Impressed by TodaysArt Festival 2014

Its extremely difficult to review something as complex as the program of the TodaysArt festival, packed with performances, lectures and music/club events which took place over four days in several locations, but for the times that I attended I was more than impressed with what TodaysArt had to offer.

While the events of TodaysArt all functioned together as a whole, it is easier to describe them by location due to the separation that occurred when moving from place to place during the festival. TodaysArt took place in four locations: the new and beautiful Zuiderstrand Theater, the Blue Building, the Container Village and in the basement of a building five minutes away which housed the main exhibition.

HC Gilje – Trace

For the art aficionado, a weekend visit to TodaysArt required several pairs of critical ‘spectacles’, as different perspectives and energies were needed for all the locations. One couldn’t have have the same sensibilities while attending a Club 1/2 night event, as one would maintain while visiting the ‘The Fluidity Aspect’ exhibition, or listening to a Bright Summit lecture, yet they were all designed with each other in mind. This what makes TodaysArt so great, but also vulnerable to criticism when ‘club night’ and ‘contemporary art exhibition’ can be contained in the same sentence. As with many other festivals making heavy claims to offer visual art alongside a festival program, it can perhaps run the risk of losing conceptual tensions in order to accommodate trends of acceptable art for large crowds.

However, TodaysArt’s relatively small amount of attendees was one of its many strong points. If it were a full blown festival with thousands of visitors, something about it would have seemed standard, and would have become even more susceptible to criticism of having a conceptual art program hitched on to a music festival. However, I believe festivals like TodaysArt is out to conceivably change any negative associations between festivals promoting a program containing music, lectures and groundbreaking contemporary art, therefore squashing any skepticisms about quality. Perhaps perspectives are changing with the emerging techno-culture of digital natives. In the same gesture they can engage conceptually in important and philosophical thought followed by a club night with thrilling and innovative musical performances. Without the sentiment of a large festival crowd, no one at TodaysArt will carelessly spill their drink all over you.

At the Vuurtorenweg, located in the basement which once held an archive of security documents belonging to former Yugoslavia, the exhibition ‘The Fluidity Aspect’ expertly curated by Petra Heck offered a conceptual challenge to those willing to investigate TodaysArt more deeply. The placing of the works inside the space was well executed, almost suspiciously so at times, seeming like the work was intended for the odd bunker all along. It is indeed a very strange and appropriate place to house works which explore tensions of transparency, security, and data. (Go here for a more in-depth review of the works in ‘The Fluidity Aspect’). At first it seemed a downside that the exhibition was located relatively far from the rest of the festival, but perhaps it was necessary to allow ‘space’ for thinking and being in separate states of mind.

The Container Village

The Container Village was always pulsing away with music from live acts and dj’s along with the location of the food court and permitted an easy transition between the main theater and Blue Building. It also housed a few works in portable shipping containers collected in a partnership with the Japan Media Arts Festival, along with an open air cinema showing a selection of videoworks and documentaries from Satellietgroep projects. This was also the location of the incredibly loud Mascleta daytime fireworks display which opened the festival and resulted in hundreds of local police reports being called in.

As overwhelming as it was, TodaysArt definitely leaves a strong impression of what it is all about: creativity, art, music, science and technology.

By attending you are given the feeling of taking part in celebrating the makers of today, and the makers of the future. I did continually find myself thinking, “The future is here!” especially during Robert Henke’s ‘Lumiere’ light performance, which was like watching an upgraded digital version of laser fireworks. Smoke filled the large room of the Zuiderstrand theater, while immense and varying intensities of programmed light played upon the surrounding air and large theater screen set to booming beats and harmonies.

Robert Henke – Lumiere

It is for these reasons (and many more) that TodaysArt is one of the utmost contemporary (in all senses of the word) festival. Creative experts, policy makers, technologists, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, companies and researchers from various backgrounds made the program of TodaysArt possible with approaches concerning various scientific, social, historical, futuristic and artistic perspectives. It seemed like nothing was overlooked, for as many weak points there was a strong counterargument. All the hard work and planning behind putting the festival together was apparent, yet it still remained smooth and effortless to its visitors. Since it began, TodaysArt tops itself every year with its extensive program, making the future look bright for 2015. For more specific information on all the individual works in the festival, visit the comprehensive TodaysArt website. Congratulations to everyone involved!