CTM’s 21st edition launches with an announcement of new performances, special projects, and commissioned works. Combining unique productions, concerts, and club nights with a dense daytime programme of talks, discussions, installations, and an exhibition, CTM 2020 proposes multiple entry points into thinking about this year’s Liminal theme.
Liminal phenomena and states are transitional phases in which a familiar order sees its values and symbols destabilised; norms are suspended or turned on their heads. We find ourselves in ambiguous spaces, somewhere between a past that is no longer valid and an ever-becoming future. Liminality characterises spiritual practices, social rituals, and other transformative experiences. In music, boundary-disturbing experiences and acts of transgression are perpetually negotiated and re-negotiated. Yet liminality, hybridisation, and transgression should not be blindly celebrated—rather, praise should be supplemented with critical evaluation. How do such experiences and practises affect political and cultural structures? When do they merely serve to reinforce known hierarchies? Can transformative potential and the emergence of new ideas arise through liminal experiences, and if so, can they resist co-optation by market forces and political agendas? Is it enough to practice forms of experimental politics in a liminal space that has to make do without tangible utopias? With Liminal, CTM 2020 throws itself into limbo in hopes of stimulating a critical discussion of our present and possible futures.
CTM 2020 will again play out across some of Berlin’s most standout cultural and nightlife venues. For the first time, the festival hosts special projects at radialsystem and an immersive listening series at Silent Green’s Betonhalle, while continuing its close relationship with HAU Hebbel am Ufer, Berghain, Kunstquartier Bethanien, Festsaal Kreuzberg, and SchwuZ. A limited number of Early-bird Festival Passes are available now.
The CTM 2020 MusicMakers Hacklab Open Call hosted by Peter Kirn of CDM and Filipine artist Tad Ermitaño is currently out, with an application deadline of 1 November. Also coming up is our second CTM 2020 Future Prequel; Sub Liminal #2 welcomes FAKA, Kablam, DJ Haram, and Pininga at venue Trauma Bar und Kino.
As always, CTM takes place parallel to and in collaboration with transmediale festival. The jointly organised Vorspiel 2020 Open Call is out now. Vorspiel will again bring together a wide range of Berlin-based artists, initiatives, and venues, hosting a city-wide programme of cultural events.
The next CTM 2020 announcement will be out in November; stay tuned!
First artists and projects confirmed for CTM 2020 are:
With CTM Radio Lab commission winners
A number of celebrated artists bring new, arresting performances to CTM 2020, plunging listeners into varied sonic worlds and stories.
The festival will feature a new extended listening format at Berlin’s new Betonhalle venue, a massive concrete space located underneath Silent Green. Icelander Hildur Guðnadóttir will present a live version of her Emmy-award winning score to the TV series “Chernobyl.” Ranging from intimate simplicity to huge soundscapes, the work combines acoustic instrumentation and field recordings from Chernobyl’s sister power plant Ignalina in Lithuania. Hildur will be joined by Sam Slater and field recordist Chris Watson, artists who helped realise her vision. Lighting is by Theresa Baumgartner, and spatialisation by Francesco Donadello. “Chernobyl” is co-commissioned by Unsound, Dark Mofo, the Barbican, and Rewire. Within the same venue, dark ambient deity Deathprod, aka sound engineer and producer Helge Sten, will appear in support of Occulting Disk, his first release in 15 years. Described as "an anti-fascist ritual," Occulting Disk was recorded over five years in Oslo, Reykjavik, Berlin, Cologne, and Los Angeles and is released on Smalltown Supersound. Deathprod’s formidable place in the dark ambient canon was cemented with 2004’s Morals and Dogma. Also, Jacob Kirkegaard presents live renditions of his recent Topos release, Opus Mors. The four-part long duration concert offers an environment in which to collectively reflect and meditate on the various spaces and states human bodies occupy immediately post-mortem—a morgue, an autopsy, cremation, and decomposition. Immersive, intimate, and powerfully detailed, these mark fragile events that no one is ever able to experience in their embodied lives. The performance is all the more poignant within the Betonhalle setting, as this hall was formerly the morgue of Berlin’s first crematorium.
Leading CTM’s club and concert programme, Henry Wu, also known as Kamaal Williams, is the Brownswood Recordings affiliate and London jazz scene stalwart “who ma[kes] music that gloriously distill[s] the city’s plurality.” (Pitchfork) As Henry Wu, he DJs at Panorama Bar, offering a set the winds through the warm, soulful electronic sounds he produces—as heard on releases such as Shades of Wu and Good Morning Peckham. As Kamaal Williams, he appears at Festsaal Kreuzberg, flanked by a full band. In 2018, the project released The Return, an excellent follow up to former duo Yussef Kamaal’s acclaimed Black Focus. On the same bill will be Tennessee native Bbymutha, who has worked with producers such as Suicideyear, LSDXOXO, and God Colony to craft a sound that is as genre-defying as her lyrics are feminist. In the Bbymutha universe (a.k.a., The Mutha Land), women are allowed to be (if not downright celebrated for being) sexual, vulgar, ambitious, and savvy. Following a stellar series of self-released mixtapes, Bbymutha's 2018 standout EP Muthaz Day 3 sees her joining a new wave of underground female rappers to challenge a persistently male-dominated genre with her own singular swagger.
Several special projects specifically explore various aspects of our relationship and (un)ease with technology, including the festival’s launch with a two-night showing of "Frontera" at the Hebbel am Ufer (HAU1) theatre. In an era of aggressive nationalism and corporate mass surveillance, the human body has never been rendered so visible. Subjected to increasingly invasive forms of industrial-scale oversight and processing, bodies are perpetually monitored, defined, and captured. In "Frontera," by Animals of Distinction with choreography by Dana Gingras, nine dancers navigate spaces of inclusion and exclusion—their bodies mapped in high resolution, their destinies unresolved. “Frontera” considers surveillance technologies and the advancing frontiers of knowledge and control that they represent. As borders organise and orchestrate the passage of bodies through the world, and as public and private realms are obscured by monitoring technologies, what space remains for the unruly, ungovernable body? Featuring light-based scenography by United Visual Artists (UVA), live music by Fly Pan Am, and field recordings by Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Dave Bryant, "Frontera" offers a dynamic commentary on our messy entanglements with corporate technologies and the complexities of our present moment.
In a dark take on technology and control, Louis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn create an experience of hell, punishment, and demons via their “Inferno” participatory robotic performance. Addressing many persistent anxieties around the relationships between humans and technologies, and the shifting boundaries between them, “Inferno” envisions infinite punishment as endless automation and subordination to the machine, as participants are drawn to the spectacles and thrills of submission. Mirroring our contemporary entanglements and fascinations with various technologies and power imbalances, the participatory installation will run over three days, allowing select members of the public to participate in surrendering agency to a cyborgian robotic entity. Both "Inferno" and "Frontera" are part of the culture program related to Canada’s Guest of Honour presentation at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2020. We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts and the Government of Canada.
Robert Henke performs “CBM 8032 AV,” a piece drawing on the beauty of simple computer graphics and sounds. Considering ambivalences, affinities, and contradictions between contemporary aesthetics and obsolete technology, Henke presents ideas which were technically achievable back in the 80s, but couldn’t have been conceived of without the social and cultural backdrop of 2019. Five carefully restored Commodore CBM 8032s—iconic objects of the beginning of the personal computer area—run custom software developed by Henke and his team. Never intended for use in generating audiovisual art, the computers generate output that is slow, harsh, geometric, low-res, and monochromatically green. The liminal is the fundamental challenging of norms and identities.
Several CTM 2020 projects examine how liminality characterises spiritual and artistic practices, social rituals and storytelling, as well as aesthetic, psychedelic, and other transformative experiences. Referencing the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s, “Drops and Seeds” marks the persistence and evolution of Khmer classical dance, which today rests on the shoulders of merely a handful of artists. The project is created by choreographer Prumsodun Ok, founder of Cambodia’s first openly gay dance company, NATYARASA; and Berlin-based composer Ana Maria Rodríguez, with light design by Fred Pommerehn and music performed by Ensemble KNM. Taking its title from a poem by Norwegian lyricist Simen Hagerup, “Drops and Seeds” considers dance as a mediator between earth and sky—a concept central to traditional dance in Khmer culture. The piece works with the shift of meanings resulting when traditions are put under stress or recalled. The first male student of one of the few survivors/carriers of the Khmer style, Prumsodun Ok replaces the traditional female Khmer performer with a queer dance ensemble. The androgynousness of the dancers abstracts and takes the dance out of its usual context, creating space for questions of remembrance and transmission, and considering positions of power in traditional society and cultural forms. The musical score by Rodriguez carefully recreates and recomposes (acoustic) reality through its careful consideration of local identities of music, sound environments, and geographically shaped musical practices.
How much reality can we put into music without losing our minds? What happens when the global mining company GLENCORE sings its Twitter feed as a Handel aria? PR language becomes pure baroque beauty and reminds us of what words can really mean in times of Fake News. Based on Handel's Hercules, “Hercules of Lubumbashi” is an oratorio for 11 Congolese and European musicians, a dancer, and a singer. The work’s co-creators, Congolese choreographer Dorine Mokha and Swiss composer and musician Elia Rediger, focus on the increasing demand for cobalt, its exploitation by international corporations, and the destruction of the local population’s habitat. The audience becomes the surprising witness of unsettling Congolese realities, of the particularities of Congolese humour, and of the beauty and brutality of sound. The work functions as a civil oratorio, reminding us of how connected the world is, and suggesting that art and the economy should not be dissociated. Additional music is by Joseph Kiwele, Benjamin Weidekamp, Daniel Freitag, and Kojack Kossakamvwe. The project is presented in cooperation with PODIUM Esslingen.
Composer and installation artist Ashley Fure explores the kinetic side of sound with “Hive Rise,” created in collaboration with interdisciplinary artist and director Lilleth Glimcher. Fure’s work stems from a belief that the sonic is social and the aesthetic is political. Blurring false binaries between formalism and conceptualism, abstraction and identity, onto-aesthetics and the social turn, her work pursues a micropolitical materialism that manifests on multiple scales. “Hive Rise” delves into the site-specific magic of Berghain with a hand-picked ensemble performing with custom 3D-printed megaphones. Producing focused vectors of sound, they join Berghain’s formidable subwoofers in a crescendoing composition as the performers move around the building exploring posthuman kink, ritual acoustics, and the networked perceptions of the migratory hive mind. The piece is a co-commission between CTM and DAAD’s Berliner Künstlerprogramm.
Straddling a fine line between anxiety and ecstasy is Virgen María, the captivating artist whose work offers a potent synthesis of spirituality and sexuality. G.O.D., released earlier this year via Perth Records, stands for “Good Opening Drug.” Its album artwork reimagines María as a hentai character, and its content winds through ASMR, pseudo-sermons, overdriven kicks, and ecstatic moans. Often performing nearly naked, her live shows promise to “blex” (or “bless the sex” of) audience members.
The club and concert programme begins to take shape with a number of singular, convention-shirking artists. Berlin-based producer and DJ Felicia Chen, better known as Dis Fig, counts risk-taking and provocation as integral parts of the creative process. Dis Fig performs live following the release of her debut album, Purge, which came out in 2018 via New York’s PTP. Darker and more intimate than some of the wild DJ sets she’s known for, Purge offers visceral, intimate sonic expulsions.
Giant Swan is notorious for their acerbic marriage of energised, aggressive dance music, quaking bass and hypnotic electronic noise. Comprised of Harry Wright (aka Mun Sing) and Robin Stewart, the duo are known for releases on Timedance and Whities, and are set to launch their own imprint, Keck, with the release of their debut LP next month.
With a style seemingly forged by the chaotic cultural mish-mash of the internet, Manchester-based AYA (fka LOFT) is equally at home mashing up the dance, unleashing pop-tinged tearjerkers, and shouting at unwitting audience members. 2019 saw the release of her Tri-Angle debut, and depart from mono games, which was described by Noel Gardner of The Quietus as “run[ning] the gamut from threatening-aura electronics, the type subjecting a putative crowd of sweatjuiced ravers to would be frankly sadistic, to pulsating turn-on-a-sixpence breakbeat overload.”
Aquarian’s DJ sets venture through sinister breaks, feverish jungle, grimey drum and bass, and on through uncharted territory. 2017’s Hamburglar Helper / Snack ID, shared via his own Hanger Management imprint, is inky yet playful—a hallmark of his output. The label helpfully states: “A smoky mash of claps and toms form the backbone of [“Hamburglar Helper,”] while crisp skinned and finely julienned drum breaks scatter over lucious, fatty kicks.” In 2018, he teamed up with Deapmash as AQXDM to release the unrelenting Aegis via Bedouin. Their forthcoming Infrared continues their experiments with blistering breakbeats and rave dreams.
Discwoman affiliate Akua is a Ghanaian-American DJ known for a boundary pushing sound that reflects her passion for research and recontextualisation, as she infuses old-school tracks and techniques with a vision for the dancefloors of the future. Hypnotic, intuitive, and unyielding, Akua channels a dynamic approach to the craft that fuses a sense of playful confrontation and high-octane rhythm- shifting, giving her sets a sense of conceptual rigor and undeniable energy.
Moesha 13 sings, performs, DJs, and produces a unique blend of French rap, hardcore, reggaeton, and more. Winding autotuned vocals collide with gadjicore, hip hop, gabber, and even metal, both in her wild, unruly sets and in her own productions. Moesha 13 has shared mixtapes "De la chicha pour mes gadjis" and "CALIANQUE MIXTAPE," in addition to tracks such as the tenacious “Mont Blanc” (produced by M-O-R-S-E) and the confounding "Invisible Resistance" on Ashida Park’s 2019 Too Soon compilation.
Belgian ensemble Borokov Borokov guarantee raucous, energetic shows and feverish dancing. The Antwerp-based project offer a pounding mix of hi-NRG, punk, pop, hardcore, lounge music, and power ballads. Absurd and bizarre, the four-part troupe boasts sympathetic mindfucks as they segue from sludgy acid flashbacks to brisk synth-pop.
Brutaż and Jasna1 resident VTSS is the Discwoman-affiliated DJ and producer storming through techno. With releases on Intrepid Skin (run by SPFDJ) and Repitch (curated by Ascion, D. Carbone, and Shapednoise), VTSS has cemented herself with a reputation for unrelenting, suffocating takes on EBM, electro, and techno. Appearing on lineups alongside the likes of I Hate Models, Paula Temple, and DJ Stingray, among others, VTSS sets promise pummeling, jet-black sounds.
Warsaw’s Zamilska juggles winding rhythms over stuttering, caustic kicks. In her live sets and productions, raw noise meets delicate melodies, haunting choirs, and monstrous bass. A trailblazer of Poland’s techno scene, Zamilska’s live shows have cemented her with a formidable reputation. Earlier this year, she shared her second album, Uncovered, as well as a remix for Paula Temple’s Edge of Everything LP.
Hailing from New Mexico is !luuli, America’s rising psycore star. Earlier this year, she released The Psycore Trilogy EP1 via Texan label Absolute Shit, before contributing a production mix to Boiler Room’s Hard Dance series. She has shared a number of free albums on labels such as JellyFish Frequency Recordings, Anomalistic Records, and Akashik Records, both as !luuli and under other aliases. As one half of Rainbow Static, she has worked on eccentric, playful releases such as Tickle My Bunny Fone and Pit of Eternal Cuddles.
Stay tuned for the second CTM 2020 announcement in late November. The full CTM 2020 programme will be available in January 2020.