We are everywhere: Oddstream recap
Friday June 10th 2011, 6:31 am
Filed under: events,miscellaneous,photography,portfolio,reading and writing

The Oddstream festival in Nijmegen brought together an eclectic mix of music, art and education under the loose theme of love and conflict. I’m honoured to have been invited to participate in the festival, helping out with the Memefest workshop and the International Media Training. I met many people during a very intensive week, and have made many new friends. So, first off, many thanks to all those that helped to bring me there, specifically Oliver Vodeb, Doeko Pinxt, and Carola Stahl.

Taking off the rose-tinted glasses for a bit (which is not an easy thing to do considering how much fun I had), it was very unfortunate that more people didn’t turn out. Over the course of the weekend, in front of the stages and on the festival grounds, there was a palpable sense of emptiness. In part this can be attributed to the massive scale of the site, or the electronic music festival that was happening at the same time in Arnhem. As a first festival, this is to be expected I suppose, but it also raises some critical questions, as Sandy Kaltenborn brought up during the Inspiration day. What does this area of “cultural transformation” mean to the city, and what is the festival’s relationship to city marketing and gentrification more generally. Who stays and who goes? It will be an interesting question to ask a few years down the line, if the bills get payed.

The Young Gods

Nevertheless, Oddstream produced many memorable moments for me. On the music side of things, highlights included the performances by The Young Gods, the inimitable Chicks on Speed (mini-video here), and a lovely intimate afternoon set by Miranda de Verdier.

Chicks on Speed

Miranda de Verdier

These three artists alone, give a good sense of how varied the programming was. Including the hardcore DJ / VJ sets at night, there was a little something for everyone. Kudos to the organisers for taking such risks, a sentiment well expressed in an interview with the electronica artist Blipvert.

NOT Blipvert. I can’t remember who was performing, but the visuals were stunning.

360 media lab

The various art installations focused on ideas of participation and interaction. The 360 media lab produced reactive sound and visuals within an immersive, panoramic circular screen/space. Four different artist groups were invited to create audio/visual works for the installation, and the results were entrancing and engaging.

Module #2 by Tom Verbruggen

Tom Verbruggen‘s beautiful sound sculpture Module #2, placed on a dais in a spartan darkened room, contrasted the delicate craftsmanship of the wooden mechanical sculpture with the piercing digital sounds produced by interacting with it.


In the playroom, I was particularly amused by Jan van der Asdonk‘s Free-Man game. A hacked Pac Man arcade box that proposed a playful critique of consumer culture. The ghosts never leave their cage, you can eat all the pills you want, but when you eventually and inevitably get bored, the only way out is suicide…

Memefest workshop

It was in the workshop, training, and their tangential moments where the magic really happened. After many years of collaborating with Memefest, it was very exciting to finally meet and re-meet fellow curators and participants. The end-result of the week-long workshop were the production of five “maps” that opposed concepts of social responsive communication with social marketing. These included a toolkit to “pimp your social ad“, a metaphoric mapping of social marketing onto a remote control, a map of different cultural interpretations of the EU alongside a dialogic word game, an analytical communication mixer, and the infamous “How to deal with communication shit” t-shirt.

Menal presenting the remote control

Mathieu Tremblin presenting the “poostream”

Though the maps themselves are great and will hopefully become useful critical tools, I think the real value of the workshop shone through in the dialogues and discussions (and arguments!) that were had by participants coming from such diverse backgrounds; with representatives from Brazil, the UAE, Canada, the US, the UK, Australia, Germany and Slovenia. Our perspectives of radical communication were definitely not all the same, and there was so much I learned from everyone’s different context.

[edit] For an insightful commentary on the workshop, check out Jodie’s post on the Memefest site.

Parallel discussion about the development of a “union” for radical (anti-capitalist) designers and communicators, initiated by Jason Grant of Inkahoots, were incredibly inspiring. It was a rare chance to meet in person so many designers and activists I hold in such high respect (specifically Jason, Sandy, and Tony) and discuss what our common goals are. This is certainly just the beginning…

Karim Shalaby at work

Helping out with the media training was also an amazing experience. Over the course of four days, there was a continual cycle of organising, conception, research, filming, conducting interviews, editing, more editing, design and production. The intensive working experience and environment brought us all together very quickly. I was impressed by the quality and amount of materials produced, and even more so by the grassroots working processes and everyone’s ability to stay calm and friendly under intense pressure and deadlines. Special personal credits go to Agate and Sandra, who made up the beautiful and brilliant newspaper design team.

The coverage as a whole was humorous, insightful, critical, personal and poetic. You can check out the collection of work produced here, download the newspapers here, watch the videos here, and view the photos here (including beautiful portraits of the team).

Some magical moments:

Partying at the Onderbroek, an amazing autonomous space including an underground (literally) concert venue, risograph print studio, gallery and book store. While sharing a great conversation with Rola and Janina, I noticed posters on the wall for the Shalabi Effect and Hrsta. It made me feel even more at home, and speaks to the strength of our networks (of creative resistance).

In conversation with Sandy, Anja, and Janneke outside the hotel, the ladies were skeptical of our idea of a manifesto leading to a union, for many valid reasons. Anja suggests that instead, we should start a school, such a beautiful idea. Sandy regales us with further stories and wisdom from his storied career.

Mathieu’s fruit skewer!

Fresh yellow tulips brought back from Amsterdam by Menal and Arwa, gifted to us one at a time with the most beautiful smiles I have ever seen.

So many shared cigarettes on the festival grounds, moments of sheer exhaustion broken by knowing smiles, wandering around such an immense, sublime, industrial space, and breaking bread in the communal dining room with people from all over the world. Getting the chance to share my story, and feel like I was contributing to a genuine shared knowledge.

Finally, the last night at the hotel, we met Mike, the American Republican Heinz ketchup salesman. He was on a business trip from Cincinatti. Drunk and friendly, he withstood our jabs and attacks as good cop (myself), bad cop (Jason), and the pretty political ladies (Alana and Jodie) he attempted to woo. We vociferously challenged his politics, and hopefully raised some questions that might entail some hard answers later on. When he asked us what we were all doing in Nijmegen, Jason responded that we were here to destroy capitalism. When he asked if we realised Heinz was all over the world, and that this was perhaps a good thing, I responded that he should remember that we were also everywhere…

We are everywhere.

A perfect note to end on. Thanks Oddstream!

2 Comments so far
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Congratulations to all you radical designers and communicators!!!

I’ll forward this to friends in the orient who may have similar values.

Comment by sylvia lyloc 06.10.11 @ 10:38 am

omg the fruit survellance camera was mathieu’s? hahahaha amazing!! as yep it was so special there. i’m in berlin now, seeing what’s next. :))

Comment by Ines 06.11.11 @ 7:11 am

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