Author: Vincent Carry (Arty Farty director: Nuits sonores festival, Le Sucre)
Photo credit: Gaetan Clement
Throughout Europe, and for quite a long time now, the actors of the night-time cultural sector have accepted with fatalism, sometimes with resignation, that their work is to be considered solely through the prism of security, hygiene, and public health. This is a historical error and an immense injustice, even if the cultural appreciation of the night by the political authorities is not the same throughout the continent.
Error and injustice because yes, for more than thirty years, the beautiful and free space of the night and the electronic scene which inhabits it, are indeed the crucible of an extraordinary cultural effervescence, with its artists in all their infinite diversity, its media, its festivals, its production and mediation chain… and of course, its clubs, temples of the diffusion of this culture to an immense public.
An injustice that must now be urgently corrected, at a time when the sector is on its knees and when many companies and structures are about to disappear in the silence and darkness of the curfew, it is the responsibility of politicians, local and national elected officials, to recall what these hundreds of artists, these places, these events, this great chain of creation have brought to our cultural landscape.
The techno planet is not simply a glittering, blissful, and carefree faceted ball. It has become aware of itself over the years, through the prism of its own freedom, contested and constantly endangered.
Having long been reduced to an egotistically festive and hedonistic culture by those who do not understand it, electronic music has, with three decades of history on the dancefloors of Europe and those of the world, taken on another meaning: that of a legitimate, benevolent, and inclusive look at youth and the world that surrounds us.
The foundational years of the anti-techno repression, those of the late 80s and early 90s; the corrosive relationships between the music scene, a part of the media, the political world, and the authorities; the struggle for independence and the invention of alternative models against the entertainment giants; the cosmopolitanism consubstantial to this emerging mobile and universal culture; the space of the night finally, as an unequalled crossroads of liberties, genders, origins, sexual practices, or generations… all this has progressively and constantly “politicised” the techno scene.
When questioned it had to answer to its responsibilities, notably towards the youth, to recall its anti-racist, universalist DNA and its pioneering proximity in the struggles led by LGBT communities.
Today, the dancefloor has once again become a political arena, a terrain where the debate, from MeToo to Black Lives Matter, goes far beyond the artistic and aesthetic issues, beyond the questions specific to the survival of a scene or the liberties and constraints related to the night itself.
The urgency of current issues: ecology, migratory movements, post-colonialism, the fight against inequalities, the erosion of democracy, etc, has led to the unfolding, in this night-time “post-techno” environment, of an unprecedented space of confrontations of ideas, of contention, and sometimes of militancy and activism.
It is time to rejoice. And to finally reclaim, everywhere in Europe, the space of the night as belonging by right to that of culture, as has been the case for decades in Berlin, Amsterdam, and New York. For it is undoubtedly an essential opportunity to reengage young people in the public debate and the chaos of democracy that our society is experiencing so feverishly. In Tbilisi, Hong Kong, Chile, or Bolivia, in Ukraine, Algeria, Paris, or Beirut, the democratic and social movements, the struggle against authoritarian regimes and the great youth movement for climate issues, find an echo in the night and in its cultural, artistic, festive, and collective representation. How can we not see it? Far from the classic institutions or places of power, it is partly in the heart of the night, on the dancefloor and at its sides, in bars, places of sharing and conviviality, that the youth forge their civic identities. It is high time that authorities throughout Europe finally acknowledged this and took responsibility for this sector, showed interest in it, gave it a bit of benevolent attention, and perhaps even recognition.
- Arty Farty is also behind the Reset! initiative, aimed at gathering independent cultural actors from all over Europe who claim a reset of European public policies in the field of culture and media. Join the call here.
- You can also check a panel discussion involving Vincent Carry as part of À l’École de l’Anthropocène (Lyon), where he already discussed about the dancefloor as a political arena.