Last week I had the pleasure of attending TodaysArt Festival in the Hague, and BEAF in Brussels. The goals of both trips were to meet partners, meet artists, develop the programme of FutureEverything 2015, and also to speak in relevant debates and panel sessions.

To give some background, ECAS (European Cities of Advanced Sound and related arts) is a major (5 year) EU Culture Fund project which ends in summer 2015. It is made up of a network of independent non-profit organisations across Europe, all dedicated to advancing sound cultures, music and related arts.

All members of ECAS have spent years crafting unique festivals and events, each with their own identity grounded in strong local connections and context.

We have worked closely with TodaysArt for some years now – it’s fair to say it is a kindred spirit of FutureEverything. They are now 10 years old, we’re nearly 20, and we regularly share tales of the growing pains and war stories of developing a digital culture organisation and festival (hat tip to Tim Terpstra). TodaysArt 2014 opened with what can only be described as a bang…

To give some context, this performance opened not only the festival, but also the theatre which acted as the main festival venue, in Scheveningen, on the outskirts of the Hague. The opening speeches were intriguing, with many thanks and congratulations to architects, politicians, designers and contractors (all quite standard fare) followed by a frank and refreshing speech from Olof van Winden, the festival director. Olof very openly and honestly described his (until recently) animosity towards the host venue, and skepticism towards the blatant and forthright culture-led regeneration in the local area.

Scheveningen is a suburb of the Hague which has had its problems in recent years, and the investment that is unfolding there has been controversial, and hotly debated. Olof went on to plea for a culture of experimentation in the venue and surrounding area, a plea to avoid the fast and direct commercialisation and gentrification that he feared. Thoroughly refreshing.

At TodaysArt, apart from exploring as much of the festival programme as I could, I presented on and chaired a panel in the Bright Collisions Summit, on ‘Tools for an Unknown Future’ with Daito Manabe, Donald van Dansik and Frederik de Wilde. There was much to report from FutureEverything 2014 which explored the topic thoroughly, but in 90 minutes we didn’t get anywhere close to covering everything discussed in Manchester in March. Have a read of our theme provocation from earlier this year if you’re interested.

Following TodaysArt was a speedy dash to Brussels for BEAF where we presented an ECAS panel on Utopian Perspectives in Tomorrow’s Art, Music & Technology. I couldn’t possibly do justice to Paul Graham Raven’s talk on utopias (check!) at FutureEverything 14, so I gave a brief presentation about complexity and perspective, focussing on the role of artists in creating and interrogating technoutopias (sp?). I highlighted a few of my favourite projects dealing with technology, idealism, societal change and behaviour, namely:

Eyewriter

Chattr

chattrweb

Transparency Grenade

transparencygrenade

Looking back on this slightly whirlwind trip (that also featured seeing some amazing work and fantastic performances), it did occur to me that perhaps arts, technology and most importantly, society, based events and festivals are a wholly utopian pursuit, and all the more important because of that. Long live ECAS.

Photo of Transparency Grenade by Khuong Bismuth, 2014