DIARY
3HD Festival in Berlin

3HD Festival in Berlin

1. The place

For some reason, I seem to end up in Berlin during some form of emotional turmoil every time. There’s always a breakup/fight or other form of romantic entanglement that puts me in a very vulnerable, raw emotional state; this usually results in a sort of heightened state of consciousness, a natural high if you will.

Tuesday night, I was finally heading to the opening night of 3hd, a young Berlin festival channeling both the conceptual activism of Judith Butler and the visual appeal of a good Tumblr.

That night, when I finally got to the right area, I was faced with a different sort of puzzle: an intricate housing maze of stairs, balconies, neon signs and hip people looking as lost as I was. We formed a rag-tag exponentially growing group of beanie-wearers, in search for the gallery entrance.

Making our way through the narrow balcony overlooking the street, a very familiar sight came into view - the overflowing gallery crowd making their own party outside the venue.
Whites over whites over skins are covered in velvet. Synthetic capes under Nike caps are fixed over heads shaved near ears.

Vierte Welt hosts the top 10 best socks ever which are peaking from the most wanted and timeless shoes of the 00s. Music is everywhere, made out of everything, coming out of whatever.

Flashes of light and loud gabber music were coming from the space, a rather appropriate soundtrack for the art punters materialized from a documentary on ‘90s Dutch raves.

Welcome to the temporary home of post-internet art. 3hd, the hybrid festival taking place in HAU2, OHM and Vierte Welt, usual homes of the independent, free-minded, different.

3hd is the “place” where we found out that internet got beyond our computers because, for the first time, we saw the internet is us. 3hd brings together these counter-intuitive artistic anchors and a lot of progressive, inclusive, smart and ahead of its time thinking. Digitally delightful sensed with senses.

The second edition of 3hd festival, opened the debate with artistic narration tools through presentations, panel discussions, exhibitions, music and video releases. It also questioned pessimistic presumptions about the future. There is nothing left but the future? was the core question to which collectives and individuals answered with examples and practices such as interactive participatory activism, exploratory artistic boundaries, non-traditional academic research methods, the political voice of musical performances with non-binary attitude to their work.

The specific visual representation of what we call now vaporwave plus the familiarity of the synths and 140bps trap music twists to pop culture’s already iconic lyrics, caught us in this selective communication bubble. At a closer look, one detailed gaze away, this hyper-contemporary version of low-brow imagery has behind it strong and aware voices criticizing courageously sexuality matters, violence, race, political views, the frivolity of being and lack of act.

2. The vulnerable otherness

Byrke Lou brought a composer fish tank, Neda Sanai made a carpet play music, Riccardo Benassi displayed of a tongue-shaped carpet a European Gangsta Rap video, a genre, and language that he created, Ruth Angel Edwards, the pop-anarchist, played a hypnotic compilation of images with girls from video games, Vika Kirchenbauer showed an 3D video about otherness and the satisfactory gaze that people strike to “the vulnerable”, Rianna Jade Parker hanged her essay “Hey Big Girl, Won’t You Back It Up”, WangNewOne x Snackuo placed 3d modelled characters in a post-industrial apocalyptic video set-up and created a time and space inspired by A BETTER TOMORROW movie from the 80’s.

Puff, super magic! The ingenuity related to various uses of medium bring together through 3hd this highly knowledgeable crowd, curated by the digital-oriented no other than Creamcake.

As the opening performance finally came to a halt, I caught a better glimpse at the sea of 20 year olds reviving puffy pants and baby fringes, among other questionable fashion choices of millennial goths.

While the first buzzing drones from Doron Sadja's set started to pour out, a zealous smoke machine was slowly transforming the room into a fog labyrinth. Two stage lights were gyrating relentlessly, changing colors and momentarily blinding a couple of us.

Bodies became silhouettes and the air turned into a thick, milky curtain; it was the sort of soothing, mystical strain of modular synth sounds routed via Ableton with a push pad and macbook pro, sort of a Berlin standard. A rather beautiful sonic universe that instigated closed eyes and floor-sitting, slightly devaluated by an overindulgent duration. Regardless, i quite enjoyed 'Shut Your Mouth and Turn Me Inside Out’.

What followed felt like a strange portal leak that brought the internet IRL; enough to say that I ran into a DJ who followed me on Twitter, accompanied by a mysterious, beautiful lady, who turned out to be a very sweet Aurora Halal. I do tend to be equally bad with faces too.

If this night seemed like a fashion-forward, star-studded event, Kara-Lis Coverdale’s solo piano recital turned the rather modest community space of Vierte Welt into the Château Marmont of underground music. Classically trained ex-organist, Kara-Lis was as elusive and ethereal as her pieces; you couldn’t spot her until seconds before she made her way through the crowd up to the piano, resting in front of a video collage wall of shots alternating Michael Jackson with the iconic naked bodies from Sweet Harmony.

Minimalist echoes and 70s muzak were summoned in PICL (Pieces in Caps Lock), where repetitive celestial harmonic patterns where broken by random silences, evoking the behavior of a glitchy digital loop. The result was equally uplifting and mesmerizing.

However, the inherent levity of the piece did not justify the 70-odd minute length; maybe that was the entire point – to create something of disturbing beauty with a highly shallow, pop sheen, while subsequently critiquing the academic fixation on “difficult pieces” and “durational music”.

3. Fragmented nature

Finally, Wednesday rolled in with the long-anticipated Speculative Futurism party at OHM, an old kitchen turned underground venue, hosting both noise shows and club nights. It was the ultimate gritty Berlin icon, bathed in red light and heavy cigarette smoke.

Accustomed the Bucharest habit of chronic fashionable lateness, I missed my friend’s Eli’s set. She performed as Wilted Woman on a hot July night at Bei Ruth. Her nervous analogue synth tragi-ballads were so loud and consumed that the entire building was trembling. We thought her techno power might make it collapse…

Dolphin sounds and brief techno interludes were resonating in the sweaty space, as Norman Orro aka Music for Your Plants was casting his 90s new age spells behind the blue glow of his laptop, wearing a baseball cap and a white sweatshirt reading “Ambient” in green Times New Roman.

The real party began when Creamcake/3hd label star coucou chloé unleashed a powerful blend of trappy visceral techno-pop, filled with angst, emotion and dark, heavy basslines. Japanese legend Foodman was faced with a rowdy crowd to please; instead of delivering a bass-heavy set, he went full 180 and started his live with bleepy computer music, reminiscent of 90s Warp IDM releases, completely devoid of any bass. It was the sound of a schizophrenic motherboard. When the bass finally kicked in, some 40 minutes later, the long-awaited relief felt like a collective orgasm.

The night ended with Hiele’s fast-paced analogue synth rave phrases. After this rush, it was too early to call it a night at just 3 am…

The more experimental part of the festival began on Thursday, with Claire Tolan’s SHUSH Choir workshop and performance, heavily influenced by the internet subculture of ASMR.

Friday was perhaps one of the most exciting days of the festival, with Adam Harper’s lecture Tomorrow's Joys and Horrors, Lisa Blanning’s panel featuring AGF, Lotic and Claire Tolan on protest sounds and the much-anticipated AGF performance.

Antye’s music has been a constant since my late teens, whether it was her poem-based electronics, The Lappetites or her children’s choir in Finland. It took me a moment to spot her within the panel, hiding behind a baseball cap, puffer vest and cargo pants – she looked like someone half her age. Although, hearing her stories about being a teen in East Berlin and protesting in the street days before the Wall fell, she seemed more entitled to dress like a ‘90s raver than the millennial. Some might read this as a hilarious attempts from your aunt trying to dress “like the kids nowadays”. I found it quite endearing.

She was also talking about the rise of techno in ‘90s Berlin and how hard it was to have any kind of vocals in that music – “Those were white guys saying no, we want to be robots and not feel anything’’, she added.

On the large stage at the sold out show at HAU2 theatre, Inga Copeland, one half of Hype Williams, under her latest Lolina alias, was gently singing pop hooks into a mic, while apocalyptic techno drones were booming from the massive soundsystem. Using turntables, CDJs and a sampler, she was launching emotional ballad choruses and loopy beats that never materialized into an actual groove. It was the kind of contemporary doom romanticism Adam Harper was talking about. The fragmented nature of her performance seemed like the perfect crystallization of AGF’s ideas.

4. Vast and infinite

Antye’s performance was a true masterclass in both experimentalism and beatmaking - her textures were dense, her beats epic and her poetry puzzling. The glitchy video projection she added was superfluous compared to the moving ingenuity of her music and the way she strived to engage the audience, even harnessing a collaborative scream-piece, à la Phil Minton’s Feral Choir. “I am vast and infinite”, she whispered repeatedly. “Are you vast and infinite?”

Her discreet poetics held more emotional charge than the melodramatic Soda Plains / Negroma collaboration. Built on the pillars of Soda Plains’ baroque, textured beats, the androgynous figure of Negroma created an entire metamorphosis narrative on stage, going from a ghost-like figure accompanied by quiet sizzling sounds to a brown Adonis caught in a spastic dance wrapped by thumping beats…

Saturday’s highlights were definitely Michael Waugh’s entertaining and well-documented lecture Music & Memes, followed by Kara-Lis Coverdale’s second concert at HAU2. The majestic drones and organ samples flowed beautifully, creating intricately embroidered sonic patterns of spectral clarity.

Aisha Devi’s A/V show was a nice surprise also, merging Hindu symbols with entranced yogis and images of death. It was the perfect companion piece for her dark techno laments.

3hd’s closing night saw a balanced line-up in terms of post-genre and gender, novelty and familiarity, tantrum beats and distension all under the futuristic and highly abstract umbrella that would cover the Internet’s outer edge heritage in recent music. Soraya Lutangu a.k.a. Bonaventure, NTS radio regular and NON affiliate performed first, followed by Purple Tape Pedigree head and sound polyrhythm enchanter Geng– a first half of the party which favored a heavier, headier and meditative aesthetic.

The dancefloor hit peak density to the eerie and energetic grooves of DJ New Jersey Drone, when the sweaty and packed club Ohm could no longer take any late comers to the party and just checking on the endless queue outside would confront you with the shock realization of how many people are actually on these murky corners on the internet we hang around. During his set of almost two hours he spelled energetic strange layers of digital echoes and grounding, jumpy beats. Next to step up was Jersey club queen Uniiqu3, whose featuring in this year’s artist selection was more than welcome, and enforced once more the festival’s knack for digging deeper to seek value beyond the generally promoted names you get to associate with futuristic sounds at a first glance. During one packed hour of goodness and oldschool swag one could hear Uniiqu3’s own productions as well as blasts from the past like TT the Artist or Migos’ Hannah Montana – when hell broke loose front row – and further disarming, confidence boosting, vibe enhancing grooves.

Established footwork wizard DJ Paypal was probably the most notorious name included on the program, and thus he was reserved the closing set time – an ultra high-paced, relentless, syncopated workout which abrupt cuts and absurd juxtapositions of futuristic sounds.

The festival managed to propose a female-heavy yet conceptually coherent line up. Their manifesto was geared towards post-internet contemporary politics and art world dynamics, with the sense of inclusiveness as normality.

It was an attitude only the internet could have made possible. Also, the choice of lesser known, Soundcloud-famous artists and Berlin staples such as DIY Church made for a refreshing take on the homogenized festival line ups.

Unlike other festivals priding themselves with the inclusion of art installations, 3hd’s contemporary art aspect was surprisingly coherent, incorporating art installations and performances into the stage design of the parties, not to mention the art-world roots of many of the artists.

This pink, polically-conscious, fluid inclusiveness sure felt like a temporary utopia, but it also proved that the safe spaces we create online can be transposed into the real world quite fruitfully.

I am looking forward to that future.

--

*photo credits: Eva Pedroza


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