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The view from Far Out: Horst Arts & Music Festival, Vilvoorde, Belgium

Over the last five years, Horst Arts & Music Festival has established itself as one of the most important electronic music festivals in Belgium. Unlike past edition, the seventh Horst Arts & Music Festival farewelled the castle domain of Holsbeek.

While approaching Vilvoorde to get in at the Horst Arts & Music Festival, the two huge cooling towers welcomed us into the post-industrial area of the ASIAT site. In fact, these iconic buildings symbolise at best the festival attitude. In greater detail, the mix of music, architecture and artworks allowed visitors to lazily enjoy the post-industrial atmosphere on the former military site in Vilvoorde. Between all those abandoned warehouses, buildings and dancefloors surrounded by bushes, spontaneous trees and plants, three days of partying with a massive number of artists across four stages, were guaranteed.

An interesting set was the one by Deena Abdelwahed. The Qatar-born artist is of Tunisian descent and studied Fine Arts in Tunis, before immersing herself in electronic music and, as her stock continues to ruse, she is now a resident at the Concrete Club in Paris. Abdelwahed played an unexpected down tempo tracks in the stage ‘The Opposite of Lost’, located nearby the dismantled edifices on an outside glade refilled with wrecks – some people would call ‘urban elements’.

Her music mainly focused on the shredded rhythms and Eastern melodies complemented by tunes in which the mesmerising vocals played a leading role. Every now and then, the kick drum faded out so to draw attention to atmospheric character of the songs.

Worth of note is unquestionably the two-hour set of Joy Orbison and Craig Richards at the main stage. This performance was rather unconventional also because it benefited from the aesthetic of the  “90*360” stage, displaying mirrors and lasers, with the result of providing some pleasant dizziness.

Richards’ name is undoubtedly linked to the legendary London club Fabric. We got there while Richards only played with vinyl alternating elegant breaks with acid tracks. Both DJs favor the bass side of electronic music, with Richards making more straightforward selections, while Joy Orbison sometimes played a rave or amen-break.

As cherry on the pie, we needed to pay a visit to Gabber Eleganza, to understand a bit more how this music genre, lately out of fashion, has potential for a comeback.

The Berlin based DJ together with five gabber dancers transformed the ‘Ceiling For A Crater’ stage, built in a concrete pit, into a true symphony of pure hardcore 180 bpm tunes.

Old school hard style and gabber were recklessly fired at the audience, while the crew dancers started the ‘Hakke Show’, which consists in a mix of fast cutting air moves (editor’s note: ‘Hakke’ means to ‘cut’’) that are hyper-powerful with a primitive intensity with their robotic dance in perfect sync with the beat. Indeed, this performance was a mindful approach to rediscover, decontextualise, and revive the hardcore and post-rave subcultures, under the perspective of an aesthetic, social and cultural phenomenon.

Horst Arts & Music festival attracted around 15000 festivalgoers in three days last weekend. The festival showcased sixty music artists and displayed various artworks from twelve artists for the ‘Fallen Empires Refound Desires’ exhibition. Worth of mention is solely the artwork by Emeka Ogboh, a Nigerian artist, who showcased with his renowned installation The Way Earthly Things are Going within the disabled cooling tower.

A wide LCD screen displaying a live-stream of stock exchange indexes from around the world, in dialogue with an encompassing 12-channel sound installation of a polyphonic Greek female group Pleiades, bringing the lament When I forget, I am Glad – an empowering work reflecting on forced migration, exile and the makeability of one’s own life.

At first sight, the abandoned area with its twenty warehouses and a maze of corridors that hosted the festival would need a restoration, but the fact that it has been taken over by nature, makes it feel like a green oasis between industry and the city. Because the festival was crowded on Saturdays, it also showed some drawbacks. For instance, queues were unavoidable to grab a fresh drink. 

Finally, the Horst format remained the same like in past editions, allowing electronic music and art to genuinely blend one into each other. For those who like art in the broadest sense, see you next year!