Trance is a State of Mind: The Ghetto Biennial’s Museum of Trance

As part of this year’s Ghetto Biennial in Haiti’s capital of Port-au-Prince, German artist duo HENRIKE NAUMANN and BASTIAN HAGEDORN will create The Museum of Trance, a semi-ethnographical collection of almost-historical objects which tell the story of the early days of German trance music. Working on joint projects since 2011, Naumann and Hagedorn’s work often plays with the historical framing of the recent past. Naumann’s films and installations return to the memories of 90s aggressive youth cultures in East Germany, while Hagedorn has been active in the early 2000s Nintendocore scene.  The Museum will be a scruffy take on institutional museology and post colonialism, confronted with the sincere allure of 90s aesthetics. Leading up to the opening in Haiti next month, Naumann and Hagedorn will display a preview of the collection tomorrow in a secret location in Berlin. The event is part of the Kickstarter campaign aiming to support the upcoming museum. Tickets are on sale exclusively through their Kickstarter page.


Photo: Inga Selck

ADAM KAPLAN: How did you start working on The Museum of Trance? 

HENRIKE NAUMANN & BASTIAN HAGEDORN: The theme of this year’s biennial focused on Vodou and other forms of resistance in Haiti. It made us think about the pre-conceived perspectives we have on foreign cultures, and on the way they are rooted through European cultural education. A major reference for us was the Vodou exhibition in the Ethnologic Museum in Dahlem (Berlin) a few years ago. It was based on the private collection of Marianne Lehmann – a Swiss woman who has collected thousands of Haitian artifacts. We were interested in the way ideologies emerge simply through the manner in which the objects are presented – a weird mixture between simple institutional design and dramatic lights. Fetishistic ways of representing exotic others, still happening in 2015.

We realized that what we know about so-called voodoo culture is based only on other trashy images –  from Hollywood to Mondo movies. We started listening to recordings of traditional Haitian music – it was actually uplifting and confronting and didn’t have any connection the images we had in mind. It made us want to see how people there could see German music if it was presented in such a ridiculous way. It’s a way of going there and saying “Hey! This is what Europeans are doing with your culture.”

Hagedorn & Naumann

Photos: Inga Selck

Whats your personal relation to trance music? Contemporary post-trance art is often based on a strong notion of nostalgia – were you rave kids?

NAUMANN: Not at all. I grew up in a little village next to Zwickau in East Germany. It was extremely right-wing – after the end of GDR many of the kids who I went to kindergarten with grew up to be Neo-Nazi teenagers. School yards looked all black because everybody had bomber jackets, and German nationalist bands like Landser were popular. A few years later, when I had already lived in Berlin, a right wing terror cell was discovered in my home town. I realized that Neo-Nazis are not a 90s thing, but still a real problem that people prefer not to see. My first art installation was a story that focused on the roots of 90s right wing terrorism in Germany, mirrored with the rise of rave culture as a hedonistic movement denying any political responsibility.

HAGEDORN: Where I grew up in northwestern Germany, techno and trance music was connected to village bullies. As a punk kid with dreadlocks and weird clothes, I knew that if I heard this music and saw those people I should run away. It was a sign of trouble. It wasn’t about a political attitude, just pure masculinity waiting to explode.

f5bb378dc6f47210a76719011ea89023_originalWhat is the connection between Vodou and trance culture? 

Trance music has an explicit relation to trance rituals. The ideology beyond early rave movements was a push towards overcoming the body or a physical presence. Ravers felt they had the potential to change their lives, or even change society. In the early 90s spiritual and psy-trance music was played in major clubs constantly. At the same time, it is musical genre of complete cultural appropriation – a pop culture phenomena trying to capture the energy and importance of something that has a history. It’s a good representation of the way culture influences function like a ping pong.

How will you assemble the museum? Are there specific archives or collections that are dedicated to trance music? 

It will focus on German trance music and culture, mostly happening between 1993-1996. We have no direct connection to the trance scene, but we were using online trance forums as a source. YouTube is great for discovering older video documentation – both by private and by public TV shows of that time. Our research on the ritual aspects of trance rave came from the book Rave Culture and Religion by Graham St. John.

German trance musician Marusha

German trance musician Marusha

A big part of the collection will be made of daily objects which we’ll declare as historical artifacts. Among them we will show the original green mascara used by Marusha to colour her eyebrows, the fax machine from the studios of VIVA music television and a metal whistle from the first Love Parade in Berlin. Exhibiting these kind of DIY items is a comment on the self-musealization of the Rave scene that has been happening for a few years now.

There will also be a sound installation based on specific instruments – a German synthesizer called Waldorf MicroQ which came out in the year 2000 and a Roland MC-505 sequencer. They are tools that have been made in order to re-create cliched trance sounds and music – a consumer electronics product meant for the desire to get somewhat closer to the idea of authentic trance music, whatever that means.

Will there be any parties or live performances?

Hopefully, but we are still not sure if the museum will even have electricity or door locks.

We will have a couple of workshops in a music school in Aquin, which is a small city southwest of Port-au-Prince. We are planning to leave the synthesizers there. If you think about how jazz music eventually got institutionalized, maybe in 25 or 50 years students will have to pass a class in trance.

The Museum of Trance will have a preview event tomorrow at a secret location in Berlin. For more information, see the Facebook event.

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