SIX ARTISTS ON THE IMPORTANCE OF CHALLENGING THE STATUS QUO

This year, Berlin based 3hd Festival, which took place two weeks ago, explores the viability of acting outside of the status quo with its theme “Whatever You Thought, Think Again.” Musicians, performers, and contemporary artists have been questioning political, economic and communicative uncertainties within their recent projects. Each artist has been working towards overcoming adversity around visibility, feminism, empowerment and community, in order to be seen and heard in a sphere of international crisis.

The festival highlights personal stories that are tackling the emancipation of art; globalisation appears to have failed us time and time again, even more so in the face of rising xenophobic populism in a backdrop of emerging disasters. Tackling these notions, the festival’s organiser, music platform Creamcake, is networking artists to secure a better future for Berlin, and the world. For the first time, we have seen installations, concerts, performances and workshops intersecting with manifested science. INDIE has spoken to six artists from the festival to hear all about their thoughts on conformism and the importance of questioning how society, more often than not, manipulates communities into following the herd. So, whatever you thought, think again:

Abyss x 3hd Festival

 Abyss X – Globe Trotter

How is your work non-conformist? What is conformism like within your community?
I don’t want people to be able to pigeon hole my aesthetic, vibe and music. I don’t think about what’s hip and trendy – I do exactly what I want to do at any given time. I don’t want my collaborators or those that appreciate my art to be niche by only understanding limited things. I want them to be open to everything, that’s why I always stir things up. They might think it’s over the top or interpret it differently but I don’t care. It’s honest and raw. I want my art to go deeper and for the messages it delivers to be everchanging.

Why do you think it’s important to tackle the status quo?
I’m a person with a brain and a heart – everyone should challenge everything they’ve been told and fed every day. I’m very harsh and critical towards myself and others but that’s what keeps me sane. Otherwise there’s no point in us being here. We need to be cautious of other’s sensitivities – artists are sensitive creatures when expressing their ideas. Even if your work is harsh, that doesn’t mean you’re not sensitive and cerebral towards everything that’s happening around you and your connection towards the world. I find it sad when people aren’t always connected to their body, heart, brain and the world. We need to try and conquer that every day by trying to understand everyone and if that means you’re not conforming then so be it.

How does your art intersect with the themes of the event?
Being a woman puts me into a difficult position, I won’t accept that “we’re all the same”, because we’re not. When I get paid less than a man for the same line-up or if a man is chosen over me for no reason, that’s not okay. Women should not be so underrepresented. Near to no women are represented in my home country Greece, not in the same light as men at least. You’re out there by yourself fighting a fight that you shouldn’t have to in the first place. I’m not in my early twenties anymore, I won’t take this bullshit anymore and I’ll openly express that. I’m a woman in the music industry – that will present itself in a live show. I’m not there to stand behind two decks and look cute – that’s not my purpose. Don’t throw me into ten events where I’m surrounded by 38 men to women, I’m not interested. I have severed links with festivals because I’m not about that. It can be a bit of a slap in the face, people can react by calling me cute but then they’ll usually be shocked because I don’t deliver what they’ve imagined they’ll be seeing. You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do.

Do you believe there are certain societal orders that everyone should conform to – or rebel against?
People should be honest and trustworthy – we should cherish trust much more. Trusting people and believing that people aren’t out to get you or want to fuck you over is important. We can’t live in fear that we’re being used, we can’t expect the worst anymore. I would also advise cis men to understand how difficult being a woman can be, even if it isn’t obvious for them to see. I want to be supportive of women, we need equal rights but also equal opportunities. Women need to have the same opportunities as men to showcase their work – whether it’s good or not, we should have the option. Men have it handed to them every day – no questions asked – whereas women are boxed into the corner. We shouldn’t have to wait until we’re middle aged to get noticed or established.

3hd Festval Prince Harvey

Prince Harvey – New York City

What economic, political or cultural issues is your work looking to tackle?
As a black man who identifies as queer – it’s important to be freeing. I’m bored of societal norms and how they under-represent my community. I’m trying to push my community up. As a rapper, it’s important to me to not just sing the same shit as every other motherfucker. It’s boring, I try and find new ways to talk about sex, rebellion, love and hate – I mix high energy aggression with soulful tenderness. Suicidal thoughts mixed with unbound hopefulness. The worst thought in the world, the best thought and anything in between.

Why do you think it’s important to tackle the status quo?
I want people to do what they want, I want them to do the things that they feel are necessary. You can’t wait around and expect the world to morph into your ideal. But I don’t think society has been created for us, we create it ourselves, we’re currently building it. Anything that society deems as correct can just as easily be changed. People should be conscious of that – it’s not really a thing.

How is your work non-conformist? What is conformism like within your community?
New York is no different to anywhere else. Wherever you go you will see people doing what they’ve been told to do – or follow what others are doing within their city. When I made my first album, I wasn’t into popular music at that time so I recorded the entire album acapella, in the Apple store. I felt like it was important for me to start with my voice, it was my way of expressing the importance of speaking out. I wanted to show people that their voices should be heard. Our capability is already within ourselves.

How does your art intersect with the themes of the event?
Earlier this year, I did a project where I recorded and released one song, every day for 100 days; to protest. To inspire people to take daily action and create a world that we want. We all get down but the “you can do this” kind of encouragement isn’t always enough to accomplish. It’s a little bit at a time, Rome wasn’t built in a day. In America, despite the new presidency, it’s important to be mindful of the world. The moment that we chill and slack off, those who are plotting against us will be able to keep us marginalized. I want us to be ready to take action

Do you think the rising use of media, technology and social media is effecting the mental well-being of the youth? And their need to stand out?
The world is fast changing and has been for a long time now. There’s way too harsh of scrutiny on the kids and those who use social media – we’re quick to say what they should or shouldn’t do. An 18-year-old holds more knowledge in their head than someone who was 18 twenty years ago, because we have more access to online information. We’re more self-aware and understand other’s – no one can dictate right and wrong to us anymore, which is a positive.

Check out Prince Harvey’s new single 101 and watch him play at the “Tasty” event, club Schwuz this Friday.

3hd Festival Rui

RUI HO – Berlin – China

What economic, political or cultural issues is your work looking to tackle?
My music is mostly about my cultural background and gender identity – it focuses on bringing out Chinese musical elements, both traditional and contemporary. I then incorporate it into dance music, which is more contemporary. I bring queerness to Chinese music because that best describes me. It’s who I am – without feeling the need to be confrontational, the way that I look does that for me.

Do you believe there are certain societal orders that everyone should conform to – or rebel against?
I find that people are more susceptible to feeling victimised right now, by anything and everything. We can confront societal issues by being logical and it’s okay to realise words are just words. We can choose not to be offended by remembering that we’re all different and not everybody will respect how you look and will have something to say.

Why do you think it’s important to tackle the status quo?
People need to have a vision of the future. We’re already seeing gender norms and stereotypes losing their relevance. If we keep working towards tackling these issues, the future will be different. Although going against stereotypes and claiming this is the way forward, it can also be an unintentional attack on stereotypically looking sexes – we need to make sure we don’t exclude any beings. We’re moving forward quickly and are living in the future in Berlin, so it’s impossible to not tackle it.

Do you think the rising use of media, technology and social media is effecting the mental well-being of the youth? And their need to stand out?
I don’t think technology is to blame. It’s human’s incoherent reliability to routine and anything comforting, which triggers addiction. You can have mental health issues from absolutely anything, social media is one of many reasons, but it’s easier to blame. People worry about the dangers of technology here, Americanised sci-fi movies teach us that it will be the end of humanity and we’ll be enslaved to machines in the future. If technology didn’t exist, mental health issues still would.

What is the political status and cultural landscape within your city like? Does it allow individuals to voice their opinions openly?
There’s a gap in Berlin between the older Berliners and the expat community. Artists here voice their opinions openly; their art does it for them. Cities like Shanghai and Beijing are focusing on the future – like technology, whereas rural cities are different. Overall, it’s not as political as Europe, it’s more optimistic. The underground creative scene is making it easier for people to speak up but on a mainstream scale it’s much lower than Berlin – the history of China and sheer amount of people makes it difficult. The paradox is that people are past that stage.

Cleo –  San Francisco – Berlin

Why do you think it’s important to tackle the status quo?
For me, I guess it’s the way I survive – as a queer person and a femme, I have to. Otherwise I couldn’t survive or be myself. The two things that I try to focus on is to love and take care of myself as it is always radical for queers to love themselves. I also think it’s important to question toxic masculine behaviour. Verbally question what’s happening, it could be anything from taking up physical space or interrupting when men are speaking. We just need to voice our opinions more as femme and queers.

Do you believe there are certain societal orders that everyone should conform to – or rebel against?
I think that everybody should rebel against the racist patriarchy and conform to non-violent approaches to living.

How is your work non-conformist? What is conformism like within your community?
Germany has a social safety net that does not exist in the United States and whereas Sweden is more advanced when it comes to gender and feminist praxis, both countries have two flourishing Nazi parties which says a lot about our current political climate. My art gives emotional labour value. Women and femmes are mainly doing emotional labour in our community and I give it consent, I say “Yes, I will do this emotional labour for you” but there’s a time and a space for it. I try to give femmes a space to, and take on some of their emotional labour, to help all of us.

Do you think the rising use of media, technology and social media is effecting the mental well-being of the youth? And their need to stand out?
The use of social media can be stressful and can create a sense of fake validation. Technology can’t overpower us, humans need other human contact to survive, so we’ll always have that even if it keeps expanding. It works for networking people too. For example, let’s say if you’re a gay kid in Arkansas and you don’t have any gay kids in your town, you need to be able to find a community. So there are positives and negatives. For example, I host a radio show every four weeks on Berlin’s community radio called “Emotional Labor Queen” which is my way in which I give advice and support on the queer community. That would be impossible without technology.

What is the political status and cultural landscape within your city like? Does it allow individuals to voice their opinions openly?
In San Francisco you could stand on a street corner and praise your political opinion, which is not socially acceptable here, however it is easier to organise demonstrations in Berlin.

3hd Festival Hazina

Petit Singe – Italy

What economic, political or cultural issues is your work looking to tackle?
My music is fighting for many things, as well as my other projects but it mainly helps me fight day to day issues in my everyday life.

Do you believe there are certain societal orders that everyone should conform to – or rebel against?
Italy is a difficult place when it comes to the artistic and creative world. There isn’t much work for artists, art and music, so it’s dying due to no one investing and financing creative work – it’s a huge economical problem. There are no investments for young people, staff and collectives, so we’re essentially limited and so is our art. I believe that rebelling against this is necessary.

What is the political status and cultural landscape within your city like? Does allow individuals to voice their opinions openly?
I’m from a little city in North Italy but moved to Milan three years ago for work. There’s definitely a difference between the two cities. The question of freedom is contemplated all over Italy. Milan is fast-paced and more liberated than other cities there, but still not enough. Most places home young people who are full of ideas, projects and ambition but Italy is still a close-minded country. So many people write in requests and questions to organizations but the corporations don’t move in the same direction. Most of the time young people are treated like ghosts.

How does your art intersect with the themes of the event?
“Whatever you thought, think again” – to me it’s to challenge the meaning of power, resistance and persistence of everything, ideas, project, ambitions, change. It’s what all artists are doing; always thinking about quality, identity and thoughts. I totally agree with that.

Do you think the rising use of media, technology and social media is effecting the mental well-being of the youth? And their need to stand out?
Social media is saving all of us, not killing us. My project was born on Facebook, but Facebook can kill it – I guess that’s the danger, once it’s online it doesn’t just belong to you, it belongs to the corporation too. Things have changed in this generation, we weren’t able to post, share and like when I was younger. We had a more personal approach to interacting. Now, we totally need social media, even if we say we don’t. It makes us grow but only if we decide to use it in the right way.

3hd Festival Izzy

 Stud1nt – New York City

What economic, political or cultural issues is your work looking to tackle?
There’s not one specific issue my work as a musician and DJ is addressing. It’s inherently political in the way that I navigate the industry with an understanding of systematic oppression, cultivate relationships with artists I deeply care about and believe in, and create from a personally intentional and historically aware place.

How is your work non-conformist?
At a certain point, I discovered for myself, because you can hear this but not believe it, that there’s no use in comparing your creative experience to anyone else’s. I try as much as possible to stay true to the sounds and feelings that resonate within me, that make meaning for me. On a more superficial level, I think by virtue of my identity and the values and politics  with which I align, my work is totally perpendicular to the white, cis, heterosexual hegemony.

What is conformism like within your community?
New York is filled with micro-ecosystems of artists and creatives that feel the need to over-produce. There is a tendency to feel the need to compete, to do so much, to push past your limits. People struggle to create on their own timeline and sometimes rush work when it isn’t ready. People fear that they’re going to be forgotten. There’s a transactional quality to things. No one wants to lose their relevance so they’re always re-establishing themselves. It’s a city filled with so many talented people, so it’s easy to be hard on yourself. There’s a sense of scarcity with money, time and resources in the city.

How does your art intersect with the themes of the event?
My work is implicitly in relationship with queerness, especially in New York where so much of nightlife is connected to celebrating and grieving for people of color. However, I don’t really believe in safe spaces – it allows for an illusion of security about reality. Instead, I create from a place that believes in the possibility of unmediated joy for queer bodies.

Do you think the rising use of media, technology and social media is effecting the mental well-being of the youth? And their need to stand out?
Of course, but technology doesn’t just tell us what to do, we created it. I have a love-hate relationship with social media like every millennial. It’s a double-edged sword; as much as it can be overused and drain us socially and emotionally, it allows us to publicize ourselves in ways that can be materially beneficial. I see it is as just another tool in creating ourselves that works best with a certain deliberateness. There’s no point in pretending it’s not artificial. It is.

Photography by DANIELLE COYLE & ELOISE KNIGHTS

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