Berlin Atonal

“A good sense of place and good acts.”


From left to right: Laurens von Oswald, Harry Glass, Paulo Reachi (Photo: Camille Blake)

August 19–23rd the 2015 Berlin Atonal takes place at Kraftwerk Berlin, an abandoned power plant in the former western part of the city.

The festival was originally founded in the 80s by Dimitri Hegemann and rebooted in 2013.
– the 2015’s edition features the likes of Clock DVA, Moritz von Oswald, Coh+Frank, Powell, Lustmord, Shed, Chra, Ryo Murakami, Regis, Shackleton and the highly anticipated Outside the Dream Syndicate coming-together of Faust and Tony Conrad, as well as a joint show by Alessandro Cortini and Lawrence English.

Kaput spoke to the three curators Laurens von Oswald, Paulo Reachi and Harry Glass about this year’s events.


Dimitri Hegemann (Photo: Camille Blake)

What made you decide to reboot Berlin Atonal in the first place?
Dimitri Hegemann came to Laurens with the idea of reactivating the festival in 2012. A mixture of things made the timing right: The Kraftwerk venue was, slowly, being made safe for human activity again, but to mark this it needed to be connected to a really special event. Berlin Atonal was the right event; connected to the history of the city but also pointing forward into the future. Since that first year we’ve felt a lot more confident to allow for a more concise and focused festival – which becomes clearer every year. We’re taking the handbreak off now and allowing it to take its own direction – in a large part moulded by site-specific projects, and new commissioned performances.



Inside the Kraftwerk (Photo: Camille Blake)

What role does Atonal’s past play in your current work?
It guides us a little, and also sets the standards that we have to live up to. It doesn’t direct us in terms of content, but in terms of form: connecting the spirit of a time and place with the possibilities of advanced art and music.

I guess you’ve all experienced a lot of other festivals in your time. Is there one you would name as an inspiration for your work at Berlin Atonal… and why so?
We feel part of a conversation that happens between us and similar festivals – MUTEK in Montreal, Unsound in Poland and a few other, also the Bush Doof scene has been formative. There are some great non-music festivals too – axe throwing, dog shows, you name it. We actually don’t go to that many “festivals”.

What makes a festival good, in your eyes?
A good sense of place and good acts. A good festival doesn’t take itself too seriously either – its still about having a good time. So to that end, not too many bare-chested punters – although without any them would be weird too.


Inside the Kraftwerk (Photo: Camille Blake)

Lets talk programming: with three people taking care of it, I wonder if you could tell us a bit about your working process. Do you discuss everything together, or do each of you handle a different part of it?
We are always talking and we never stop thinking about things that can happen. We naturally gravitate more to the things that we are individually interested in, but always come back together in the end. Its a constant exchange.

There are a lot of music festivals out there, also we’ve seen a wave of ones concentrating on more experimental music. What’s your own angle and how did you find it?
Yes that’s true. I hope what separates our festival from others is that it could not happen anywhere else. There is no way to separate the live projects, new commissions, installations as well as the specific stage and light set-ups from the power plant itself. Its a unique festival also in the sense that almost no ‘experimental’ festival has a space which can host an event like this so comfortably in that it offers so many different settings under one roof and in the middle of the city.


Inside the Kraftwerk (Photo: Camille Blake)

How would you position yourself within this world? Are there ones you would say Berlin Atonal is sisters in crime with?
I think we share ambitions with a few festivals. You find common ground between people and in turn common ground when it comes to the various aspects of the work of putting on a festival. There are some interesting works in the pipeline to bridge some gaps – yet nothing more concrete to share at the moment.

Have you been able to realize all the ideas you had on your agenda for this year? If not: why so?
Absolutely not. Some of these projects take years to put together and to find the resources for – whether thats time, funding or whatever. Some happen quickly, but some you find yourself saying “i guess that one’s for next year then!”


Dark is the artist (Photo: Camille Blake)

I know, always the hardest question: but if I asked each of you to name his three favorite performances for this years edition – what are you answering?
Laurens: Roly Porter’s new show he’ll be presenting, the Northern Electronics showcase, and all three of the shows Alessandro Cortini is involved in.
Paulo: SUMS: Kangding Ray and Barry Burns, Greener (live), ENA
Harry: Paul Jebanasam and Tarik Barri, Diagaonal – specifically Powell (its a tradition) and Russell Haswell, SUMS: Kangding Ray and Barry Burns

To get you into the right head space we present the Berlin Atonal 2015 Playlist of Laurens von Oswald, Paulo Reachi and Harry Glass for Kaput – Magazin für Insolvenz & Pop:

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