Moers Festival :: Anthea Caddy

7 – 12 May 2008, Moers GermanyFrom the 7th to the 12th of May I participated in the Moers Festival Morning Series and 1000 Kinder Performance along with fellow Australian artists Robin Fox, Anthony Pateras, Steve Heather, Clare Cooper and Clayton Thomas.

The Moers Festival has a 30 year history and is a well known and established international music festival. Originally centred around jazz, the Moers festival has since branched out to include many other approaches to music. It attracts an extremely large audience and showcases acts that run a gamut of styles through jazz, free jazz, new music, rock and the more contemporary sound and improvisation.

I participated in various events, primarily in the ‘Morning Series’, which featured Australian, Estonian, Swiss, Viennese and German artists.  It was an extremely large program that ran throughout three separate venues, from 11am through to 2pm, over the three days of the festival. The curators’ aim was to divide the 24 participating artists into three groups, working the three performance spaces. The artists would be in a different group each day, so that each artist would have the opportunity to collaborate in some way with every other artist over the duration of the festival. This was done to develop artistic dialogue between artists of different nationalities. The hope was that this dialogue would create awareness of approaches to performance from differing cultures, and build networks and connections between the artists. Electronics, musical instruments and vocalists were all curated in the event.

This was a highly demanding and complex system for me to work in. It was a performance context intended to produce spontaneity, and the artistic backgrounds of the performers were quite diverse. Thus the level of collaboration was sometimes of a very high standard and other times completely inarticulate. The artists all took a range of different approaches to improvisation, hence the collaborations could vary dramatically in the space of half an hour. Interestingly, the fact that the Australian experimental music community was strongly represented had a noticeable effect during some of the improvisations. Because the Australians were well versed in each others’ languages, generally when three Australians were in one group, their performances were somewhat unified and the overall sound would then be stronger.

Because the nature of the series was deliberately unstructured, the audience was interested in the process as well as its outcomes through the performances, so their response was very positive. The audiences were very large for a performance that started at 11am with a massive program running in another tent that finished at 2am in the previous morning. It was great to have some large audiences to witness the developments of the day.

The series was based around the free improvisation approach to collaboration and performance which I find very interesting to apply to my own work, as it is always beneficial to develop new ways of performance and dialogues between diverse mediums. However, I felt that the series could have possibly developed in more than just the area of improvised sound/performance. Because of the festival’s schedule, and the number of participating artists, there was little time to develop many ideas prior to each performance. While the performances were generally successful, I felt that there might have been more conceptual development towards usage of the performance space and use of more conceptual techniques, which would have benefited the series overall.

Many of the artists knew each other from various tours and festivals before this one. This is part and parcel of the ‘European circuit’ where people are constantly traveling throughout Europe performing or participating in various festivals and art series. It is always interesting to experience working with Europeans. Many of them find that, we as Australians are somewhat free of the weighty traditions that artists face in Europe. Due to the tyranny of distance we Australian artists face when attempting to exhibit on the International level, it is interesting to see the different ways we approach sound and music. This was something that was highlighted in the Morning series performances.

There were some artists whose approach to performance I thought was a little conservative. This then caused some difficult performance situations to occur where some people had difficulty engaging with another persons performance because they didn’t seem to have the knowledge of some of the different performance strategies some people were employing. However, this was part and parcel of the experience and what the curators expected. They wanted the element of surprise and for the audience to witness the development and dialogue between artists that have never worked together before.

Overall I think it was a successful program though and I gained a lot out of it both artistically and professionally. Alongside the morning series we also got the opportunity to watch many seminal acts such as John Zorn, Cecil Taylor and Michel Doneda. Some of the performers from the other curated events would guest in our morning series, which threw another element into the mix. This opportunity was amazing, as many of these acts never make it to the Australian stage. The festival gave me the opportunity to meet and develop many networks with many artists spanning the globe including America, Europe and Canada. It was also an excellent opportunity to develop some important performance skills that I would not have had in Australia due to the sheer size and breadth of the Festival. I also saw some incredible performances that will assist in my own artistic development. Overall, I think that the Moers Festival raised many questions about the future directions of instrumental and electronic performance, and how we might break away from some of the traditional approaches to live performance in a context such as at the Moers Festival.

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