Interview with art director
When and why did the Next festival start?
We started the festival in 2000 because we felt that there were not enough events that would present this type of creativity in sound, art and music and that would actually extended the conventions, or the borders, that were set for classical music, for jazz, for any other types of electronic music or popular music. As students of musicology, at that time, we were fascinated by new sounds and new approaches, new ways of compositional thinking, or improvised practices in contemporary music and we felt that this could be a good platform to have a yearly event with artists from abroad coming to Slovakia. At the same time, we wanted to give to local artists the opportunity to present their work onto an international stage and to give them commissions to prepare new works.
This year, you’ve paired German born / London based cellist Ute Kanngiesser with another cellist, the Slovak Andrej Gál. Are collaborations something you make a point in initiating?
We also have a collaboration between Jirí Suchánek and the Slovak musician Angakok Thoth, which is also a new collaboration. This is a project that was commissioned by the festival. Generally speaking, we think that it’s good to have people working together who might not otherwise be doing so, especially in the case of the two cellos. That was an idea that came from my friend Daniel Kordik, who’s based in London. He runs a label called Earshots and they are currently releasing a recording by Ute. That got us thinking that it would be nice to have her at the festival maybe with somebody else, as she’s a great improviser and we thought of another cello player. I always like to have some special things in the program so that there is a surprise element. We don’t want to present just works by people who are already well known, we like to have this freedom of new things happening.
Another ad hoc collaboration is the one between Sote and the visual artist Stix. How important is the audiovisual element in the festival?
We do like to have audiovisual projects quite often, and since I knew that Sote sometimes collaborates with other visual artists we were thinking of some local artist who could do that and I am very glad it worked out. So, basically this is a nice element to have, something extra musical. In the past, we also had performative installations, for instance, and some other more sound art related pieces. So, yes, we think that sound and sonic art should be present in many different forms and styles and also in combination with other elements.
You don’t seem to have themes for the festival, is that a deliberate choice?
Yes, I think music is too… the spectrum is too wide, and we don’t want to set any limits. Also, since it’s a relatively small festival, we don’t have so much money to actually do the curating in a really extensive way. Not that we would probably do it very differently, even if we did have the money, but basically it’s quite fine for us to have different styles, with different individual ways of music making present at the festival, and to support the creation of new works. Of course this could change in the future, and it would be nice the have a curated section with some theme. This year we also focused on Central and Eastern Europe, inviting some musicians that were maybe less known, because the problem is that it’s mostly people coming from the west to the east and not the other way round, so we also tried to introduce a few very interesting young artists in collaboration with the Easterndaze platform, so that was maybe a geographical curatorial selection.
What’s in store for the future?
We would like to have more substantial collaborations on new commissions with some partners and we are planning a collaboration with the Borealis festival in Bergen, Norway. The aim is to have new works created and artists’ residencies. Furthermore, we’d like to expand the festival so that there would be something happening in London, for instance, and other events somewhere else. And also, to make it happen in more venues and places in the city, which would really help it grow, but that depends on funding.
How would you describe the scene in Bratislava?
There is a growing experimental scene in Bratislava. We have a website called Kraa with over a hundred projects based in Slovakia. Also, A4 as a space has a strong focus on experimental music and we try to do regular concerts throughout the year. There are two or three venues in Bratislava that put on this kind of music, which means that we’ve developed an audience, which is great for the festival.