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Terraforma 2016 This July
Theo Darton-Moore , May 18th, 2016 11:49

Ahead of Terraforma near Milan this July, featuring appearances by Biosphere, Lee Gamble and more, we catch up with its director

2016 has been a year of many discoveries where Italy is concerned for me. Milan-based Haunter Records have continued to outperform themselves, each new noise-punk 12" or cassette more twisted and confronting than the last. Similarly, acts like Nicola Ratti have triumphed this year with the extraordinary Pressure Drop LP for London’s Where To Now? presenting a masterclass in minimalism and restraint.

Another topic of interest for me this year has been Terraforma, a multidisciplinary Italian festival with a strong sustainability mission at the core of its philosophy. Terraforma has been running since 2014, taking residence in ‘Villa Arconati’ – a national monument constructed in the 18th century, complete with courtyard gardens, a church and a statue of Roman of Tiberius. In short – it’s quite historic. One of the projects run by Terraforma this year for example is going to be the restoration of a network of tunnels surrounding the Villa.

Alongside an assortment of workshops, talks and visual installations, this year’s edition of the festival will play host to a characteristically wide array of producers, from the glacial ambience of Biosphere, through to the likes of Lee Gamble’s oddball dancefloor reductions, or Charlamagne Palestine’s revered minimalist compositions.

Terraforma Festival takes place from July 1-3, also featuring the likes of Atom TM & Tobias, Beatrice Dillon, Adrian Sherwood, Donato Dozzy and more. You can find out more information here and get tickets here. If you're a fan of letting people know what you're attending on Facebook, head here.

With the festival under two months away, beginning on July 1, we decided to catch up with Ruggiero Pietromarchi, Terraforma’s Art Director to discuss the lineup, working with URSSS and Terraforma’s sustainability manifesto.

Tell me a bit about your backgrounD and the origins of [Terraforma art team] 'Threes'. How did you first get interested in event organisation?

Ruggiero Pietromarchi: I was born in Palermo, Sicily in 1987, then I lived mainly in the north of Italy, first Verona and then Feltre, a small town in the northeast under the Dolomites. I spent a few years in Rome before coming to Milan where I am based now. As I see it, this journey through Italy has been essential, invoking a certain curiosity for all kinds of social and ambient environments, the way I had to adapt to all the places I lived. It made me more aware of different situations, trying always to settle into a nice atmosphere with the people I was with.

Music, of course, was a fundamental part of these experiences, first by way of CDs, then Napster, before getting into some electronic and more experimental sounds which I discovered through vinyl. Through this research and the luck and determination I had to find a job, I found myself at Ponderosa Music & Art with Titti Santini, who introduced me to the music industry where I learned different sides of the business including the depth of knowledge in discography, (which helps me in the work I'm currently doing for Presto!? Records with Lorenzo Senni), to the event organisation that gave me the knowhow for Threes Productions.

Threes was founded by Alberto [Brenta], Dario [Nepoti] and I in 2012, it was born to achieve an idea which I still have - to organise a music festival in Sicily. We were all living in Milan so the long distance convinced us to start working on a place closer that we were familiar with, this old factory which is now a contemporary art center named Assab One. Soon after the first experiences we got confident enough to start developing a more complex project: Terraforma.

Let's talk about the location - Villa Arconati. What is the history of the building and how did it come to be the site of Terraforma?

RP: Villa Arconati is considered to be an Italian version of Louis XIV’s Versailles, it was completed by the Arconati family in the 18th century which at the time had an incredible art collection including the Atlantic Code by Leonardo Da Vinci. The Villa – which today is the headquarters of the Augusto Rancillo Foundation – is situated in the Parco delle Groane, in the hamlet of Castellazzo di Bollate, beside a rural village and the church of San Guglielmo.

Arriving along the tree lined avenue, Viale dei Leoni, Villa Arconati appears in all its charm, still standing despite the obvious signs of aging, which today require important restoration work. The Park is a place of contemporary culture. Besides Terraforma, every summer there is the Festival of Villa Arconati, a music festival which is organised by Ponderosa and that is how I got to know this location.

A unique place to match with, perfect in a way for a contemporary interpretation. Only 20 minutes from Milan, you won't feel any connection with urban society and this made it suitable for our purpose to reinterpret a historical monument with a present eye.

Terraforma is billed as a 'sustainable' festival, and you include a sustainability project each year. Do you think most festivals have a negative impact on their surrounding environments?

RP: I believe our sustainability is very original. All festivals have different purposes. What we wanted to do is to give another meaning to our work aside from the artistic one. The project is very site-specific on the outskirts of Villa Arconati and consists in three phases which are a work in progress. First, we're restoring the woods - each year a different area. Second, the architectural project, building sustainable structures for the garden, and last we want to begin a programme of land-art installations.

Can you tell me a bit about your sustainability project this year? You're restoring a network of tunnels around Villa Arconati I hear - what is the expectation with this? Is the plan for it to become open to the public for tours?

RP: This year we're starting a triennial project of restoring a Labyrinth which existed previously in the garden as we found an 18th century drawing in which it was pictured. The plan is to restore it to how it was originally but we're developing the project with the support of a young collective, Fosbury Architecture, who will include some special elements.

As I said before the plan is on a mid-term scale to have a restored garden for Villa Arconati, with light structures to be used for different reasons during the year and finally an open-air museum with art installations.

You have a characteristically diverse lineup again this year. Talk us through some of the headline acts, and your reasons for booking them for the festival.

RP: I try to take music as it is, without focusing on genres but on the sound design of each artist. Of course I have some parameters, like trying to offer something different and supporting Italian musicians, even though the programme is mainly based on the natural flow of day and night atmospheres. I don't rely on an idea of headliners, but more of a community of artists that can work together as a carefully curated unique corpus.

There is experimental ambient on saturday morning, folk guitars later on, techno at night and dub on sunday, for example. The artists involved must have a sense for experimenting and sound quality. I find it difficult to explain and not easy at all to shape the line-up, first because the festival has so many aspects to think about and it's like I'm always thinking of the program but it seems to come together perfectly.

You also have a series of talks, workshops and visual installations right? What can people expect from this?

RP: Beside the music programme we mainly have lectures and workshops. The first are as informal as possible. There are a few stone benches in one side of the park and each day we invite both Italian and international journalists to have a couple of un-amplified talks with the the artists.

Workshops instead are of two kinds, one is about music experiments like exploring the relations between sound, space and movement, the second is focused on handicrafts such as working with ceramics. We try to keep everything as simple as we can because we want it to be as DIY as possible. The entire festival is based around the same idea of trying to avoid unnecessary structure.