The eternal festival

Today, the Greek island of Mykonos is one of Europe’s top beach destinations, while Delos, its tiny neighbor to the southwest, is an island of ruins. But long before Mykonos—or Europe for that matter—even existed, Delos held a magical, mythical, world-changing significance across the ancient world.

The mythological birthplace of the sun god Apollo, the island of Delos was the site of what might have been the first cross-cultural festival in human history—the Delia—a quadrennial celebration that drew diverse travelers from across the ancient world for singing, dancing, feasting, and every form of physical enjoyment the mind can conjure. It was this history that served as the jumping-off point for Further Mykonos: The Eternal Festival, which brought the South African festival artist Daniel Popper to Mykonos to construct a large-scale figurative sculptural installation that reinterprets the story of Apollo’s birth, building a metaphorical bridge between the Scorpios peninsula and ancient Delos. To mark the sculpture’s unveiling, a three-day music and arts gathering celebrated the legacy of the Delia at a time when festival culture is once again ascendant, from contemporary gatherings like Burning Man and Primavera Sound, to the resurgence of more traditional festivals, like the world sacred music gatherings in Fez and Rajasthan.

“For me, it’s the future,” said the French-Iranian opera singer and Further resident Ariana Vafadari, who sets Zoroastrian mantras called Gathas, sung in the old Persian language, to new music of her own composition that she plays at festivals around the world. “What you guys are doing here—it’s really where we all are going,” said Vafadari. “I’m a mixture of cultures. I love electronic music. I love dancing. I love opera. I love going to a city hall with very classical music, but in September I was singing at Burning Man.”

With the island of Delos behind her across the sea and Popper’s sculpture four-meter rattan-and-wicker sculpture, “Leto,” hovering beside her, Vafadari performed a set of Gathas at Scorpios, following an original dance piece by the Berlin-based Syrian dance collective Dabkesim and a performance by Quieter Than Silence, a musical project by the Vienna-based Iranian musician and researcher Mehdi Aminian and Syrian oud player Mohamad Zatari. All of these artists are thriving and evolving within the new festival landscape, breathing new life into traditional art forms and bridging east and west, the past and the present, the sacred and the secular.

The idea of festivals as sites for unexpected synthesis and laboratories for new ideas propelled a far-reaching conversation between Daniel Popper, Marcus Fairs, the founder of the influential design and architecture magazine Dezeen, and the French architect Arthur Mamou-Mani. Festivals, said Mamou-Mani, have become “an architectural playground of experimentation.” A trailblazer of a new breed of pop-up, digital-fabrication-led architecture, he is probably best known for creating an immense, spiraling 3D-printed wooden temple at Burning Man. “[It’s] a place where we as architects can free ourselves from normal conditions,” added the architect and professor, who has been bringing his architecture students from the University of Westminster to Burning Man for years. In that sense, it’s not just a laboratory but a classroom, as well.

Part creative residency, part cultural exchange, part immersive hospitality experiment, Further brings together artists, writers, scientists, artisans, farmers, designers and other place-makers.

Explore Further and read the full story here.


Tuesday, August 6th, 2019