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Festival: Tentacular, a festival for critical technologies & digital adventures at Matadero Madrid

Text by CLOT Magazine

Extremophilia literally translates to “love of the extreme” from its Greek and Latin roots. It describes microorganisms that thrive in extreme conditions that would be considered hostile to most life forms — extreme heat, cold, acidity — conditions that, nevertheless, likely resemble the primordial soup from which all life on Earth originally emerged. With this premise, Tentacular, kicks off their 2nd edition today.

Tentacular is a festival aimed at our complex and convoluted times: a gathering of artists, designers, journalists, researchers, activists, and technologists who are crafting new aesthetics and narratives to help us grasp the dominant technocultural forces shaping our world today. Taking place at Matadero, one of the epicentres of the cultural life in Madrid, the festival is curated by Julia Kaganskiy and José Luis de Vicente with Bani Brusad in collaboration with DIS, Rhizome, Eyebeam, and Institut Français Espagne.

As our world experiences extreme weather, ecological distress, and mounting ideological extremism and polarization, a sense of existential dread permeates all facets of contemporary culture. At times like these, extremophiles, which embody the very definition of adaptation and resilience, make for worthy paragons. What can we learn from those who exist at the margins and beyond? What new modes of (co)existence can we derive from the concept of “extreme love”? – the festival questions.

With a collection of narratives about, and responses to, the systemic crises of the 21st century, the event brings together unconventional projects, critical analysis and artistic research in three days of talks, workshops, performances and new commissions.

The list of participants and projects looks particularly exciting and well-curated. It includes journalist and author Paul Mason, a first-hand witness of the political and economic convulsions that have de-stabilized societies all over the world since the 2008 financial crisis. Acclaimed artist, writer, and journalist James Bridle, whose art and writing continually probe the darkest corners of the networks, systems and services that mediate our existence.

The festival presents a long-planned meeting between composer and singer Holly Herndon and public intellectual Evgeny Morozov to discuss how to imagine a future for AI that doesn’t rest in the hands of global corporations. Pioneering net artist and filmmaker Shu Lea Cheang will trace her concept of “viral love” through her science fiction films and video installations, and synthetic biologist Christina Agapakis will explore the potentialities and pitfalls of designing living things. Other sessions include artist Cécile B. Evans examining the value of emotion in contemporary society and the bracing speculative scenarios developed by Anab Jain, founder of the influential design fiction studio Superflux.

Tentacular also includes presentations by Alicia Kopf, Marta Peirano, Javier Lesaca, Mat Dryhurst, Asia Bazdyrieva and Solveig Suess (Geocinema), live performances by Martin Messier and YRO, Elías Merino and Tadej Droljc and a new screen-based piece by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg.

The festival is also a platform for producing new ideas in contemporary digital culture and will premiere new works co-commissioned with international organizations. Commissions for Tentacular 2019 include Dust, a video essay on the biopolitics of pollen based on the work of architect and cultural theorist Nerea Calvillo co-produced with art collective DIS for the edutainment platform DIS.ART; an excerpt of the forthcoming creative documentary DIS-EASE by artist and filmmaker Mariam Ghani, presented in partnership with Eyebeam; and the virtual reality work Meat Growers: A Love Story by artist Rindon Johnson co-produced with Rhizome.

(Media courtesy of Matadero)
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