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Wrocław Industrial Festiwal

Andrzej Mazur

This introduction contains a personal digression which will surely be obvious to all those who have been the part of Wroclaw Industrial Festival. The sense of it is that WIF is an experience and an adventure. One can write a lot about this festival, the same as about the artists who have performed within the line-up of particular editions for the last twenty years. Even though words, summaries or relationships with various contexts connected with the industrial scene, counterculture or broadly understood and presented alternative, may equally encourage or bring closer the phenomenon of both Wroclaw Industrial Festival itself and the presented spectrum of artistic expression, still they cannot substitute for the presence there and all that entails with it.
The organisers of WIF, Maciek Frett and Arkadiusz Baginski established a project which at the same time can change the meaning of life and become a space where this sense can be developed. I'm speaking about the meaningfulness of the esthetical preferences or, taking into account the specificity of some trends, anti-esthetical. Also, I am speaking about the content, regarding the criticism of totalitarian governments, war, capitalism, limitations, prophesy of civilization destruction or dehumanizing due to technological development.
Wroclaw Industrial Festival arises from the same motivations as the industrial avant-garde, which appeared in the 70s and one can say that from the very first edition Maciek Frett and Arkadiusz Baginski have been taking up similar problems. Besides, it is not only about the comments and motives because both of them have been following the concept that everybody can make music, adding that everybody can bring to life space for others active in the field of freedom of expression, which would be coherent enough for the independent structure of artists to become a synonym of openness, not only towards the community itself but also towards consciousness.
During WIF editions, the whole world alternative has performed, including: Psychic TV, Tuxedomoon, Boyd Rice, Wire, Legendary Pink Dots, Carter Tutti, Test Dept, DAF, Lustmord, Nurse with Wound, Blixa Bargeld, Merzbow, The Young Gods and many more, that I'm not going to put on this list, as such an attempt to position some as leaders comparing to others would stand for valuing them, thus taking a subjective stand, which is not a priority here. Therefore, it's safer to say that a few hundred musicians who have appeared at the festival since 2001, made it possible for the audience to contact wide-ranging alternative in different dimensions, from classical industrial, through harsh noise, power electronics, synth pop, new wave, dark ambient, martial industrial, post punk, to layers of avant-garde which fall outside any classification.
During the years of activity WIF managed to consolidate its position as one the important festivals in Europe and, with no doubt, as a unique one among others, for besides its substantial artistic dimension, it has also become a link for unusual community of its regular attendees.It happened that some of them later became the artists performing within the WIF framework, while others, driven by the festival's influence, developed or found their musical passions there, where they could also frequently find the outlet for both contemplation and for the avant-garde contestation.
Based on countercultural ground, the history of Wroclaw Industrial Festival begins with the cycle of preceding musical events named Młodzi po stronie maszyn ( Youth is on the side of machines) organied by Maciek Frett and the parallel film events organised by Arkadiusz Baginski under the nickname Video Terroristen. In line with the concept that it is possible to organise your own artistic event, the two artists, who, together with Aureliusz Pisarzewski, co-create the music project Job Karma, set up the first edition of the festival in a historic bunker.
The basement of the now nonexistent club La Fete turned into the command centre of Festung Breslau, what evokes an interesting thought on possible intentional choice of the venue regarding anti-fascist and anti-totalitarian worldview, that could be allocated both to the organisers of Wroclaw Industrial Festival and the community connected with the festival for the following years. It is appropriate to say that it is a possible intention, however, it is a fact that the international range of the event has become a milestone in regard of cyclical presentations of the prominent and creative music composers, who were often active on the underground scene and who have been well recognised in the community. The artists themselves, as well as the community, seemed to have suffered from the lack of festivals until WIF was founded.
As a part of the first edition, besides Polish bands such as Job Karma, Syntax Error or Genetic Transmission many foreign bands performed on stage, i. a. Inade and Skrol. The festival was complemented by an exhibition of Arkadiusz Baginski's works and video art from the collection of WRO Art Centre and Video Terroristen. The context of the venue itself, on the one hand, made it possible to feel the coherence of the artistic proposal of the performers, in a sense that one could feel the mood of horror and mystery in the experimental entourage, on the other hand, it created opportunity to experience desolation. Dark ambient, martial and post industrial, which sounded during the first edition in the situation of desolation, paradoxically, meant the opening, foreshowing the unique bond between those who maybe feel the need to escape from the world which was displaying more and more traits of dehumanization.
Ironically, twenty years later the nineteenth edition takes place in the situation of partial isolation in a very real context, thus one can undeniably say that history has run a circle. Would it be appropriate to state that a metaphor of a spiral is adequate with regard to the phenomenon of Wroclaw Industrial Festival? The settlement would have to be the result of a dispute of philosophical nature, the analysis of views and stances. However, it is a fact that seeking within the festival related genres, by both the audience and the performers, resulted from the reaction to this kind of offer shortfall within the ambit of the world around and from questioning the world itself in social, political or cultural fields. It is true that WIF has partially imparted extraordinary level of passion, new fascination and sensitivity by the means of its message. One must remember, though, that this is one of the two categories of listeners, those who came across the broadly understood industrial scene for the first time and got bitten by this bug immediately. The second category consists of the listeners have been familiar with this counterculture or alternative for some time and either they have perfectly known it or have actively been co-creating it. Paradoxically, using the adjectives industrial and industrial-like alternately might turn out highly imprecise because some common denominators like aesthetics, dress code, similar range of musical interests and knowing iconic albums cannot under any circumstances fully determine participation in the phenomenon. It is a very significant matter and it requires to underline that the target group of Wroclaw Industrial Festival does not only consist of industrial aesthetics fans, for whom the main language of expression is provocation through noise or taboo subjects, stirring up shock or being fascinated with controversy, displaying totalitarian symbolism or referring to contexts related to sexual perversion. Primarily, these are people with open artistic and aesthetic sensitivity, who seem to be fully aware that through practice and artistic expression one can take up subjects or flag up problems related to civilisation, exclusion, distribution of social classes or human condition in the present world.
The second edition of Wroclaw Industrial Festival was, in a sense, an attestation that the event is not merely a link between the ones interested in music but it also genuinely stimulates the dialogue between the people and the like-minded communities. The venues in which the artistic activities took place are Czarna Łódź Podwodna (The Black Submarine) at Centrum Reanimacji Kultury (Social Cultural Centre), Entropia gallery or Studio BWA. These places were or still are extremely important spots on the cultural map of Wroclaw, mostly because they have been non-conventional meeting places for the artistic communities, as well as for the alternative social activists distant from the mainstream.
The Entropia gallery, run by Alicja and Mariusz Jodko is a place which equally hosts the works of the Academy of Fine Arts in Wroclaw graduates and organises exhibitions of the broadly known contemporary artists. The common denominator here is independence vector or presentation of non-conventional creative activity. During the second edition of WIF the multimedia show of Pawel Janicki and Bartek Kostia Jakubicki was organised in Entropia and their specific operating mode was closely connected to exploration in the field of technology and multimedia. Regarding CRK, that is Centrum Reanimacji Kultury (Culture Reanimation Centre) it is necessary to underline the fact that it is a place of particular importance in the context of Wroclaw's alternative. Both the activists and the musicians or artists related to CRK from the early days of its existence cast some doubt on the accuracy of certain social structures or legal and political regulations in terms of justice or abuses of power limiting our freedom. The gallery and concert hall located next to the squat usually echoed with the message of anti-fascist, anti-capitalist, pro-ecological or anti-globalisation character, so one can say that, in a sense, it consisted in contestation of phenomena which may be diagnosed as civilisation degradation related. First of all, however, at the musical and concert level CRK is associated with one of the very few venues in Wroclaw where one could see and hear such a broad range of alternative presentations. During the second edition the gallery hosted the installation art by Wiola Tycz and the exhibition of Marcin Wiktorski's photography cycle, while his second cycle was concurrently presented at Studio BWA, where one could also see the performance by Yola Ponton.
Finally, it must be said that the second edition was the first entrance to The Gothic Hall, which probably is most intensively associated with the festival itself regarding the place. On the one hand, the Hall's organisational and logistic structures related to acoustics and capacity, on the other hand its architecture fuelling the peculiar sacrum have together become this what allowed this festival to settle down right there for good.
The mentioned edition included the shows of foreign projects, such as: Nocturnal Emissions, Hybryds, Violenta Projecta or Schloss Tegal and also Polish groups, i. a.: Jude, Spear, Wolfram, Palsecam, One Inch of Shadow, Job Karma. Each of the projects hat one could hear during the second edition, as well as the very most of those who performed at the festival in the following years were first and foremost audiovisual projects. The most generally described industrial culture is a phenomenon, in which the sound is accompanied by layer of image and in this context I can claim that The Gothic Hall has become an unprecedented and the most characteristic gallery (maybe even in the world) where one could come across arts and multimedia of this kind. The Gothic Hall and Wroclaw Industrial Festival is something special in the perception of the audience, the participants and the artists, a great part of them would probably admit that one does not exist without the other. Likewise, one may hazard a guess that for the vast majority of guests and performing artists coming to the festival regularly from abroad there is no Wroclaw without WIF.
It is in the Gothic Hall where it was possible for the listener to come across the artists responsible for the birth of the industrial culture in the world, the ones who are, apart from the musical aspect, icons of modern art, presented in the European museums as classics of the avant-garde style, alongside with such artists as John Cage, Hermann Nitsch, Nam June Paik or Fluxus. I'm speaking mostly about Throbbing Gristle, whose band's split up disallowed them to play together, but still all of the members appeared at WIF with their own projects. Genesis P Orridge and Psychic TV played twice; during the eighth and fifteenth edition, Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson as Soisong with Ivan Pavlov during the eighth one, Chris Carter and Cosey Fanni Tutti as Carter Tutti during the seventh. Besides the musicians connected with TG, the eleventh edition of WIF included the musical performance by Boyd Rice/NON, Nurse With Wound played at the seventh one, and Test Dept at the fourteenth. Bringing up these artists may turn out disregarding to a variety of other, equally important artists of WIF or maybe even more important ones in some subjective assessments. However, they are mentioned here in order to highlight the presence of the field's protagonists. Wroclaw Industrial Festival undoubtedly develops the tradition initiated by them in terms of openness to community, not only in the context of the developing music festival, while you develop the bonds and make new acquaintances. It must be noted that WIF is parallelly a platform for meetings of record labels and distributors connected with the independent scene from Poland and from abroad. Thanks to this, Wroclaw has become a significant promotion centre while the festival itself has gained traits of a sign where one should appear. From the very beginning, the industrial culture was described as sovereign with regard to publishing. The genre's epigones, who undoubtedly include those mentioned above, were developing the mailing art formula by sharing each other's demo recordings while creating non-trivial, based on monochrome form contents for publishing with controversial flare, which became artistic works themselves. It is no different today as the artists connected with independent labels ensure that their releases are unique, when it comes to authenticity of the concept itself, as well as its realisation. The magic of Wroclaw Industrial Festival is also based of the opportunity to buy the album of the artist directly after the show, talk to this artist as to the family member, thus to make a personal acquaintance with someone who has always been present in your room, on a shelf with record tapes or whom you used to read about only in official press interviews.
The organisers of the festival were not only concentrated on strictly underground – independent dimensions because the dialog they conduced included also institutions and venues which could emphasise the event's attractiveness. The market of small labels began to be organised in Foto Gen gallery which was a body of the Culture and Art Centre in Wroclaw. Festival activities were held in spaces of Edith Stein House, White Stork Synagogue, where the debut show of 7JK (Maciek Frett and Matt Howden) took place or in Geppert's Flat. The quadrasonic performance of T.A.G.C. in BWA Awangarda Gallery shall be remembered and dearly missed as much as the experimental show of Asmus Tietchens in Old Mine in Walbrzych. Almost from the very beginning Wroclaw Industrial Festival has been sponsored by Wroclaw – the meeting place, that is financially supported by the municipal budget of Wroclaw. Including this event in the framework of the city's upgrade and development strategy is undeniably of great help and at the same time an absolute must for the festival to exist. It cannot be denied that the long-term institutional sponsorship surely results from the conviction and awareness that WIF is largely about the development of the independent and avant-garde traditions, which significantly define Wroclaw in cultural and artistic contexts. Wroclaw is a city where Jerzy Grotowski worked – the founder of The Laboratory Theatre, it is here where The Orange Alternative Movement was brought to life, here functioned the outstanding conceptualists, such as Wanda Golkowska, Jerzy Ludwinski or Stanislaw Drozdz. Growing punk rock scene and the associated alternativein this city connected people who found fulfilment in visual areas of artistic expression, which can be exemplified by the collaboration of the LUXUS group with bands Mikki Mausoleum, Klaus Mitffoch or Kormorany. The characterisation of Wroclaw's cultural condition in this context is surely broad enough for a separate article, yet this one marks that Wroclaw Industrial Festival is such a unique event that it can be described as a culture-forming phenomenon and unprecedented for Wroclaw itself (and not only). It is therefore appropriate to wish the organisers, the fans and the artists that they could still stand on the side of machines, keep their unforgettable experiences and wait for the next editions of WIF!
translation: KAMILA MISIAK