We curate a selection of our favourite commissions, documentaries, music videos, audiovisual works and mixes we presented in 2022.
Most people would agree that 2022 was a mess. It was a year spent in permacrisis, with goblin mode thoroughly engaged, a year in which vibes were shifted, culture wars were waged, won, lost and cancelled and very real wars were escalated in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Whether we’re in the Endcore now, or have communally relocated to Clown Town, the spaces for culture, more specifically the spaces for the singular kinds of expression Fact has been mapping for the last two years, have been and continue to be in a constant state of fragmentation and atomisation, emerging as theatres for what Dane Sutherland of Most Dismal Swamp describes as “arcane, encrypted cultures flourishing among the recesses of an online megalopolis and reinforced by offline organisation and social balkanization.” Perhaps a most dismal swamp is a fitting metaphor for the mess of 2022, what Sutherland identifies as an “inextricably entangled, adversarial Mixed Reality system: a bazaar of amateur heresies, microworld-building protocols, and dog-whistle memetics,” a place for the goblins to dance.
It is a flattened space, in which the teething problems of nascent technologies are transformed into new art practices and visual disciplines and the collapse of speculation on the future reloads the end of history, rendering the present absurd and impossible to parse. In the most recent memo from consultancy and creative studio Nemesis, Emily Segal, Martti Kalliala (of Amnesia Scanner) and Lucas Mascatello borrow a concept from sound/information theory: “The amplification of a dissonant signal creates distortion with artefacts (random sonic material accidentally produced by the editing process). These artefacts can themselves become an aesthetic.” We see powerful reflections on this dissonant amplification and distortion in Torus and Mark Prendergast’s hypnotic visual for ‘3000 Mirrors’, which uncouples footage of the sun from its digital footprint, transforming ghosting and lens flare into separately autonomous digital entities, in the now familiar lysergic squirm of Stephen McLaughlin’s GAN animations for Maxwell Stirling, or in the knotty patchwork of visual systems and effects used by Actual Objects to create the surreal ‘Notoriously Fast’ video for VTSS.
Exhaustion, chaos and confusion are some of the central tenets that writer Shumon Basar points to in his definition of ‘endcore,’ another term that could be used for the time and place that is 2022, where even that which has been accelerated is accelerating, the future has already been cancelled and signifiers and references are wrenched from their original contexts and stuck on top of each other – Katamari Damacy after the end of the world. We have seen some of the most exciting emerging artists and musicians grappling with these ideas: Hannah Rose Stewart and Blackhaine capture an egregore formed from the “architecture, ephemera and history of the working class in the North” in a bleak virtual environment, Thomas Harrington Rawle and Bjarki explore an alternative near-future in which corporations have weaponised mindfulness meditation and self-care practice to enslave what’s left of a divided humanity into its infinitely expanding workforce, while Visio and Rustan Söderling collapse myth and folklore into the post-apocalypse, imagining a great re-enchantment once civilisation has faded away.
In his final column for Spike Art Magazine, Dean Kissick asserts: “We’re told every morning that life is miserable and hideous, which it’s not, and also that culture is high-quality and life-affirming, which is plainly ridiculous. This is breathtakingly diabolical because the opposite is true: life is still beautiful, it’s culture that’s in the doldrums.” While we may largely agree, Fact has had the privilege this year of bearing witness to music and art that reminds us of Kissick’s optimistic take on life. See Lyra Pramuk’s intimate performance of bodily affirmation, live at the Volksbühne, or Theo Triantafyllidis and Slugabed’s comedic CG vanitas, a intricate assemblage of crab legs, apricot halves, esoteric knight’s helmets all serving as a joyous reminder of quotidian absurdity. Tune in, almost every Monday, to the Fact mix, which this year has presented the most forward-thinking, boundary-breaking, horizon-expanding producers and DJs you can hear right now. 2022 might be a swamp at the end of time, but there’s a lot that’s worth seeing and so many worth listening to.
Fact 2022: Commissions
In an original commission from Trauma Bar und Kino and Fact Magazine, concept artist and 3D designer Hannah Rose Stewart and musician and performance artist Blackhaine present MIASMA, a haunted world of lost souls, abandoned spaces and egregores. At once a visceral live production and an intricate digital environment and performance built in Unreal Engine, MIASMA is enveloped by what Stewart describes as “socially imbued feelings of loss, ghosts, magical realism and the uncanny in post-industrial society,” chasing an egregore formed from the “architecture, ephemera and history of the working class in the North,” as well as death drone, the Japanese dance theatre of Butoh and abandoned urban simulation as seen through the eyes of philosophical horror writer Thomas Ligotti.
For this episode of Patch Notes, we invited Manchester-based sound artist Vicky Clarke to 180 Studios for a special performance of her AURA MACHINE project, accompanied by visuals from her collaborator Sean Clarke. The piece, which takes the listener on a journey through what happens to a sound object when processed by a neural network, sees Clarke perform with live objects including her AURA Sculpture #1 STEEL – a resonant AI generated transmutational object and a glass bong.
In September 2021, Lyra Pramuk premiered a special live show at Berlin’s Volksbühne based on her album Fountain, developed in collaboration with choreographers Kianí del Valle and Nana, who brought a new dimension to the music of Fountain through dance and movement. In this original film from Fact, the trio talk about their own personal relationships with Fountain, the inspirations behind their work and the live show, and how the ideas and themes behind Fountain closely align with the movement of the body.
In this film, Romain Gavras and Surkin provide a unique insight into their collaborative project and audiovisual triptych, Neo Surf, which featured at Fact and 180 Studios’ Future Shock exhibition in 2021. “It’s almost more controversial to see a positive side, that even when the world is collapsing, kids will be kids and do stupid shit,” Gavras says of the work, offers a uniquely optimistic view of the future despite a sense of slowly unfolding catastrophe.
Created at 180 Studios’ XR space at 180 The Strand in collaboration with Actual Objects, ‘Notoriously Fast’ is a sci-fi horror thrill ride starring Martyna Maja, the artist known as VTSS. Drawing inspiration from Leos Carax’s modern classic Holy Motors and Jonathan Glazer’s astonishing Under The Skin, Case Miller, Claire and Rick Farin seamlessly blend live footage, CGI and A.I.-assisted imaging to create a high-speed fever dream steeped in visceral surrealism.
In this documentary, creative studio Actual Objects go into the themes and ideas behind their immersive installation Vicky, which featured at Fact and 180 Studios’ Future Shock exhibition over the summer. The narrative, which tells the story of a disaster from multiple different viewpoints and is augmented by sound design from Theo Karon, is spread across multiple screens, each of which houses a different character reflecting on the situation in different ways.
Still Life With Platypus, an original Fact commission, sees digital artist Theo Triantafyllidis and producer and sound artist Slugabed navigating a series of increasingly complex and surreal vanitases, ultra high detail assemblages of crab legs, apricot halves, esoteric knight’s helmets, glowing mesh nets, lit cigarettes and tree trunks, as well as the titular Platypus, revolving and reacting to Slugabed’s atmospheric score.
In this film, directed by Fact’s Pedro S. Küster and featuring exclusive footage from the live performance of the MUNCH Museet commission Not Yet, experimental saxophonist Bendik Giske discusses the many innovative techniques that go into creating his work, from circular breathing to using microphones mounted on the instrument to create different tonal qualities. Giske also discusses the inspiration behind Not Yet and the idea of ‘stepping out of the binary’ to create a unique tonal and spatial experience, one that communicates with both the audience and the performance environment.
Fact 2022: Audiovisual
‘Spores,’ a sinister highlight from London-based producer aircode’s debut album Grounded, sets foreboding squalls of noise against creeping horrorshow keys and ritualistic percussive clanks, constantly flirting with the sinister suggestion that something ancient and sprawling lurks just beneath the surface. The visual, made in collaboration with director Federico Barni and the South London Botanical Institute, cuts between a third person perspective and the perspective of a botanist, as glimpsed through the lens of a microscope, exploring interconnected ecological systems at both a micro and macro level.
In ‘Bot Møther’, art world provocateurs Paul Barsch and Tilman Hornig enlist the talents of CGI artist Darío Alva for a suitably surrealist visual for their exquisitely dissonant experimental jazz salvo, which smashes together squalls of saxophone and ripples of percussion with the sounds of sci-fi artillery, like an amphetamine-fuelled, midnight jam hammered out oblivious to an ongoing alien invasion. Alva taps into this surrealist barrage to bring us an urgent news bulletin, a scabrous send-up of the ludicrous spectacle of the sluggish spin of new cycles spewed forth from outdated legacy media institutions.
Eden Samara’s debut album Rough Night bounds from cosmic introspection on ‘Ultimatum’ and ‘Interlude’ to the sun-dappled skip and sensual stumble of ‘The Local’ and ‘Growing Into Your New Skin,’ weaving between bittersweet torch songs and near-future sex jams on ‘Sophie,’ ‘D4M,’ and title track ‘Rough Night’. Samara explores her internal worlds with openness and generosity, bringing us along for the ride no matter how raw and real. It is this exploratory quality of Rough Night that formed the primary inspiration for Samara’s collaboration with friend, artist and animator Natalia Podgorska, a hallucinatory game world modelled around each track from the album.
On Turn Of Phrase, Maxwell Sterling interpolates spatiotemporal displacement into highly emotional, richly textured sound design, feeding neoclassical instrumentation and arrangements into an experimental electronics centrifuge to distill a sound that is at once atmospherically expansive and technically rigorous. It’s this anachronism, of space and time, of composition and process, that audiovisual artist Stephen McLaughlin teases out with his maximalist visual response to ‘Decay Time’, arranging twitching GAN animations, video montage, Baroque lettering and esoteric iconography to construct a dream like sequence of intersecting histories and bisecting timelines, a blossoming rhizome of aesthetic practices past, present and future.
On the beautifully dazed visual for ‘a romance, the opener of more eaze’s album oneric, ‘a romance’, directors Zoé Martin and her husband Leo Gack transport us to the moments that follow on waking, as two young creatures of the night awake to the aftermath of a particularly debauched party. Cinematic synth swells and tactile sound design signal the first crepuscular rays of dawn light, a wave of warm distortion duplicated in the twilit haze that illuminates the site of what reveals itself to have been an orgiastic banquet charged with vampiric desire.
Emerging out of the curatorial experiments of Dane Sutherland, whose focus had previously centered around gallery exhibitions, distributive sonic fiction, club nights and other live events, Most Dismal Swamp is described by its creator as “an art project, a curatorial MMORPG, a fiction, a party, and a mixed-reality biome.” MUSH is the latest iteration of this process, an immersive world build adapted from a site-specific installation at the 2021 edition of Mira Festival in Barcelona, that blurs the lines between film essay, cursed ASMR and weird fiction.
Under the gaze of experimental filmmaker and video artist Rebecca Salvadori, refurbished factories and warehouses, industrial parks, dimly-lit underpasses and motorway-adjacent woodlands are produced not only as hedonistic spaces, the as yet undeveloped real estate upon which London’s clubs and free parties can find an all too often temporary home, but as liminal sites of transformative potential, in which one is suspended in fleeting moments of intimacy and communal connection. Cutting between non-linear documentary and abstract montage in a dissociative assemblage of image, sound and text, The Sun Has No Shadow navigates a vital shared territory between the moving image and live sound and performance, splicing footage from Canning Town institution FOLD and its beloved Sunday day rave UNFOLD next to testimonials from ecstatic ravers and Salvadori’s own friends.
Care More is artist Thomas Harrington Rawle’s series created in response to the confusion and absurdity of contemporary narratives of self-care in an increasingly cruel and atomised world. The film takes place in an intricately rendered, broken universe, in which the Care Corporation have weaponized mindfulness meditation and self-care practice to enslave what’s left of a divided humanity into its infinitely expanding workforce. In Affirmation Chamber, Rawle explores another of the dehumanizing procedures employed by Care Corp in the form of an overwhelming barrage of affirmation via immersion in a rigor mortis death grin “Affirmizer Helmet”. Featuring a stellar cast of voice actors, including VTSS, Bruce, Breanna Box, Joanna Kuchta, Hinako Omori, Mui Zyu, Enzo Samuel and Cathal Mckeon, the writer and co-creator of the Care More universe, Affirmation Chamber plays out against rich, textural sound design from producer Bjarki and serves as an introduction to their new live AV show, which debuted at the 2021 edition of Sheffield’s No Bounds Festival.
Developed from a previous collaboration between the producer and sound artist Torus and filmmaker Mark Prendergast, 3000 Mirrors uncouples footage of the sun from its digital footprint, transforming ghosting and lens flare into separately autonomous digital entities. Opening on rolling clouds, evocative of the infinite scroll and the imperceptibly frictionless relationship we have with our screens, the radial flare of the sun indicates a technologically enabled flattening of the star, it’s image digitally reproduced as visual effect. Just as Torus’s arpeggiated euphoria begins its serotonin spiking ascendency, the sun and its iPhone-induced visual artefacts are separated, moving as tracers disconnected from one another, as though manifesting the tension between silence and sonic swell that drives Woudstra’s production.
Set in a similar universe as Russel Hoban’s 1980s science fiction novel Riddley Walker, a stylistic portrait of a new Iron Age occurring two thousand years after a nuclear apocalypse, VISIO and Rustan Söderling lead us through a landscape of post-apocalyptic mythology, illuminated by fairy light in Youth Grows Forever, which explores the birth of a new mythology as the world becomes magical again following the end of civilisation.
Fact 2022: Mixes
Rising Manchester DJ Abena, one of the figures behind All Hands on Deck, the city’s foremost open deck party and DJ workshop for women, non-binary and trans people, spins through an ode to weird, trippy warm-up set sounds.
No one captured the manic energy of 2022 better than DJ Travella, the 19-year-old producer from Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania responsible for the most exhilarating music of recent memory. Injecting crackling cybernetic energy into singeli, he has developed a semi-improvisational style incorporating production, DJing and live performance, in which samples are triggered using a Bluetooth keyboard he wields with the flair of a glam rocker. His Fact mix features improvised remixes from his album Mr Mixondo, one of the most essential projects of the year.
Ehua makes music that drifts irresistibly between shadow and sensuality, formed from dense swirls of carefully crafted sound design and lethal percussive gymnastics that permeate space and envelop bodies, precision-engineered for loose, instinctual movement. For her Fact mix she ventures further into the evocative expansiveness of her sound, exploring deconstructed and experimental soundscapes.
Juggling a day job in data science, creating deep learning models for predicting natural disasters, with running the reliably brilliant CHROME imprint, his long-running NTS show and releasing killer mixtapes for Promesses, Cav Empt and $hotta Tapes, Felix Hall’s is one of the deadliest ears around. His Fact mix bounds through some contemporary dancehall standards, a loving selection of some of 2022’s best dembow tunes, as well as some prime contemporary club cuts.
Latvian-born, Amsterdam-based producer Himera’s Fact mix is what falling in love on the internet sounds like, the overdriven, hyper saturated soundtrack to vaping in the club, k-holing in the bathroom and crying on the bus on the way home.
Stockholm-born, Bristol-based DJ k means leans hard into the deep, dark and amphibian, pitching us into a irresistible descent through high-pressure industrial throb, dread techno, ghost footwork, deepest, darkest dub and everything in-between.
A stark juxtaposition of comfort and discomfort, pleasure and pain, delicate and harsh from the Glasgow-based artist, DJ and producer KAVARI, who draws inspiration from drum and bass, industrial, hard dance, noise and ’90s electronica, creating tonally and rhythmically intricate tracks and edits that cross into the pop realm.
To mark the occasion of her cover feature in Fact Magazine Issue 03, Klein excavates a fragmentary soundscape that finds deeply expressive and personal texture within dissonance and disruption, navigating the music of her life by teasing out the connective tissue between avant-garde composition, spiritual songs, nu-metal and hip-hop.
If you have so much as a little finger on the pulse of south London’s unfuckwithable club scene, chances are mi-el needs absolutely no introduction. As co-booker of south Bermondsey institution Venue MOT and one of the driving forces behind the livestream and party series Late Night Shopper, as well as the brains behinds the reliably incredible design for both organizations, mi-el’s impeccable sonic and aesthetic tastes have been instrumental in setting the vibes throughout the pandemic and post-plague celebrations. For her Fact mix she turns in an irresistible session of formative music, ferocious club flames and some personal favorites, all as hot and humid as a 40-degree storm moving over London.
On perhaps the most ambitious Fact mix of the year, Sarahsson obscures beauty with grotesquerie, scraping ethereal sequences of harmony and light raw with squalls of dissonance and chaos, joining the dots between Adele and Giant Claw, System Of A Down and Anna Von Hausswolff, Bad Bunny and György Sándor Ligeti. “One of the themes I’ve been interested in musically recently is this idea of ‘vague music,’ these kind of suggestions of sounds and things that are almost there but maybe obfuscated or ambiguous in some way,” she explains.
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing the lysergic sounds of Spekki Webu, chances are he was sending you into orbit. For his Fact mix, it’s clear we’re already there, drifting through deep space, enveloped in black hole drone, the dull light of distant stars suggesting itself in reverberant echoes, like condensation dripping in a cosmic ocean cave.
Torus embarks on a pilgrimage through sound and harmony, extracting the purest seams of emotion from the most maximalist forms of dance music, distilling intensely evocative compositions out of an omnivorous sonic palette to guide us, gently, on a transcendent commute through ambient music for apoplectic times. TikTok tornado siren resonance to study/relax to.
Watch next: Fact 2021: Commissions