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10.03.2016 | Words by: Jo Kali.

“Clubs have all the signifiers for an artistic space," says Aurora Halal, "but often they just get used as a social space for drinking and dancing.” Halal has spent the last 6 years delving into this idea of artistic space with her Mutual Dreaming party series. An underground project which pursues all the sensory possibilities of the club, temporarily transforming loft and warehouse spaces for curious bodies seeking something more intimate and emotional. Her use of visual aesthetics is a stark reminder that, much the same as a gallery, a club is a space for artistic exploration. So why, then, is the club so often restricted to purely sonic performances? 

Last year NTS curated a duo of live AV shows at the Barbican, a performing arts centre in London, as an attempt to bridge between producers and visual artists. The visuals arrested the audiences full attention yet I remember feeling disjointed in all the performances. At one point in Beatrice Dillon’s set everyone suddenly moved as if to dance before catching themselves and retreating. The space seemed to inhibit people into the role of gallery spectator; sitting politely out of each other’s way or in small groups staring between the screened surfaces. The next night haunted visuals from Michael England jerked across the walls to an oppressive soundtrack that mournfully diluted themselves in the tall expansive room. It raises questions on how we can negotiate between the artistic and the social experience of a club. 

When Halal started curating events in Brooklyn, she wanted to create somewhere people could completely lose themselves and drew part of her inspiration from European clubs such as (the original) Tresor, whose vault architecture and dance floor lay buried under a dense fog that obscured crowds both visually and physically. Her aim to “turn an abstract space into a sensory zone” utilises her analogue driven approach in the process. A bold move away from the commercial club scene and closer to a utopic escape from the everyday that reaches the dark corners of our subconscious. These lucid, 360° encounters that Halal’s curates, harks back to the psychedelic sixties, a time when revellers elevated themselves into a euphoric, mystic, quasi-religious experience through hallucinogenics.  

At Berlin's CTM festival this year Robert Henke (Monolake/ co-creator of Ableton) and light artist Christopher Bauder presented their collaboration Deep Web, a colossal audio-visual installation that plunged the audience into a sea of sound and iridescent kinetic light. As with his previous show entitled Lumière II, state of-the-art laser and light work partnered with an ethereal musical narrative presented audience with a 3D, hyperreal interface to engage with. Henke’s work forms a dialogue around people’s relationship with their environment by embedding them directly into his installations in a way which toys with being inside a virtual reality or a dream like trance.  

Both Henke's and Halal's work mirrors the organic relationship between sight and sound that we synthesize together on a daily basis, yet their endeavours are still at the height of a more experimental approach of understanding how we experience music. Halal’s idea of establishing an “intentional space for creativity, somewhere to be fully immersed in the experience” is one that seeks to answer that question in a more playful and holistic way, one that happily addresses music as something more than just the sounds we hear.
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