TodaysArt 2017

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  • TodaysArt director Olof Van Winden has been arrested three times for actions relating to The Hague festival. This radical streak is reflected in the event, which, since launching 15 years ago, has been a testing ground for fusing contemporary art and nightlife together in interactive and disruptive ways. For Van Winden, there's no distinction between visual art and music—"code is the new tool," he says—and the club is the place for discovery and innovation. Not that TodaysArt makes use of any clubs, though. The "nomadic" festival prefers not-fit-for-purpose spaces like churches, Scheveningen Pier or a tower block scheduled for demolition—the wider it spreads throughout the city, the better. 2017's edition was held across a trio of modern theatre buildings, including the regal Koninklijke Schouwburg, where the main music program took place. Nestled on snug red seats, I settled in for Friday night's inaugural concert at Koninklijke Schouwburg: the "Persian techno apocalypse" of Sote's CTM-commissioned piece, Sacred Horror In Design. Romantic notes from traditional Iranian instruments—the santoor and setar, performed by Arash Bolouri and Behrouz Pashaei—skipped along the surface of Sote's darker drones and eerie modulations. Meanwhile, Tarik Barri matched the interplay of cranky modern and mystical sounds with mesmeric, kaleidoscopic landscapes. His visuals oscillated between organic and graphic material, like a digital version of M. C. Escher's Metamorphosis. Prepared piano virtuoso Hauschka followed, performing a medley of material off his current What If album, accompanied by two of his self-playing machines.
    From midnight onwards, Koninklijke Schouwburg was transformed into a club-like setting, the stage becoming a dance floor with rows of coloured lights adorning the tiered balconies behind. It threw the place totally out of context, in a wonderful way. Mexican crew NAAFI helmed the space on opening night, but sadly there were just a few stragglers left by the time Lao took over at 3 AM. Those still standing rocked out unashamedly to dystopian mixes of Hardrive's "Deep Inside," 20 Fingers' "Short Dick Man," Delerium's trance classic "Silence," and, yes, even a blast of Limp Bizkit. The evening closed in a salvo of gabber, breakbeat and hakken moves (some expert, some amateur) thanks to hardcore veteran DJ Panic, who came armed with a selection of Rotterdam's finest and decades worth of technical mixing skills. Proudly sporting a Forze shirt, he delivered an excellent history lesson in hardcore—and the best set of the weekend. The following night was fuller for the 25 Years Clone showcase, which offered a more cerebral buffet of nerdy experimental techno from the likes of Richard Devine, Aleksi Perälä and local legend Legowelt. Elsewhere within Koninklijke Schouwburg, there was a claustrophobic annex-type space upstairs (Paradijs) and more of a foyer thoroughfare downstairs (Sol LeWit), neither of which really worked. Paradijs suffered from sound issues, which meant that Cómeme signee Charlotte Bendiks, flown all the way from Tromsø, couldn't perform on Friday. N.M.O. faced a similar fate the following night. After a 20 minute delay, the duo managed to deliver one of their whimsically energetic sets, a literal workout featuring live drumming and electronics. The crowd loved it—one guy even joined Rubén Patiño, who mans the electronics, in jumping up and down like a pogo stick. But N.M.O. were clearly frustrated, and rightly so.
    TodaysArt puts a lot of effort into promoting emerging talents and disseminating critical discourse throughout Europe via its associated networks, SHAPE and We Are Europe. It belongs to a wider community—"family, really," says Van Winden—of festivals sharing artists, lectures (like "Riot In The Matrix," about data protection and cryptocurrency) and even staff. Many partners were present and participating in some form over the weekend, including Daniel Erlacher from Elevate in Austria, Tommy Ose from Norway's Insomnia Festival and CTM's Remco Schuurbiers, originally from The Hague and now based in Berlin. Everyone came together on Saturday to discuss a brand new blockchain initiative and TodaysArt's new artist-in-residence programme at Delft University Of Technology. It was genuinely inspiring, if a little fanciful—a bit like TodaysArt overall. Photo credit / Stephan C. Kaffa