Alpodrom: New Swiss festival for electronic music and art

Alpodrom, Festival Von Valerio Meuli am

Festivals come in all variations. Large and small, commercial, non-commercial, different in the music played, rap or metal festivals. Then there are festivals that have nothing to do with music at all, film festivals, and those where different art forms overlap or take place side by side. The "Alpodrom Festival" belongs to the last category. A festival that is dedicated to interdisciplinarity.

This article is provided to by the great people at Frida Magazin. Disclaimer: The people responsible for are part of the festival's line-up.

View of the festival site: The iconic spherical tower of Jungfraupark in Interlaken.

Of course, there is a direction – a theme – at Alpodrom. It's electronic and club music that will be heard during the festival days. Anyone who wants to subdivide here can do so. Because club music and electronic music are big terms, behind which lie different styles and creative tendencies, each with its own stories. At Alpodrom there will be breakbeat, house and techno, among others, as Jenny Cara, herself a DJ and responsible for booking at the festival, explains: "There are four stages, two day-stages, two night-stages," she continues. The music will be adapted to the respective moods. At night, for example, the sound will be harder than during the day.

Artistic subversion

And who will play the stages? "We have some international acts," says Cara, "for example Gabrielle Kwarteng. But mainly people from Switzerland play. It's important to us to provide networking opportunities and to think beyond the cantons and regions. So that new synergies emerge."

"We want to work context- and location-dependently" – Lena Pfäffli

Those who are looking for diversity not only within music will also find it at Alpodrom. Lena Pfäffli, part of the organisational collective and responsible for the artistic side, says: "In the artistic field, we focus on interdisciplinarity. We work together with theatre artists, visual artists and performance artists, among others.

Pfäffli emphasises one point when she talks about the artistic concept of the festival: Subversion. By this, Pfäffli does not mean a vague political-sounding label, but she thinks concretely: "We want to work context- and location-dependently".

What does this mean? "On the one hand, we don't want to fix the artistic works as independent items of the festival." For example, artistic interventions and performances will take place on the dance floors of the festival. The aim, she says, is to interweave the music, the art and the club space where it all takes place. So it's about the connection between different art forms and electronic music, about the levels and contexts that overlap when Pfäffli speaks of subversion.

A location with a dubious history

Figuring out what the organizing team means when they talk about site-specific work is not difficult. Because the place where the festival takes place is – in a first, unreflective view – spectacular. Zarina Friedli, who is responsible for the organization and gastronomy at the Alpodrom, describes the festival location as follows: "A funny 90s building, brutal, crazy.

It is a discarded amusement park near Interlaken that is now only rented out as an event location – as for Alpodrom, among others. If you search for the park on the internet, you will find drone photos. What you see is a huge, circular complex. In the middle is a round low-rise building with a spherical tower on its roof that looks like an airport tower. Around the circular building are smaller buildings, all of them of different shapes, heights and colors. These smaller buildings, at least some of them, inspire the festival organizers to engage with the site.

"Diversity was very important to me when booking artists." – Jenny Cara

If you look closely at the drone image, you will see that there is a replica of an Egyptian pyramid, for example. Right next to it: a replica of a temple-like those built by the Mayans.

The problem is obvious. To put it without academic terminology: The buildings of the amusement park, which used to be called "Mysterypark", are a questionable treatment of objects and forms from other cultures. Anyone who delves a little into the history of the park will find this impression confirmed - and will quickly come across Erich von Däniken. The conspiracy theorist and author of books such as "Was ist falsch im Maya-Land?" ("What's Wrong in Maya Land") or "Der jüngste Tag hat längst begonnen – die Messiaserwartung und die Ausserirdischen" ("The last day has long since begun - Messiah Expectations and the Extraterrestrials") ran the "Mysterypark" from 2003 to 2006, but then went bankrupt. Today the site is called JungfrauPark.

Friedli emphasizes: "Von Däniken's thinking is still present here, can be seen in the buildings." That's why it's important for the organizing team to think about the history of the place, in the preparation as well as on the festival days themselves.

How do you deal with the knowledge that you are organizing a festival in a pre-occupied place that claims to be open to as many different people as possible?

"The most important thing is transparent communication," says Friedli. On the festival's website, the problem is dealt with and it is shown that the festival is aware of it. One of the reasons why this location was chosen, says Friedli, was because the original location, an industrial site in the canton of Glarus, was cancelled at short notice. "Besides, the location has potential. For a new play, for a new discussion."

Festival flyer with the Alpodrom line-up.

A place for critical discourse

Lena Pfäffli shows what a new approach could mean for the artistic program. It should be shown, she says, that a club space or a festival for electronic music can be a place for critical thinking. When asked if the festival is a political festival, she thinks about it for a moment and then answers in the negative. "However, it is an artistic-political approach that we want to practice." This, she says, is also expressed in the festival's line-up. Booker Cara says: "Diversity was very important to me when booking artists." So - in terms of the gender of the artists performing - it's a balanced program. This is an opportunity to bring new values to the place where the Von Däniken spirit is still wandering.

"Alpodrom Festival", 28 - 31 July, JungfrauPark Interlaken.

Words by Valerio Meuli. He grew up in Graubünden and works as a journalist, mainly writing for the culture magazine "Musik&Theater" and Frida Magazin.