“I want to create something that can stand on its own.” Midnight Chardonnay founder Mamiko Motto on the debut edition of her nomadic festival concept

With the first edition of nomadic festival Midnight Chardonnay hosted this coming Saturday at Antwerp’s Het Bos, we put a few email questions to founder Mamiko Motto – DJ, producer and Gass Records head honcho – about how artificial intelligence fits into this first instalment, why she believes Belgium is underrated and the balancing act between music, art and technology.  Catch Mamiko and guest Jolita Pabludo tomorrow on www.theword.radio from 13h to 15h.

You’ve described Midnight Chardonnay as mixing contemporary art, progressive music and creative technologies, a rather ambitious undertaking. Can you talk to me about this first edition at Antwerp’s Het Bos?

I have been developing this project for four years now. I wanted to create something that would connect my favourite things, which are music, art and technology. To bring these platforms under one roof and see what happens. Our first edition in Antwerp has the same concept as the main festival taking place in September, just on a smaller scale, with both daytime and nighttime programmes curated by myself and produced by the London-based record label GASS. It’s all about exhibiting international artists and inviting exceptional leaders in music to celebrate the many talents of our generation.

At its core, how would you describe your new hybrid festival? What are its underlying ambitions and beliefs?

Delivering quality is our main ambition: I want to create something that can stand on its own, free from trends or the commercial festival formula. My challenge is to showcase real talent for people like myself; nerds with a sense of humour. Also, I want to contribute to the “good good” culture and provide opportunities for new collaborations to be born and evolve. Human partnerships and relationships are at the heart of Midnight Chardonnay.

Given the somewhat saturated festival scene, both in Belgium and abroad, how are you hoping to bring a fresh festival/event narrative to the table? Your first email to me talked about a new format festival, and I’m interested in hearing exactly what you mean by this and how you envision the festival of the future?

I think of Midnight Chardonnay as a five-year project. I want this festival to always remain as niche festival for the minority, for the freaks. I don’t want it to grow to arena-like size, and I’m against booking the same fifty DJs or producers that headline every festival. Rather, it’s about future vintage, about timelessness. I want to put on a show and entertain those who actually care. For those who appreciate and know the importance of the artists booked or exhibited at Midnight Chardonnay. Will I succeed? I’m sure I will. I believe there are a lot of people out there who think like me, who care and want something new. So we’ll just have to be patient and see.

Why did you feel the need to create a new series of events, and bring an edition to Antwerp as opposed to Brussels?

I wanted to communicate this format of events efficiently by splitting it into editions and bringing different international communities together. In a way I want to unite people and give them the platform where they can not only express themselves, but will also feel truly appreciated and heard. I spent my formative years in Antwerp and have always considered it my home. Perhaps it was just a need to give something back. I am bringing Midnight Chardonnay to Brussels too, but it felt right to start it at home.

Talk to me about some of the international artists you’re bringing to town.

Well, for this particular edition we have a lot of international artists such as my favourite Londoner Samuel Fouracre, Italian street-artist Pane, Kate Davis, and Jelly Gummies with whom I’m collaborating on launching an animated porn studio this year. I have also collaborated with David Gryn and his project Daata Editions, bringing amazing artists such as Amalia Ulman, Hannah Perry, Zadie XA and many more. I’m really happy with all the work I’ve selected for this edition – it’s set to be a very special show. For the nighttime or so called afterparty, I have invited French Producer and DJ Gilb’R who’s quite well-known in the Belgian electronic music scene. The legend behind Versitile Records, which I’ve always respected, they’re sort of making a big comeback this year with plenty of new, amazing material being released under their name. Stay tuned for that! Also, I am proud to invite Belgian DJ and Stroom label owner Nosedrip, who’s been making waves internationally and is a very good DJ I respect.

You’ve also made quite a point of working with local artists such as Frédéric Platéus, Mathias Mu and Atelier Pica Pica. Why was it important for your festival to have a local dimension?

An essential aspect of Midnight Chardonnay is that it occurs both at a local and global level. It’s a mixture of activities and ideas that exist on- or offline and in real time, but always anchored in people and places. This is the most interesting part about this festival, as it takes place in London, Paris, Amsterdam and Antwerp. Each show is kind of the same but at the same time completely different, thanks to the local inputs. I’ve been a big fan of Frédéric Platéus for a while now and I’m very happy to be working with him. He introduced me to Atelier Pica Pica, whom I was already following but from afar. My Belgian research has only just begun and the amount of amazingly talented people I’ve met here is unbelievable – it’s just the beginning.

Can you discuss the technology and artificial intelligence dimensions of this first edition?

Indeed, the idea is to showcase artificial intelligence and science projects that fit our theme for this year – Pain Pleasure Ecstasy. We have some freaky shit prepared for you – but I would really like to hear about more scientists in Belgium. If you’re reading this, we need to hear from you – please reach out.

Seen from London, where you’re currently based, how does Antwerp compare?

I’m really the wrong person to answer this question: I’m in love with Antwerp like a parent is in love with it’s child, even if he’s the ugliest baby in the world. I see Antwerp through rose-tinted glass 24/7. It’s a paradise to me and I love it so much – I’m even considering moving back. London is an amazing city, there’s no energy like it anywhere else. NYC, Tokyo, Paris – all these so called cultural capitals don’t come even close to London. It’s by far my favourite “big city”. Unfortunately, it’s also becoming really hard to have a healthy lifestyle here. Young people are forced to leave London and find homes in more affordable cities, like Berlin or Brussels. This kills the fresh breath of air new generations bring, usually rebelling against the status quo and creating new and radical ideas. The city is starting to feel more and more gentrified and expensive. Personally, I’ve come to the point in my life and my career where I just want to lock myself in my studio and create my own work. Not caring about the outside world, and that’s impossible to do when you live in a city like London.

So you’re arguably toying with the idea of moving back to Belgium. What appeals to you here in Belgium, and Antwerp more specifically?

This country holds a very special place in my heart: highly underrated (and thank God for that), it’s a hidden gem of Western Europe. Besides spending my formative years here, my family and best friends live here. I love Antwerp because it’s so quiet and small, yet immensely creative and even wild at times. The complete opposite of London, but in a romantic way. I think I will eventually move back – perhaps even sooner than I think. Especially if Brexit starts making travelling difficult.

What are you looking forward to the most with this first edition?

Bringing amazing entertainment to my Belgian audience, showcasing the most amazing art I’ve ever curated and partying with everyone till the wee hours of the morning. I look forward to welcoming you all on 31st March at Het Bos.