MUTEK 2009: Our Closing Thoughts
A huge thank you to all who came!
June 11, 2009
After ten days of recovery, we’re still grappling with the most fitting way to explain the utterly remarkable experience that MUTEK_10 turned out be for all involved. Those of you who joined us in Montreal a few weeks back have likely noticed that this year’s anniversary edition was something special indeed, ranking among the most gratifying undertakings we have ever mounted. We would have liked a bit more control over the weather, but pretty much every other detail had the good fortune of going our way.
What made 2009 especially poignant was the consensus that everyone who found the time to come out to the festival, whether from just up the street or halfway across the globe, arrived in Montreal out of a sense of natural belonging to a community. As a result, the box office rang up a whopping 50% growth from last year, amounting to a total of 18,000 entries. When we include all those who witnessed the free outdoor Extra_Muros series, early estimates reveal an overall attendance of 70,000 entries for the festival in its entirety. Our artists and admirers have worked together, often with little more than enthusiasm for guidance, to harvest the fruits of a decade’s worth of passion.
More than ever, as MUTEK grows in reputation and scope, it is our grassroots base of supporters that we turn to for inspiration and for confirmation of our place in North America. Without the support of people who take the future of electronic music and digital creativity as seriously as we do, MUTEK would cease to be the individual experience that it is.
So, all we can say in response to this unprecedented level of development and support is… THANK YOU!
In many ways, MUTEK_10 felt like the passing of a milestone, the end of a cycle of emergence and self-discovery, and the beginning of a new era of renewed inspiration, reinvention, and experimentation. The strong faith and reinvigorated hope in the North American scene is certainly real and ripe for opportunity. Nowhere was this better exemplified than in our Thursday afternoon panel discussion on the status of the North American circuit for electronic artists, where an audience of 150 packed in to find out just where their community was headed.
MUTEK_10: FIVE DAYS OF STELLAR PERFORMANCES
If we were to say that any one aspect of MUTEK_10 was most rewarding in our eyes, then it would have to be the rise in status and anticipation for the more experimental tendencies of the festival’s digital creativity. The rising caliber of the A\VISIONS series, the addition of the Saturday evening A\V+ featuring the Raster-Noton crew, the ambient-leaning nature of the Savoy Room on Thursday night, Eric Mattson’s curation of the PLAY series, Robert Henke & Christopher Bauder’s triple-presentation of ATOM at the Theatre Maisonneuve, special presentations like Artificiel’s Beyond 6281 and Martin Tétreault’s Quatuor, not to mention the citywide presence of the Extra_Muros architectural art installations by the likes of visual label AntiVJ, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, and others – all these factors conspired to deliver a festival within a festival for lovers of electronic experimentation.
Not to be outdone, 2009’s NOCTURNES and PIKNICS flourished in all directions more than ever before, with variations of electronic rock, disco revivalism, dubstep, norteño, emo, soca, and hip-hop all building onto the templates of house and techno. More than ever, the fusion of digitality and rhythm continues to redefine the borders between progression and accessibility, and MUTEK is committed to following its artists wherever their imaginations take them.
MUTEK_10 was also the edition in which we celebrated the long and fruitful careers of a number of pivotal figures from the international scene, and nowhere was this made more obvious than the insightful nature of our Friday afternoon panel featuring Uwe Schmidt, Tobias Freund, and Thomas Fehlmann – a daytime highlight for many festivalgoers. Veterans were out in full force representing the contemporary history of electronic music. Wolfgang Voigt turned in a genuinely magical 90-minute Gas performance on opening night that raised the bar for every act to follow. Thomas Fehlmann’s Saturday afternoon set was roundly declared as one of the best performances of the festival, and the stakes kept getting higher as singular performances by Atom TM and tobias. took the stage later that night.
Perhaps it was fitting that Canadians provided many of 2009’s high points. For many, the most rewarding moment of the entire festival was the triumphant return to the stage of Akufen, who brought down the house with his stellar premiere of new material, proving once and for all that few have a better grasp of rhythm and musical signatures than Marc Leclair. At the other end of the spectrum, Montreal’s Artificiel won over a broad swathe of new admirers with their premiere of the utterly original POWEr. Mike Shannon, Ernesto Ferreyra and the Cynosure crew made the Savoy Room the place to be on Friday night, and Stephen Beaupré made the wait for his Wagon Repair debut all that much more anticipated with his preview of fantastic new tracks.
SOME HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE PRESS
One way to measure the festival’s exceptional impact this year is the number of media present. Over 150 local and international journalists converged from 13 countries to cover MUTEK, including Fact, Tsugi, XLR8R, The Wire and Resident Advisor. We’d like to highlight some of the most notable write-ups we’ve seen so far:
- Resident Advisor editor Todd Burns assembled an overwhelming oral history of MUTEK and Canadian techno that serves as essential reading for anyone interested in the growth and development of the festival and its community.
- In The Onion’s AV Club, Andy Battaglia published a glowing extended review of the festival.
- Boggers of all matters experimental such as unBLOGGED’s TJ Norris, Rhizome/Serial Consign/Vague Terrain’s Greg J. Smith, Create Digital Music’s Peter Kirn, and Basic Sounds’ Andrea D. Ayotte rallied together to represent the festival’s digital creativity output.
- XLR8R’s Ken Taylor presented an in-depth interview with festival founder and artistic director Alain Mongeau, covering the history and purpose behind MUTEK’s decade.
- Little White Earbuds’ Will Lynch took in the MUTEK weekend.
- Brooklyn Vegan’s Zach Dilgard and Edward Hagen, 88 Culture’s David Fogel, Urb’s Amanda Connon-Unda, and Szenemag’s Sandra Pahlke & Jörg Thiele all concocted extensive multi-media blogs that featured excellent photo essays and intelligent commentary.
MUTEK, ICAS & LE REGROUPEMENT
Those who are familiar with MUTEK’s activities know that the organization’s chief strength is its ability to create viable working communities in a globalized culture, and to that end MUTEK_10 served as a platform for the initial gathering of two major networks:
- the ICAS (International Cities for Advanced Sound), a gathering of over 20 international like-minded festivals from Europe, North America and South America. This initial meeting laid the groundwork for numerous future opportunities and collaborations intended to fortify the bonds between presenters of digital art in the near future.
- Le Regroupement, a grouping of six Montreal-based cultural events (Fringe Montreal, MEG Montreal, Pop Montreal, Piknic Electronik, MUTEK and Escales Improbables de Montréal) whose mission is to promote new, multidisciplinary work, and to offer artists from Montreal and elsewhere an international showcase to express their creativity, uniqueness, culture, and passion.
Speaking of the future, we’re already in the planning stages of numerous upcoming events. You can look for a MUTEK presence at this year’s Cervantino Festival in Mexico this October, which will likely coincide with showcases in Argentina and Chile. Next spring, fans can also look forward to the return of one of this edition’s most successful previews: the MUTEK North American tour! And, of course, our ten candles and sustained momentum will lead us impatiently to the 11th edition of MUTEK, slated for June 2nd to 6th, 2010. Mark your calendars!