Terraforma Festival was founded by Ruggero Pietromarchi, Dario Nepoti and Alberto Brenta in 2014. Taking place within the amazing gardens of Villa Arconati, an 18th Century Lombard Baroque villa on the outskirts of Milan, it is considered as one of the most innovative musical events in Italy both for the quality of its line-up, focus on sustainability and various activities. The festival opens its doors between 1-3 July 2016.
This year’s edition of Terraforma features an impressive array of forward-thinking musicians, including Charlemagne Palestine, Atom TM & Tobias, Donato Dozzy, Sensate Focus, Biosphere, Rabih Beaini & Vincent Moon, Adrian Sherwood, Claudio Fabrianesi, Lee Gamble, Beatrice Dillon, Healing Force Project, Primitive Art, Francesco Cavaliere, Paquita Gordon and more to be announced.
Ruggero Pietromarchi has been organising events since 2012, starting off with ‘Techno Portraits’ in Padova at Assab One as well as handling the cultural association Threes (alongside Dario and Alberto) and being the founder of Presto!? Records with the Italian electronic music producer Lorenzo Senni. We caught up with Ruggero to discover Terraforma’s roots, starting from a coffee with Rabih Beaini in Milan four years ago.
Interviewed by Vittoria de Franchis
"The idea of it kind of faded away till Rabih Beaini suggested us to do a festival while we were having a coffee in Padova."
Terraforma saw the light of day three years ago. Was there a particular moment in which the idea of the festival popped into your mind?
Yes, it was me, Dario and Alberto and Rabih (Beaini) chatting after the third concert of Techno Portraits, a series of events that we were organising in 2012 at Assab One in Padova, an ex printing house in which we’ve hosted artists such as Rabih Beaini, Burnt Friedman, Liebzeit, Paul Rudolph or Volcov. Techno Portraits used to start with a little talk in a sort of living room, which was in this industrial building and then there was the concert, usually with a live performance and a DJ set.
There was already the idea of expanding the complexity of these events with the aim of considering electronic music producers as musicians overall. At first we wanted to organise a festival in Sicily in this incredible place in the countryside near Cefalù but it was too complicated to do it from Milan, so we started to organise the Techno Portraits events in order to build a background and an audience.
The idea of it kind of faded away until Rabih, who came back to attend the third concert of Techno Portraits, suggested us to do a festival whilst we were having a coffee in Padova.
"In the beginning the core of Terraforma was to do a site specific musical event, so we wanted to find a place in the middle of nature, which is now the park of Villa Arconati."
How did the idea of Terraforma, with its sustainability side take shape?
Dario had this idea of sustainability, in the beginning the core of Terraforma was to do a site specific musical event, so we wanted to find a place in the middle of nature, which is now the park of Villa Arconati. We also wanted to provide a strong and long experience so we decided that the duration would have to be 3 days at least.
I remember you telling me that you went to Labyrinth in Japan: how were you inspired by the event taking place in the mountains of Niigata?
Rabih and Donato (Dozzy) were the ones who told me about Labyrinth, I was doing a project with both of them for Biennale in 2012 and I decided with Alberto to do this amazing three-week trip to Japan.
It was a key experience, most of all for the simplicity of the event: total but essential, few elements made it extremely complex. Our experience was even more special because of the weather, the third day was cancelled because a typhoon hit the place where the festival was happening, it was interesting to see the reaction of people in that situation and listening to Outer Space with water almost reaching our knees.
"Terraforming is a scientific theoretical process in which life on a planet becomes possible through the creation of an atmosphere."
And what about the name Terraforma and this terraforming process?
Alberto is the one behind the name since he is the most interested in science fiction. Terraforming is a scientific theoretical process in which life on a planet becomes possible through the creation of an atmosphere.
We really liked that concept related to music and culture as a vehicle towards changes and as a way to regenerate a place. This is fully happening at Terraforma through its sustainability side, focused in restoring Villa Arconati’s park, which is a historical place and on a more theoretical aspect, reinterpreting this historical site of the 18th Century through contemporary contents.
"We aren’t sure that this labyrinth was effectively existing, we’ve found some of the original projects by the Italian engraver Marc’Antonio Dal Re in which there is this labyrinth."
This year you will start restoring an original labyrinth within Villa Arconati’s park.
Yes, we aren’t sure that this labyrinth was effectively existing, we’ve found some of the original projects by the Italian engraver Marc’Antonio Dal Re in which there is this labyrinth. It is a Baroque labyrinth so there isn’t the traditional focus on meditation, evasion and disorientation, it was meant to be a caprice.
We are building it from the original plan, with the aim of giving it a different purpose. In fact architecture and its reinterpretation is another of the main points of Terraforma. It will take us 3 years to complete it and at the end there will probably be a camera obscura and a sighting tower at the center of the labyrinth.
"I always try to range between different genres and to consider music as music and not “this or that”, to get rid of etiquettes."
I’ve read on the manifesto that “the musical program mirrors the core concept which aims to induce the spectator to find his own meditative space”. How do you choose the artists who will be performing at Terraforma?
The choice of the line-up is one of the most difficult aspects of Terraforma, there are a lot of parameters that determine it. Essentially there is the idea of creating a path that lasts 3 days, starting with sunset on Friday until Sunday’s sunset and to maintain linearity almost presenting the line-up as an orchestra with many different instruments.
I always try to range between different genres and to consider music as music and not “this or that”, to get rid of labels. I also try to choose artists that have a strong element of research in the interpretation of what they do, being and are stimulated constantly focused on the present with an eye pointed to future.
This can happen in a lot of ways, everyone has a different manner to research, there are artists as for example Charles Cohen who has worked all his life only with the Buchla Music Easel synth and even if he is dealing with the same kind of tonalities it always sounds contemporary, I’ve never met someone of his age having such a clear sight on present. Last but not least I choose artists that I think have a certain level of experience in how to deal with an audience and a sound system.
"I would like the spectator to feel at ease and to let themselves go. I don’t mean conform, in fact I try to avoid it and keep Terraforma essential, simple but stimulating."
What would you like the audience to experience along this path that goes from sunset to sunset?
Even if it isn’t the most appropriate term to define it, the first thing that came to my mind is that I would like the spectator to feel at ease and to let themselves go. I don’t mean conform, in fact I try to avoid it and keep Terraforma essential, simple but stimulating. This can be very complex but what I would like the spectator to feel is relaxed, tickled and almost to have their ears burning at the end of the three days (laughs). The audience have to be appeased, not tired and they must keep this energy even when they return home.
"Lectures were something that started shaping very naturally since among the 20 artists who are performing at the festival there are newcomers as well as masters who have a lot of things to say."
What other experiences does Terraforma provide besides music?
At first I just wanted to focus on music since I wanted to keep it as simple as possible, the lectures were something that started shaping very naturally since among the 20 artists who are performing at the festival there are newcomers as well as masters who have a lot of things to say.
We are also developing workshops in which I am trying to link concrete activities, there will be 2 this year as in the last edition: one related to music and the other one to handcraft and pottery.
Terraforma Festival takes place from 1-3 July 2016 at Villa Arconati in Italy.
All tickets can be bought through Terraforma’s website. Tickets include day pass, 2 day pass with camping and a 3 day pass with camping.