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Indian E-music – The right mix of Indian Vibes… » festivals

Sounds like summer: the ten best niche music festivals

Delivered... Kate Hutchinson, Ammar Kalia, Tara Joshi, Jude Rogers | Scene | Sat 15 Jun 2019 3:00 pm

Festival Fomo? Fear not. The big ones are sold out, but here’s our pick of the smaller gatherings that still have tickets

Eridge Park, Kent, 21-23 June

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Mary Anne Hobbs: ‘I’ve been given licence to dream’

Delivered... John Still | Scene | Sat 15 Jun 2019 6:00 am

Queens of the Electronic Underground finds the DJ curating a line-up featuring Holly Herndon, Jlin and Aïsha Devi

Curating a cohesive line-up with international artists can be a challenge. Sometimes, things fall into place so quickly it seems that serendipity had a hidden hand in proceedings. “These things are often very complex and require a lot of dialogue, because of the way the world works. It’s a remarkable moment when something like this coalesces so quickly,” says Mary Anne Hobbs of her Queens of the Electronic Underground show at the 02 Ritz. “All of the artists involved immediately wanted to do it. It was beautiful for me, with everyone so excited to play alongside the others. We all wondered: ‘Why hasn’t this happened before?’”

Related: On my radar: Mary Anne Hobbs’s cultural highlights

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Get on one, comrade! The story of Russia’s post-Soviet rave scene

Delivered... Seth Jacobson | Scene | Fri 7 Jun 2019 4:36 pm

For a brief period in the early 90s, anything seemed possible for the pioneers of a new youth culture. But as a new film reveals, things didn’t turn out quite as hoped

In 1991, the Soviet Union finally crumbled under the weight of its own contradictions. As the walls came tumbling down, it looked as though a space was finally opening up for young people to express themselves after the crushing conformity of the communist years.

“For us it was awesome when the Soviet Union fell, because we could fool around,” says artist Illya Chichkan. “And that’s exactly what we did. We experimented with psychedelics and psychotropics. We tried everything.”

Related: Pop, glamour and gangsters: Boris Yeltsin's new rave Russia

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‘We’re not beard-strokers!’ Wigflex, Nottingham’s ‘rudeboy techno’ night

Delivered... Martin Guttridge-Hewitt | Scene | Mon 13 May 2019 3:47 pm

With its hotchpotch of electro, breakbeat and garage, Wigflex has become a beacon in Nottingham where ‘there’s not loads of things to do, so people come and forget their troubles’

When soulful singer-songwriter Yazmin Lacey first met Lukas Cole, AKA Lukas Wigflex, she told him his party didn’t sound appealing. “He’s like, ‘Yeah come down!’ And I told him I wasn’t really into that kind of music,” she says. “There’s not a lot of people I know running nights that would stand there at a house party and take that on the chin.”

Accepting a free ticket anyway, Lacey put her theory to the test, and lost. Still not always sold on techno, she’s now a Wigflex regular, lured on to the dancefloor by the open attitude and lack of black-clad affectation Nottingham’s most respected nocturnal session is known for.

Related: 10 of the best city music festivals in the UK for 2019

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‘We’re not beard-strokers!’ Wigflex, Nottingham’s ‘rudeboy techno’ night

Delivered... Martin Guttridge-Hewitt | Scene | Mon 13 May 2019 3:47 pm

With its hotchpotch of electro, breakbeat and garage, Wigflex has become a beacon in Nottingham where ‘there’s not loads of things to do, so people come and forget their troubles’

When soulful singer-songwriter Yazmin Lacey first met Lukas Cole, AKA Lukas Wigflex, she told him his party didn’t sound appealing. “He’s like, ‘Yeah come down!’ And I told him I wasn’t really into that kind of music,” she says. “There’s not a lot of people I know running nights that would stand there at a house party and take that on the chin.”

Accepting a free ticket anyway, Lacey put her theory to the test, and lost. Still not always sold on techno, she’s now a Wigflex regular, lured on to the dancefloor by the open attitude and lack of black-clad affectation Nottingham’s most respected nocturnal session is known for.

Related: 10 of the best city music festivals in the UK for 2019

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Exploring machine learning for music, live: Gamma_LAB AI

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 5 Apr 2019 4:56 pm

AI in music is as big a buzzword as in other fields. So now’s the time to put it to the test – to reconnect to history, human practice, and context, and see what holds up. That’s the goal of the Gamma_LAB AI in St. Petersburg next month. An open call is running now.

Machine learning for AI has trended so fast that there are disconnects between genres and specializations. Mathematicians or coders may get going on ideas without checking whether they work with musicians or composers or musicologists – and the other way around.

I’m excited to join as one of the hosts with Gamma_LAB AI partly because it brings together all those possible disciplines, puts international participants in an intensive laboratory, and then shares the results in one of the summer’s biggest festivals for new electronic music and media. We’ll make some of those connections because those people will finally be together in one room, and eventually on one live stage. That investigation can be critical, skeptical, and can diverge from clichéd techniques – the environment is wide open and packed with skills from an array of disciplines.

Natalia Fuchs, co-producer of GAMMA Festival, founder of ARTYPICAL and media art historian, is curating Gamma_LAB AI. The lab will run in May in St. Petersburg, with an open call due this Monday April 8 (hurry!), and then there will be a full AI-stage as a part of Gamma Festival.

Image: Helena Nikonole.

Invited participants will delve into three genres – baroque, jazz, and techno. The idea is not just a bunch of mangled generative compositions, but a broad look at how machine learning could analyze deep international archives of material in these fields, and how the work might be used creatively as an instrument or improviser. We expect participants with backgrounds in musicianship and composition as well as in coding, mathematics, and engineering, and people in between, also researchers and theorists.

To guide that work, we’re working to setup collaboration and confrontation between historical approaches and today’s bleeding-edge computational work. Media artist Helena Nikonole became conceptual artist of the Lab. She will bring her interests in connecting AI with new aesthetics and media, as she has exhibited from ZKM to CTM to Garage Museum of Contemporary Art. Dr. Konstantin Yakovlev joins as one of Russia’s leading mathematicians and computer scientists working at the forefront of AI, machine learning, and smart robotics – meaning we’re guaranteed some of the top technical talent. (Warning: crash course likely.)

Russia has an extraordinarily rich culture of artistic and engineering exploration, in AI as elsewhere. Some of that work was seen recently at Berlin’s CTM Festival exhibition. Helena for her part has created work that, among others, applies machine learning to unraveling the structure of birdsong (with a bird-human translator perhaps on the horizon), and hacked into Internet-connected CCTV cameras and voice synthesis to meld machine learning-generated sacred texts with … well, some guys trapped in an elevator. See below:

Bird Language

deus X mchn

I’m humbled to get to work with them and in one of the world’s great musical cities, because I hope we also get to see how these new models relate to older ones, and where gaps lie in music theory and computation. (We’re including some musicians/composers with serious background in these fields, and some rich archives that haven’t been approached like this ever before.)

I came from a musicology background, so I see in so-called “AI” a chance to take musicology and theory closer to the music, not further away. Google recently presented a Bach ”doodle” – more on that soon, in fact – with the goal of replicating some details of Bach’s composition. To those of us with a music theory background, some of the challenges of doing that are familiar: analyzing music is different from composing it, even for the human mind. To me, part of why it’s important to attempt working in this field is that there’s a lot to learn from mistakes and failures.

It’s not so much that you’re making a robo-Bach – any more than your baroque theory class will turn all the students into honorary members of the extended Bach family. (Send your CV to your local Lutheran church!) It’s a chance to find new possibilities in this history we might not have seen before. And it lets us test (and break) our ideas about how music works with larger sets of data – say, all of Bach’s cantatas at once, or a set of jazz transcriptions, or a library full of nothing but different kick drums, if you like. This isn’t so much about testing “AI,” whatever you want that to mean – it’s a way to push our human understanding to its limits.

Oh yes, and we’ll definitely be pushing our own human limits – in a fun way, I’m sure.

A small group of participants will be involved in the heart of St. Petersburg from May 11-22, with time to investigate and collaborate, plus inputs (including at the massive Planetarium No. 1).

But where this gets really interesting – and do expect to follow along here on CDM – is that we will wind up in July with an AI mainstage at the globally celebrated Gamma Festival. Artist participants will create their own AI-inspired audiovisual performances and improvisations, acoustic and electronic hybrids, and new live scenarios. The finalists will be invited to the festival and fully covered in terms of expenses.

So just as I’ve gotten to do with partners at CTM Festival (and recently with southeast Asia’s Nusasonic), we’re making the ultimate laboratory experiment in front of a live audience. Research, make, rave, repeat.

The open call deadline is fast approaching if you think you might want to participate.

Facebook event

To apply:
Participation at GAMMA_LAB AI is free for the selected candidates. Send a letter of intent and portfolio to aiworkshop@artypical.com by end of day April 8, 2019. Participants have to bring personal computers of sufficient capacity to work on their projects during the Laboratory. Transportation and living expenses during the Laboratory are paid by the participants themselves. The organizers provide visa support, as well as the travel of the best Lab participants to GAMMA festival in July.

The post Exploring machine learning for music, live: Gamma_LAB AI appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Moog teases spectral shift invention for Moogfest

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Fri 22 Mar 2019 5:12 pm

Moogfest is inbound, and that means some new, limited quantity creation of the engineers at Moog. This year it’s a fascinating looking spectral shift module.

The packed festival season is inbound, and whereas that once meant bands and crowd pleasers, now there’s a lot of advanced technology and electronic music – from SONAR to Superbooth to MUTEK to GAMMA to Moogfest, among others.

And Moogfest with a renowned synth builder in the name, of course some of the hardware is also “headlining.” Moog this year haven’t even named their creation yet, but it seems there’s some spectral/vocoder (check the carrier knob) processing going on. They describe it thusly:

This year’s design (shown here patched into synthesizers from previous years’ Engineer Workshops) explores how electronic instruments create an analog of the human experience, speaking directly to the way in which physical circuits resonate within one’s self to create a “Spectral Shift”…

Well, watch:

I’m in another country this Moogfest, but if you splurge on an Engineer Pass, you get to make this and take it home with Moog calibration included. The lineup is filling out, too, with the likes of Daniel Miller, nd_baumecker, Jlin, Martin Gore, GAS, Mor Elian, and others (just to name a few favorites).



The post Moog teases spectral shift invention for Moogfest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Design, meet music: gorgeous graphic scores from LETRA / TONE fest

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Artists,Events,Scene | Thu 7 Mar 2019 7:11 pm

Nine designers created graphics scores. Next, nine musicians will interpret them. LETRA / TONE festival is one of the more compelling experiments in festival programming – an adventure in crossing media. Here’s what it looks like.

Now, in these here parts, we’ve been fans of visual-musical synesthesia, from live visuals and VJing to graphics. LETRA / TONE makes that connection in the score. Curator (and composer/musician) Hanno Leichtmann had the idea. Five years ago, I covered one of the earlier editions:

Pattern and Design: A 2-Day Festival Turns Vintage Type into Musical Scores

The gathering has since blossomed to include a wide arrange of international designers and big-name (and fringe) musical artists across various instruments. There’s a complete exhibition and loads of concerts this weekend.

And you never know quite what you’ll get, because it’s up to these artists to determine how to translate the visual ideas they’re given into performances. This being Berlin, there are some major electronic artists – modular electro duo Blotter Trax (Magda and T.B. Arthur), turntablist Dieb 13, JASSS, Nefertyti, and DEMDIKE STARE are all involved. But you also get pianist Magda Mayas, and Schneider TM takes to experimental guitar, composer and avant garde rocker Jimi Tenor. Hanno has not only paired artists with musicians, but produced some arranged musical marriages, too – commissioning Blotter Trax, pairing Nefertyti with Jimi Tenor.

Graphic scores come from Katja Gretzinger, Anke Fesel, Scott Massey, Daniela Burger, Stefan Gandl, Joe Gilmore, Sulki & Min, Julie Gayard, and T.S.Wendelstein.

To bring a bit of this festival to you, here’s a selection of images from past editions (and current sketches) to show the visual range. You can imagine yourself how you might make music from these.

And snippets of 2019:

To give you a feel of the music, some selected artists:


Demdike Stare:

Blotter Trax:

Nefertyti (bad video but… I’m enjoying this punk aesthetic here):

Facebook event if you’re in Berlin this weekend:


The post Design, meet music: gorgeous graphic scores from LETRA / TONE fest appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Michael Kiwanuka, Spiritualized and Metronomy to headline End of the Road festival

Delivered... Kate Nicholson | Scene | Thu 31 Jan 2019 9:00 am

Courtney Barnett and Jarvis Cocker also join lineup for eclectic West Country summer gathering

End of the Road has announced that Michael Kiwanuka, Metronomy and Spiritualized will be headlining the festival this year, hosted at Larmer Tree Gardens, on the Wiltshire-Dorset border, from 29 August to 1 September.

British soul musician Kiwanuka supported Adele on her world tour in 2011 and won the BBC’s Sound of 2012 poll; more recently won the 2017 Ivor Novello award for best song, for his politically engaged Black Man In a White World. This is his first major festival headline slot, and suggests new material will be released later this year.

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‘This cuts across society’: how singeli music went from Tanzania to the world

Delivered... Kate Hutchinson in Uganda | Scene | Mon 17 Dec 2018 2:30 pm

With up to 300 beats per minute, singeli could be the world’s most frenetic music. In Dar es Salaam, its creators explain how it helps to create a better life

On a neon-lit jetty overlooking the River Nile, a young Tanzanian DJ called Sisso is playing a bracing barrage of blips, bells and breakneck beats that could blast apart a heart-rate monitor. We are at Nyege Nyege, a pan-African festival in Uganda that curates contemporary club music from across the continent, and it’s the first time so many musicians from Tanzania have made it here. Sisso and his peers have taken a 30-hour bus journey and crossed two borders in order to play at the event. Their sets are being streamed live to the world via Boiler Room.

The music these Swahili speed freaks make is a street-level sound known as singeli. It has been ricocheting around the ghettos circling Dar es Salaam for almost 15 years, with unbridled synth lines, percussion pitch-shifted up to alien frequencies and super-speed lyrical flows.

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HQ: (I Feel So Mezzaniney) review – follow the warped French maids!

Delivered... Lyndsey Winship | Scene | Mon 10 Dec 2018 5:57 pm

Second Home, London
Disaffection trumps dynamism in Steven Warwick and Carlos Maria Romero’s site-responsive piece staged in a co-working space

The minimal electro beat ramps up and a gaggle of go-go dancers swivel their hips. Dressed like warped French maids in frilly wetsuits and heels (men and women alike), they are not dancing with joy, nor offering the hard sell of someone trying to persuade you to tuck a bank note in their knickers. But there is effort, no doubt about that. This is the unsexy sweat of work, and these workers are putting in their hours.

Part of the London contemporary music festival, this is a site-responsive piece by composer Steven Warwick and choreographer/dancer Carlos Maria Romero, a London-based Colombian mostly working in live art and queer politics.

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Wysing Polyphonic review – explosions in the sonic inventing shed

Delivered... Ben Beaumont-Thomas | Scene | Sun 2 Sep 2018 12:50 pm

Wysing Arts Centre, Cambridgeshire
Moor Mother and Paul Purgas curate an inspirational gathering where electronic artists, dancers and poets freely test the boundaries of expression

‘Noises of spoons!” I’m in an octagonal wooden structure that’s half Grand Designs man-shed, half denouement to a slasher movie, in a field in the Cambridgeshire countryside. Elaine Mitchener is kicking things off at Wysing Polyphonic, delivering scat poetry that’s as light, intricate and unmappable as rain falling on a roof. Alongside her is Neil Charles, tapping his double bass’s body like a faith healer, a tambourine tucked in its neck. Mitchener’s spoon mantra dissolves into stutters. She clicks shells and stones in her hands, as the bass fumbles and shuffles – the pair are trying to put something or other back in one piece.

This is one of the most valuable music festivals in the country – one that refuses, inspirationally, to put anything neatly together. Curated this year by avant-gardists Camae Ayewa (AKA Moor Mother) and Paul Purgas, it’s a loose study of corporeality and groove.

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Watch enchanting experimental live acts from Atonal’s control room

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Thu 30 Aug 2018 10:50 am

Berlin Atonal Festival wrapped up last week, and for all of the breathtaking impact of the power plant’s cavernous main room, as per usual, the sleeper hits came from the more intimate control room tucked next to the mainstage.

Once you’re done acting out your Homer Simpson fantasies on the controls, this room – staffed by the synthesis lovers of Schneidersladen – is home to more experimental acts and jam sessions and modular patching extravaganzas. And the crowd is different, too, more family style sound nerd reunion than festival scenesters.

Photo at top: Mark Verbos, modular builder, alongside Lady Starlight. Photo courtesy CTM Festival.

Our friends from FACT captured three performances. (Don’t watch on Facebook; that social network’s encoding is crap for some reason. YouTube seems fine.)

There were lots of great shows, but they also selected well with what they recorded, with two gorgeous ambient solo sets and one quirkier duo. (Also, anyone else noticed that laptops have just quietly reappeared alongside modulars? And why not – who cares what particular gear you’ve assembled, if you find some way to be expressive with it?)

There are some dropouts here and there, but it’s worth checking out anyway.

My favorite is object blue – all on Ableton Live/Push, but a kind of shuffled, irregular looping musique concrete:

London-based artist object blue has a bunch of great stuff in her discography:


Really digging this one, just out this year:

But then this is lovely, too, adding more vocal goodness, also a 2018 creation:

Hiro Kone (aka NYC’s Nicky Mao) is looking chill with her Elektrons and modulars, and with good reason – some chill sounds happening. Lounging in the control room, genau:

Nicky is one busy, multi-talented, insanely prolific touring musician. And she’s got a well-organized site to discover more of her music (we would all do well to learn from that, too… rarity these days):


She’s done a nice mix for Secret Thirteen recently too:


KILLER-OMA is the off-kilter, leftfield (and inter-generational) combo of Isao Suzuki and KILLER-BONG – yes, one bare chin on gear, and one long beard on contra bass.

More from them:

Check out their release on Bandcamp for Tokyo’s Black Smoker:


Mixed feelings about the live stream age, actually – and something to think about, as CDM revisits how to work with live performing friends. (I’d go for higher quality audio, no? Thoughts?) At the same time, a live stream is a nice place to introduce people, and it’s great to see what people are doing – if we can sort those occasional sound dropouts. Open to ideas for what you’d like to see, especially as a community of music makers.

The post Watch enchanting experimental live acts from Atonal’s control room appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

Creamfields review – inhibitions shed for sensory EDM overload

Delivered... Daniel Dylan Wray | Scene | Mon 27 Aug 2018 4:30 pm

Daresbury, Cheshire
With Eric Prydz, the Chainsmokers and Annie Mac providing beats from breakfast to bedtime, hedonistic energy was needed for the 20th anniversary of the dance festival – and the audience delivered

Celebrating its 20th year, the festival run by the famed Liverpool club night returns to capture the breadth of commercial-leaning dance music, from 90s trance stars to modern EDM giants.

Ex-professional football player Hannah Wants delivers pumping house on a Friday afternoon, and by the time of Green Velvet’s house and techno-stuffed set, the whole festival is bouncing harder than most manage at 4am. There’s no gradual build up to ease you in, just an on switch and an off switch; beats from breakfast until bedtime. This all-or-nothing approach seems to shed inhibitions, and creates a fiery feeling of hedonism from the audience who throw themselves into the party with infectious aplomb.

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Between art tech and techno, past and future, a view from Russia

Delivered... Peter Kirn | Scene | Mon 30 Jul 2018 6:19 pm

Gamma, the oversized electronic music and contemporary art event, has just wrapped in St. Petersburg, RU. We talk to Moscow-based curator Natalia Fuchs about transformations both historical and future in the realm of intermedia art and technology culture.

The world scene is starting to catch on that Gamma, held in impossibly sci-fi post-industrial setting, is a cultural firestarter. This year’s edition was both Gamma Festival and the Gamma_PRO conference. Gamma Festival is a massive packed weekend treading lines between club and experimental culture, digital art and techno, sometimes all at once, with diverse headliners like DVS1, Codex Empire, Cio D’or, Robert Lippok [Raster], ORPHX, Mike Parker, and then a rich lineup of artists from Russia’s own m_ivision and Arma17 collectives. Gamma_PRO had its own lineup of live acts – Hauschka, Deadbeat, Loscil, and others – but simultaneously gathered professional festival and curation programming including a first-time Russian collaboration with audiovisual festival giant MUTEK.

Here’s a taste of what it was like from the aftermovie:

Here, we get to talk to Gamma_PRO’s Natalia Fuchs, not only about Gamma, but about how Russia fits into the larger scene, and how its own audiovisual community is maturing and making connections outside the country. That in turn I think reveals a lot about how the global tribe of digital artists relate to one another and ever changing technological and societal change – particularly looking at this moment as we reach a generation’s distance from the fall of the USSR.

And if you only follow the geopolitical headlines, you might well miss cultural movements underway internationally, including how Russian artists can fit into that global scene. And in turn, it’s equally relevant to understand how Soviet-era artists communicated and shared ideas across the so-called Iron Curtain in decades past. Better understanding that work can also mean deeper, more technologically sophisticated, more advanced and relevant work now. (Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to make crappy uninformed media art, in other words, to warp the popular cliche.)

We’ve previously covered my own interest in that area, which I owe to an ongoing collaboration with Natalia:

Enter the trippy, fanciful world of Soviet light art studio Prometheus

So, what does this mean as an international curator based in Moscow (and working on projects far afield with partners like the Barbican in London or MUTEK in Montreal? And what has techno got to do with any of this? Let’s go deep into all those questions.

Peter: First, can you give us a little bit of your trajectory as a curator? What was your path to Gamma Festival, and what are your current projects?

Natalia: I work in the intersection of art and technology in Russia since 2002, since I graduated from my university and became a communications specialist in the field of culture for several international commercial brands. I was doing integrations in culture marketing for companies like IBM, Microsoft, Daimler Chrysler, Pioneer DJ, Fujitsu, and many others. Of course, that all was related to understanding what kind of upscale innovation you integrate with, and at some point I realized I am deep into art and technology in a way that requires an art degree and a complete change of professional approach. I felt that I could contribute a lot to the local artistic communities in Russia bringing together innovation, culture, and international connections; that’s why I moved for some years to Austria, where I got my degree in Media Art Histories, and was back to Moscow to circulate as new media researcher and international curator.

During my last five years in Russia, I was the founder and curator of the interdisciplinary program Polytech.Science.Art and international exhibitions including Ars Electronica co-productions at the Polytechnic Museum; then curator and deputy director at the National Center for Contemporary Arts, where I launched a platform for innovative art and technology. Since 2018, I’ve develop my own art practice – ARTYPICAL – being part of many international projects (such as with ZKM in Germany or Barbican in the UK) with my expertise in art and technology, and also emphasizing Post-Soviet states. Gamma Festival is one of the largest projects to which I contribute in Russia at the moment. It’s operated by m_division agency with absolutely fantastic production team.

How are you working with m_division to make this project come together? How did this particular program come together for this summer in St. Petersburg, combining all those different actors, international curators, musicians and artists?

We are partners with m_division to develop Gamma Festival in Saint Petersburg, and my art-practice is actually providing international focus to the Gamma_pro forum, special professional program launched this year. It was very successful from the very beginning. We got an amazing location for that – the legendary old Soviet film pavilion of Lenfilm studio – and we managed to have [Montreal-based] MUTEK as a featured festival for the AV showcase in the frame of Gamma_pro. We had speakers from Today’s Art, CTM Festival, V&A Museum, MOTA Museum, and many others. That was hard work and a great start, and I had never seen such a level of synergy of institutional, festival, artistic, commercial and non-commercial, independent entities in Russia before — that’s very honestly from my side. We have some plans for the future, especially in regards to an art program extension, and it all looks exciting. I personally would love to create a sustainable infrastructure for art communities behind Gamma Festival, and I’m happy to know that producers of the project are willing to support it with all the resources available.

St. Petersburg, setting for GAMMA.

St. Petersburg.

There’s of course a massive number of different artists, institutions, covering science and art, culture… how would you describe this larger picture? Is part of the idea to make this a bit blurry, to put everyone together and see what happens, both across the Russian and international scene? What do you hope they leave with?

I think Russia has a wrong image in terms of cultural policies: we are seen as very much a rigid and framed world. With Gamma Festival and basically with all the activities I run in Russia, I always try to make it clear that we’re part of the global community. And art and technology is that exactly intersection that gives us an opportunity to be connected despite global politics and issues. This is the way it actually existed even in the time of Iron Curtain – scientific advantages were spread in the professional communities, and we all were mentally attached to each other and kept a complex, in-depth exchange going. Now, researchers see that when digging deep into media archeologies, for instance. So I would love people to leave Russia and our festival with the feeling that we stay connected; and we are very much alike. I am in a way doing independent cultural policy for world peace using art and technology as a tool now.

There’s this notion of a creative class fueling Gamma, as with other international hubs – how would you relate that creative community in Russia to this sort of international tribe of artists? Do they retain their own culture? And, for that matter, is this a class that can expand, that other people can enter? (I suppose our own personal experience may be about bringing others into that tribe, via education and networking?)

Well, for some safety reasons, and in order to ensure sustainability and growth, we had to stay in the 1990s and early 2000s away from all official connections and wide contacts to the traditional art world in Russia. The research we did expanding the relationship to the international tribe of artists required full independence for a long time. I actually didn’t make any step to governmental relations before I was 100% aligned and rooted in the international community first. Therefore, I traveled, studied, and worked abroad; I was very much West-oriented all my life. But I’ve seen all the young people here who are desperate to even average contemporaneity, and I felt myself obliged to develop cultural relationships back in Russia at some point.

I still feel weird sometimes, when I reestablish myself as a core of the current Russian art and technology movement – and Gamma is one of the boiling points at the moment, but not any other project initiated by the local authorities. At the same time, I see that this is something you can easily cut and have preserved just as a historical notion. Education and networking are important for making international connections; but I have to underline that in Russia, in that tribe you point out, we are still suspicious of anything that comes out of the government. So as everywhere in the world, you have to start with building trust; and if you don’t have proper mediator for those connections, you can’t develop it. So I keep myself always diversified, even when I had important institutional roles in my country. And I give this advice to every young artist, musician, and curator in Russia.

Moscow and St. Petersburg have both I know been scenes of real change culturally – friends I know who grew up there even say they’re surprised by differences even from just a few years ago. For people who perhaps don’t know these cities so well, how would you characterize those changes? Are there things you can feel personally in the work you’ve touched in your various roles? What about the rest of the country – Kazan [Tatarstan] I got to see was really growing, too; is there a way for other parts of the country to have the access to that culture, as well?

I think that we live at the moment when all the efforts of my generation (mid 30s) finally came to fruitful results in Russia. You maybe don’t see it from the global politics strategies, but you see it when you come to the country and visit two capitals of Russia – Moscow as business capital and St Petersburg as cultural capital. I can’t imagine any progress if you are not related to the both scenes – it’s very natural for the creative class to work and essentially live in two cities at once. Just a few years ago, we were in the state when we were still young and couldn’t deliver our messages in a mature style. Now that has changed dramatically; when you come to Gamma in St. Petersburg and enjoy the afterhours, you hardly feel a difference from Atonal in Berlin. Maybe the lack of an international crowd is still there, but we work on making our world open despite all the political issues. We speak the same language of art and music here; and people who are in charge of all the changes here in cultural life are internationally experienced. And if to speak about the other cities in Russia, surely our culture is expanding – only this year I am having talks, lectures, and exhibitions on the future of art in Vyksa (close to Nizhny Novgorod); Krasnodar (south of Russia, Black Sea); Vladivostok (Far East); and Kazan that you mentioned is developing a Light and Sound Museum project involving again many experts of the global media art community. So it’s definitely growing and changing in a positive way.

Is there something unique about Russian history that it seems there is this interest in cross-media work so early?

Of course, this all comes back to the early XXs century when Russian futurist artists have chosen cross-media language in performative practice, particularly as the visual language of a new generation — not to mirror Western European traditions, but to develop our own avant-garde traditions. Russia also has machines and social capacities to stand on the same platform with the European offshoot of futurism. Russian futurists that developed Marinetti’s ideas locally were the forerunners of modern artistic strategies – that is, the skills not only to create talented works, but also to find the most successful ways to attract the attention of the public, collectors, and patrons.

And despite the seeming closeness of Russian and European futurists, history, traditions, and mentality gave each of the national movements its own characteristics. One of the signs of Russian Futurism was the perception of all kinds of styles and trends in art as one, so that was the rise of interdisciplinarity that was so important as an approach for cross-media art. “Vsechestvo” (the art of take it all) became one of the most important futuristic artistic principles in Russia as early as in the 1920s, and we are still following it in the contemporary new media art practices. [Vsechestvo or as some art historians translate it “everythingness” was coined by Georgian-born artist and Russian futurist – and Dadaist – Ilia Zdanevich.]

You’ve worked both as an historian and a curator. And we’ve gotten to work on this connection between history and the future. A lot of the digital media scene globally is called upon to show work that gives the impression of being new, flashy, of course – but how might the past as understood through media archaeology and history inform new work?

Oh yes, that’s my favorite question! When you are an art historian, you hardly see anything new – that’s the problem. I make many artists disappointed, not only happily showing them their place in the world art history. 🙂 But at the same time, I think that’s great that media art history currently is developing as a science, so media art historians can follow scientific and technological progress as well and make innovation in the arts visible. I see the media-archaeological approach actually as the only possible way now if you want to make a real progress in the arts. And this approach could build the relation to art and technology communities in the past where so much is undiscovered yet. We both know Prometheus’s story about innovative art that was related to the global art and technology communities in the 1960s in the Soviet Union, as well – such examples are very important to present to the world, to give an understanding of our long-lasting existing connection to deep levels of creative research.

Gamma 2018 at full tilt.

You of course have an extensive resume in curation, and people can find that. What they may not know about you is that you’ve also got this strong connection to techno and this electronic music party culture. Where was that first experience for you, when you were younger?

Techno music was something I was always involved in. In the early 1990s, rave and contemporary art coming from abroad was the only thing you dreamed of if you wanted a breath of fresh air. I was involved in party organization and club activities since I was in high school in Russia, and when I staged the first performance, I was only 16 years old. I was given at that time the role of curator in our club promo-team together with my friend. I mean that was quite naive in 1996 and so on, but that was an experience you could go with further at that time – I was quickly integrated to many international club culture communities (in the Czech Republic, in the Netherlands, in Germany), and electronic music party culture was always a red line I had in my life doing everything from booking and developing yoing artists (I was a booker or maintained art relations for Vakula, SCSI-9, and Dasha Rush in different periods of my life), organizing parties, from streaming techno-radios to participating in festival organization.

I see electronic music and techno music as something that formed me as a curator, as well. I even couldn’t stop myself from organizing the first techno parties in Moscow’s museums and making it a trend – you performed at the Polytechnic Museum in 2015; Gunnar Haslam played at the Garage Museum of Contemporary Art the same year by my invitation. When you just love techno, it definitely gives you a touch not many people can easily have, shaping you as cutting-edge at all times and especially at a time of innovation and the rise of technological culture.

Any medium I think can be accused of repetition, but it does seem digital media as can sometimes be in danger of becoming frozen in the past in terms of aesthetics and concept. Is there a need for media artists or reinvent these media; is that fair? Alternatively, what work would you say does feel genuinely contemporary — in aesthetics, in concept, and/or in relation to the latest technology?

I keep those thoughts a bit for myself only at the moment – it’s a bit scary to share what I really think of the new aesthetics. But I’d say everything has a potential for transformation. Immersion is the term that was taking over the digital art world in the last centuries; now I believe in the age of artificial intelligence. Now art and technology experiences will extend human perception; they will create space for human transformation. Bioart, prosthetics, and so on may allow you to gain new experience, to perhaps change your physical presence and even personality.

So contemporaneity for me is in active transformation at the moment; physical, psychological, emotional, bone-deep experience. One of the last artworks I experienced this way was amazing post-digital piece by the Chinese artist Lu Yang “Delusional Crime and Punishment.” [See an article on that work, as well as a reference from NYU Shanghai.]

AI and machine learning are a big buzz-worthy topic; we started this year at CTM with this thread in our hacklab program and it’s something I know many artists are pondering or responding to directly. What can you tell us about your advisory role with the Barbican; how are you working with them, or anything you can share from that program?

For me, this project is not just an exhibition, but again a way to participate in the development of cultural policies (and technological culture in particular). The main idea behind the project of the Artificial Intelligence exhibition at the Barbican Centre in London where I work as Advisor now is to smooth the attitudes existing in the society towards artificial intelligence and give to the audience a deeper understanding of the history of cybernetics and AI research. The project will tell the story not of only one part of the world, but will create global vision on the topic. It will be ready by next summer and will travel worldwide. So I am very much excited about that. I think that’s the big step to changing perception – destroying AI myths in pop-culture – and artists could contribute here best of all.

Right now in Berlin, there are “what is culture for?” posters hanging everywhere. What role do you think cultural ambassadorship can have? Is there a way to make it more relevant to the rest of our societies?

Culture is here to shape the meanings. Without it, we hardly could exist and evolve, I guess. And cultural ambassadors are first of all very attentive and brave people – that’s hard work to observe, get the essentials and communicate the meaning to the rest of the world. You have to expect to be criticized and misunderstood, but have to stay stable and persistent. To the rest of our societies, that basically means that culture has still to be mediated. Especially synthetic practices as what we are into – music, art, electronics, science, atypical connections between the contraries. When we make understanding of complexities easier to the people that don’t have resources (could be just mental) to dedicate their life to art and culture production, we make a step forward, I guess.

I feel my relation with the rest of the societies as the periods of comfortable coexistence, replaceable with stealthiness for each other. And this invisibility for me means a research stage – when I am deep into the creative process and thinking what important meaning to represent next to the society around me. That’s a significant concentration of time and internal forces, actually, so we will make cultural ambassadorship relevant when we will start clearly communicate what our life actually is.

GAMMA Festival / Gamma_PRO


The post Between art tech and techno, past and future, a view from Russia appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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