2017 has been an incredible year for MUTEK global expansions. Buenos Aires relaunched in September with a new team and new vision after several years dormant. Tokyo closed their ambitious second event on November 5, MUTEK.AE concluded its first edition in Dubai on November 18 with a follow up planned for 2018, Mexico City took place in November with Edition 14, the 9th edition of Barcelona happens in March and San Francisco, with the first stateside version of the festival will be inaugurated in May.
More than just a brand, the MUTEK ethos has proven to be an adaptable and valuable frame for new initiatives around the world, attracted by the festival’s commitment to a particular, global artistic culture and community that exalts electronic and digital artistry that defies conventional presentation. Always concerned with mingling and showcasing local talents in every region alongside international projects, and creating a circuit through which this globalized work can circulate, each new node expresses a unique identity. The festival functions as a launchpad into the world, while each city operates as a canvas on which to project novel ways of envisioning electronic and digital culture at home, with the intent of fostering new audiences and nurturing nascent creativity.
We asked the various MUTEKs about their epiphanic moments with the festival, why they want to make one in their city and what does it mean to become a MUTEK.
Spearheaded by Alberto Nerone in 2010, his first encounter with MUTEK was actually through its record label in 2005. Nerone identifies MUTEK’s special qualities as “discovery, innovation, community, collaboration, intellectual + spiritual healing, and family!”
As the only European home of the festival, and in a city known for its electronic music festivals, Nerone saw an opportunity through MUTEK to showcase and care for the local artists and community often left out of the juggernaut events in Barcelona. A place rich in architecture, gastronomy and cultural life, he has worked to connect the community with unconventional spaces and venues in order to reimagine and recontextualize electronic music.
The aim is to use the festival as a portal to introduce the kind of audiovisual and immersive performances normally without an outlet, and to build on the educational and technology activities of the Digi Lab, which spurs creation and brings communities together.
Launches May 3-6, 2018
Helmed by two co-directors with deep experience in the electronic music milieu, Surefire Agency founder Miroslav Wiesner and international events maestra Gabrielle de Villoutreys, MUTEK lands in San Francisco May 2018. Wiesner’s first encounter with the Montréal festival was through his agency work and he has been attending since 2008: “I had never been to a festival so meticulously curated, so well conceived and so cohesive in presentation. I knew I would be a devotee from the start but I didn't expect it to feel as familial as it did.”
San Francisco, a rarified zone of technology and innovation, where immigration, permutation, intellectualism, and futurism come together, is a prime candidate for a MUTEK. He adds, “the intersection of art, music, and technology combined with the adaptive nature of the city, its accessible size, the concentration of ideas and its constant supply of curious travelers make San Francisco an ideal location for the first American MUTEK edition. The community needs this now more than ever as the old and new populations establish their coexistence and find connections in culture and expression.”
Lineup and venue announcements are coming in the next weeks. In the meantime, MUTEK.SF seeks proposals from American artists and those residing in the area.
A 2013 visit to Montréal ignited the imagination of MUTEK.AE Director Mehdi Ansari who desired to create a platform in the Middle East for the significant talent emerging there and put it in dialogue with the rest of the world.
The newest and fastest growing city in the Middle East, Dubai offers a leap into an ultramodern future for young people from around the region. A metropolis of intense development fixated on technology and dynamism, MUTEK offers a crucial connection and a context that shifts perceptions about what electronic music and digital art can be. He says: “we’re bringing MUTEK to Dubai because we see the deep potential and interest from people in enriching the city’s music, art and digital culture, which is still in its early stages.” Ansari adds “We’d also like to shift the emphasis away from clubbing and partying in Dubai and offer a new perspective on the way electronic music and audiovisual practices can be profound, inspiring and revelatory. MUTEK’s format and curatorial philosophy, with its commitments to local artistic communities in every city it exists, intersects perfectly with this mission. It is going to challenge and inspire them to join this global community with a statement.”
Gonzalo Solimano’s first contact with MUTEK was back in 2005, with the festival’s first event in Argentina. Together with his team, he successfully mounted the festival’s comeback in Buenos Aires this past September with a program of more than 70 artists and projects hosted at the colossal CCK. He says, “the seed that had been planted between 2005-2010 is now germinating and we are literally witnessing the new beginning of a new era. I didn’t ever imagine I would end up being part of it.”
As with all the different teams that have approached Montréal to mount a version of MUTEK, Buenos Aires sees the festival as a tool to recontextualize not just electronic music culture as an artform, but as a way to engage audiences with contemporary immersive and audiovisual experiences, not available through other channels.
A promoter and events producer in Mexico City, Director Damian Romero was turned on by what he experienced in Montréal in 2003. Now an integral part of his identity, he describes his work with MUTEK as “the most powerful passion driver in my life.”
Demographically one of the youngest cities in the world, and as Romero points out, also “a high energy megalopolis, filled with contrast and diversity with an inspiring architecture that mixes the contemporary and the historical, creating the perfect backdrop for designing novel experiences during the festival.
Over the last decade the region has seen an explosion of creativity from Mexican artists working in cutting-edge digital realms and making names for themselves internationally. MUTEK.MX has definitely played a big part in showcasing, exporting and nurturing the electronic and digital arts scene. As the festival heads toward its milestone 15th anniversary, Romero sees the success of the November edition as a crucial prelude to consolidate its reputation and propel itself into the future.
Lead by Director Shuichiro Iwanami, MUTEK.JP was inspired first by a trip to MUTEK.MX in 2013 and then realized in Montréal during the 2015 edition.
Japan and Tokyo have always been at the heart of the interplay between music and technology having essentially invented modern synthesizers and drum machines, but electronic music festivals in the city have not been a strong part of the culture.
Searching for formats that would suit their interests and tastes, MUTEK offered the kind of platform they were looking for. And as Project Manager Maurice Ortega Jones points out, “it's surprising that barely any similar attempts like this have been made and that's why we felt we really struck a nerve with bringing MUTEK to Japan. Japan is also still a very alien country to so many people, but in a similar way, the Japanese also have very specific conceptions of the outside world. That's why we want to make the local global and the global local.”
Photos: Oscar Villanueva, Marianne Harmony Zammaria, MUTEK Argentina, Antje Larsenstrorobo, .