It’s summer time. The sun is high in the sky, your rosé is fresh, and you want to enjoy your holidays with your friends. Good, there are plenty of festivals for that matter. But should we really consider these heavenly places as totally secluded from the world? In our way to MELT!, we drove with an Australian songwritter telling us
‘Europe is going crazy right now, travelling here for the first time makes me realize how peaceful Australia is.’
And he is right, it’s hard not to see all the terror attacks, the current refugee crisis, or the recent Brexit situation that left us indignant. We went to Ferropolis curious to see everybody’s state of mind. Let’s say it’s more complicated than we thought.
Some artists do speak up
Our first show was in fact the only one really adressing the issue – despite the numerous artists the came from the UK. Well … VESSELS wouldn’t have taken off 10 minutes of their set to speak about it if it wasn’t for a sound problem. Every time the british band started playing their tunes, a buzzing and crackling sound appeared and made everything sound distorted. ‘This sound has a name’ said one of Vessels frontman, ‘It’s called Brexit’, before sharing his perspectives.
The formation is coming from Leeds, one of North Yorkshire main cities. As we explained it in our Brexit feature, Yorkshire is also amongst the places that most hugely voted ‘out’. I had the chance to visit VESSELS‘ studio in Leeds industrial district nearly one year ago. They represent the contrast of these areas – culturally dynamic and rich, with big cities having a good access to education, but also surrounded by poor and derelict areas populated by working class people. ‘We don’t want to leave you guys, but our country is crazy right now’. We can only recomend you to read the Pitchfork feature about how leaving the EU will make the life of british artists much harder when it comes to travelling and playing abroad.
Activists create new ways to interact with the festival-goers through arty chilled installation
MELT! tries hard to be more than just a festival, to look more like a human village. Near the beaches of Ferropolis, you could find a small outdoor theater and an art installation adressing the refugee and environmental crisis. We spoke with one of the architect of the project. ‘We made this out of things that people threw away. We wanted to show that there are more things to do with everything we call trash.‘ More than that, they managed to use garbages not only to recycle them and use them again, but they also gave it a voice, a meaning:
‘It’s true, I think we need to invent new ways to interact with people. I’ve worked on several similar projects in Berlin, all taking place in institution where it was their ‘place’. Installing this in the middle of a big festival, it gives it a whole new power.’
What better way to connect than creating something that people can make their own ? In the middle of a festival like MELT!, nobody would really to want to sit in a room listenning to some activists speaking about how important it is to act. But for sure they’re happy to chill out and think about these problems on their own, without having to feel guilty for everything. We understand here that even if festivals are about relaxing out of your everyday life, there are ways to bring ideas into it.
And that’s precisely a thing that festivals have, that raves can’t have. A week before the festival, I enjoyed an awesome illegal rave in a bunker close to the European Central Bank in Frankfurt. Of course it felt way more authentic, and it was also way easier to meet people and just discuss with them about individualism and how raves are a counter-lifestyle to it – it was less about consuming an event. But it’s mainly a niche-thing. It isn’t as popular as big festivals can be, and when you look back on the history of festivals all along back to Woodstock, there has always been this thin line of a place made for everybody’s enjoyment but also a place being able to reflect the societies we live in, the problems we face.
We sat in MELT’s forest with Andrew, a physicist (on ecstasy), discussing Brexit
I met Andrew while I was wandering in MELT’s forest. A place to chill and relax, therefore a place good for meeting people. When you’re reporting festivals alone, you don’t see that much people alone too, so they immediately stick out. Andrew was sitting somewhere, alone, chewing way too fast to be sober but somehow still really connected to what’s going on. He just told his girlfriend to ‘leave him alone‘ for a bit: ‘I was very upset when you came to see me‘ he would confessed later on. We ended up discussing during half an hour or so. Amongst our conversations, we discussed Brexit.
I’m supposed to be crushed. I know the expected answer, and I agree that it’s a total disaster, but I would love to give an answer that’s more than just scratching the surface. I’m from Austria and we had a similar debate during our presidential election. In some ways Brexit doesn’t concern me that much.
But do you feel European ?
Yes I strongly feel European. You seem to be french, France is a proud and strong country with a lot of nationalist feelings. And more than that, the language is also an issue. As long as we don’t adopt a common language, I think it’ll be hard to create a global sense of identity. The borders are languages. And concerning the Brexit situation, what do we really expect from the EU? Perhaps, the things we’re expecting from it doesn’t need the EU to exist – freedom of movement, investments, studies. The problem is that for us, the EU more about the thing that collect all our money, and we don’t like the current institutions. We made the EU for economic interests, so it’s no surprise there is no popular support when it’s endangered. They’re playing with us, teasing us with the risks of countries leaving the EU. It doesn’t matter. We can fight for European integration in other ways than through the EU. Sorry for the long answer…
No! It’s a complicated subject, and we should not be seeking for simple answers or ideas.
Of course you’re asking this question in a very cosmopolitan place, and they’ll be all ‘oh no it’s really horrible’. It’s a place of European celebration, people are from every countries. I’m from Austria but I just made some friends from Holland.
A crowd about consumption, but not unsensitive – there’s time for everything
Aren’t they sweet and rebellious? Young and cute girls siting in a derelict car, listenning to some drum & bass, chilling before some big techno hit the floor. But let’s not be snobistic, who can blame them to enjoy their expensive holidays? Not us, because you can’t blame people for wanting to relax in modern societies where it’s all about stress, deadlines, and burnouts. Somehow, walking into this big human village called MELT!, with its numerous stages and installations, I felt… not really legitimate. When you see a couple lying on the beach enjoying the relaxed music of STIMMING – one of the high point of the weekend – you just don’t want to come and ask
“Hey, the world is fucked up right now, can we take 5 minutes from your very rare occasions to relax to talk about it?”
This idea summarizes how hard it is to come witnessing political and social issues in the world of summer festivals. But in some ways, do we really need to express it with words when our tongues are so dry and tired to comment on everything? Festivals are the world of sensations – your visual and auditive senses are aroused all the time during sleepless days. In the end, isn’t it here the language of festivals? Do we really need to talk to these people, or to make them talk, to share ideas and to involve everybody in the public sphere?
Not really, in the same way we can have everybody appropriate themselves art installations instead of speaking about them, symbols and images are sometimes stronger. If the rational public sphere is overfed and jammed, let’s fill it with other means to engage connections. Seeing the Palestinian flag embrace a ‘LGBT+/Star of David’ flag during TIGA‘s live set was more efficient and powerful than any politician’s speech would ever be.
Every pictures from this report are from ourselves.