by Wèi Wáng
Horizon99 is a Singaporean collective founded by Chantal Tan (A(;D) and Sant RJwatana (Rot Front). Though they’ve only been around for about two years, their DIY raves that puts techno-socialist theory into practice have already created waves in the country dominated by neoliberalism, and have been featured on Noisey.
This Saturday, on Oct 20th, 2018, they are hosting an event with TeachNO (an emergency party org formed by me and Betty Apple) at The Box in Taipei, a charismatic working-class club just outside Guting MRT station. We chose this venue because the Singaporeans wanted to look for some place “Tai” (short for Taike). We’re also grateful for Australia/Japan’s Wa?ste for introducing us to each other (and who will also be performing with us!). The following interview was originally posted in Chinese on Earworm.
No Taste Club, organized by TeachNO and Horizon99, will take place at The Box (No.67, Sec. 2, Roosevelt Rd., Zhongzheng Dist., Taipei City 100, Taiwan) this Saturday. See the Facebook event for more information.
Wèi Wáng: Why were you interested in throwing a party at a Taike place?
Horizon99: To us, a good party can only happen when the crowd, aided by the party, dissociate themselves from some form of structural hegemonic power, to be able to imagine and enter a more utopian world which still operates in relation to the ‘real’ world outside. Common questions like “Why can’t I be partying forever?” to us is a legitimate question with real political implication because really, why can’t life just be like that? After chipping away the negative stereotypes and lies that the mainstream media paints of rave culture surrounding the so-called vices* (which are again another political project to subsuming and controlling radical culture for Fordist and, in these days, post Fordist industrial productivist goals), the idea of the organisation and collectivisation of such large forces of power into a singular self-supporting moving unit, where there’s freedom for everyone to be anyone or anything they want, is something we should really always aim for in intervening the larger political reality. A good party’s dissociative nature allows us to gain a rare moment of objective distance, to produce new insights surrounding the nature of control, governance, power, gender, class etc., so that we can try to ideate and replicate some or all of that within the real world outside the rave wonderland.
Video from Horizon99
Regarding the Taike club, we are precisely interested by the premise of hosting the party there because it allows us to think about these dissociations on many layers.
1. The dissociation of contemporary progressive club music from the self-enforced “temple” of the normal tasteful clubs that produce classist taste limits and demands for what kind of music people “should” or “would” enjoy which, in turns, creates a self-replicating demand-supply cycle (vice versa) that rarely leads anywhere challenging and uncanny for new ideas and contexts to emerge. This is the re-enforcement of an unnatural bubble especially since it exists within the contemporary that is constantly shifting. Is techno really “underground” anymore, and so and so?
2. The dissociation of nightlife from the above-mentioned taste standards which in close inspection, reveals the common classist traits of the haves labeling the underprivileged and have-nots as “degenerates” that “should” exist outside the mainstream cultural confines which in turns, re-enforces class differences and stereotypes and again producing no progressive motions.
3. The dissociation of common clubbing from set forms and etiquettes which has coagulated around these “temples” that re-enforces past behaviours and binaries. If there’s one main concern for Horizon99, it has to be within the idea of queering everything, of always having movements “in motion” rather than “constructed” where no forms are ever set in stones. These usually happen when one removes oneself from the comforts of normativity where new sets of challenges would requires new ways of thinking and behaving. For this party, two worlds (the Taike and the art/progressive clubbing crowd) would be pushed outside its normal confines and we are interested to see new ideas and concepts would emerge.
There may be more which we have not thought of but we welcomed all readers to think about and share with us.
Other than these conceptual premises, we are also huge fans of music played at Taike club (the hardstyles, trance, hard trance, gabber etc.). These have been mainstays at every Horizon99 parties and it is amazing that we are now able to do a party within it.
WW: Is there any similar subculture in Singapore?
H99: Doing this party reminds us again how much of a cultural powerhouse Taiwan really is. We grew up watching Taiwanese dramas, reality shows and movies, in fact our family members are still following them closely (queue scenes of our grandmothers watching Taiwan soap operas). We grew up listening to Taiwanese music. We love Taiwanese food. From our perspective in Singapore, Taiwan is really not very far away and maybe we are more Taiwanese than we think. This is the same with Taike music. If we are not wrong, Taike music and clubbing was imported to Singapore via Malaysia and have been continuing here ever since.
Royston Tan’s movie 15 featuring Ah-beng techno
Musically, within the local context, it has evolved into what Singaporeans called “Ah-beng techno” (deliquents’ techno) that is very similar in form, we think, to what is played over in Taiwan and Malaysia. These music are also heard everywhere within Singapore, from the heartland where most people live to the surrounding cores of the CBDs where taste standards originates (handphone shops here, hardware stores there and others) that to us, considering its ubiquity, we actually see Ah-beng techno as the true ambient music of Singapore. “Ah-beng clubs” are also very much thriving in Singapore and have become very popular with the youths here (we suspect they are the ones who are really raking in the money). We have not been to the ones in Taiwan but we assume they should be equally awesome.
WW: The theme of this party is “taste”; what other political agendas have you engaged in in your parties?
H99: Horizon99 was started as a project to use clubbing to ideate and put into practice, within a controlled setting, concepts of the future which have not yet materialised. The testing of many proof-of-concepts in other words. Through this, we realised earlier on that we are not really interested in setting agendas but are more interested in processes and strategies which are more future-proof. Let us explain: Agenda, based on how we understand it, is a strict set of parameters or aims that one sets prior to real execution with the goals of being able to fulfill it sometimes within the near and far future. However, as stated before, context changes all the time and goals become irrelevant by the day/hour/minute/second and this is especially pronounced when dealing with an attempt to constantly define the spectre that is the future.
So instead of having clear agendas which sets clear goals which sets (in club speak) clear themes for events, we became more interested in following a way of operating and thinking which allows for us to constantly reinvent and re-think contexts and concepts. And for us that strategy always stems from the act of “queering”, putting focus on the uncanny, of having multiple readings and paths, of giving realities the complexities it deserves. We want people to ask everything: What is a party? What is a crowd? What is Horizon99? How does one organise a party? What is fun? If you were to read the texts we wrote to explain our events or see our visuals, we are comfortable for it to be read in multiple ways where one takes what one can from it. So to answer this question in short, the only agenda we have is that we want to queer-em-all, which is not really a very good agenda at all. Or maybe we’re just bad at explaining things.
One thing we would like to add however is that for us the uncanny actually lies within the banal, that commodities which became so normal that everyone can relate to but on hindsight actually do not are weirder (and better) subjects for discussing structural issues than taking the binary paths of going “all weird”. Can tires/tools/resorts/spas/machines/advertisements/Muji cd players/ten-points of good design allows us to see through the fog of a political reality? That’s what is really interesting to us.
Before going straight into the question, it is perhaps useful for us to explain what we meant when we say to queer up something. The contemporary condition is built upon the formation of binaries, a system for sorting all matter into either a 0 and 1/male and female/east and west/good and bad/left and right etc. where everyone is forcefully indexed into clear categories. This project is closely linked to structural industrialisation which assigns specific tasks for specific roles where everyone has to fit into different bodies with prior sorting allowing for the smooth lubrication of the industrial system. Another thing to add is that binaries are almost never physical conditions but are psychological in nature, its dissemination are propaganda and indoctrination project to condition the mind towards recognising the legitimacy of structural inequality and class distinctions as normal “real-world” states. Queering in our case is then about the blunting of these binaries as a counter-hegemonic action to decondition the mind through the deindustrialisation of the bodies. These are both goals that we believe a rave is particularly good at achieving.
So what do we want to achieve? I think the goal we set for all our parties are the same as everyone else and that is to throw the best and most fun party for the crowd as possible. But how do you define fun? How do we achieve fun? And can fun be a vehicle to accomplish other goals? We define fun as a state when the future possibility beyond immediate hegemonic confines (in contemporary case that would be the neoliberal order) opens up and one starts to mentally construct an alternative model. In the short moment when the body let go of the industrial tempo, the mind also begin to decondition away “reality” and opens up possibilities for emancipatory vision. Beyond that, however, based on our past experience going to raves, fun can also only happen when there is radical collectivisation, when everyone feels like they are equal, there’s care and support, when binaries break down and all is horizontal. This is when a rave starts transcending common nihilism to become something much more.
Going back to the question, so how do we attempt do this? We follow these principles/strategies that we have created and experimented with throughout the past years. These are far from complete but it is what we know right now.
1. Affordability: We believe that the same amount of fun should be available to all regardless of the people’s background and their proximity to capital. We keep the door fees affordable and, until now, has allowed the crowd to bring their own drinks from home if they want to which makes partying even more affordable to all. A beautiful that secondarily emerge from doing this is that people start sharing and this aids in the creation of a very tightly knit community.
2. Horizon: We do not believe in the need for a hierarchy in a party and all should be deemed equals. We do not promote our party through the anchoring to big brand names. This can be seen in our party visuals where all names of djs/producers, even if they are foreign and more accomplished guests, they will be placed in the same size as others who are less famous. If Jeff Mills was to one day play for us, his name would be in similar size, and arranged alphabetically just like the rest of us. This is not to disparate Jeff Mill’s numerous achievements but it is more a gesture to indicate our believe in radical horizontality.
3. Comfort: We do not believe that a party can be transcendental when the crowd brings along their material baggage. To rave, to us, is to feel our bodies once again. We have previously done parties in a room without air condition and just fans, where internal temperature was high but the human spirit was higher. Shirts were off, sweats were dripping but the fun was endless. All comfort standards should be questioned, all bodies should be in flux.
4. Open expression: Everyone should be allowed to express themselves in any manner and in any way they want. It goes without saying that we do not tolerate chauvinism, racism, homophobia, transphobia, sexism, age-ism, slut- shaming etc. Horizon99 will continue to be a safe space for the community.
5. Community: All good parties have good crowds and all good crowds eventually became friends. At H99, we value our crowd and our friends, people who have been with us since the beginning above others. If we are forced to discontinue H99 tomorrow, we would already consider our efforts a success due to the numerous friends we have made over the past one year.
6. No binary = no genre: We do not believe in explaining music through the lens of genre, a type of binary which constricts possibilities. People have partied to birdsongs, car horns and so on and so forth and it is the same at H99. Anything is possible when genres are not defined. This opens up possibilities for what club music can be.
7. Future: H99 will always be focused on the new, the unknown and the disproportionally represented. We believe that our locality can be used to our advantage for seeking new sounds and new scenes. Being in Singapore and in Southeast Asia, far away from the more developed clubbing scenes of Europe, America and in recent years, East Asia, we believe that there is objective distance and leeway for us experimentation in featuring new producers with new ideas and contexts. A future scene may or may not emerge eventually, but if we don’t try we won’t ever know.