Cxema: Raving
the limits
12 JULY 2018
2 a.m. on Saturday night is the prime time of any party. That's when an invited headliner steps up to the decks after the crowd got warmed up by a local no-name talent. But it is not like that at Cxema events. I'm standing behind a young Kyiv producer who performs an experimental live set in front of a tightly packed dance floor at the peak of the night. The dancers barely catch the rhythm, but no one leaves the floor, or waste time at the bar, looking for the arrival of the main act.
Throughout four years of the existence, the organizers have made it clear that they do not plan to keep the expectations of club snobs and attract the audience with usual tricks.
There is no difference between local and foreign artists. There is no place for decorations, sophisticated light solutions, and special effects. But what draws thousands of party goers from numerous cities to come here again and again and to spend the cherished night together?
Cxema is the result of the personal ambition of its creator - Slava Lepsheev, which was transformed into a series of parties, built upon his experience and his own vision.
After four years its scale can easily be compared to a major festival, except there is no place for advertising and aggressive branding.
At a time when sponsorship has become the inevitable reality of the independent projects, especially the large-scale ones, Cxema challenges such approaches, deliberately abandoning brand walls, intrusive promoters and other advertising attributes. Only small logos on the paper cups or garbage cans point to the involvement of sponsors.
While organizing the first parties, Slava was only relying on himself and support of friends. At first, he was printing flyers and personally handing them out to people he wanted to see at the events.
It did not matter whether the person understands anything in the music that is going to be played or whether he is familiar with the music of the artists from the lineup, he was interested in youth who would dance all night long.
It took quite a bit of time for the events to receive the first response from the right audience. In the arguably inert club scene of the time, Cxema was notable for its nonconformity. Instead of the dance floor being waxed to gleam, the young free- thinking generation was finally offered something novel - a monthly rave gathering on post-industrial locations. Here they danced on any accessible surfaces, painted graffiti and let themselves do anything that would be considered weird in any other places. The same rules applied to the music. In addition to techno, you could, for instance, hear an early trance - an unusual genre for fans of a cyclical 4/4 beat, which always commanded the dance floor of any local techno party.
Born in the underground of Kyiv's nightlife, the parties boomed unexpectedly, even for the organizer himself, and after several events, he set a goal to gather a thousand people. It happened a year after the first one, at a season-opening party in 2015 at the GAVANЬ skate park.
There was a massive queue at the entrance, and more than a thousand visitors inside. Slava was delighted and, at the same time did not fully realize how to cope with the continuous flow of people. The party went well, and after reaching this milestone, it became apparent - Cxema was on the edge of significant changes.
Emerging in the right place at the right time, Cxema have not only met the interests of the party-goers but also caught the attention of various trendy media around the world. In the chase of the young disciples of Gosha Rubchinskiy, post-Soviet aesthetics and moving stories about the life of post-revolutionary Ukraine, they've had a significant effect on attendance of the events. Over time, the number of people wanting to get to the party rocketed, and at the same time, the project's agenda was undergoing gradual modification. Higher quality sound systems emerged and more spacious areas were considered. The latter of which brought some difficulties as there were not many suitable spaces in Kyiv. Thus, the events started to focus on the same locations.
Faced with rapid, irreversible changes, Cxema became a victim of its own ambitions. Further transformation suggested new conditions and forced it to raise the bar even higher. At the same time, the burden of responsibility for the safety of the visitors, fears and risks were multiplied. There were more tasks and more unexpected twists. Once, as a part of the preparation for the New Year's Eve party, a new site was chosen, and a new light equipment was planned to be used to build a large installation. The invited engineer did not manage to handle the task right, and eventually, the lights did not seem to work at all. Later, it became clear that because of the wrong calculation, all the heating devices had to be turned off. After this episode, the team got the producer and the regular light and visual partners - the Blck Box team.
When you are put in a situation of raised expectations and demands, there is a feeling that it is impossible to get out of this trap. But for a cultural phenomenon which Cxema grew into, such a scenario turned out to be inevitable.
Over the years, a lot has changed: from DIY parties Cxema has been transformed into a large-scale project, which now takes two months of continuous work to prepare.
In total, about 80 people work on one event. The team consists of operational director, producer, designer, communications manager, programmer, administrator, bar manager, stageman, assistant and accountant. And also partners: Forma architects, lighting artists Blck Box and Firma lawyers. One event requires efforts of numerous professionals including cashiers, bartenders, cleaners, safe-control, guards, volunteers and experts engaged in sound, light and installation work. There has also been an international side project called Cxema Backstage, which was held eight times outside Kyiv: in Lviv, Berlin, Warsaw, Leipzig, and Vilnius. Moreover, Cxema conducts a series of podcasts backed by interviews, which provides an impressive collection of electronic music.
Many are likely to believe that all projects have a certain lifetime. At some point, the story concludes and it tends to happen at the peak of its development. Multiple examples are illustrating such tendency, as numerous clubs, festivals and parties, reach their best, face a crisis of ideas, commercialization and the subsequent decline.
At first glance, it may seem that the Cxema has also fallen into the trap of endless expansion, which can mean both prosperity and slow death. However, today, it appears that the project invents itself anew. Instead of the former artisanal image, the parties have got a new form, which differs from everything that is happening not only in Kyiv but also far beyond its frontiers. The main point is that a honed organization and a radically new course in the case of Cxema are not at all in disagreement with what everyone is used to love about it - the atmosphere of an illegal rave, where everyone is free from limits and prejudices.