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10. Avant Art Festival: interview with Kostas Georgakopulos

"We should give people choice"

We were talking with Kostas Georgakopulos, director of Avant Art Festival, about the anniversary edition, sentiments, working in culture industry and the best music.

It is the 10th edition of the festival and the first one to take place in two cities: Wrocław and Warsaw. Is this an one-time event to celebrate the anniversary, or are you going to slowly move the festival to the capital?

As a foundation, we received a subsidy from Warsaw’s Culture Office to organise our festival there for three upcoming years. I was met with a very positive reaction of many of my friends and people I did not know, which is far more important than for example lack of support from the Ministry of Culture for the first time in six years. I am very happy that Avant Art will be in Warsaw, but that does not change the fact that I treat it as a part of Wrocław.

It is said that Wrocław has the so-called “Woodstock audience”. What do you think about musical preferences of the city after organising Avant Art for so many years and getting people to know and accept new, often difficult, sounds?

I think that this opinion results from a number of large-scale events, including guitar concerts, aimed at a very wide audience, the goal of which is to promote Wrocław as an accessible city thanks to their promotion. Therefore, we should talk even more about diversity and eclecticism, we should give people choice, because so many people are looking for it. Perhaps it is even more worth it to support events like Avant Art Festival - I think that experimental and avant-garde art is a necessary element of intellectual development. We already have several indie and niche music festivals, but I think that Wrocław still needs more events featuring independent electronic music, for example.

Ten years. Such an anniversary can explain getting sentimental, so I’m going to ask:  which concerts, artists or AAF editions do you remember the best and why?

I remember the Norwegian edition in 2010. On that year, the festival finally achieved its identity and we could invite some of the renowned artists. I also remember the German edition in 2012 and great concerts by outstanding artists. The 2013 edition, presenting Russian art, had an ideal format for our festival, exactly what I had always planned for it - we had a sizeable budget and many donors, and the programme featured concerts, exhibitions, plays, films, debates... And of course, I could not forget about the last edition devoted to Japan - that was truly a unique experience. This year, we are going to follow up the last year’s activities with Avant Art Festival Japan 2nd Edition. We are also planning some activities connected with presentation of Polish art in Japan and vice versa in 2019.

Do you remember the 2011 edition and The Bug? His performance was supposed to be the grand finale and a cherry on top, instead he lost his passport a day before, there was some juicy bass and the police at the Pokoyhof.

(laughs) Thanks for reminding me about that. Yeah, that was stressful. It is a miracle everything worked out in the end. Kevin came and gave a great concert, but we had to go to the police station and beg for understanding, then we were biting our nails in fear that they would simply cut his performance short. Our sound engineer could not handle the stress and I had to take his place, because Kevin Martin constantly asked for more bass, signalling us to make it louder. There were around 700 people at the Pokoyhof, a lot of smoke and everything. As far as I remember, everybody enjoyed it a lot. What are the results, though? Kevin Martin as the Bug played during the AAF, as well as later during the New Horizons with King Midas Sound. Flowdan - his MC - played at the AAF in 2014 and will play again in Warsaw this year. I love Martin, he is an outstanding artist.

With Radian and Łoskot, you return to the heavy roots of the festival, but you also give your audience a lot of techno - music of our times. What does this year’s line-up tell about the festival, especially in the context of reality, which has changed in the last 10 years?

This year, we are guided by a strong principle, which can be summed up with just three words: reminding, return, underground. We are celebrating a beautiful anniversary. At the same time, we are well-aware of the difficult reality we live in. Everything changes dynamically, including ourselves, our environment and our expectations. I noticed that people in general are more resolute in their choices... And so are we. We do not pander to the pop-culture. We do not offer co-productions, shiny effects and special shows. This year, we decided to go with music. Just like that. Techno can be treated as our response to the changes, yet we decided to go with the best, such as Regis, Powell and JK Flesh. I think that in the future, we are going to focus on collaboration with other festivals, such as Atonal and CTM. We already have long and stable relationships with them. In August, the audience of Atonal will see Regis and Powell, who are going to perform during our festival. CTM used to have a small showcase of the Avant Art.

I will never forgive you Dean Blunt in Warsaw, but at least Oren Ambarchi is going to play in both cities. What is he going to show in Poland? What are we going to hear?

(laughs) I promise you, he’s going to be here next year. We love him too. He is an incredible person, unique and one in a kind. He performed in Wrocław twice already, so this year we are going to have a break from him. I just want Warsaw to get to love him as well. Oren will play the material from his latest album, which - at least in my opinion - is more accessible and not as dark as his previous releases. I am very happy for his performance here.

A decade of Avant Art and 60 subsidies - years of difficult work in the culture industry. Do you still want to carry on?

I have been working in the culture industry as a promoter and publisher for over 15 years. Working on a festival is like a sine wave, with strong emotions and difficulties - getting the funding, accounting, booking and so on. Then you are stressed out about projected attendance, organisation, artists and so on. I also have some business background and the two are not even remotely comparable. Additionally, the festival does not have and never had an office, we are doing all of that at homes or in pubs. Certainly, the fact that I am a musician myself is an additional motivation for me. I am very proud that I was able to build such a festival. For 11 years, I have been also working as a curator and producer of the New Horizons Music Stage together with Grażyna Górka. Answering your question - yes, definitely! And I would like to take this opportunity to invite everybody to this year’s anniversary edition of Avant Art, full of darkness, extremes and diversity. We are going to present an uncompromising programme, but could we do anything else on such an exceptional anniversary?
Interviewer: Magda Kotowska

Gallery

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Kostas Georgakopulos fot. Roland Okoń Ryo Murakami_mat organizatora (1) (Copy) leadPOWELL_SHOT_08_223 (Copy) Oren Ambarchi_blue_mat organizatora (Copy) Oren Ambarchi_mat organizatora (2) (Copy) Piernikowski_-_No_Fun_Latarnia_2017 (Copy) Piernikowski_photo_by_Piotr_Macha (Copy) Powell_fot Neela Choudhury-Reid (2) (Copy) Radian_fot Klaus Vyhnalek (Copy) radian_fot rania moslam (1) (Copy) radian_fot rania moslam (4) (Copy) radian_fot rania moslam (6) (Copy) radian_fot rania moslam (8) (Copy)

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