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11.05.2020 | Words by: Elisa Luengo and Luc Mastenbroek

Luc: Hey! Happy to chat again! You remember our last blog conversation, Jasmin was just about to put that online when we got the news the next few weeks of events getting cancelled. Someone even took a picture the exact moment we heard the news. That was the last time we saw each other, six weeks ago. It was a crazy week, no? 

Elisa: Yeah, it all happened very fast. I remember that the days before the closure I didn’t fully believe the real threat was approaching us. Even when Laura, our production manager, suggested the possibility a month earlier while the virus was hitting Asia, I naively thought she was being extra alarmist. It took me a while to process everything. Not sure if I’ve fully digested the current landscape or if we’re ready to reflect on things yet. It still feels early and uncertain. How have you been dealing with the situation? 

L: The first week I thought a lot about the last party we did, the weekender of 7-8 March. That moment a few hours before the party we heard CEM maybe wouldn't make it, while he was planned to play twice. Back then it felt like that that was the worst thing that could happen, a DJ that had to cancel, while a few days later our complete near future got cancelled. But CEM did make it, and it ended up being one of my favourite days in our building. I remember thinking, while DJ Plead was playing: this is so good we can just stop after this. Never did I think it was really gonna be the final night for a while. That was almost two months ago - I guess the first weeks we were a bit naive and tried to reschedule all cancelled events, later we decided too much is up in the air to plan any nights right now. Trying to work on more structural ideas right now, but that's not easy. 

E: Definitely not. It seems like a bigger sense of cultural militancy is growing in our surroundings but it’s still a small bubble. And with participation limited to the virtual realm, I am not sure how we can contribute best at the moment. The level of online noise is overwhelming. Live streaming doesn’t appeal to me as an alternative to the clubbing/concert experience at all. Plus its infrastructure won’t provide a sustainable income for artists in the near future. Good to read Mat Dryhurst, Shawn Reynaldo and Cherie Hu’s input on the topic. However, I am definitely interested in the crowdfunding models that the crisis has accelerated. They seem to be taking off. From the membership to support Nowadays’ survival to the possibility of subscribing to Arca’s Patreon for monthly exclusive content. The collective action that Bandcamp is stirring has also made me dream of a brighter future in the lines of this interdependent music proposal that Dryhurst defends. I have some hope in these practices becoming a standard for arts and culture, where there has been too much for too little for too long. 

L: I think it comes down to the question of what club culture is. Streaming highlights a part of it: a DJ touching cd players in the living room, the guys in the chat room getting high. It focuses on the aspects that I enjoy the least, and apart from it being unstimulating, streams can also be dangerous. By presenting these streams as "successful festivals" it feeds into the idea that they are an actual alternative to clubs, an idea that politicians already seem to have adopted. When we talked about what a club night comes down to, you described it as an exchange of liquids, and the more I think about it, the more it rings true. 

E: Nightclubs are about physical exchanges: face to face conversation, dancing with someone, feeling the bass shaking every cell in your body… that cannot be translated to the online sphere. Losing these communal spaces would be dramatic for an ecosystem that depends on live shows. I am also very worried about those venues in emerging scenes that are lacking public financial support at the moment. We, as De School, are surviving thanks to the help of the government and bank loans… artists, other freelancers and companies are receiving some subsidies to stay afloat. This is the case in many European countries. But what about the rest? International networks of support and cooperation are needed to back them up as well.

L: Yes it's not about the big moments, but the small encounters. I really miss certain corners of the club: the far left corner of De Tuin, the back-right corner of Het Muzieklokaal where people always have the best moves, the left corner at the cloakroom with Paul's mural, people undressing for the night, seeing people walking in, saying hi to Kate at the corner at the entrance. I haven't really been in the building since we had to close, and I guess that's for the better because I'd get too nostalgic. It's heartbreaking to hear stories from people that run venues in New York, Tbilisi, Bogotá, other scenes that were just emerging, they all have these little vivid memories like us, but it's very unsure if they will be able to return to their spaces. Can you share some memories that came back to you recently, that made you happy or sad? 

E: I don’t look behind so much. I try to stay in the present while dreaming of the future, so I guess that what made me the saddest was having all of our plans cancelled. We worked very hard on many new things that were coming up these months. I fantasized a lot about them, so letting go was difficult. Things that made me happy: listening to Extra Warm by upsammy and imagining a hopeful summer. Also catching up with some of our favourite local DJs through video call. And listening to NTS nonstop. What about you?

L: Also NTS! Their 24-hour fundraiser for Global Foodbanking was a stream that did make me happy and brought in some collective spirit while broadcasting interesting art. Triad God, Klein, James Massiah, Kelsey Lu, Dean Blunt, Omar-S, Weyes Blood, best ever day of radio! My favourite was this show by Vegyn (the young guy that did production work for Frank Ocean but also released a very cool album himself last year), including this song from the Ghost In The Shell soundtrack. And this video chat we did with more than twenty schooly DJs made me very happy too, on a day that I definitely needed it. Was fun to see how everyone had similar approaches (going through all records, making new plans, cooking, going for walks), but how there were also differences. Some that started to focus more on different art practices - fashion, graphic design, production work for others - others made more music than ever, or had just started fishing, or practising on an outdoor xylophone. I think we should chat again soon with everyone! 

E: After the last Prime Minister’s press conference, I hope that we are soon able to take some steps towards those little gatherings and face-to-face chats. Back to basics restart mood.

L: I was listening to this fun podcast interview with Elias and he said it felt a bit like a taboo to talk with you or me about the club, and honestly, it feels a bit like a taboo for myself too. We don't talk about it so much now such a big part of it is up in the air. I think the main focus now is to make sure the club will re-open, whenever it is, and to find alternative ways to get by in the meantime. We've kept radio silence mostly, but for the coming weeks we'll have a few fun things to put out again I hope. We are gonna join UWS soon too to try and help raise funds, hope we can present something fun and cozy. Looking forward seeing you again soon, let it not be another 6 weeks pls xxx
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