Inspired by crystalline geometries, Christopher Bauder’s STALACTITE towers nearly five stories over a Berlin backlot. On Sunday, it’s the setting for a dynamic exchange between DJs, queer performance artists, and interactive light – a performance that makes a statement of resistance from unstoppable Ukrainians.
The event runs this Sunday, July 31, from 20:00 – 23:59; 10EUR entry (but free if you have Ukrainian citizenship or residency):
Info and tickets (also available on the door): https://en.darkmatter.berlin/31-07-sommerlights
RSVP via RA: https://ra.co/events/1561741
I’m honored to have gotten the chance to put this event together with MRYIA, the Ukrainian electronic music project and artist/activists Ewa Nomad and Sergey Chernyshov. The name of their platform means “dream”/”inspiration,” in common with the Antonov aircraft; they already put on an extraordinary effort and fundraiser with a huge lineup last month at Berlin’s about blank. This event will also serve as a fundraising effort, raising for Kyiv Angels, which has been a target for various Ukrainian artist-led efforts. (You can find lots of other ways to stand with Ukraine via their Linktree.)
The least we can do in culture is to create new spaces. Right now, performance is all but stopped in Ukraine. At SOMMERLIGHTS, we have an opportunity for Berlin’s most imaginative audiovisual invention to become a stage for activism and queer performance. And I’d hope we find chances for just that resiliency in working together internationally for all people in need, especially as Berlin has become a kind of crossroads for artists and refugees worldwide.
In the lineup we’ve invited Ukrainian artists:
Ewa Nomad is a producer/DJ from Kyiv, co-founder of the magazine LimittedClubbing and organizer behind MRIYA: UKRANISCHE NACHT, a frequent collaborator with fashion and immersive mixed media, based in Berlin and remaining a prolific artist and activist.
Ponura was born and raised in Chernihiv, the small northern Ukrainian town that has been intensely attacked by Russian invasion earlier this year. Previously based in Kyiv, she is temporarily displaced in Leipzig – but remains a known voice for “dirty Kyiv electro” of the Progressive Future label variety, a former resident of Kyiv’s renowned venue Closer, and with a bio that has frequented venues across Ukraine and internationally.
Plus queer performers:
Boji Moroz & Sasha Malyuk, queer artist couple from Kyiv.
Boji Moroz, born in Kharkiv (Ukraine). Queer Intermedia artist, performer.
Sashko Malyuk, born in Kyiv (Ukraine). Upcycle fashion designer, performer, artist.
Panda Volkova – likewise, check the full links.
Diva, icon, goddess, graceful and insane Panda Volkova is a leading performance and visual artist in Ukraine. Panda, also known as Masha Volkova, was born in Donetsk and moved to Kyiv in 2014 due to the war in Donbas; now she is living in Berlin. A master of transformations filled with sexuality on the verge of infantilism. Their appearance excites from fashion shows to warehouse raves, sensitive shots to explicit performances.
Like a performer she is looking for new ways to draw public attention to the acceptance of beauty and value of the world, also raising the visibility of themes of discrimination against the LGBT community, so her “dialogue with the community” can be described as a multi-art activity with a deep social context.
To get a sense of what’s converging in this outdoor space this weekend, here are some thoughts from artist Christopher Bauder and Sergey Chernyshov of MRYIA. (Sergey for his part also has a background in generative sound visualization.)
CDM: What was the genesis of STALACTITE as an installation – and for what context?
Christopher: My main inspiration for STALACTITE was the crystalline structures of diamonds and other faceted gems. I wanted to scale this up to bigger-than-life size and use the whole array as a canvas to create individual, smaller forms and shapes within. I created STALACTITE for the BRIGHT Brussels light festival in Belgium a couple of years back. Since then I have toured it throughout the world, mostly as an outdoor installation, including at light festivals in Beijing, China and Athens, Greece. So the presentation now within DARK MATTER Sommerlights is the first time I’ve presented this piece in Germany. The big difference is also that for this particular version, we have opened the system to be controlled by other musicians, DJs, or live acts via automated sound/beat analysis and live interface controls.
Can you tell us a bit about how this thing is built?
Christopher: The whole STALACTITE is constructed from 360 RGB LED rods that are individually controlled via DMX. We have a total of 1080 DMX channels in use. We used a traditional space-frame construction approach with connection nodes for assembling the rods in a self-stabilizing three-dimensional arrangement. The whole inverted pyramid construction is suspended from a free-standing 16-meter truss pyramid. The top of the construction features 30 additional mirror balls of different sizes that are activated by additional moving lights. For creating the three-dimensional animations, we use a custom piece of software that we created in TouchDesigner. We use an additional 64 MIDI control buttons and knobs for the live control of the LED rods, fog machines, moving lights, and 100 static PAR lights mounted on the pyramid truss.
What for you have been the highlights of having this outdoors in a space like this? What does that mean for interaction with the object and with music – particularly in comparison to Dark Matter, Deep Web, and other projects?
I really love the fact that this time we were able to create a visual instrument that can be performed directly by the musicians and DJs. They really got into the live controls and some of them managed to beautifully and masterfully craft sound and visuals as one unit to unleash the full power of such an audio-visual installation. The install also proved to be very versatile in interfacing with different genres of music and sound input. we also had a wonderful concert with the American singer vōx under the STALACTITE for yet another totally different appearance. In general, it’s such a different atmosphere to perform modern light art under the open sky and especially on warm Berlin summer nights. Some evenings were just magical, when weather, mood of the audience, the sound and the visuals created a special moment in time and space.
What to you is the most meaningful musical – visual interaction to have, when that’s really working?
I feel that such audio-visual cooperations and projects work the best if all parties involved see each other on eye level and work in a very cooperative and truly intuitive and open way. We mostly do not work with tight structures or having either the visual or audio part created first. Instead, we create one big audio-visual machine or instrument that we learn to play and perform together in the process. This gives us lots of room for improvisation and creation happening in the moment. We can experiment and use results that appear by chance and integrate them into the overall rough concept on the fly. You can create things that impossible to imagine beforehand.
For Dark Matter, support for Ukraine has been something meaningful to your team, right? How has it impacted your colleagues?
Yes, we were thinking about it for a while and were not sure how we can best support especially the Ukrainian art and electronic music community. we already invited a couple of Ukrainian musicians before, but we did not have a dedicated night so far. we strongly feel for the Ukrainian artists that have lost their workspaces, creative and performance spaces, and the whole basis for a meaningful artistic life. Exactly what we love so much about the artistic underground of Berlin is what they just have lost.
We can only try to provide a temporary home at least for one night to the best of our abilities. Any Ukrainian citizen is invited to come to this event for free and bring an additional friend of any nationality also for free. we will donate 1,- € per ticket to KyivAngels; additional donations are welcome.
Statement from the collective for the event:
The Ukrainian queer community fights for visibility, humanity, survival, and existence. Come join a night creating a new immersive space for live performance and music that allows for self-expression, and connections between Kyiv and Berlin artists and community, so we can join in that struggle. Be there, join us, celebrate, and give to Ukraine whatever you can to support Ukrainian freedom and victory.
CDM: What does it mean to be queer and Ukrainian at this moment? It’s really a sense of survival and visibility on multiple levels, right?
Sergey: It’s quite fresh in Ukrainian society to tolerate LGBTQIA+, but we are moving towards, being a part of the European family in that regard. But if Russia were to take over Ukraine, this would be the end of that positive movement. Russia is known for its complete intolerance of queer people – both in the national mentality and those who are in power. It’s a sense of survival on a physical level, not only freedom.
What do you think the scenes in Berlin and elsewhere can do to be better allies and partners – both in providing creative support and in support for Ukraine?
I think it’s important to have more collaborations like this, with local promoters willing to be open to sharing the stage with Ukrainian artists. At the moment cultural life in Ukraine as we knew it is on pause — like when you press a pause button on the cassette player. That’s why I think it’s important for it to continue even if it’s happening abroad in exile.
There have been plenty of projects from the Ukrainian community in Berlin at club spaces and so on (like yours at about blank, of course). What does it mean to be in an alternative space like this with this new visual presence?
This is very intriguing and definitely different from your average club night where the focus is on sound and music solely. Here it is a full audio-visual experience with the light installation at its heart. This also allows for different, more experimental approaches in the musical program and with live performances that are almost not possible in the club environment. It’s a completely new and different experience.
Hope to see you this weekend, Berlin. For everyone else – stay tuned for more documentation and more from these artists and their activism.