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October 7, 2016

A report from #EndlessNameless in Berlin, Germany

Brassland was founded around a dream about an island. Imagine a cross between a commune, an artist's colony and the television show Giligan’s Island: a bunch of creative people voluntarily stranded, making new things, and having ridiculous adventures.

Last week in Berlin that dream came true. Endless, Nameless was an experimental music festival bringing together 80+ artists to the Funkhaus. In the week prior to the public-facing festival, the artists hung out, explored & collaborated in the dozens of nooks, crannies & studio spaces throughout this enormous, out-of-time feeling facility. Originally the Funkhaus was build to be the home of East Germany's central radio station, and it has the no-expenses-were-spared feeling of a government-funded public relations effort. It is the largest studio complex in the world & has remained, sadly, underutilized since the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

Here is a 360° view of the main 'Shedhalle' venue — basically a hugely evocative concrete warehouse. (We were told that, until recently, it was used for storage, and as an improvised parking lot for visiting trucks and transport vehicles.)

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Not convinced it deserves the adjective "evocative"? Well here is This Is The Kit filling that hall, while accompanied by a female chorus consisting of other resident artists.

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This event was produced by the people behind the Michelberger Hotel, our favorite place to stay in the city. Some people have referred to this festival as Michelberger Music rather than "Endless, Nameless" — but we're pretty sure the MM moniker refers to the Michelberger's ongoing musical efforts....

Anyhoo, all this begs the question: what was Endless, Nameless? For an impressionistic view of the residency portion, you can read the newspaper produced by the British arts journalists Laura Snapes & Laura Barton. A copy was given to every festival attendee and is now available on Medium.com. The public-facing, ticketed portion of Endless, Nameless kicked off after the week-long artist residency; 4,000 ticketed visitors showed up to see what the artists had come up with. The number of performers was actually well over 100 when you include all the orchestral players, a youth chorus and a small troupe of dancers. There was Bon Iver doing what the internet has labelled a "techno set" — Brassland's co-founders Aaron & Bryce Dessner kicked out noise-jams — and there were all manner of other soundings: at first most of the music seemed to exist on the post-classical/new folk axis, until it seemed to transform, each night, later in the evening, into a hip-hop, electronic music, post-rock kind of thing.

This rest of this post compiles pics of the proceedings that were posted to our Instagram account during the festival. If you want to explore more deeply, we suggest checking the hashtags #MichelbergerMusic and #EndlessNameless on that social network. All our posts carry the tag #MichelbergerDispatch to help differentiate them a bit. Finally we've provided a few more links at the end of this post.

Attendees eager to get into the intimate studio shows.

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Upon getting their admission bracelets, each festivalgoer was handed a bag containing a silvery mask and this festival newspaper explaining the workshopping & collaborative atmosphere of the private residency week that preceded the public festival.

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The festival coincided with the release weekend for Bon Iver's new album. So, that group played in countless iterations. This was one of perhaps a half-dozen shows by the full band in Saal 1, one of the larger recording studios designed for orchestral & choral works.

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The Indonesian noise duo Senyawa played after most of Bon Iver's sets. It's fair to say they were one of the more brain-melting and talked about performers on the weekend.

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The festival also featured many new, never-before-seen collaborations. Here are Poliça & the chamber group Stargaze in Saal 2 working on their new show based on James Howard Kunstler's book The Long Emergency. I don't believe either the dancers or the MC will be part of the final piece when it premieres in Minneapolis, Minnesota USA later this autumn; at Endless, Nameless though, those elements were an energetic highlight.

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Arone Dyer from Buke and Gase and Kate Stables from This Is The Kit chatting after the show. One of the joys of the week was the opportunity for dozens of artists who had long travelled in the same circles to actually meet one another in the flesh.

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As the festival ran into its second day, the programme definitively exited the folk & classical portion of the weekend. Here is Spank Rock performing in the main Shedhalle.

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And, here, a collage of Sam Amidon, an impromptu cafe dance party, and Icelandic artist Ragnar Kjartansson standing in for Matt Berninger's usual frontman slot singing "Sorrow" with Aaron & Bryce Dessner.

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More evidence of folk & classical music giving way to other things: multi-hyphenate French artist Woodkid (musician-video director-graphic designer) in a collaboration with choreographer Holly Blakey.
\m/ — \m/ — \m/

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Of course these guys had something to do with it so they deserve a close-up. Yay Dessner bros!

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To be clear, though: this was not about artists-as-curators, but artists together making new things in real time; it felt less like a showcase or a series of headliners than something more egoless & ephemeral. (Uh, if you are wondering what these people are wearing: a silver circular mask was given to each attendee as part of their welcome package. Some people actually wore them. But it was also a gesture to the idea that all participants in the experience were meant to leave their expectations at the door — to instead allow themselves to be a reflection of what they discovered here, to smile & be open.)

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Want a more objective view of the proceedings? For a journalistic take, may we suggest this preview in Nothing But Hope And Passion & this review in IndieBerlin. We'll try to update this post with further reviews if we find any good ones.

Finally, we want to end this post with a thanks to everyone that was part of this probably-once-in-a-lifetime gathering: attendees & artists — sure, but we've already mentioned them. Also deserving a tip of the hat are the the doers & schedulers & caterers & sound people who kept this weird experiment in making running as smoothly as it did. It wasn't always an easy job!

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That's Cork pal & scheduling wizard Mary Hickson keeping her sense of humor intact.

We'll end where we started: Brassland was founded around a dream about an island. We imagined the label as an opportunity to write a kind of story with people — people who made things — people who would create a many-tendrilled artistic community, both literally & metaphorically. We nested this idea in our mission statement: "Brassland encourages collaboration and creation among an evolving assortment of creative folks. We like artists who are community-minded and possess that elusive tonic of personality." It was amazing to see those ideas & hopes & imaginings taking form in the real world, in fairly undiluted form. Thank you to everyone who made it possible.


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