When it comes to Techno, I must admit that I’m overstepping my sphere of understanding. It’s important that I get this across because I’m going to be writing a post, a partially critical one, on a genre and teknival that I’m not too experienced with. Please do not assume that when I use the word ‘techno’ I am referring to all forms of electronic dance music. If you’d like to find out why dance music is not just techno, take a look at this wonderful guide . Also, I have no problem with the music itself, my genres of choice are electro and psytrance when it comes to dancing.
This year was my first visit to the annual teknival known as CzechTek. The event attracts thousands of free techno dancers from several European countries. In recent years the number of attendees ranged from 20,000 to 40,000. According to wikipedia, “It makes an open invitation to all performers, soundsystems and all human beings with positive thinking“.
The festival is more underground then Love Parade but its increase in popularity has changed the nature of the event according to some of the regulars. CzechTek is usually set in a meadow near the forest, sometimes without the permission of the landowner. This year the Czech government permitted the teknival to take place on ex-military land. Some believe it’s the government’s cooperation which undermines the anti-establishment message of the event.
If you Follow the history of CzechTek you will find the very first event in 1994 to be organized by a group called the Spiral Tribe. The collective had a huge influence on the emerging free tekno subculture, releasing many records on their label, Network 23. As an interesting side note, Twenty three members of the group were arrested immediately after the Castlemorton Common Festival and were subsequently charged under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994. Their trial became one of the longest running and most expensive cases in legal history, lasting four months and costing the UK tax payer £4 million. The group was later acquitted of all charges. It’s always nice to know your money is being well spent.
So, what are my impressions of CzechTek? I couldn’t get the idea out of my head that it was the yin to Burning Man’s yang. CzechTek is a week full of destruction, chaos, drugs, tons of garbage, excrement, unconscious bodies strung about and incredibly loud non-stop thumping beats. Now, most of you are probably cringing while a few of you may be booking your tickets to the Czech Republic for next year’s teknival. In either case you may find something of interest in this post.
To those who cannot fathom why anyone would go to such a place on their own free will, I offer the following idea. There is nothing inherently wrong with destruction, it simply is. It is a form of creation and a necessary aspect of existence. The old dies so the new can be born. If my answer seems a little unsatisfying I present to you Stanislav Grof, M.D.
On a radio show (rough transcript)
Interviewer: As people begin to do this exploration [through psychedelics, holotropic breathwork, therapy etc], often what they encounter are the demonic, the dark forces, the destructive urges. This is why I think many groups of people are afraid of the subconscious.
Grof: Well, I think what you discover is that on all levels the human psyche, the human personality, has two polar opposites, it’s a yin-yang. It has a light and a dark force, it has a good and an evil force. And what I’m talking about is creating a socially sanctioned almost ritual type of situation in which we could confront these forces and integrate them. Sort of purge them out of our system, the way cultures do in rights of passage for example, in other kinds of death-rebirth mysteries or some other ritual frameworks. Many people who have done this kind of work came to the conclusion that they would rather confront these dark forces in their inner process then watch them on the evening TV news. Because otherwise, if we do not confront them realistically they will tend to leak into our everyday life. And have a very powerful self-destructive and destructive impact on collective life.
If CzechTek with its chaos appeals to you, very well. But be aware, with the increasing popularity of CzechTek comes the watering down of many of these ideas. Even though newcomers are a factor, I would argue it has more to do with the inability of community to spread its ideas fast enough. It’s like a game of telephone and the last message is simply “Screw the government, let’s trash everything including ourselves!” It seemed to me, many of the participants were solely interested in getting wasted. The most popular drug remained alcohol, not exactly the most revealing exploratory substance known to man. I was also disappointed to see how rejecting many of the regulars were towards new comers. I personally didn’t experience too much negativity because I blend in well but the same couldn’t be said of other people. Maybe my hopes were too high to think this particular community was as accepting as others. It’s obvious that many of them are still clinging on to their own sub-culture clique and fail to see the bigger picture. Speaking of which, very few of the tens of thousands of ravers cared where they threw their garbage. There were literally a handful of garbage bags near tents with food but that was it. This is inexcusable! Even if an event is organized in the name of chaos and destruction, are we too infantile to take care of our own waste? If there is anti-establishment subtext to the event, which there is, can we not at least show the government that we can take care of our absolute basic needs such as this one? No, we had to have them clean up after us.
Personally, I wouldn’t say my experience was negative on a whole, maybe just a little disappointing. I saw many friends and surely many of those ravers who I didn’t get to know were probably great people. I would still recommend CzechTek to anyone who is open to the experience. But to those hypocrites out there who cannot see past the bottom of their empty beer glass, who think they’re part of some great movement against a single organized evil, I offer the following lines from a song by Tool.
Well now I’ve got some
A-dvice for you, little buddy.
Before you point the finger
You should know that
I’m the man,
And if I’m the man,
Then you’re the man, and
He’s the man as well so you can
Point that fuckin’ finger up your ass.
Update: Some people remained after the teknival was over and cleaned up. Good work!