01 November 2019
Art Of Noise
Kappa Futur’s Art & Techno Experience lays bare the conceptual links between gallery, philosophy and dancefloor
The sun is beating down, roasting anything not in shadow. It’s a breezeless oven. Must be at least 35°c. Up on stage, Belgian techno sensation Amelie Lens is banging it out to the thousands frying in Turin’s Parco Dora. Nothing
bothers this lot, though; tops off, microshorts on, Saharan midday heat or
not, they’re going 100mph bonkers. Welcome to Kappa FuturFestival 2019.
At one level, it’s another solidly enjoyable rave in the summer’s increasingly busy European festival calendar, with names such as Carl Cox, Richie Hawtin, Nina Kraviz, Derrick May, Dubfire, Charlotte de Witte, Jamie
Jones, Seth Troxler, HAAi and Red Axes playing across four stages, and 25,000 attending each day. On another, though, it’s much more. Mixmag’s here to sample Kappa Futur’s Art & Techno Experience, which turns out to run deeper than your average bolted-on VIP extra. The ‘Kappa’ in ‘Kappa Futur’ derives from Turin’s venerable sportswear brand, but it’s the ‘Futur’ that’s more interesting. It’s a nod to to Futurism, the early 20th Century art movement that sprang up in nearby Milan. It could be argued that the earliest conceptual roots of techno arose there. The Futurists believed art needed to be reinvented for the rising age of technology. They wanted “to present the musical soul of the masses, of the great factories, of the railways, of the transatlantic liners, of the battleships, of the automobiles and aeroplanes,” as the musician Francesco Pratella put it in his 1911 tract The Technical Manifesto of Futurist Music. “To add to the great central themes of the musical poem the domain of the machine and the victorious kingdom of Electricity.” His associate Luigi Russolo went further, creating noise-making instruments he called ‘intonarumori’, great box-like things that that bubbled, crackled, thundered,and rustled, like acoustic versions of contemporary effects software. The Futurists took a giant step. Where music had been about notes on paper played by orchestras, they pointed forward to the manipulation of sound in the machine age. The idea was pursued by avantgarde musicians who followed, such as Edgard Varèse, George Antheil and George Antheil (‘musique concrète’) from all of whom a direct line can be traced to Stockhausen, Kraftwerk and, eventually, Detroit techno. Once one of Italy’s premier industrial cities, Turin, like Detroit, is now dotted with areas of desolation where giant factories stood. Parco Dora has been greened, but still wears its heritage proudly. Kappa Futur takes place amid the storeys-high skeleton of a sheet metal plant, massive rusting hulks of warehouse supports and Michelin’s old, now colourfully decorated,
cooling towers. The Art & Techno package attempts to link the frenetic mayhem of dishpupilled 20-year-olds in bikinis rushing to Boys Noize and Boris Brejcha with the area’s cultural heritage. During the day, visits are organised to the villa of Francesco Cerruti, a magnate who made millions in the book-binding business and died in 2015. Small groups of visitors, wearing white protective over-shoes and accompanied by an
armed guard, are led around his house, cluttered with priceless art.
Secretive and low key, Cerruti nonetheless accumulated works by a
Who’s Who of the art world: Renoir, Modigliani, Bacon, Miro, Kandinsky,
Chagalle, Magritte, Warhol and many more. Passing from gilded dining rooms to opulent bedchambers, every wall crammed with paintings, the effect is as boggling to the eyes as the techno music of the night before was to the ears. But in many ways it’s a trip to Rivoli Castle, left unfinished centuries ago by the Royal House of Savoy, that’s more in tune with Kappa Futur. In the 1980s, after years of dereliction, this was transformed into Italy’s first museum of contemporary art. Walking around its vast spaces, the abstract installations share common ground with techno’s spirit: sparse, conceptual, a room of glaring colours, a room of mirrors, a room that seems to have exploded. The works, especially, of Maurizio Cattelan, resonate with
techno cover art: 1997’s ‘Charlie Don’t Surf’ is a life-size hooded child
mannequin facing into a window alcove. Upon close inspection, pencils nail his hands to the desk. Or there’s ‘Novecento’, above, a life-size embalmed horse, its legs weirdly extended during taxidermy, hanging high up from the ceiling of this airy, classical space. The Art & Techno package hands out museum passes, too, and Mixmag wanders the ‘Leonardo da Vinci: Hidden Treasures’ exhibition, as well as the ornate astonishments of the Royal Palace of Turin with its endless Renaissance friezes, vast altarpieces and the stunning domed chapel that once held the venerated yet infamous Shroud of Turin. It’s daunting in its magnificence, and perhaps the more abstract works are truly closer to techno’s heart. As a pairing, art and techno, after all, have form. Many’s the gallery that adds another dimension via a DJ soundtrack. Only last month Honey Dijon played at
the launch of the Hayward Gallery’s ‘Kiss My Genders’ exhibition, while Seth Troxler recently curated a show by New York artists Scooter LaForge at
Shoreditch’s Jealous Gallery (in the past he’s worked with French street
artist Thierry Noir and Iranian artist Medhi Ghadlanyoo). Berlin is home to numerous ventures that attempt to combine art and techno, notably the
Berlin Atonal Festival, but Kappa Futur’s Art & Techno Experience is more varied, less stern, perhaps aimed at the older dance music fan. Back onsite, it’s Sunday night and who should be playing but the kingpin of art meeting techno, Richie Hawtin. The sun is finally down and, he works the decks like he was born to it (he was!), turning cuts such as London-based Italian Anthony Castaldo’s ‘Lost In Consciousness’ inside out, stretching, filtering, pushing the crowd higher and higher as walls of lights blitz the retinas, every tattooed gym limb pumping, every cigarette waving in the air. Hawtin has played at New York’s Guggenheim Museum (as Plastikman), he’s created music with artists such as Andreas Gursky and Anish Kapoor and he’s as deep into the art world as any techno DJ-producer – yet if ever there was a sonic version of abstract expressionism, it’s the kind of techno he’s slamming out right now. “Look at us,” wrote the poet and Futurist founder Filippo Marinetti in his 1909 Founding Manifesto for Futurism, “We are still untired! Our hearts know no weariness because they are fed with fire, hatred, and speed! Does that amaze you? It should, because you can never remember having lived!” Looking around at the ‘untired’ of Kappa Futur, hatred aside, the rest strikes a chord. Techno is their art form here. The Art & Techno experience will return to Kappa FuturFestival next year.