Review of TodaysArt festival

I’ve always been intrigued by viral marketing. Some campaigns are incredibly successful, like Cadbury’s drumming gorilla, whilst others are serious flops. Big wigs at ad agencies the world over go grey in their attempt to find their holy grail – that elusive ingredient that actually creates ‘buzz’.

There is no definitive, repeatable formula, as Anneloes van Gaalan says in The Medium is the Message: ‘Ultimately, every rule related to, or governing, advertising is ridiculous’.

So when @TodaysArt started following me on Twitter (@harryscholes FYI), I was close to blocking them. What is TodaysArt and who are these internet hypesters? Over the next few weeks, the name kept cropping up all over my Internet reading: they were mentioned on the fantastic mnnl ssgs blog and people started @-mentioning it in their tweets.

It turned out that TodaysArt is a two-day festival held annually in The Hague. By day it is an arts festival, with a focus on visual and performance art in an urban setting. This year the theme was ‘leap into the void’ and the philosophy behind the works was a comment on cities present and future.

There were an overwhelming number of workshops, installations, exhibitions and concerts. Of particular note was Martin Messier’s Sewing Machine Orchestra whose sound sources were eight Singer sewing machines. The mechanical clicks and whirrs are then processed to create extremely varied results. Each of the Singers is linked to a lightbulb which pulses with the music adding an intense visual aspect to the performance.

At night, the timetable shifts its focus to music – techno being the dominant genre. Following serious disappointment when I was informed that Hiroaki Umeda’s dance and lighting show was sold out, I started queuing for Murcof two hours early and was first in line (keen, I know). Murcof teamed up with the artist AntiVJ who produces immersive, slowly morphing visuals that were projected onto a transparent screen and responded to Murcof’s rich soundscapes in real time.

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The bloggers from mnml ssgs also curated a stage on both nights, and the lineup was fairly similar, at least in philosophy, to the Labyrinth festival which took place the weekend before in Japan.

Nuel kicked things off with a deep, downtempo set: a sound he and fellow Italian Donato Dozzy have been pushing lately. Later, Raime left the crowd a little confused – their slow, disjointed post-punk beats aren’t the most danceable, but they made up for this with the sheer quality of their productions. The innovation continued on Saturday night with Robert Henke presenting his ‘Monolake Live Surround’ set which made effective use of a surround sound speaker set up, the first of its kind, and generative visuals courtesy of Tarik Barri. Peter van Hoesen closed the night off perfectly with his trademark restrained, driving techno.

This was a different festival to what you will be used to. Combining art, music, and graphics, it was truly innovative and took place in venues across the city, which limited your possibilities, but did mean you could eat and sleep well. Everyone I talked to in The Hague described TodaysArt as a ‘very nice’ festival. It was very nice, but it was also much, much more than that.