Berlin CTM Festival 2018. Uneasy times demand uneasy music


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For nineteen years lovers of experimental music and avant-garde sound and art have been visiting German capital and its harsh winter to attend CTM Festival, the 19th edition of the Festival for Adventurous Music and Art kicks-off next Friday, January 26th  and until Sunday, February 4th February, will host around 76 events at several venues around Berlin. Since its early days, CTM Festival has featured music and art that acts as a mirror for social and political conditions, the 2018 edition, under the name of Turmoil —chaos and disorder— explores the state of music and sound in confusing critical global times.

Society is worn down by overloaded polarized politics, right wing agitation, digital deceit, uncontrolled narcissism, authoritarianism, technologies disturbing the communities, environmental crisis, and omnipresent violence, but music has always been a remedy for brutality and a tool for altering our own being in this world.

This is why CTM 2018 has focussed in music and sound that mirror the dissonance of the world, articulate discontent and protest, call for empathy, make us think, compensate our pains, provides exits for our accumulated anger or expose us to foreign cultures.

What are the sound and aesthetics of Turmoil? Uneasy times demand uneasy music and art, for that during ten days with its ten nights, the festival features around 190 artists in 76 concerts, club nights and performances, talks, screenings, workshops, networking events, installations, and exhibitions.

Uncanny Valleys of a Possible Future. Central exhibition 

One of the daytime indispensable activities is to visit the central exhibition Uncanny Valleys of a Possible Future at Kunstraum Bethanien. Tension vs explosion, apathy vs engagement, regression vs progress, peril vs hope, the participant artists propose different ways by which to navigate the unease of being between polarities.

Music’s role in fostering and releasing collective emotions is explored by Anne de Vries work Critical Mass: Pure Immanence, where, through a hardstyle stadium show setting, explores the relationship between technology and mass experience. A very different, quiet form of release is to be experienced in Teun Vonk’s The Physical Mind, a piece that hugs visitors between two giant air pillows.

Voices of protest and unrest are electrified into a storm by Zorka Wollny and Andrzej Wasilewski. Recordings from two disputing vocalists —captured at the CTM 2018 Opening Concert— will be diffused in the installation space and electrified by a Tesla coil. ZULI also explores unrest via a series of 360 audiovisual vignettes of  Cairo, blending street interactions with his own original compositions, he will create an immersive sound collage.

Five artists provide various access points to Turmoil around technology. By exploiting the way virtual reality influences our expectations and illusions, Jessica Ekomane examines the rules informing the visual representations we create. Peter Flemming speculates on systems which can de-orchestrate our rational daily lives with a room-scale kinetic installation of ordinary objects (ladders, chairs, tables…) that are suspended as if trapped in an invisible web.

In Frédérick A. Belzile’s Eyes in the Sky, shows a Dakota Access Pipeline protester’s drone shoots. Geomancer, an AI satellite comes down to earth with dreams of becoming the first AI artist in Lawrence Lek’s namesake film. Guy Ben Ary’s cellF uses artist’s own neutrons to form the living brain of “the world’s first human synthesizer”.



Skalar is a large-scale art installation by Christopher Bauder and Kangding Ray at former power station Kraftwerk Berlin that explores the complex impact of light and sound on human perceptionThe light is treated as a solid material that can be sculpted and shaped to architectural dimensions, evoking abstract emotional associations. Intertwined with composer Kangding Ray’s tireless exploration of textures, rhythm, and sound design, the silence of darkness is filled with iridescent formations of spatial light and sound.

Measuring 45m in length, 20m in width, and 10m in height, the generative luminous structure encompasses a perfectly synchronous interplay of 65 motorized mirrors, 90 moving lights, and a multichannel sound system.

Physical Rhythm Machine_Boem BOem

Halle am Berghain will be the site of Physical Rhythm Machine_Boem BOem, an immersive playful installation by young Dutch artist Philip Vermeulen.

With the Physical Rhythm Machine (PRM), Vermeulen shoots balls at speeds of up to 150 km/h into large resonant boxes. For CTM 2018, artists Lakuti and Sam Barker have created short rhythmic compositions which will be brought to life via the momentum of the balls. Alternatively, the machine itself can also create non-metric, free rhythmic structures on its own using pre-programmed algorithms. The PRM visualizes violent compositions while resonating the space and the bodies of the audience.

Movement and sound

At late afternoons, HAU2 hosts projects with an emphasis on the intersection of music and dance.


Multidisciplinary American artist Rashaad Newsome investigates African, European, and North-American roots of vogueing. This underground NYC dance tradition emerged out of the queer black & Latino ballroom scene in Harlem in the 1960s and 1970s but was only first thrust into the wider public eye in 1990 when Madonna released the eponymous song and music video inspired by it. The documentary, Paris is Burning, likewise released in 1990, also popularised the form.


At its core, the dance style is a fluid, codified, highly developed form of runway modeling – in mid-20th-century New York, blacks and Latinos had little hope of becoming mainstream supermodels, so they held their own competitions in community halls and ballrooms. Newsome’s work draws its title from the five basic gestural elements of the tradition: hand performance; catwalk; dips and spins; floor performance; and duck walk. Each one is represented —and performed— by a dancer dressed in a bright color symbolic of the movement’s character. The five dancers will be joined by five local musicians who imitate the dancers’ choreography through a mix of improvised and pre-composed material. Meanwhile, NY-based MC Princess Mami Precious and baritone opera singer Justin Austin will weave in vocal interjections throughout the entirety of the piece.

Ernest Berk – The Complete Expressionist

A rich programme of performances and lectures will explore the life and legacy of choreographer, electronic music composer, improviser, dance therapist, and pedagogue Ernest Berk. Berk’s innovative, multifarious career spanned six decades and reflected deep involvement in leftist politics and devoted interest in non-Western aesthetics.The Complete Expressionist are reconstructions and reformulations of musique concrète & modern dance by Berlin choreographer Christoph Winkler who will oversee the long-overdue reconstruction of Ernest Berk’s dance pieces and the performance of selected musical compositions as live tape concerts. Ten dancers, including Martin Hansen, Lois Alexander, Emma Daniel, Sarina Egan-Sitinjak, and Julia B. Laperrière, as well as Berlin-based experimental musicians groupA, Rashad Becker, and Pan Daijing will reinterpret various pieces from Berk’s extensive body of work, all of which explore the interplay between dance and music.

A short BBC film clip about Berk, select video art pieces, and talks by British experimental musician Ian Helliwell and theatre and dance researcher Patrick Primavesi will round out the presentations. Listening stations featuring Berk’s numerous compositions will also be installed.


MONOM, Berlin’s new Center for Spatial Sound and its 4DSOUND system will become a place also to immerse oneself in vivid sonic worlds. A highlight is the durational performance lasting seven hours NOQTURNL, which explores the threshold between waking and dreaming —it is limited to 70 people, beds and blankets are provided.


CTM’s club nights

An eclectic range of performances and DJ sets has been programmed throughout the club nights.

At Berghain/Panorama Bar: Spanish born-Berlin based artist Jasss, Peruvians Dengue Dengue Dengue, Boys Noize, RAMZi,  AV artist Olaf Nicolai with Theo Nabicht, Cevdet Erek or Laurel Halo.


Festsaal Kreuzberg will host Holly Herndon ensemble at center-stage. Albertine Sarges, houaïda, Josa Peit, Lyra, Marshall Garrett, and UCC Harlo will open the night with short, cabaret-style vignettes.The closing concert with DAF and Bestial Mouths is also here.

SchwuZ will host the closing night after party with Angel, curator and founder of the Burschenschaft Hysteria sorority; post-digital art/feminist duo Klitclique; FAKA; Born In Flamez, a co-curator of this year’s club programme and Cairo’s ZULI —present in the CTM exhibition— will also appear for a live set.

At YAAM stage III, partners Native Instruments have selected a range of London-based dance music DJs i.e. Soda Plains, Shygirl or Ikonika. Hitmakerchinx & DJ Aaron, Bad Gyal, DJ Heroin will play at YAAM I.

Club OST will host Errorsmith or Naked and HAU1 Lucrecia Dalt and Medusa’s Bed, a trio made up of no-wave feminist Lydia Lunch, violinist Mia Zalbeka, and the sound artist Zahra Mani, just to mention a few.

Medusa’s Bed

Check the complete CTM Turmoil program here.

CTM festival happens in parallel with main partner transmediale., January 26th to February 4th.

Text: María Muñoz from CTM press releases.
Images: Courtesy of CTM Festival.


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