CTM Festival 2020 highlights


This year´s CTM has just ended so why not take the opportunity to look back on what we saw or missed, in case you weren’t there to enjoy it.

Entitled “Liminal,” CTM 2020 throws itself into limbo in hopes of stimulating a critical discussion of our present and possible futures. Music has long been a site of negotiating boundary-disturbing experiences and acts of transgression. The liminal characterises many cultural, spiritual, and social practices and rituals associated with music. It is the fundamental challenging of norms and identities. At the same time it is a contact zone with the “other,” the unconscious, and altered forms of being. So can it be used as a space for experimentation? As we rustle, challenge, disturb, and disrupt boundaries, can we tread through liminality to concoct and build new ways of being with one another? With this in mind, CTM 2020 examines the potentials of experimental politics in liminal spaces that, for now, must make do without tangible utopias.

Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn’s Inferno is a participatory performance in which performers wear robotic harnesses that control their arms in time with synchronised music and light. Inferno was one of the highlights of this year’s CTM Festival in Berlin, where a team of volunteers donned the 20kg exoskeletons and gave themselves over to an “experience of hell and punishment”.

We are living through liminal times. We bear witness to social and technological shifts, pushed and pulled by numerous processes of transformation. Due to cultural, ecological, geographical, and political negotiations, we find ourselves stuck between an unsustainable past and contestable futures. The well-known and familiar no longer promise stability nor certainty, but the solutions for an encouraging future often remain out of sight. We are in between. Amidst ambivalence and perpetual shift, we drift without assurance nor certainty.

Hildur Gudnadóttir, Chris Watson, Sam Slater, Francesco Donadello CHERNOBYL / CTM Festival 2020: Liminal / Silent Green Betonhalle, Berlin / 30 January 2020 … Icelander Hildur Guðnadóttir is an Icelandic composer, cellist, and vocalist with a formidable discography behind her. She has played and recorded with the likes of Pan Sonic, Throbbing Gristle, Animal Collective, and Sunn O))); and worked with the revered Jóhan Jóhansson. Guðnadóttir presents a live version of her Grammy and Emmy-award winning score for the HBO series “Chernobyl” at Silent Green (Betonhalle), a former crematorium in Berlin-Wedding. She is joined onstage by field recordist Chris Watson (playing in a “band” for the first time since Cabaret Voltaire) and Sam Slater. Lighting is by Theresa Baumgartner, and spatialisation by Francesco Donadello.

At this year’s CTM Festival, Jasmine Guffond presented material from her forthcoming record for Editions Mego, Microphone Permission, at Berlin’s HAU 1 with visuals by ilan katin. Released in March, Microphone Permission is an exploration of data sonification and surveillance culture, inspired by smart devices and a 2018 scandal in which fans of a Spanish football team were unknowingly turned into spies.

Robert Henke presented the German premiere of his new A/V show, CBM 8032. In the show, Henke uses five primitive CBM 8032 computers from 1980 to create an audiovisual show from microchips 100,000 times less powerful than the one you’d find in a modern washing machine.

Interstitial spaces also speak of concrete spaces—those that are supposedly unambiguous. Niches and in-between spaces are places of transit, transition, and change. In their indeterminacy they may welcome experiences of all kinds, but they also allow for the impossible and illusory to take hold. Sometimes they are functional spaces and, as such, places of a strange emptiness—of the inhospitable, of perseverance, of lingering. They speak of the Other, of what seems clear and unambiguous, raising questions, obscuring, and disguising.

The proposed artistic perspectives in this exhibition open up interpretations of in-betweens and thus, at the same time, question their opposite: the places that are supposedly concrete. It is thus revealed that unambiguity is arbitrarily produced through coexistence—in politics, culture, and society— arising from the power of consensus, from an agreement of many. Yet at the same time, it always produces its counterpart: the grey areas of the in-between.