Marlene Engel (c) Apollonia Theresa Bitzan
Marlene Engel (c) Apollonia Theresa Bitzan

Hyperreality becomes reality again. From May 24 to 26, 2018, HYPERREALITY. Festival for Club Culture by Wiener Festwochen will take place for the second time. The dance floor and the related forms of expression of global club cultures will once again be the focus of attention. HYPERREALITY is an attempt to examine the interaction of the conscious and unconscious construction of realities, online and offline. The festival stands for a digitally networked music scene that cannot claim any space for itself in real life. The line-up includes commissioned works by FARCE, GADDAFI GALS, FAUNA, JUNG AN TAGEN, REAL GEIZT and performances by ARCA, AISHA DEVI, MIKEQ, CAKES DA KILLA, KELELA and many more. MARLENE ENGEL aka BÜRGERKURATOR spoke with Ada Karlbauer about Ballroom Culture as a safe space for non-conformism, the presentation of subcultures in an institutional framework, the increasing theorization of club music and time limited utopias.

HYPERREALITY is taking place for the second time this year. What are the main topics to be emphasized programmatically this time?

Marlene Engel: This year’s programme is somewhat condensed, otherwise the concept has basically remained the same. We rely on a high-contrast programming with different forms of music that originates from contemporary club culture, from Arca to Kelela or Taktlo$$ to Flohio. The roots of these music productions lie on the dance floor. There is also another showcase, this time from “Qween Beat Records.” The label that MikeQ founded comes directly from the ballroom scene. This is a music and dance scene rooted in the New York queer scene of the 1960s. Long time associated with gay Latinos and Afro-American gay men, this scene only became known worldwide when the mainstream society learned to make profit from it, keyword: Madonna. Voguing with its houses and competitive events was and is the home and safe space for non-conformist people. In order to do justice to this, it was important to me with HYPERREALITY to present this style of music and dance within a cooperation together with someone from inside the scene. In this case MikeQ with his network and label colleagues Cakes da Killa, Byrell the Great, LSDXOXO, Ash B., Byrell The Great, Divoli S’vere, quest?onmarc, Buddah & Leggoh!

What has happened within the global club cultures?

Hyperreality (c) Appolonia T. Bitzan
Hyperreality (c) Appolonia T. Bitzan

Marlene Engel: I noticed that certain scenes outside Europe and North America are finally getting more attention in the field of electronic music as well. A lot is happening in Shanghai, Tokyo and Taipei, as well as in South America and Mexico. This year we have Meuko! Meuko!, who will be arriving from Taiwan with NAXS corp. They will present an audiovisual show and will soon be released on the Swiss label “Danse Noire”. These interfaces are important. Be it a Taiwanese artist who releases on a label based in Switzerland, or LSDXOXO who also releases music via GHE20G0TH1K i.e. not directly from the ballroom scene. Such interfaces exist in music both globally and across disciplines.

After an abandoned castle, the former coffin factory F23 now serves as the location, with rooms adapted for “HYPERREALITY”. What does this mean?

Marlene Engel: Apart from official adaptations such as the elimination of dangerous stumbling blocks and the idea of trying out new locations that are not accessible to club events, the content comes first and then the location. The F23 is impressive in itself and offers space for large productions as well as intimate club shows. In the materials depot (Materialmagazin), which is located underneath the assembly, a techno stage is then visually presented and designed differently from a stage with a focus on voguing or queer rap.

Club culture as a space of possibility and club culture as entertaining party hedonism are often confused with each other. Are you afraid that HYPERREALITY will be perceived purely as a party festival and that the actual messages of the artists are no longer even noticed?

Marlene Engel: We put a lot of effort into arrangement and dramaturgy to prevent this. This is particularly important because in the case of HYPERREALITY we present music and art, which often arise from subcultures, in an institutional framework. We are aware of this fact and an authentic discussion and presentation are therefore essential. There are also some showcases in which we ask artists to help shape the programme in order to get input from inside the scene.

But of course the focus is on programming of the individual evenings and stages. We have created various tension arcs that lead through the evening. I believe that this kind of discussion and design is the presentation that is needed to avoid a confusion among the artists about HYPERREALITY and pure party hedonism. A politically balanced programming, such as our proportion of women, is also essential. Our programming is also often deliberately challenging, both for the audience and for the artists. An act from a club context, like Fauna, plays deliberately on the big stage. Some acts living in Vienna are not only contextualized in the programme with their international “counterparts”, but also enter into collaborations within the framework of commissioned works.

An additional factor that certainly counteracts this problem is the communication of the themes through commissioned texts such as Byrell The Great on “Ballroom Culture” or Nina Power on the idea of “Hyperreality”. We always see the festival as a whole, from interior design to security. Besides the design we also have interventions this year, especially in the field of dance. For a stage inspired by Dancehall, three professional dancers were invited to perform in the audience during the evening. Especially in dancehall and voguing, dance as a means of expression goes hand in hand with music and these dance styles, from bounce to voguing and one-drop, demand a high skill level and many years of practical experience. They are essential in the genres, so we didn’t want to present the music without these elements.


The Internet and developments within virtual spaces now play an essential role for the music market. What are your thoughts on this?

Marlene Engel (c) Apollonia Theresa Bitzan
Marlene Engel (c) Apollonia Theresa Bitzan

Marlene Engel: There is a lot of music online for which there are no spaces outside the digital world. Although this music is promoted via the Internet, magazines, and numerous communities, it is actually homeless – especially in Vienna. Very often this music was not produced for the room in which it ends up. This leads to formal and acoustic challenges, because sometimes the implementation is completely irritating for me. For example, I don’t understand music in museums and galleries, in the “White Cube” in the truest sense of the word. But even in this case, there is a difference between larger houses that use the popularity of music to increase their ticket sales and thus funding, and those that really deal with the works in terms of content and form, like non-profit community spaces and galleries often run by artists.

I have the feeling that club music is becoming increasingly theoretical due to the fact that there are fewer and fewer rooms where it can and will be lived out collectively. And I hope that especially now that so much is happening in the city of Vienna, politics will also respond to the opportunities that arise here. The social context is extremely important for music in general. After all, music is the art form of the collective, not that of individual pieces. The individual pieces are at best us on the dancefloor itself, as we express ourselves as we really see ourselves.

HYPERREALITY focuses precisely on this aspect. The few clubs and festivals such as CTM and Unsound, which do the same and do not focus on homogeneous party music, are also gaining in importance.

In general, the club represents hierarchies and repression, in HYPERREALITY, on the other hand, it´s a symbol of a space of possibility freed of paradigms. In this context, what are your thoughts on questions of reality and utopia?

Marlene Engel: When we talk about utopias, equality or things like non-binary in connection with the club as a space of possibility, a reference to reality, i.e. to life before and after the evening, is always particularly important to me. Even if I can define certain attributes such as gender and skin color to create equality organizationally and programmatically here for one day, we still have a long way to go in our society. With events like HYPERREALITY we can give a place to utopias for a limited time and a limited space, and I also believe that this is very important. In the larger picture, however, these are individual gestures that develop all the more power in conjunction with other projects, initiatives and artistic works. It is up to us – both as individuals and in the group – to develop our own realities, to explore them and also to fight for them.

In addition to the regular performances, special commissioned works will once again be on view.

Marlene Engel: Fauna has released her new album on “Ventil Records” in the beginning of May. As part of a commissioned work, she has created her own live show for HYPERREALITY with bassist Ursula Winterauer and the musician Farce. Aleksander Vucenovic from the label “Amen” also contributes in the form of visual show elements. Together they’re a little like a Dean Blunt concept pop band, just edgier. Fauna plays on a stage with Arca and Aïsha Devi. Aïsha presents her brand new album “DNA Feelings” including AV show. Jung an Tagen, who recently released his new album on “Editions Mego”, has created an audiovisual live show especially for the festival weeks. The Gaddafi Gals have teamed up with the multi-instrumentalist Farce for a completely new composition. They open the second evening in front of Kelela and have an incredible stage presence.

Last year there was a lot of media attention, especially from international media. What’s left of it?

Marlene Engel: Actually, the attention is even stronger. We have requests from all over the world, from Mixmag in New York to Resident Advisor London, people want to come to Vienna or write about the festival. That makes me particularly happy. Boiler Room wanted to pay 50 pounds for video footage from HYPERREALITY for an “Eristoff-story”. However, we are not involved in such agency actions. In a deal like that money actually due to artists is diverted to the Boiler Room, which functions as an agency, which we do not support. If Eristoff wants advertising, they should pay the producers of the content or the artists, and not commission the Boiler Room – or alternatively they should commission a commercial.

What are your personal highlights of the programme?

Marlene Engel: One highlight is certainly the commissioned work of Taktlo$$, probably the best German-language battle rapper, who released his album “wie prophezeit” last year under the pseudonym REAL GEIZT. While in rap I think everyone has taken the same path of continuous exaggeration at the moment, this album is a complete turnaround. It is experimental, poetic in an entertaining way, actually not rap, but still the best rap album of 2017. The live show was developed especially for the Wiener Festwochen and can actually already be described as a stage production, because besides numerous instrumentalists, 20 extras, costumes and other surprises are planned. Not to be missed!

Thank you very much for the interview!

Ada Karlbauer (translated by David Dempsey)

HYPERREALITY Festival for Club Culture by Wiener Festwochen
24.Mai – 26. Mai 2018
Venue: F23 – Breitenfurter Str. 176, 1230 Wien

Wiener Festwochen / HYPERREALITY
Wiener Festwochen / HYPERREALITY (Facebook)