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International Festival of Digital Creativity and Electronic Music
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January 21, 2021

MUTEK.JP Edition 5 - A Résumé

In these challenging times MUTEK.JP hosted its 5th anniversary edition from December 9th to 13th, 2020, in a hybrid format, connecting physical spaces in Tokyo with local and international audiences through our virtual festival platform. The physical performance program took place from December 10th to 12th at Shibuya’s Stream Hall, presenting 3-days of groundbreaking performances of electronic music and audiovisual art. The virtual festival extension saw the convergence of the two artistic communities of Japan and Mexico in an ambition to explore new virtual playgrounds to overcome physical disconnection and social isolation. For 5 continuous days MUTEK Japan and MUTEK Mexico joined forces hosting more than 35 performances across 3 virtual stages, an interactive Gallery exhibiting cutting-edge digital artworks, a series of lectures, talks and master classes in a virtual Digi Lab format, and a Listening Room with non-stop selections from the MUTEK network’s archives. The Mexican-Japanese core programming was extended through the MUTEK Connect series, which provided a space for collaborations with the global MUTEK branches and our international partners from Insomnia and Ekko Festivals in Norway, Italy’s Club to Club festival and South Korea’s B39/PRECTXE festival.

Edition 5 in numbers

  • A limited number of 500 visitors at the physical events in Tokyo
  • More than 8,500 users on virtual.mutek.org over 5 days
  • Presented 12 physical performances at Shibuya Stream Hall and 6 Digi Lab sessions
  • 77 artists from 16 countries incl. 26 local Japanese jointly presented on the virtual festival platform
  • Supported by 44 partner organizations

For a full breakdown of 2020's hybrid festival activities follow the link below.

Edition 5 - Archive

For our team the main goal of hosting the 5th edition of MUTEK.JP was to make a statement in support of the arts and music, which we believe are more important than ever in these challenging times. In a year where the majority of cultural events be it concerts, exhibitions, outdoor experiences, or simple club nights have been cancelled, we saw the need to continue our mission of providing a space for our local artistic community to create, to experiment, to perform and present their works, as in the end the communal spirit is what the festival thrives on.

Beyond the artists, the MUTEK.JP community naturally extends to include our audiences, which over the past 5 years have shown us continuous support and without whom the festival activities would not be possible. Our mission thus extended towards providing a space not only for the presentation of art and music, but also for their appreciation. We believe that in times of extreme social isolation and anxiety fueled by torrents of negative messages, and efforts to drive us apart, providing a safer space for the exchange between artists, and audiences is crucial as an emotional outlet, as a way to keep connecting with people, and ultimately as a vehicle to imagine brighter futures ahead.

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For these two reasons 2020 has been a year in which the MUTEK.JP team has focused on developing and experimenting with new formats fueled by technological advancements that encourage the support of the artistic community and connect local and global audiences with art and music from Japan. Central to all this effort was to develop formats that ensure the safety of all involved participants, be it audiences, artists, or our team. Creating safer spaces for anybody of any gender, sexuality, and ethnicity has been an ongoing effort within the wider MUTEK network, and this naturally extends towards adopting formats that protect the health of our visitors. The rigorous screening of entrants to the festival, the limited capacity, the seated environment in social distance, and the absence of alcohol definitely made for a new kind of festival experience, which we tried to adapt to through our physical and virtual programming.

Safety for us nevertheless extends beyond mere physical health, to encompass the mental as well. The stresses of the current times weigh heavy on the artistic community, the lack of financial stability through the lack of artistic outputs hit many hard. This extends beyond the artists towards everyone that is involved in the cultural sector, be it booking agents, production crews, or bar staff. By going ahead with the festival we thus also considered providing an opportunity for the cultural workers in our network to get involved, in a year with a severe lack of cultural activities.

This hybrid edition has been full of learnings for us, two of which crystallized very clearly. Firstly, compared to a few years ago, the technology to deliver multisensory experiences has matured, a trend which only accelerated in the past 12 months. Be it the latest ultra high definition technology, be it Augmented and Virtual Reality, be it immersive sound for personal use and venues, be it the algorithmic solutions that drive the backend of all these. There’s nothing keeping us from developing new formats that are transcending the various levels of reality we find ourselves in, on a mission to foster old and form new connections applying these technologies. This opens up all kinds of possibilities, but also poses a great challenge with a lot of responsibility, especially for MUTEK.JP as a festival.

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This new status quo leads into our second learning that now more than ever before the curatorial process becomes key. Deciding, which technologies to use, which formats to employ, and how to connect this multiverse of possibilities in a way that presents the artists and their artwork in the most impactful way and thus creates an engaging audience journey and hybrid festival experience. For us, as a festival, this means to intensify our interconnection with our artistic community, in a pursuit of developing these new formats jointly, which reaches from the processes of ideation, to production, to presentation, and finally feedback, thus creating a constant cycle of exchange. It also means that now more than ever we are dependent on the feedback and support from our passionate audiences that always encourages us to go above and beyond in a pursuit of festival excellency. While these two points have always been at the core of our curatorial process, oftentimes the process can get clouded by financial considerations, or by competing interests of various stakeholders involved. Diving deeper into the exploration of hybridity, however, emphasized yet again the importance of boundary-pushing curation that does not shy away from taking risks in experimentation.

We believe that we are only at the beginning of our explorations of these new formats, which are increasingly developing into delivering more and more immersive festival experiences. As we move forward we are fully embracing this new era and are very excited for what lies on the horizon. We are thankful for the trust put into us by the artistic community, by our audiences, and all our partners in Japan and abroad. It is thanks to all your support that we can continue providing a space for artistic expression in these uncertain times. We are looking forward to seeing you in 2021 on and off the festival stages!

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