“The word 'nature' and the word 'techno' mean the same thing. Depends if you look at it from the past or from the future. For example, a little cabin in the mountains: an ape thinks its techno, it is the future. But for us it has become nature. We must live with both. It is very important. We can't be just nature or just techno." Björk
If I’ve ever experienced something which closely touches this statement, it was Experiment Intrinsic France. The three day retreat created an immersive experience where you forget the everyday rush and become refreshed, soothed and inspired.
Experiment Intrinsic started out two years ago as an event based in London from the initiative of Nathalia Petkova, a DJ who got a bit tired of the whole dance music game. Eventually, she started throwing events on her own, her driving force being the need to give people an alternative to the hectic city life and the self-destructive behaviour on the dance floor.
Experiment Intrinsic focuses on a multi-sensory experience, combining experimental and ambient sounds, visuals, healing arts and art exhibitions together. Its aim is “to make a structure where people feel recharged and healed,” says Nathalia. This year, the event was part of the programme at Lighthouse festival in Croatia, before hosting a three-day retreat in France for about 400 hundred people.
The festival took place in Le Parc de Joséphine Baker and the venue powerfully contributed to the genius loci of the event. Le Parc de Joséphine Baker was designed and built by the dancer, performer and civil rights activist Joséphine Baker and her husband Jo Bouillon. They called it “the village of universal fraternity”. The American-born French legend Baker used to live in the Château des Milandes above the park with her “rainbow tribe” of adopted twelve children from all around the world, and the park was meant to be a historical monument dedicated to leisure and peace where world peace conferences were organised, as well as many events with stars such as Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Jacques Brel. One could not possibly think of a better venue for this event: the wide and protecting tree crowns, the cozy restaurant, the small charming houses, the pool with a view on the château, the beehives – all of it emits peacefulness and the spirit of consonance, as if the dreams of Baker were breathed into the place.
The event invited people to pay attention to each performance; there was always only one music show at a time. You could still choose between immersing into the music, or another activity such as swimming in the pool or the river, or taking part in one of the yoga, mantra and healing workshops. The PA was high quality and loud so the music was omnipresent and accompanied us during all the activities as well as downtime. It was simply the kind of festival where you see Masomenos chilling on a grass as an audience, pass a bunch of people doing yoga to see the krautrock legend Roedelius by the pool, and discuss what John Cage and Sleaford Mods have in common with Jan Jelinek while chewing your morning toast with a view on the river.
Nathalia knew every DJ, VJ, healing arts practitioner and performer personally. She sought to go beyond the music, wanting each artist to match the ethos of the festival with their personality and even their energy. Nathalia’s attention to detail highlights her focus to create the right atmosphere in which everything and everyone falls into place.
There were three stages. The River Stage was a DJ booth made out of a tree, pieces of wood and moss. This stage served as an experiment lab for DJs playing all sorts of slow, ambient and exotic tunes. The second stage, Music Hall, provided an elegant indoor space with a powerful visuals. Music Hall welcomed live acts including the legendary ambient band CHI Factory, new project by Cluster’s Roedelius together with Christopher Chaplin and an avant-garde improvisational performance by SME. The third stage, Night Stage, was built by Naturalgoritm and included breathtaking video mapping on the building. The programme on the Night Stage always started after the sunset with live acts Jan Jelinek (solo and with Masayoshi Fujita) and Schcaa as well as many DJ sets. The music was accompanied by psychedelic abstract visuals by Acca & Cote, as well as by the powerful setting: a cold, magnetic moonlight.
Most of the artists from the line-up played on one of Experiment Intrinsic’s previous events, so they were already familiar with the spirit of Experiment Intrinsic. This especially counts for the DJs, who mostly have careers in realms of techno and house and who were asked by Nathalia to dig through their music collection to present the music they listen to at home. The results were DJ sets full of ambient, world music, experimental and avant-garde tunes, sometimes even jazz or reggae. It was inspiring to see how vast and diverse music taste the DJs have and where their focus lies. Some sets were more melody-oriented, whereas others focused on rhythmical and percussive elements.
On a personal level, the festival brought my attention back to sounds – their textures, vibrations, variations, tones & compositions. It reminded me of all the music genres I’ve been listening to years ago and it inspired me to be more attentive to contemporary electro-acoustic music, as well as to dig through old records, which I’m thankful for.