After a break of almost three years, the Amsterdam-based FIBER Festival returns on May 15 & 16 with a packed programme of audiovisual art, immersive performances, electronic music, workshops and a symposium.
The 2015 edition is focused on the theme The Subterranean: Exploring Networked Tools and Matter and investigates the use of digital tools to create and at the same time navigate and excavate networked landscapes.. FIBER festival takes place at three cultural hotspots A Lab (meetup, exhibition) Volkshotel (symposium) and club Radion (performances & club night) in Amsterdam.
The festival will be a subterranean journey that offers a peek into the networked and ‘smart’ landscapes that have emerged from a worldwide explosion of digital technology. This edition focuses on the following questions: What is the influence of this often invisible technological layer fusing with our daily lives? Which worlds, processes and entities lay hidden behind the surface of our computer screens? And how can we, users of digital instruments, influence these structures and processes to make them controllable for us – instead of the other way around?
Anticipating this most interesting event, we spoke with two members of the FIBER team, Festival Director Jarl Schulp and Club Night programmer & Scenographer Luuk Meuffels in an extended interview, covering everything from the festival’s past association with Trouw, the future of the nightclub, mass surveillance within the digital realm, and more.
I notice FIBER is more than a festival, rather it is a year round creative initiative. Can you give me an idea about the roots of FIBER as a concept?
Jarl Schulp: It all started in 2010, when we would go to a lot of festival’s, for example Melt and Nachtdigital. After two years of this, we got together in a different way. We would exchange ideas about music or how visual art fits into a party concept as a lot of our circle of friends were also DJs or graphic designers. We started with the idea that we needed a professional environment where up and coming artists would have the opportunity to present their work. We filed for an application with Amsterdam Fund for the Arts and got it. After this, it all became quite serious as we started the festival in 6 months. It was quite insane!
Since 2015, even though its only been 5 years, there have been a rapid evolution and awareness towards intermedial art. How have you seen the intermedial approach to digital music and culture evolve?
JS: Good Question! There is a lot that has happened. Looking from a music perspective, I think more artists are becoming aware of the expanded experience of their performances. At first, A/V shows were only for big artist like Plastikman. Now you see more DJs and Producers from the world of dancefloor oriented electronic music getting into the A/V arena. I think everyone is aware they need something extra and they now are able to perform something extra.
Also, a lot of the technological capability have increased. There are a lot of young people who have learned how to properly use these tools and are influencing many other forms of art, especially music.
We just conducted an interview with Deep Dish’s Dubfire, who has recently unveiled his HYBRID A/V concept. This is similar to the Richie Hawtin side of things, very dance floor oriented but, nevertheless, remains an interesting path to explore whether a big room DJ or not.
See also: Exclusive Interview With Dubfire
But, continuing down this path, we’ve talked about the middle ground FIBER Festival holds between the club and the art world, I wonder, how does the FIBER club night differentiate itself from the more traditional night out?
JS: We think of the club night as a broader concept. Part of the Radion program is the start of the evening, which are the A/V and music performances. We try to invite an audience who may normally go to a club to come here, sit down and see artists doing more ambient or experimental things.
Then, we look to the configuration of the space. We will build a stage design featuring multiple layers of media. We try to script the space as a story. If you look at a normal club night you might end up with lots of different colors in the light design, but we may choose to go with, say, a red phase going into a green phase. I won’t give the details to the club night but we will really mold the space, even distort it at some point. For instance, if you work with projections that create an optical illusion on the wall it is easy to bend the space. We are not going directly for that 4/4 dancefloor mentality. For instance Felix K from Dystopian Records, who has a background in drum and bass, will be performing a building set including ambient and techno.
What else is interesting are the two immersive art installations we are presenting, where audiences are the center of the work. They really suck you into another world!
We also had a feeling we needed to bring back the old chill out space. In the 1990’s there were these chill out spaces, where you could talk to people and listen to very skilled DJs melding together a lot of different styles not particularly for the dancefloor. You always went home looking for the tracks you would here there but not to know what it was. It could end up being Autechre or something IDM. Now, there is a big scene of techno DJs making this kind of music but no space for them to play it. So, together with Field Records, we will create this second space with a very different feeling from the rest of the event. It is darker, and looks like a cafe, but still an experimental music environment.
That brings me back to my 1990’s US rave days, where there would be these chillout spaces hidden within the warehouses. The communal element of the space was a big part of the overall experience.