Life During Peacetime: MIRA Festival

FOREST SWORDS Live A_V_Xarlene_3

This weekend MIRA Festival took over the Funkhaus Berlin for a day and a night of most things audiovisual. There were conferences on exploring instincts through sound and diversity in the digital art world, sound installations, DJ sets by the likes of Inga Mauer and Black Merlin, and live performances from Yves Tumor, Laurel Halo, Aïsha Devi, and others.

The Funkhaus, an old GDR radio broadcasting station deep in Berlin’s industrial southeast, is an event in and of itself. To get there you have to take a tram and then wander through a tangle of massive brick facilities in various states of reconstitution, past a canal, down a gravel path that goes through trees. Inside, the Funkhaus is preserved as the masterstroke of GDR architecture that it was designed to be, alienly ornate, somewhere that now feels like neither the future nor the past, but rather a separate and impossible present.

You spend time thinking about where to put your feet or jacket, whether or not it seems like a good idea to stretch out your leg

The DJ booth was in the foyer of the building, which gave the whole space a buzzy entropy, people grazing in and out of the various events more the way you’d expect they would at a convention than a music festival. A lot of being in an event of this character is managing respect for other people’s space to interact with the art. You spend time thinking about where to put your feet or jacket, whether or not it seems like a good idea to stretch out your leg. Smartphones are around.

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Aïsha Devi and Forest Swords performed basically immaculate sets that wooed everyone into attention

The live acts took a variety of approaches to this management. Aïsha Devi and Forest Swords performed basically immaculate sets that wooed everyone into attention. Yves Tumor went more with shock and awe, filling the Funkhaus’ cavernous main room with smoke and hellish red light and demanding that the sound guys “turn the fucking volume up” at least four times. Laurel Halo’s closer was a coup de grace of hazy springtime ambience over a deftly wielded bass.

Refreshingly, MIRA festival doesn’t try to bill itself as groundbreaking or boundary-defying in any fundamental sense, but this doesn’t mean that there isn’t something fiercely contemporary about the work. A lot of that is be involved with impermanence; something that happens in a place and time and can’t happen the same way again.

When Laurel Halo’s set was over, the lights came on and you could see the columns ringing the hall’s wooden atrium and the cathedral-scale organ that makes up most of the back wall. People shuffled out happily, heading back to the DJ downstairs. That a building so arrestingly beautiful as the Funkhaus was created to send sound to distant places, and that now people go there to experience something they can’t anywhere else, is something to be thankful for. MIRA accomplishes this celebration; a celebration of life today.

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