// Festival theme
A reversal is taking place on the fringes of today’s pop culture: drag, witch house, hypnagogic pop, hauntology, analog synthesizer music, neo-industrial, and drone music all focus on the energy of negativity and unconsciousness. Throughout these various styles one explores revisitations of past music and media and their unfulfilled utopias and dystopias, conjures eerie presences that rise from the deep material structures, and rejects the state of lively present with bitterness, euphoria or everything in between. Deceleration, decay, fumigation, noise, deformation, liquefaction, mystery, nostalgia, kitsch, emptiness, loss, withdrawal, the longing for transcendence, mundane alchemy, and xeno-communications are the buzzwords of an aesthetic that counters the relentlessness of hyper-capitalist production and its incessant demand for positive engagement. Parallels can be drawn to current protest movements, from Occupy Wall Street to Anonymous. In both cases, the avoidance of a positive alternative vision is formulated in an unsettling response to a confusing situation: Engagement that does not call for anything specific makes an essentially impossible demand, and thus poses what is perhaps the most radical challenge to the current social order.
In this sense, the reawakened interest in the uncanny and in the ephemeral qualities of analog technologies and real materials must be understood as a response to a fundamental malaise when everything has reached a dead-end. Faced with a context of exponentially growing archives and crisis as a permanent state, it seems as if the future of Western societies and their pop culture is doomed to lie in the past. Everything seems to already exist, to have been done before, and is endlessly repeatable through rapid advances in technology. True novelty is nowhere to be found. Despite all this, we find ourselves compelled to engage in breathless activity. What remains is an obsession with the technological and cultural artifacts of our own recent past. Lacking any future perspectives, art, music, and society constantly draw from ceaselessly recycled sources of media, forms, and materials. The combinatorial game and crude tinkering with the found, DIY media archaeology, and turbulent bricolage at flea markets, archives and the dumps of global civilization thus become a last resort, where a master plan is absent by necessity. But it is precisely such uneasy contexts that prevent us from settling comfortably into the past and ultimately becoming ghosts; as there is no rest in sight, the search must continue. Where the medial surfaces have not been smoothed over and the tension of the material is retained, where no deliberate artistic strategy is pursued, where the monstrous and hallucinatory effects of media are laid bare, lies an opportunity to leave open the cracks and fissures through which a future newness may still seep in to confront us.
Full theme text PDF can be downloaded in German and English on the upper right.