The Monastery Festival 2022

by Fraser Hibbitt for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog

Close to the border of Netherlands, the small German town of Goch lies, hugged by the Rhine that cuts through North Rhine-Westphalia. Since 2018, the grounds of Graefenthal Abbey in Goch have hosted the Monastery festival, made possible by the support of The Gardens of Babylon family. The family have welcomed strangers from all over the world to enter their dreamscape-like festivals for a reason that remains ancient and integral to human experience.

The seeking of ambition and the doldrums of worries come to a close in the gardens of Babylon. It is not a ‘break’ from everyday existence, but more of a consolidation, a reminder of the limits of experience. The beginning of this ritual is marked by the collective call for inwardness, a meditation that sets the intention, sets a new rhythm to time. It is now the richness of the individual that enters the space, finding a like-minded background in the ancient abbey grounds.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Festival at the Monastery

The music begins. Musicians have been invited from across the globe to interpret the space. For four days, when summer is in full force of life, the sounds echo. Scattered throughout the festival space are zones dedicated to forms of creation; meditative practices, markets of curiosities, and places for nothing but to enjoy and remember the pleasures of idleness. The festival wants to remind its goers about curiosity, and the ability of this curiosity to enable connection with others, to their surroundings, and with themselves.

The musicians attract the crowd; there is no doubt. The real meaning of the place will slowly permeate them throughout their stay. Each musician is invited personally by the family, who work to concert a disparate but conducive soundscape for the viewer to tune in and out of throughout the day. The main acts, however, are the non-stop line-up of DJs which carry the festival from open to close.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Monastery Festival

This year, Miami based Ella Romand will be headlining the Monastery festival, bringing her mixture of deep house blended with the influence of her roots in Brazilian music. A trained classical pianist who made the shift to electronic music with its focus on moving melody lines and tensions of release. Her unique sound has made her resident DJ in several clubs around south Florida. A seasoned performer, as well as traveler, having spun across the Americas.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Ella Romand

Ella Romand

It is acts like these which number amongst the DJs brought forth by the Gardens of Babylon family. They seek to uplift and bring together by sound, sounds perhaps foreign, but none the less masterful. It is with novelty that the monastery festival addresses the ear, lays quiet the outside world, and releases the inward eye.   

This year’s Monastery Festival takes place between 28 July 2022 – 1 August 2022 at Kloster Graefenthal in the town of Goch, directly on the border of the Netherlands and Germany.

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Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other posts by Fraser Hibbitt include a memorial to Vangelis, short reflections on Kraftwerk, and Segovia and the guitar.
Carl Kruse can also be found on Medium

In Memoriam: Vangelis

by Fraser Hibbitt for the Carl Kruse Blog

The Greek composer and musician Evangelos Papathanassiou passed away in Paris recently. Better known as Vangelis, the award-winning musician and beloved film-score composer. Obituaries and the programs of his life abounded against the fact. A career of over fifty years, and not one that could be characterized easily; Vangelis floated through genres, as he roamed from place to place, picking up and discarding forms in the search for the sound he is now remembered for.

Papathanassiou began his musical career in his home country, forming the band Forminx in the early 60s. A rock-n-roll band that was through by the mid 60’s. With the political turmoil of the 1967 Greek Coup, Papathanassiou debarked to Paris in search of the new, and he found it in the Prog-rock band Aphrodite’s Child. Finding success with the band would ultimately lead to its dissolution as Papathanassiou began to abhor the structured program of show business, admitting that “you have to do something like that in the beginning for showbiz, but after you start doing the same thing everyday you can’t continue.” Now having solidified what music meant to him, an adventure, a kind of freedom to create, Papathanassiou settled into an apartment in Marble Arch, London, where he would emerge as Vangelis, creator of the poetic synth albums at his own expense.


In 1980, Vangelis was approached by Hugh Hudson to make the film-score of the movie Chariots of Fire. This, in Vangelis’ words, ‘very humble, low-budget film’ won him an academy award, and set a precedent in film-scoring. The incongruous synth in a movie set in 1924 – Ridley Scott’s comment: “It was off the mark, but worked like a son of a bitch.” It was this film that earned Vangelis the score for Scott’s Blade Runner, another perfect encapsulation, but this time of a Philip K. Dick inspired dystopia. It would have appeared that Vangelis had found his alcove, and the Hollywood scene would be waiting for his arrival; he did not take the bait. Vangelis only scored several films following his success, and again, the same reason which had resolved Aphrodite’s Child directed his actions: the stifling formula of success.

“I think music is much more interesting, and much more rich than to lock yourself in one kind of area”, said Vangelis, and this is the true sentiment that spans his long, adventurous career. Running after awards, or pandering to expectation, could not dwell amicably with Vangelis. The balance between ‘true’ creativity and success is a precarious thing, and one that often means disabling the former for the latter. Vangelis is an example of the opposite. He sat comfortably with music for music’s sake, and this extended from something intrinsic in his beliefs. Not a man to talk openly about his personal life, he rather aimed discourse towards music with a capital M. Music, for Vangelis, existed before humanity existed. In conjunction with humanity, music was a complex of the universe, of humanity’s metaphysical duration; obscure, infinite and absorbing.

It is no wonder that Vangelis’ sound echoes these very feelings; hints and suggestions of something large, something otherworldly. Music as remembrance, our channel to this metaphysical plane. Whether willingly or not, Vangelis’ life seemed to follow this kind of unsettled suggestiveness. He roamed, and possibly felt most at home in the roaming, rather than the stability of one place and one time, just as his music rhymed the disparate, way-ward, realms of the inner mind with the cosmic stuff that shapes the universe. 

The Carl Kruse Arts Blog Homepage is here.
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other articles by Fraser Hibbitt include Comic Kids, the Museum of Old and New Art, and Thinking About Realism.
The blog’s last post was on the San Berillo District in Sicily.
Also find Carl Kruse on Soundcloud.

The San Berillo District in Sicily

by Asia Leonardi for the Carl Kruse Blog

 Hidden from the great palaces of Corso Sicilia, Italy, in the heart of the historic center of Catania stands the San Berillo district, a neighborhood that has been wounded, emptied, rebuilt, never completed. We discovered it by chance, my boyfriend and I, wandering around the city of Catania and immersing ourselves in its most hidden arteries, we found ourselves in a crossroads of flowery streets, colored walls, inventive sculptures, but above all construction sites and buildings barred and decrepit. When I first saw it, I thought of an African jungle that blooms on the ruins, flowers that are born from reinforced concrete.

The San Berillo district is the shelter of the marginalized of Catania, of those who find neither a home nor a sign of belonging in the good life and are reduced to looking for a bed where they find it, to earn money as best they can. Here, since the early fifties — following the unfinished evisceration, if not in the scandal — prostitutes, homeless people, and migrants live and work.

San Berillo is a historic district, born from the ashes of the Valdinoto earthquake of 1693, but it is also a failure of urban planning, the result of which has been the persistence and worsening of marginalization, collapses, banishments, and of new occupations.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - San Berillo District

Yet San Berillo, in the second half of the 19th century, was one of the most populous districts of Catania. The port laborers, the station workers, the sulfur miners of the factories lived there; even, between the two wars, it expanded, even more, hosting shops, theaters, and meeting houses. But life in the streets of San Berillo has never known urban planning regulations, and that is why the typical smell of the neighborhood, for years, has been that of open-air sewers.

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - MOre San Berillo district

In the fifties, the Catania city council launched an urban plan whose intent was to provide the city with a single artery, formed by Corso Sicilia and Corso Martiri Della Libertà, which should have led from the station to the center. This plan, certainly innovative, involved the almost total elimination of the neighborhood. Thus, the 30,000 “deportees of San Berillo” were transferred to the western suburbs, that is, to the residential area of ​​the city then under construction, San Leone, which the inhabitants still call “New San Berillo”.

The task of urban regeneration, considered necessary and urgent, was entrusted to ISTICA, a private company in which the Christian Democrats, the Banco di Sicilia, small local economic  powers, and the General Real Estate Company of the Vatican pushed. It began in 1957, and was soon defined as “the largest speculative-financial operation ever carried out in Catania”, the works were interrupted ten years later, amid scandals and rumors. In the same years, we witness a further social phenomenon, the birth of the suburbs: the expropriated owners are transferred to Nesima, about 20 minutes from the historic center, and go to live in neat and airy houses.

Carl Kruse Blog - Another image of San Berillo

 Since then, almost nothing has changed. There are four streets left of the Old San Berillo, a few gutted buildings, prostitutes, transsexuals, and migrants. For years, Catanian and Senegalese, Catholics and Muslims, Nigerian and Colombian prostitutes have lived side by side, near a school of the Koran, a bicycle workshop run by the village boys. There lives Flavia, the “crazy flower girl”, who filled the streets with flowers, hung them from hanging cables like laundry, we also find them among the nets of the walls. There lives Francesco Grasso, just over 60 years old, known by all as “Franchina”, one of the most sensitive and active souls in the area. A trans woman who has been walking these streets in high heels since she was twenty-three. It is Franchina who gives one of the most poetic definitions to this neighborhood: “If it were a state it would be anarchist, if it had a flag it would be the one with the rainbow if it were a factory it would churn out sins, if it were a district it would be called San Berillo”.

Franchina, Ambra, and Ornella are just some of the women who indulge themselves in the neighborhood, and whom Angelo Scandurra, a poet from Catania, defines as “fairies”. A large component of the prostitutes working in San Berillo is made up of transvestites and transsexuals, often coming from uncomfortable situations such as homophobia in the family, discrimination in the workplace, the need to earn a living. Over time, the neighborhood has become a reference point for those who decide to undertake the change of sex, often too easily able to obtain hormones and other substances that can lead to even serious psychophysical imbalances.

 This year, Franchina wrote an open letter to the Municipality of Catania: “We are people like everyone else and you cannot cancel us from this space because it belongs to us and we belong to it, even if we do not we are always the rightful owners. Over the long years, these houses and their walls have been modeled, modified, and matured together with us. ” Franchina writes, with an open heart. “You can also raze the houses and buildings in the neighborhood but this would not be regeneration. You will find us in your condominiums, under the house, on the streets of the cities, creating more unrest and poverty. We are willing, if you cooperate, to give us shared rules for peaceful coexistence with all the inhabitants, those already present and those who will arrive in the future. “

Carl Kruse Arts Blog - Here we are in San Berillo
Francesco “Franchina” Grasso in San Berillo

The presence of foreigners in the neighborhood is often considered one of the major obstacles to the redevelopment of the district. In San Berillo live mainly Senegalese migrants and their children, many have been here for three generations. They are among the few who have decided to live in dilapidated houses, together with those who have not found accommodation elsewhere, with those who do not have a fixed salary.

There are not a few artists who have been interested in San Berillo, who have told the truth that lies behind their stories. What do they have in common? Perhaps the sense of emptiness that leaves the neighborhood, which sails into the depths of Catania like a wreck that no one wants to remember, inhabited by people no one wants to have near. Perhaps the desire to restore life and dignity to those forgotten streets, to people who are not recognized as people, and to show the beauty of the naked and raw truth to make it appreciated even by those who have never known a life of hardship.

There is Turi Zinna, a playwright from Catania, who tells the story of the evisceration, in his “Ballad for San Berillo”. There is Goliarda Sapienza, a writer born and raised in the old neighborhood, who tells her story in “The art of joy”, her book. There is Salvatore Di Gregorio, a Sicilian photographer, who created the project “Taliami e te fazzu petra” (which in Sicilian dialect means “look at me and I will turn you into stone”) in the arteries of San Berillo, and intends to narrate, through the faces of the inhabitants of the district, their authenticity, their reality, their truth. “I had in mind the myth of the Medusa, a symbol of the Sicilian Trinacria. The intensity of the gazes of the people of San Berillo connected me to the one who transforms you to stone with a single glance. And here comes Taliami e te fazzu petra, which in Sicilian means just that: look at me and I will turn you into stone. ” Di Gregorio told Vice.

Carl Kruse - An IMage From San Berillo, Italy
“Taliami e te fazzu pietra”, photographic project by Salvatore Di Gregorio

I ended up there by chance, among the flowers of San Berillo, and its vitality caught me almost unprepared, it hit me, it marked me. Walking through the paths, I felt the load that the district has gone through, it exuded from its walls. This neighborhood, which has built itself, has welcomed anyone who has looked at the world and realized they didn’t look like it at all. The story that remains engraved on the colored stones cannot be wiped out by a simple redevelopment of the neighborhood: it is in its inhabitants, who have become its protagonists, who have modeled themselves and continue to shape its appearance, who have filled its streets with life, with love, with beauty. San Berillo is a different neighborhood, of course, it is a neighborhood that is not easy to digest, and for many it is often better to remain hidden, but it couldn’t be more authentic than it is.

The Carl Kruse Arts Blog homepage.
Contact: carl AT carlkruse DOT com
Other articles by Asia Leonardi for the Carl Kruse Arts Blog include The Beats, Bowie’s Alter Ego, Filippo Brunelleschi, and Marina Abramovic.