Accessibility, Resilience, Sustainability:
Upgrading Our Cultural Infrastructure
Whether art, theatre, music, or film—festivals are vital nodes in the cultural nervous system. It’s where new ideas are first injected into the discourse; where they travel, mutate, and multiply, before they seep into the wider public consciousness. For the devoted audience, festivals are pilgrimages that rejuvenate the soul and reaffirm one’s love for art and music. For those that make them happen, festivals are a way of life—and a constant struggle.
Keeping cultural infrastructure not only intact but vibrant, requires more than keeping pace with trends, audience expectations, and shifting norms. Beyond perennial concerns like programming, funding, and the role of the festival in the ever-changing cultural landscape, there are existential questions about virtuality and sustainability raised by the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis. How can festival makers simultaneously build resilience, expand accessibility and inclusion, while minimizing the environmental footprint of cultural production? And what would a future festival that overcomes these challenges even look like?
This much is clear: None of these questions can be answered by one isolated festival. That’s why Future Festivals, a MITACS-funded research project between MUTEK and Concordia University, assembled a task-force of festival makers from Canada, Germany, and Mexico to collaboratively imagine how their work might evolve in the years and decades ahead. Under the helm of curator and cultural researcher Maurice Jones, representatives from MUTEK (Montreal, CA), imagineNATIVE (Toronto, CA), Mois Multi (Quebec City, CA), MUTEK Mexico (Mexico City, MX), New Forms (Vancouver, CA), NEW NOW (Essen, DE), and Send+Receive (Winnipeg, CA) will put their heads together to explore what forms festivals can take in the years ahead. The selection is no accident: these organizations can draw on distinct curatorial agendas, communities, geographies, and in many cases decades of institutional memory. It’s not a closed group either: if you and your organization are interested in joining the project, then please get in touch!
Over the next 18 months, starting with NEW NOW in Essen (June 1-4), each participating festival will host a Future Festivals Lab that gathers the group and selected experts around a key challenge. The goal: deeply analyze shared problems and prototype solutions—from immediate, easy to implement measures to more ambitious, long-term proposals.
HOLO will file reports from these sessions in what we call the Future Festivals Field Guide, an expanding companion dossier that follows the project from start to finish. As embedded journalists, we will document the group’s progress, share key findings and outcomes, and bring important guest voices into the conversation. But the scope of the Future Festivals Field Guide goes beyond coverage and commentary: Together with N O R M A L S, a Berlin-based design fiction collective and trusted HOLO collaborator, we will build on the ideas produced in each lab session and ‘act them out’ in speculative scenes—mockups of a future festival—for you to explore.
Needless to say, we at HOLO have a vested interest in the future of the festival circuit and the wider cultural landscape around it that we consider ourselves very much a part of. We look forward to not only reporting from the frontlines of that future, but to actively help shape and contribute to it. Stay tuned!
This dossier is currently in progress. Check back for new entries or receive updates automatically via the HOLO newsletter here.
Future Festivals is a think tank initiated by MUTEK and its partners to jointly prototype new modes of cultural production. From spring 2023 through late 2024, seven organizations from Canada, Germany, and Mexico will collaborate to imagine more accessible, resilient, and sustainable festival futures.
Funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, Future Festivals is an extension of the MITACS-funded research project Festival as Methodology initiated by MUTEK and Concordia University.
Future Festivals Lead:
Maurice Jones (MUTEK)
N O R M A L S
Alexander Scholz, Greg J. Smith,
Filip Visnjic (HOLO)