The electronic sound of the German band, Kraftwerk, performing in the airport’s sound absorber space - this is one of the ingenious Antigel events planned as an epilogue to its 10th edition on the 19th of May 2020. Prior to that, from the 24th of January to the15th of February, the festival will be offering 74 shows in 24 municipalities in the canton of Geneva. The 3D concert of the pioneers of electronic music perfectly embodies the original creed of Antigel, namely scouting out unusual places in which to host performances.
From the start, the festival chose to explore new cultural locations. They invited suburban municipalities to participate in the regional creative landscape by hosting a cutting-edge programme involving contemporary dance, music and performances in places as varied as a waste incineration plant, a gravel pit, parking lots, bathing spots, swimming pools, churches, shopping centres, furniture depots, sports centres, greenhouses, gardens and public transport depots.
This daring gamble of a de-territorialized attitude to culture has paid off. Antigel has grown in ten years from 11 to 24 municipalities out of the 45 in the canton and from 12,000 to more than 50,000 spectators. This year, it is even organizing more formal meetings and debates on the theme of new cultural locations. Beyond the figures, it is the very concept of this festival that has proven to be a success and has inspired others. A perennial and yet still fragile format that shows no signs of giving up its subversive and utopian roots.
By sowing cultural seeds around the Geneva region, by considering itself a kind of cultural ‘tour operator’ for two weeks, by associating the artistic gesture with the urban transition, by exploring unconventional spaces, by conferring a social and participative dimension in its programming and by abolishing the boundaries between music, dance and sport - the festival has definitely played a pioneer role.
"Originally, Antigel was born out of the desire to question festival and cultural practices", explains Thuy-San Dinh, co-director of the festival. "Even choosing to stage Antigel in winter was a bit of a rebellious act, considered suicidal because we were venturing into a kind of no-man’s land. It was also a questioning of the cultural funding policy. We called upon a new fund at the time, the Inter-municipal Fund, which helped us with 350,000 francs and which, luckily for us, had been born two years earlier bringing in a new financial equalisation".
Breaking down the barriers between art and life, making communities talk to each other through melodies, choreographies, sports performances and participative projects, this is more than ever the leitmotif of a festival which allows "Made in Antigel" to be a place for artistic hothouses and hybrids. "A trademark where projects are not thought of in terms of artistic disciplines but rather as coming from a place, a theme, an idea", says Thuy-San Dinh. In 2020, these original projects will include a ‘Zombie Attack’ evening in Balexert shopping centre and an ‘Extravaganza’ evening behind the scenes of the Grand Theatre.
Antigel, a geographic and political festival, wishes more than ever to continue reinventing the Geneva landscape and reinvesting in urban spaces, from the city to the countryside, even into neighbouring France. "We like to sow the seeds of culture and build links between people in the outskirts. Even in ephemeral places, such as in the Etang district, between oil tanks and a motorway, which now hosts a living area for 2,500 people, but which at the time welcomed 16,000 people for dance events, concerts and a rollerdisco party during the festival", explains Eric Linder, Antigel co-director and music programmer.
"We like to create dreamscapes and poetry on industrial sites doomed to destruction such as the Pont-Rouge railway tower a few years ago, which thereby allows us to support the Geneva urban evolution". This year again, Antigel has chosen the Vernets barracks in the heart of Geneva due to be knocked down to make way for a real estate project as the central location of the festival.
In the past ten years, the desires and risk-taking of this audacious festival have in any case met with a loyal and adventurous audience who likes a change of scenery. Furthermore, the annual Antigel cultural safari has been emulated. In Valais, the Palp festival has in turn invested in unique venues to successfully put on shows. The artists also adhere to the adventurous Antigel spirit, which has recently been designated among the three most innovative festivals in Europe. And so Kraftwerk, who this year have decided to perform exclusively at the festival especially because of the proposed location. The group will be acting as noise absorbers at Geneva airport where aircraft reactors are usually tested, a venue which this time around will be welcoming the melodic clicks of their electronic sounds.