Like it or not, we’re now in it for the long haul as post-human isolated COVID-19 creatures. Here’s a soundtrack project to help you find refuge – and a guide to remaking your virtual face, and what it might mean.

Three artists now based in Berlin give us a reflective and imaginative take on what it means to be virtual now. Contained in an event at Berlin’s HAU is some of the critical frame missing from a lot of the current online events.

And let’s start with a musical plotline. Being out of the clubs and venues should be a chance to really say something – with no chatter by the bar as a distraction, no worries of clearing the dance floor. But it’s easy to feel lost, plowing instead in linear fashion from track to track in desperation.

What we need is narrative. Maria van den Berg, aka happynewtears, was an early example of that for me. She wove together a futuristic meditation. I found it centering at the time, and it’s worth revisiting now – a dreamy escape into a fantastic world. (Expect some of us still need that.)

“Sonic Hibernation” is a semi-fictional fantasy story and DJ-set that takes place in 2020 between Apollox and an unknown character as the world is facing a pandemic due to a new rapidly spreading virus. The only cure is to seek refuge in a sonic hibernation …. Close your eyes and let this final performance of HOT MESS take you far outside of your quarantine room and into the deep online forests for a meditative dance session.

Sonic Hibernation was part of “”dgtl fmnsm festival HOT MESS *virus version*”, back in March, dealing as its curators described it “with the emancipatory potential offered by art, technology and feminism.” Since it was online, you can experience it as the audience at the time did:


happy new tears · Sonic Hibernation (fantasy story & DJ-set)

Tracklist, so you’ve got some stuff to buy/download:

  1. Happy New Tears – Sonic Hibernation
  2. Lanark Artefax – Flickering Debris
  3. Yem Gel – Sheld; C’Gate
  4. 7038634357 – Six Wing Underside
  5. Herbarium – Neo Sydney 2047
  6. MFYP – 055XB Hexal
  7. Yem Gel – BodEGun
  8. Know V.A. – Reification
  9. Ziúr – Body Of Light ft Aïsha Devi
  10. Torus – Arena
  11. 7038634357 – No Hate Is A Cold Star [Wa?ste 141 HXC Edit]
  12. Ballo – Halcyon Escape (Energy52xOrbital)
  13. Mobilegirl – Forever (Dirty K Remix)
  14. Virtual Self – Angel Voices
  15. Crystallmess – Gentle Battle0
  16. Gabber Eleganza – A Way Of Life
  17. Arca – @@@@@@
  18. Oliver Coats – Prairie (live edit w/ Malibu voiceover)

happy new tears also produced an original soundtrack for the ritualistic alternative club event Omsk Social Club. Held just before the COVID-19 restrictions, the “live action” part of their rituals is suddenly problematic. But otherwise, this weird techno-pagan group re-structuring nightlife interactions through games and crypto-currency into “crypto raves” seems prophetic. (Electronic Beats has a feature article on the project, though you may or may not understand better after knowing more.)

Omsk Social Club · Happy New Tears and Omsk Social Club

Now we’re months into presenting ourselves in a social space that is often virtual out of necessity. This “post-human” thing is becoming a reality, not just a catchy thing to slap into your program for an arts festival somewhere. For the first time in history we are a human civilization more frequently seen in our virtual form than face to face. And even before the virus took hold, that could cause depression and alienation – or even dangerous self-image.

The technologists, at least, give us a chance to take hold of our virtual self again. It’s “on the Internet, no one knows you’re a dog,” making a comeback.

One of the other highlights of HOT MESS was a hands-on workshop from artist Alla Popp in making your own face filter. If you’ve always felt like an alien on the inside, now’s your chance to look like one.

Alla Popp – #alieneffect Facefilter Workshop for Beginner // Spy on Me #2 Online Programme (39 Min.) Augmented reality filters boomed in the past years, offering real-life fun effects, appearance alterations and a new space for artistic expression. Allowing for a minute to change appearance of the spaces, of others and of oneself without any harm. However, is this entertainment tool that harmless at all? What kind of political potential does is carry, how can artists apply it in their practices? This beginner workshop is a place to reflect and to learn a little technical skill – creating an Augmented Reality mask and publish it on instagram.

As I’m a fan of freeing ourselves from Facebook platform lock-in, I hope we can follow up soon with a platform-independent version. (It’s harder, of course.) But the results are wild, and I think that Instagram is accepting filter uploads again. (For a while, the company had to stop approval, as people used the filters – bizarrely – to spread things like virus disinformation.)

Researcher/artist Tabitha Swanson digs into the deeper significance of these digital avatars. (Do we still have that word, actually?) It’s refreshing to hear equal parts potential and danger.

This talk covers the potential benefits and pitfalls of XR (VR and AR) and the layers of abstraction of what it means to be human as post-human characteristics and identification become more accessible. It will touches on topics like the importance of representation, censorship, and questions that we all must think about as we move forward.

The quality is a bit messed up on the film screening, so better to watch it separately:

Then the rest of the talk is fine quality-wise…

dgtl fmnsm have their own site and upcoming projects planned.

dgtl fmnsm deals with the emancipatory opportunities offered by technology and feminism. We are an interdisciplinary festival featuring performances, videos, the visual arts, room-sized installations, discourse and workshops – online and IRL. We cooperate with clubs and independent queer feminist groups and artists.

dgtl fmnsm is a feature request for more radical thinking on the routine involvement of digital technologies in a culture currently dominated by the media. The look and theory of dgtl fmnsm’s entertaining art interventions involve participants using their bodies as a meaningful form of expression in a world that is changing course in the light of digital technologies, online culture and political necessity.

The program is online from March, as well:

The challenge is on. With the existing industry and venues on pause, now is perhaps the best time to imagine how a new framework would look, sound, and feel – and what it would mean.