Paradigm FestivalAugust 10 & 11

A conversation with Mark Fischer (EMS)

EMS will host a stage with a wide range or artists again, just like last year! Enough incentive to sit down with project manager Mark Fischer! He’ll give us some insight into some of the shared values between Paradigm and EMS, as well as some tips on what to watch out for during the festival!

Mark, you became a familiar face at Paradigm in the last years, but can you give us a short introduction of yourself and EMS?

Yes, I’m project manager of Electronic Music Society 050 (EMS). We cooperate with Paradigm on three core values: arts & culture, sustainability and inclusivity. That resulted in EMS hosting a stage at the festival (EMS Arena) with art performances and music. And lots of other great results, which I hope you’ll see back at the festival.

Why is it important for you to work on these values?

I think we’re facing some huge challenges at the moment: our climate is changing rapidly. Not only the planet’s climate, but also our societies’ climate. I believe the only way to face these challenges is with optimism. In that sense Paradigm has always been an inspiring place for me. The atmosphere is one of a kind and I recognize a lot of optimistic qualities in the team, volunteers and visitors: generosity, curiosity, being open minded towards other people and cultures. To quote Frie Leysen, a wise woman and source of inspiration: “If you don’t open the windows of your house, it gets smelly inside. So, you have to let a breeze in now and then.” Paradigm and EMS have opened the windows, and I hope the breeze you’re feeling here can be the start of a hurricane towards a more sustainable, diverse and fair future.

One of the core values is sustainability, how will we see this back at the festival?

First of all, Paradigm itself has done a great effort to reduce its footprint in the last years. Take, for example, the organization’s ban of disposable plastics (cups and coins). Those are first steps of a bigger plan. Together, we’ve set the goal to be completely circular in 2030. The only way to achieve this is in small steps, each year a little more sustainable. This year, for example, we’ve cooperated with NP3, a Groningen based artistic platform, to make the design of the festival more sustainable, challenging the designers to think differently about their concept. Not only in terms of sustainability, but also in terms of: what story does your design tell, how can you intertwine your design with the experience of the festival? Also, you can see sustainability back as a theme in the program of our stage. ‘The Fountain’ of Brazilian choreographer Fernando Belfiore speaks about our relation as humans to the earth and its recourses. And next to that, as EMS, we’re compensating the emissions of all the travels of our artists (if you’re interested in that yourself, click here). Next years, we’ll be building further upon these steps.

What does inclusivity and diversity mean to you?

There’s a lot of polarization at the moment in our society. As EMS and Paradigm we don’t want to emphasize the difference, but we want to embrace it. That means that everyone is welcome, but also that we have to be aware of our own privileges. I have to be honest that I’m pretty privileged myself as a white Dutch male. Take the program I made for the EMS Arena. I did some counting and it consists mainly of men. Why? There are more than enough amazing female artists. I wasn’t aware of it until I counted. There are still very big patriarchal structures and mechanisms of power that are influencing who we are, the chances we get and the choices we make. That applies not only to women, also towards people of color, refugees, underprivileged people, etc.. If we want to move towards a fairer world, we constantly have to be aware of that and fight it. In the end these patriarchal power structures lead to a society, where certain (groups of) people are being blamed for problems more than others and I think it’s ridiculous how we treat them (if someone is drowning, you safe that person, right?). Here at Paradigm we want to create a safe space where people feel welcome and respected.

How does this translate to the EMS program?

Now that’s out of my system, I can say that I’m very happy with our inclusion program, curated by Ahmad H Abdulwahab, giving a stage to talented newcomers. Ahmad performed at the festival last year, and his energy at the whole festival was amazing. I think I haven’t seen him without his hands in the air. This year he curated a program at the EMS Arena that consists of professional artists, mixed with talents from ‘Bab ad Daar’, a platform he set up in cooperation with Noord Nederlands Toneel, providing a rehearsal space for talented newcomers in Groningen. Ahmad invited me to a rehearsal there of Noumer Alali with 2 guys from Bab ad Daar: Omar Suleyman-like tunes, mixed with a lot of drums, while there’s a ‘Dabka’ (traditional Arabian dance) being performed. Don’t miss this at the festival, I assure you it’s going to be a party! Also looking forward a lot to the set of Jazar Crew on Sunday. They are throwing great dance parties in Israel and Palestine for the Palestine community, for which DJ’s and visitors sometimes literally have to climb walls to get there. Talking about fighting power structures…

You also curated part of the EMS Arena. Why put art performances on a techno festival like Paradigm?

The openness and curiosity I talked about creates a great context for art performances to take place in. Although it might seem a little weird to put performances between a lot of techno noise, I think there are enough people at the festival that, in between the electronic music, want to have a break and be amazed, astonished, teased and questioned. For me personally, techno festivals always have been a welcome escape from life and reality, but why not reflect a little bit on both whilst you’re escaping? Also, I chose performances that connect really well with the experience of the festival, so the transition from techno to art will be very smooth and sometimes not even noticeable.

What’s there to see, do you have some insider tips?

Yes, first of all, our local buddies from Teddy’s Last Ride. Some of you could remember them from the big sand pile last year or might have seen their preview of ‘The Others’ at NYE. Now they will perform their full 1h piece, about an alien descending to earth. It blew people away at WTTV 2 weeks ago. Also looking really forward to Arno Schuitemaker’s piece. He’s a Dutch choreographer, getting internationally renowned and just got selected by the Dutch dance jury for best dance piece of 2019. First time I saw a piece of him, it really pulled me into a trance (without any drugs). I’m really curious to see how this will work at Paradigm Festival. And last, but not least, Glasgow based artist Robbie Thomson will come to the festival with 2 projects: XFRMR, a performance by a Tesla coil on Friday evening (check out a teaser here). And, together with Jack Wrigley, a new project called ‘Stack’: a laser projection on the chimney of Zeefgebouw during the night. Visitors will be invited to put on silent disco headphones and watch the projection on the chimney to get the full experience. Can’t wait to see the result of this amazing project!

Click here to check out the full EMS line-up at Paradigm Festival 2019.