From Thursday, April 6 to April 8 various locations in the Dutch city of The Hague unravelled a multi-sensorial and interdisciplinary adventure around the art of sound. Completely blank I entered the already 12th edition (why was I never there before?) with more than 200 activities including 25 world premieres.
In addition to the overwhelming line-up, with the context program Inter/Relations the packed program ‘explored how recognizing fluid boundaries between humans, nature, and technology, and establishing connections between times and territories are fundamental for contemporary and experimental music and sound practices.’
It is precisely this fluidity of narratives, worlds, disciplines and approaches that was embodied and felt throughout the entire program and performances I attended. The power of imagination, driven by the affective power of art, which was omnipresent in most of the presentations, literally enlarged your world or transported it momentarily to other dimensions. From sacred sensations, queerness and fetishism to post-human speculations and cultural diversity, and so on, a new world in which there is room for many worlds unfolded in churches, culture houses, music temples, public spaces or inside your imagination.
The great thing about the program, which is characterized by many crossover collaborations, is that, despite your taste, the whole of the experience gives room to appreciate everything on its own quality. Although highly innovative, the craftsmanship of sound artistry was also very tangible.
Still, nothing beats Patti Smith; in collaboration with the Soundwalk Collective, who, with her contribution of inexhaustible intrinsic engagement and hope, wired the themes of the festival and proposals of the artists all together to a convincing immaterial value of art. Never before has the sublime and complex meaning of Easter been so clear to me.
Rewire 2023 Program Recap The program contained immersive performances, music shows, club-like shows, film screenings and panel talks, by established artists alongside emerging talents.
The festival opening program took place on Thursday evening at The Grey Space in the Middle with conversations and listening sessions. Followed by the Friday highlight by Ellen Fullman & The Living Earth Show who presented the first of their three performances of Elemental View. PAARD venue staged a club night with shows by LSDXOXO and the percussive energy of ABADIR feat. HOGIR. Lastly, the incredible boundaries pusher Fever Ray provided a theatrical performance.
Saturday was a packed day showing the scope and variety of Rewire from dusk till dawn. The Paper Ensemble & Ale Hop presented the world premiere of their collaborative show #17 at Korzo, presenting a sonic fabric woven from the smallest and softest sounds we can hear, in juxtaposition with the brutality of percussion and amplification.
One of the Saturday highlights was provided by 33, a collaborative clash of banging hardcore rave, inward-looking chamber music, and artful punk by the multi-gifted composer and performance-maker Billy Bultheel and artist Alexander Lezzi. In this live show, Bultheel and Lezzi performed alongside cellist Patrick Belaga and vocalists Ivan Cheng and Steve Katona.
Following 33, the evening continued with one of the most visually striking and literally bloody shows was the world premiere of Alto Arc’s live performance. Their approach to medieval music, metal, rave and club delivered their own, twisted take on an Eastern Passion Play. This supergroup consists of Deafheaven frontman George Clarke, maverick pop producer Danny L Harle, Trayer Tryon from Hundred Waters, and make-up artist Isamaya Ffrench.
The night was a never-ending adventure taking you all the way from The Hague to Kampala thanks to Authentically Plastic, a DJ and producer “Demon of the Nile” disrupting conservative norms in Uganda.
In words by Rewire; ‘They run a roving, riotous, club night in Kampala called ANTI-MASS which opens up space for femme, queer, and experimental artists in an increasingly repressive social climate. Risk-taking in this political environment informs Authentically Plastic’s sound, which has an accelerated, densely layered, and improvisational feel. Their sets, at once dark and playful, use Gqom, Vogue, and Techno as a base for exploring other unknown sounds. Their music is influenced by anything from quasi-electronic Northern Ugandan rhythms, to early acid experiments and Afrofuturism.’
Sunday, April 8th, also the Catholic Eastern Sunday, sound artists, composers, and performers Maria Chavez, Mariam Rezaei, and Victoria Shen shared an innovative affinity for the turntable as an instrument for musical experimentation and improvisation. Internationally renowned for their unique kind of turntablism and a lo-fi form of music making, they were impressed with the world premiere involving a performance set of twelve turntables. The trio used “Needle Nails,” acrylic nails with built-in turntable needles that allow for simultaneous playback of multiple sound sources on the same record, developed by Shen.
In the late afternoon, Tim Hecker, commissioned by Rewire and co-commissioned by Le Lieu Unique for a unique, collaborative show with installation and object design by multidisciplinary artist Vincent de Belleval, immersed the audience into a cathedral-like collective ambient experience. Utilising custom-made LED lights adjusted to Hecker’s music, the show explored different ways to “break up the grid” and find new interactions between light, sound, colours, contrasts, and textures.
Patti Smith and Soundwalk Collective’s Stephan Crasneanscki had an afternoon conversation with the audience in Grote Kerk where they talked about their intimate artistic collaboration and the philosophy behind Correspondences that premiered later in the evening at Amare. Channelling the tragic artistry of the murdered filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini and connecting it to themes of loss, grief and humankind’s betrayal of the natural world, Correspondences turned out to be an elegiac Eastern show, amplified by the incredibly impactful presence of Patti Smith.
Zebra Katz, born Ojay Morgan, a Jamaican-American multidisciplinary rapper, producer, songwriter and performing artist brought his fascinating persona on stage. Together with Kelela bringing a stylish and musically layered finale to Rewire.
Kelela, known for reshaping contemporary R&B in her own vision with brooding instrumentals, soaring vocals, and glistening sound design, created an intimate and emotionally charged vibe. As expressed by herself, there is always something communal in the Kelela-audience. Undoubtingly, thanks to her brooding instrumentals, soaring vocals, and glistening sound design with which she reshapes contemporary R&B.
In addition, the third edition of Proximity Music: Visceral Acts took place, an exhibition presenting works related to the notions of health and sanity. This program contained the sublimely detailed performance Reach by Karel van Laere, Komorebi installation by Matteo Marangoni & Dieter Vandoren installed on the grass in front of De Nieuwe Kerk, GUT by Diane Mahin and Fantasma Boca by Vivian Caccuri & Thiago Lanis who recreated the sound of the tropical rainforest.
Lastly, Bodil Ouédraogo, a visual artist who explores the art of dressing up and its cultural surroundings in her work presented Framed Intimacy, a visual installation that combines sculpture, video, movement, and music composed by Bram Owusu.
Informed by her Dutch and Burkinabe background, she is interested in the different cultural ideas of what constitutes identity. Taking West African sculptures as a starting point, the installation longs to express togetherness through material heirlooms. She does so by enlarging the sculptures, framing them, and wearing fragments of the sculptures in a performative way. By doing so, she shifts the dynamics of how the sculptures are perceived and embodies the stories that are hidden in them. This results in visual and auditory research about posing, bearing, and positioning yourself while bearing a longing to understand who went before us.
The work is commissioned by artist-run space Das Leben am Haverkamp and Rewire as part of a long-term collaboration between the two platforms, facilitating space for experimental crossovers between fashion, performance art, and music.
For more about the festival and line-up:
Rewire Festival 2024 is taking place from 4-7 April. Early bird tickets for the thirteenth edition are already available.
Words by Branko Popovic, and some cited from Rewire Festival.
Photography credits – photographers: Parcifal Werkman, Pieter Kers, Jan Rijk, Stephan C Kaffa, Michał Betta, Branko Popovic