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Berlin Atonal 2017 quicked off yesterday for the fifth iteration since its reboot in 2013. Five days ahead, the festival will be running from Wednesday 16th to Sunday 20th August on its permanent industrial location, Kraftwerk Berlin, a former power station on the banks of the Spree.
This is a festival of both profound statements and plain fun, experimental music and avant-garde audio-visuals intersect with mainstream electronic dance music with a program that includes over a hundred musicians, sound and visual artists, performers, and DJs. The public is retreated during the five days of duration of the festival into the giant concrete bunker of the decommissioned DDR power plant to experiment pulsating sound, light and visual installations, and media art in conjunction with a solid music schedule.
This year Atonal commissioned installations program —in continuous exhibition during the festival duration— presents five audio visual installations placed on the ground and underground floor (Keller) and a series of five films screened in loop during all day at the site-specific panoramic projection screen, in a dedicated projection area, Projektionsfläche, located on the middle floor.
The stage Null on the ground floor and the Main stage on the first floor —the so called cathedral-like in sound and appearance— are dedicated to the performances.
The Main Stage is brilliantly engineered, the sound endlessly reverb back on itself around its vast height.
Audio Visual Installations
Berlin collective FELD presents GRAVITY, a monumental scale installation exploring one of the most fundamental principles of attraction between matter, bringing together the conflicting forces of reluctant uplight and downward pull, acceleration and interaction, in a jarring choreography of independent agents struggling against gravity and transforming their surroundings into an otherworldly space of transient shadow play, sound and motion.
On its site-specific panoramic projection screen, Atonal presents a different projection every day. On Wednesday, Austrian Lukas Marxt showed in this panoramic format Two Skies (2013) a film shot from a drilling platform in the Gulf of Bothnia (Sweden) at two different times of day: dawn and dusk. A surreal landscape extends across the whole width of the space. The sound, the penetrating blue, and the flashing white waves transport the viewer to a place that cannot exist in this way: two ocean surfaces from ground and sky, strictly separated by a dynamic horizon.
Thursday is the turn of acclaimed Chinese filmmaker Zhao Liang, who will present On Stage (2017). Commissioned by the festival, the work is a meditative real life, situated on the very borders of time and space. “From a bird’s-eye view I am overlooking a mysterious village —it seems to be on the border of time and space, isolated and aloof from the rest of the world. Every one of the villagers is playing the role of themselves, performing in the elegy of life”.
On Friday, Origin: At Lenght (2017) by Mischa Daams will occupy the panoramic screen. Daam’s artistic practice consists of experiential environments, performances, and films in which simple choreographies convey complex patterns of behaviour. He uses different media such as kinetic motion, moving images, light, and sound and the approach of his work could be considered as “open systems” that explore relationships of control and co-dependence between technology, perception, the body, and space.
The UK duo Semiconductor, Ruth Jarman and Joe Gerhardt, will show on Saturday the panoramic projection piece Earthworks (2016), a computer-generated landscape based on analog modeling techniques based on acquired seismic data taken from La Planta quarry in Spain. The data directly sculpts the image, re-animates the landscape, and reflects the symbiotic relationship between landscape formation and seismic vibrations.
The last day of the festival, Sunday, the new artist collective Materiel Matano will display the Atonal commissioned work MV (2017) where they travel on a large tanker in the North Sea, filming the zero-point at which human commerce and intentionality cross over with brute, uncaring, unintentional, first nature.
Selected films by Peter Hutton at Projektionfläche
Berlin Atonal takes the opportunity to present a selected retrospective of Peter Hutton —who died in 2016— 16mm films. Originally born in Detroit, was an experimental filmmaker known for his delicate and patient portraits of cities and landscapes.
The old control room, Schaltzentrale, hosts improvisation sessions by various artists in a space that still has the old power consoles and has been filled with huge modular synthesizers. The room is small—yesterday there were constant queues in front of the door— and it will be open daily, except Sunday, uninterruptedly from 18.30-9h until 2-3h am.
Screening programs at Stage Null
Two separate screening programs on Friday and Saturday will show tightly curated short films from directors, animators and experimentalists old —Larry Cuba, Julian Antonisz, Robert Breer— and new —Deborah Stratman, Olivia Bock, Rebecca Mendez.
Atonal is a festival of mesmerizing sensual sensations, especially for the sight and hearing. Besides being a grand spectacle, it is an opportunity for musicians and media artists, an occasion to build a network and enjoy the works produced under the new commissioned alliances and collaborations that the festival offers.