus’ in the city.”
Berlin-based artist and musician, Warwick (aka Heatsick) works largely with immersive multimedia installations and performances, releasing music on PAN, and more recently presenting a play called Neonliberalat Cafe OTO in London.
Expect, perhaps, the history and development of East Berlin’s squat culture in a neoliberal context to play a role in the NEUTRAL exhibition, described by Mackay as “scenes that became photopathological simulacra laminated onto their own re-re-re-representation”.
The latter was featured as part of a two part video serieson the artist, one of which is embedded below, and may come as a fine supplement to Friday’s “laboratory-cum-club” presenting new works in progress and a temporary Cafe OTO rebrand as “Club Nutri”. On Saturday, expect a play called Neonliberal, in which “a group of Superfoods become animated as characters and unravel their journey in Neoliberal Fortress Europe 2k15”.
In the second video instalment featuring Steven Warwick, aka Heatsick, the Berlin-based artist talks with John Bosco Burns about his growing body of work, key influences and the threat of digesting philosophical texts while on a hectic tour across the southern hemisphere to ones sanity. It’s an experience, though, that’s come to inform Warwick’s work such as his ‘Extended Play’ (2013-) live performances, along with their explorations of physicality and the abstraction of time and space.
Through this conversation the divergent line between Warwick’s range of interests and method of exploration becomes evident. As already demonstrated in his album Re-engineering, released on PANin 2013, and the site specific response of Re-Engineering Villa Aurora (2015) –coming live and direct from the home of the “The Californian Ideology” –Warwick researches the conditions of ‘constructed space’. That is, the responsive and ever-permeating socio-political spaces of contemporary neoliberal existence.
However, in his own ‘spaces’ –those brought about to reflect and explore these ideas –are not as contrived as the subject matter might lead you to think. Warwick’s method is more akin to early participatory art practice and experimental theatre, where situations are open and allowed to ‘unfold’. It is through his juxtaposition of these parallel but wholly different means of producing space that Steve Warwick brings us to a very human moment in the alienation of mediated experience, with our firmly planted on the dance floor. **
In his works Extended Play and Re-Engineering, Steven Warwick (aka Heatsick) loosely constructs potential situations that unfold into a sculptural experience of a moment, an idea, or a place. He then manipulates these plastic environments: slowing down or speeding up flows to explore all the events that exist in-between.
Recently, Warwick was an artist-in-residency at the Villa Aurora in Los Angeles for 3 months, during which he spent time travelling around the city and its surrounds. Towards the end of his stay, he staged a performance (which included playing the Villa’s newly-restored organ) and released an accompanying soundtrack, ‘Reengineering Villa Aurora‘, which depicts the strangeness of LA, edged between the expanses of the Pacific ocean and the Mojave desert.
As an extension of this documentation, we asked Warwick to write us a ‘Letter from America’—to tell us about his experiences there that have come to influence his work.
In this video, which is part anecdote, part observation, Warwick takes us on a tour of a place where the sun shines almost relentlessly and the days blur together. In this hazy perfection, a sense of dread — extensively portrayed in writing by inhabitants such as Octavia Butler and in film by characters like Edwards Scissorhands — is never far away.
This video is part 7 in the series produced in collaboration with Video in Common exploring art and artists from cities around the networked world — published at the start of every second week from March to December, 2015.