We're still buzzing from this year's edition of Signals Festival, our annual showcase and gathering of creative communities from Catalyst and beyond. Here are some of the highlights from the event's live performances, installations, screenings, workshops and in-depth dialogue.
While annual events like the Catalyst Film Awards highlight student film and acting projects internally, films screened at Signals Festival sit within the larger community: alongside the industry’s rising stars, tutors and award winning teams. Screenings included the Catalyst Presents sessions, in which tutors and alumni submitted work that addressed the festival’s theme, such as Stephanie LeBolt’s dance film “Lady in White”, that put a feminist twist on a classic German fairytale or “Vaugahyde”, Adam Munning’s portal into the Berlin underground queer scene. Two independent festivals with international audiences - the Berlin Student Film Festival and LA Fashion Festival - both turned up with full programmes of prizewinning films from their festivals. A Signals Festival first this year was the addition of performing arts to the roster - Shanice Trustfull‘s live monologue Digital Flora unfolded the growth of social disconnection caused by the increased use of social media.
"The audience was both curious in the process and engaged in the message of the film"
- Marcio Reolon
A key moment from the screenings was the Portuguese feature length film HARD PAINT by Filipe Matzembacher and Marcio Reolon. The intimate and erotic narrative of a cam boy’s online and offline personas was followed by a Q&A session with the writer/directors. The session brought light to the motivations and some challenges faced by them in producing this highly acclaimed film. “The audience was very present and were asking questions up to the last minute. They were both curious in the process and engaged in the message of the film. It was a delight to discuss the film like this”
Film Production Programme Lead, Leandro Goddinho (left) interviews Filipe Matzembacher (middle) and Marcio Reolon (right) © Ian Margio
One of two spaces devoted to non stop screenings © Ian Margio
Shanice Trustfull's monologue © Ian Margio
A critical and timely performance © Alejandro Santamaria
Eight site-specific installations probed this year's theme from different angles. John Waldron used a pre-digital collection of artefacts to grieve the passing of a medium in “Gitti’s Wake” and drawing connections to human behaviour in pre-digital times. The festival chill-out zone was enhanced by Inphloxication and Bureau Klas Alman’s living sculpture that combined CGI and floral art. Meanwhile, on the first floor people queued throughout the festival to experience their body becoming a stage on which a concert is played in Nina Pixel and Ground Tactics’ Vibrational Hyper-Stimulations.
Tamas Marquetant teamed up with Sebastian Dürer to present Haze Shifting - open ended and interactive, Haze Shifting was a meditative practice, a critical listening tool and a play with functions, roles and hierarchies within a studio environment. Full of contemporary references for an internet savvy audience, this installation captured the imagination of first year student Pedro Freitas, “I feel I’ve discovered new boundaries by seeing how creative the audio scene can be. Looking at [Haze Shifting], it’s like I have permission to just do crazy things and experiment with audio”.
Resonatorium: the point of no return
Mizuki Ishikawa and Sascha Haus perform live in their installation © Ian Margio
by Inphloxication and Bureau Klaus Alman © Ian Margio
by Traum Eck (Tamas Marquetant & Sebastian Dürer) © Alejandro Santamaria
Ground Tactics(pictured left) and Nina Pixel's sound hypnotic installation © Ian Margio
Spinning 7inch records in John Waldron's installation, Gitti's Wake © Alejandro Santamaria
Over both days, industry heads and recognised organisations hosted eight separate workshops. Covering a range of topics including; “Art of DJing” with Un:seen collective, “Sound for FMOD” with the creators of Harold Hailbut, and “Introduction to spatial sound” delivered by our Funkhaus neighbours Monom. We were glad to welcome back alumni Felipe Vareschi and Enyang Urbiks for sold out workshops, addressing workflows in field recordings [Vareschi] and mastering [Urbik]. “Most of all I enjoyed learning about the mindset and philosophy behind mastering. The workshop has helped me give words to concepts”, said Nilgün Gül, a music student and Signals team member who attended Enyang’s workshop.
Another workshop that filled all the available spots was “Improvising Live with Lady Starlight”, in which live techno icon Lady Starlight returned to Catalyst to join alum Sarah Kivi to lead a live improvised jam session featuring a Theremini and Grandmother from Moog alongside a host of Elektron and Korg equipment. Also in the jam were Akkamiau, Peter Kirn, The Allegorist and Catalyst alum VIBKO. While there were many moments of note, watching the room of engaged musicians enjoying themselves made the workshop a very special experience.
Jamming with Lady Starlight
Lady Starlight (left) and Sarah Kivi (right) live in the jam © Ian Margio
Cutting edge technology supplied by Elektron © Ian Margio
In the Jam
From left to right: Sarah Kivi, akkamiau and VIBKO © Ian Margio
Instruments supplied by Moog © Ian Margio
The art of DJing workshop © Ian Margio
Composition with field recordings and electronics workshop © Alejandro Santamaria
Mastering; a powerful tool for sonic sculpting workshop © Ian Margio
Sound design with sound particles workshop © Alejandro Santamaria
The Allegorist turned up for more than just the session with Lady Starlight - the multidisciplinary artist also talked through her far reaching artistic vision during an open discussion into her creative process, hosted by Peter Kirn of CDM. A musician and visual artist with training in oil painting, the talk was essential listening for artists who move between disciplines. In the early afternoon on the following day, the floor opened to a panel discussion that put the festival’s theme at the centre of discussion. Over the course of the chat, Gozi, Portrait XO, Sam Madhu and moderator Caren Miesenberger talked about going viral, battling mental health issues within social media and much more.
Ahead of her phenomenal “New Music Syntax (in testing)” live set, techno artist Kyoka had a deeply insightful conversation hosted by Beate Kunath. The talk was framed by Kunath’s documentary RAW CHICKS.BERLIN about womxn in electronic music, which came out seven years ago. Very fittingly, Kyoka spoke about how taking time to reflect was an essential part of her process. With the hindsight of the past years, Kyoka discussed how earlier in her career she worked more intuitively, following a rather emotional response to noise. Lately, however, she has taken steps towards rationalising the emotion, diving into neuroscience to support her creative endeavours. You can read part of the interview in Attack Magazine.
Third year Creative Audio Production student JD Alvarado played many vital roles at the festival, including the technical support during the Kyoka dialogue. He said, “It was really amazing to see the research behind Kyokas's productions, but also the reasoning and the concepts behind them. Once you understand where it is coming from, you begin to perceive it differently, which makes her music more approachable. It’s not usually my style, but knowing the background allowed me to fully enjoy the performance later and has given me the drive to explore more of it.”
Beate Kunath & Kyoka
Kunath (left) uncovers Kyoka's(right) reflective process © Alejandro Santamaria
"The perfect, curated you" panel
Caren Meisenberger, Gozi, Sam Madhu and Portrait XO (left to right) © Ian Margio
Crafting an artistic vision
with The Allegorist (left) and Peter Kirn (right) © Ian Margio
Catalyst’s cavernous performance area - known on a school-day as ‘The Void’ - was the centre for live acts and DJ sets and as the October sun went down, the acts began. Across 17 wide-ranging and diverse performances the audience was invited into a new and at times deeply personal world - using the space to test an idea, finesse a skill or gauge a reaction.
After setting the scene during her dialogue, saying how each piece of equipment for her live sets brings a different character, Kyoka wowed a full room with a set that travelled through different emotional states. With a strong feeling of empathy towards the audience, in her performance Kyoka reflected the overriding emotions of the listeners. A heartfelt thank you to Elektron who made this techno emotional joyride possible at Signals Festival. On the screen behind Kyoka, Catalyst Electronic Music Production and Performance alum Wei Kang Bei programmed live visuals that mimicked and danced with Kyoka’s eclectic sound.
performing New Music Syntax (in testing) © Ian Margio
New Music Syntax (in testing)
with visuals by Wei Kang Bei © Ian Margio
In stark contrast to Kyoka, who faced the audience and moved with them, in Dana Reason, AudeRrose and Renée T. Coulombe’s live and improvised scores to “Cinema’s First Nasty Women”, the focus of their performance was on the century old recordings projected on the wall. The trio’s performance temporarily transformed the dancefloor into a cinema with a strongly feminist stance. “I think it was a little different to other acts at the festival”, Renée said later with a wink.
On Friday night, wearing a boiler-suit and armed with a bass guitar, violin bow, strega and a host of other gear, Ireen Amnes stepped onto the stage drenched in red light. Anyone who has seen Ireen Amnes DJ would associate the red with a warning - industrial techno ahead. Signals Festival, however, was treated to an ambient live set. Yes, at times the red glow in The Void fed into an overall atmosphere of rising tensions, as Amnes stood in a powerful pose and pulled the violin bow across the bass or bounced from instrument to instrument, but using the strega for a process called “wave shaping” Ireen Amnes was able to manipulate and tame the audio into a set of ambient and highly experimental electronic music. Satisfied with the huge applause at the end of her performance, she later reported with a smile, “this is the first time I’ve used my bass in this way”.
© Ian Margio
© Alejandro Santamaria
© Ian Margio
© Alejandro Santamaria
Cinema's First Nasty Women
© Ian Margio
At first, Sofi Paez’s performance seemed similar, as she used a classical instrument in an innovative way alongside live and cutting edge digital processing. But where Amnes bought an ambient drone founded on a training in prog-rock, Paez’s “contemporary classic” took festival attendees on a beautifully different journey. Student and team member Laura Lengua agreed, “Sofi’s performance was a highlight for me. I assisted Sofi in setting up her Ableton sessions in the weeks before the show - while doing that she explained her approach to the performance. This combination of live performances with pre-recording is not something I see often within neoclassical music. Seeing the full picture come together in her live performance was very inspiring.”
Monstera Black & alys(alys)alys
Monstera Black singing © Ian Margio
Harry Turner (left) and Ray Poon (right) © Alejandro Santamaria
© Ian Margio
© Alejandro Santamaria
Eliad Wagner(left) and Benjamin Flesser(right) © Ian Margio
© Ian Margio
© Ian Margio
The expansion of this year's festival added many new faces to the Catalyst community; over 40% of the artists have not studied or taught at Catalyst. Many thanks to all performers who weren’t mentioned in this article, you can find the full programme and more detailed profiles of each artists submission here. As well as artists who participated - travelling in some cases from other countries for the event - there was a whole host of team members and without them the event wouldn’t have been possible. From transforming the space for all the festival guests and working essential roles throughout the weekend to preparing our halls and classrooms for lessons on Monday, many Catalyst students pitched in to make this event a success. For some, this was the first time seeing the kind of work that goes on behind the scenes of an arts and music festival, others took on organisational roles to develop their understanding. A big moment on the yearly calendar with over 1,000 people, Signals Festival was a highly social event. Nilgün Gül Özer said during the Saturday evening “More than anything I enjoyed meeting other students. Getting to know my peers has been a big plus - I’ve already set up studio sessions with some of them!”
Signals Festival 22 had a place for everyone. With support from Orchestral Tools, the event, along with the crafted worlds presented by the artists, were made accessible to attendees with modest incomes. Whether you were a Catalyst alum, returning to share some of your creative labour or an established artist adding your ideas to an audience hungry for new perspectives. An enterprising student eager for events experience or a budding performer passionate for having their art experienced by others. Or simply a reveller hearing what magic is being cooked up at Catalyst.
Write-up and video with Kyoka at Signals Festival © Ian Margio