Thomas Venker – 2021-2022

Glimmers of hope, illusions and realities: 2021 in the loop of the (perceived) experiences

The Grand Canyon, November 2021

Who knows this? You’ve once again finished producing a video, writing an article, giving a lecture or simply experiencing something with others, but the pre-pandemic feeling of satisfaction just won’t quite kickin. Instead, the little Rumpelstiltskin on your shoulder whispers Calvinistic admonitions in your ear.


The perceived social pressure was already building up in late summer. And it came in several forms. All around us, everyone was pushing back into a suddenly self-declared normality, the clearest characteristic of which was the term post-pandemic, which immediately seemed strange to me – unless you understand it in the tradition of a term such as post-internet, i.e. as a marker of the moment when something (in this case the Internet and now the pandemic) has entered our lives; but I very much assume that 99.9% of those who speak of post-pandemic meant the moment when the received vaccinations and falling case numbers could be understood as a signal of a complete return to old patterns of movement and sociality. An impulse I could understand, of course, because even if one does not always have much in common with other people, the longing for shared moments is definitely such a communal basis – only that one did not think quite so naively that that was it now finally, but learned to read the mighty curves differently and therefore longed for a different opening plan (with emphasis on the second part of the word) for it (defined and supported by politics and fellow human beings alike). Things turned out differently, but now (almost) everyone knows that.

In addition, one’s own plans often meant that one had to plan one’s everyday life differently. In the past, a trip was nothing special, but today you always have to remember that this is only possible if you are healthy (at least not suffering from covid) – which means that you can’t spend the days and nights beforehand interacting with other people the way you would otherwise. First world problems, admittedly – but nevertheless an ingredient of the general stream of feelings for many people and also for me.

Two ways to my current dilemma: Annual Review 2021 / Annual Charts 2021 – the two immovable menhirs of music journalism. But somehow I couldn’t start the Kaput process with the authors this year, simply because I only saw question marks rotating and had absolutely no drive to do so. Which is a paradox in itself, because in 2021 (as in 2020) I listened to and published more music than in the years before, not least out of my own survival instinct: Music is the healing Princess, loosely based on Prefab Sprout. And yet something has shifted, instead of satisfaction rattled just the Rumpelstiltskin gave the rhythm.
Far too much of the music journalistic work and encounters that characterize and distinguish my life have been decoupled from the sociality associated with it, be it because the interviews hardly ever take place in persona anymore but in the zoom, or because the exciting old and new music is not charged and inscribed with others through the speakers of a festival, a bar or a club but experienced alone.

The own historiography has changed massively. And so this year it is mainly the moments with others that made the year a beautiful and exciting one for me. Because slowly I can admit to myself that this was probably the case. Anyway, here are my favorite events in chronological order.

Optimo (Espacio) Hogmanay NYE TVOD Party / Dave P NYE Rave w/ Lena Willikens –  31.12.2020/1.1.2021

Even if it sounds like a contradiction to all the above statements: the NYE party with Optimo on the 1st floor and Lena Willikens and many other musician friends on the 2nd floor (at Dave P.’s place) as well as two Zooms with friends running in parallel on screens was, to my own surprise, awesome. I rgendwie succeeded once – neither is it repeatable nor should it be tried – to ignore the digital barriers and to dance and crash together, just as if you were not in your own four rooms but in a club together. Including hangovers the day after and the day after the day after.

Soundcheck Radio 1 – Berlin, 26.3. – mit Torsten Groß, Nadine Lange sowie Platten Noga Erez, Tune-Yards, Xiu Xiu, Serpentwithfeet

Every time it’s a pleasure to listen to and discuss records with colleagues. I could do it much more often. Note to myself: spend more Fridays in Berlin and hang out in front of the studio.

„Deep Talk NRW“-filming – April 2021

In the midst of the heaviest lockdown, Roman Szczesny, Linus Volkmann and I somehow managed to pull off the first filming of our “Deep Talk NRW” series, which will be relaunched in 2021, against all odds and, of course, in compliance with all testing and distance rules. Many thanks to the teams of Kunsthalle Düsseldorf, Filmwerkstatt Düsseldorf, Galerie Sies + Höke and Acephale as well as the interview partners Miki Yui, Stefan Schneider, Dima Oboukhov, Keshav Purushotham, Niklas Schneider, Daniela Georgieva and Hedda Schattanick, who all opened doors and hearts to us on days when many great fears determined everyday life.
The cooperation with the great Urbanana-team will be continued in 2022. Mark the 31.3. in your calendar.

„Talking Kaput“ – Köln, Stadtgarten, 10.6. – with Jennifer Cardini, Meryem Erkus & Curses …

Planned as a wild birthday party for me, I was glad in the end that a) we could just about do the event (since the numbers were low enough the first week) and I could somehow drag myself on stage to present (since violent reaction to the 2nd vaccination) – I almost slept through the birthday backstage, especially since Curfew was already at 10 pm anyway. Nevertheless, the evening was incredibly nice, because so many friends came together again for the first time and also the guests of the evening were visibly emotionally touched by finally playing for an audience again and not only in streams. 
The same goes for the two other “Talking Kaput” events of the year. Forever in our hearts: Juliane Liebert, Ariana Zustra, Sebastian Ingenhoff, Demba Sanoh, Runa Hoffmann & Hanitra Wagner (the recap video of the third evening is still to come, promised, kids).

Bday – Köln, 11.6.

Even though I had tried everything (including raving fits and threats), my two North American friends didn’t miss the chance to come to Cologne and see me suffer – and to celebrate my birthday with Sarah, her mother, me and cake & tea instead of drinks & drugs. In the end, of course, it was super nice that they came. The real Festle we then catch up twice in 2022, then on the Primavera Sound in Barcelona stretched to two weekends!

The Prequel, 1.-4. Juli 2021, Monheim

The 2021 prelude to the Monheim Triennale, which will now take place in Monheim from June 22 to 26, 2022, was so much more than just the small preview. Almost all artists:inside then somehow came into the country (thanks to the efforts of the great festival team) and together for a unique improvisation festival.
It was also a reunion with many author friends like Aida Baghernejad, Arno Raffeiner, Florian Sievers and Kristoffer Cornils, who contributed texts to the Monheim Papers, the Long-Read-Editorials series on the artists of the Triennale, as well as the co-curators Swantje Lichtenstein and Louis Rastig. 
Last but not least, I was able to conduct a practical seminar of the Heinrich-Heine University Düsseldorf in persona for the first time during the festival – the students reported on the festival with such infectious enthusiasm and so well that I was able to present two contributions for Kaput “shopped.

Reeperbahn-Festival, Supergau, Enjoy Jazz, Pop-Kultur-Festival

In 2021, festivals – if they were possible – were again social biotopes of immense importance for the experience of a sense of community. I would like to mention in particular Supergau and Enjoy Jazz, where I was able to contribute in the role of an ingredient writer (nice to see that more and more festivals are trying to fill the gap of the music magazines that have gone out of business), as well as Reeperbahn- and Pop-Kultur-Festival, where I was allowed to be part of various panels, award ceremonies and Instagram talks, like the VUT-Awards or the conversation with Pop Culture curator Christian Morin and Liraz.

24.7.-8.8. – Italien

With great skepticism and not without feelings of guilt, I went (after Portugal became a high-risk area at short notice and other destinations followed) to my first vacation since the beginning of the pandemic – to Italy. On the spot, everything felt fine, but the travel observations and sensations will be remembered forever thanks to logistical incompetence and human ignorance and egocentricity. It became clear: it does not get easier.

20.-24.8. – Barcelona

Reunion mit zwei Freunden aus Anlass runder Geburtstage. Auch hier wieder großes Unbehagen, ob das okay geht, was man da macht (nicht zuletzt aufgrund der just gemachten Italienerfahrungen) – und durchaus auch Momente von Infektionspanik (da plötzlich Spanien wieder hohe Werte aufwies und eigener Hypochonder-Neigung). Aber auch das Gefühl mit beiden Reisen einen großen Schritt zurück zu jener Sozialität gemacht zu haben, die mir wichtig ist. Weshalb es von Barcelona auch direkt zum Pop-Kultur nach Berlin ging (kein Dank an die Deutsche Bahn, deren kurzfristige Zugwechselhektik meinen Laptopbibdschirm auf dem Gewissen hat und mich unglaubliche 700€ kostete – Noprops an dieser Stelle auch an Apple).

9.-12.9. – Wien – Waves Festivals with Florence Arman, Aze, Wolfgang Pérez, Keshavara ….

The trip to Vienna was the first one that felt very normal. Which was not least because the festival was fantastically organized and felt super safe.

7.-10.10. – Shooting of the video series for the “Technoschamanism” exhibition at Hartware MedienKunstVerein (HMKV) in Dortmund

In cooperation with HMKV, Roman Szczesny, Hedda Schattanick, Linus Volkmann and I produced three more “Deep Talk NRW: Technoschamanism” video editorials in early October, in addition to the ten regular “Deep Talk NRW” episodes we had already shot: Schweizer Künstler:innen-Duo knowbotiq, dem Dortmunder Künstler:innen-Duo Jana Kerima Stolzer / Lex Rütten and the HMKV director Inke Arns. We felt at home in terms of content and team spirit.

10.10. – „Cabinet of Kaput“ – Galerie Mieke van Schaijk

Opening of the first “Cabinet of Kaput exhibition in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland – unfortunately in the absence of CoA initiator Sarah Szczesny, who was already in Los Angeles for her residency at Villa Aurora. It’s crazy to suddenly see artworks that were primarily conceived digitally for the website in real life as artifacts on the walls of a gallery, especially such a beautiful one – Galerie Mieke van Schaijk is housed in a former chapel and occupies the former morgue, among other spaces.

21.10.-14.11. / 1.12.2021-2.1.2022 – Los Angeles

This year, despite all the other events that have now been balanced, I have only felt really free and carefree abroad. Not that the journey wasn’t a nail-biter every time (the first time I went to the USA, I even needed a NIE paper, i.e. a special permit), the abstruse conditions of which I could go on about forever – but once I arrived in the USA, all stress fell away: Low values, lots of space and good weather ensured for the first time in two years that I really didn’t think about the pandemic for a second during the first weeks – including first carefree parties with Masha Mar (and her likeable Dig Deeper, Dusk community), Jennifer Cardini and Axel Boman.

But already the journey home to Germany in the meantime changed that massively again – and the second stay was then in the end again very much under the sign of the pandemic, including all the stirring experiences, which bring common (or not so common) social experience of a situation with it. In this sense: at the end of the year, skepticism prevails as to whether we will escape the loops of the pandemic as early as 2022, but at least the optimism is still there that we will learn to live with it better and better.
Especially since I also have in my luggage from LA the recordings of long conversations with Mike Watt (already published), Kim Gordon (in the upcoming print issue of the Cologne Stadtrevue), Jeff Palmer, Friedrich Kunath and Masha Martinovica & Angel.

Last but not least, a release / exhibition in which and to have been involved has meant a lot to me in 2021:

Lena Willikens & Sarah Szczesny feat. Viktoria Wehrmeister and Detlef Weinrich „Phantom Seance Ballett“ (Utter)

It’s hard to believe, but what this record has experienced during its production time. It is based on pre-pandemic performances of the Phantoms at the Neue Aachener Kunstverein NAK and the Museum für Angewandte Kunst Frankfurt – the latter taking place on the eve of the first lockdown – and was created in cooperation with Viktoria Wehrmeister and Detlef Weinrich as well as many other great artists, authors and friends. A real community project – and sympathetically supported by the Initiative Musik.

Fast passend zum Albumrelease (hätte sich die Produktion der Platte und vor allem die Konfiguration nicht aufgrund des Brexits ewig hingezogen) eröffneten Sarah und Lena dann auch noch ihre Ausstellung „To feel like a dirty snake is not good“ in der Kölner Galerie JUBG (deren Opening ich leider verpasste, da ein Autofahrer meinte, mich vom Fahrrad runter dooren zu müssen), begleitet durch einen schönen Artikel von Lars Fleischmann in der Jungle World.

And then I myself in 2021 also after a long time once again recorded a mix: “The sound of isolation” – for the Radio Industry project.

Okay, okay, maybe 2021 wasn’t as uneventful as it often felt in the maelstrom of pandemic feelings. And because of that, and in general, surprise, after the catharsis of these remarks, a few of the publications that were important to me in 2021, without rank or order. Because as Nitzsche already knew: Humans are nothing without their contradictions.

Moor Mother „Black Encyclopedia of the Air“ (Anti- Records)

Irreversible Entanglements „Open the Gates“ (International Anthem)

Space Afrika „Honest Labour“ (Dais Records)

Masha Qrella „Woanders“ (Staatsakt)

Eris Drew „Quivering In Time“ (T4T LUV NRG)

Kopy „Eternal EP“ (TAL Records)

Donnacha Costello Together Is The New Alone (Mille Plateaux)

Rachika Nayar fragments (Commend See)

Floating Points & Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra „Promises“ (Luaka Bop)

Pan Daijing „Tissues“ (PAN)

Marcel Dettmann „Command EP“ (Seilscheibenpfeiler Schallplatten Berlin)

The Notwist „Vertigo Days“ (Morr Music)

Discovery Zone „Remote Control“ Mansions and Millions

Nene H “Ali” (Incienso)

Sedef Adasi “Fantasy Zone” (Public Possession)

Planetary Assault Systems „Say It Loud“ (Token)

Belia Winnewisser „Soda“ (Präsens Editionen)

Little Simz „Sometimes I Might Be Introvert“ (AGE 101)

Moritz von Oswald Trio „Dissent“ (Modern Recordings)

DJ Python „Mas Amable“ (Incienso) – aus 2020, aber erst 2021 bei Rainer Holz im Rahmen ausschweifend-schöner Wein-und-Musik-Abende entdeckt

Reece Cox „Emotion 1“ (Kulør)

Arca „Madre – EP“ (XL Recordings)

Bicep „Isles“ (Ninja Tune)

SUNN O))) „Metta, Benevolence. BBC 6Music: Live on the invitation of Mary Anne Hobbs“ (Southern Lord)

Emeka Ogboh “Beyond The Yellow Haze” (A-TON)

Low „Hey What“

Function Awakening From The Illusory Self (Tresor Recordings)

Vladislav Delay Rakka II (Cosmo Rhythmatic)

Nick Cave & Warren Ellis „Carnage“ (Goliath Enterprises Limited)

UMAN Chaleur Humaine (Freedom To Spend)

Irakli Kiziria „Major Signals“ (Dial)

Diverse: Ostgut Ton | Fünfzehn + 1 (Ostgut Ton)

Diverse „It Was Always There Vol. 2“ (3024)

JASSS „A World of Service“ (Ostgut Ton)

John Tejada Year Of The Living Dead Remixes (Kompakt)

Dean Blunt „Black Metal 2“ (Rough Trade)

Barnt „ProMetal Fan Decor Only Product“ (Kompakt)

And it’s nice that Linus also looks back on the year at the end:


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