As polarising stances and simplistic rhetoric continue to proliferate at alarming rates, we are faced with the difficulties of resisting them and the rifts they create. The challenge lies in cultivating persistence without tumbling into rigidity or dogma – in cultivating a steadfastness through a recognition of diversity, difference, and hybridity while also embracing fluidity, uncertainty, and flux.

With Persistence, CTM 2019 examines the aesthetic and societal potentials and pains of perseverance, and of its opposite: the transient and the provisional, and considers the struggles that come with balancing continuity and changeability.

Music and art today are characterised by continuous searching, open-ended experimentation, and the speculative nature of hypotheses, which allows for a positive adoption of uncertainty. A hypothesis is always open to being corrected or discarded. It requires constant questioning and exchange: Listening, critical discussion, and doubt are inherent components of this process, as are sensing and recognising inconsistencies and differences.

A decisive difference between artistic and scientific hypotheses is that art and music take subjective feelings, personal experiences, empathy, the imaginary, and desire as their starting points. Artistic propositions can therefore never be completely eliminated, and because they need to be experienced, they offer transitory moments of radical pluralisation. Thinking and acting on this basis is a form of resistance against essentialism and naturalistic misconceptions, against the absolute, and unshakable identities, and also against the corrosive powers of uncertainty. So, can music and art provide us with methods to move towards new societal horizons? Can we maintain a productive, idealistic kind of perseverance – a persistence of the transitory?

The persistence of transience is not only a fitting allegory for CTM Festival’s 20-year anniversary, it also describes an attempt to think of collectiveness, community, and subcultures as fleeting, experience-based associations. It’s a framework for considering them as testing grounds for collective speculation rather than rigid or exclusive constructs. CTM has always strived to provide a forum that facilitates exchange and networking between different creative communities, while at the same time fostering open spaces of possibility that also allow those who are non-associated to navigate the interstices and try things out.

In order to keep such spaces open, however, we must also insist on stable economic conditions. To survive as an artist and to maintain communities and spaces of open discourse make for great challenges worldwide. We urgently need concepts, tools and structures that enable music and cultural creators to continuously experiment in a self-determined manner and to freely associate themselves. CTM’s 20th anniversary edition – which was for a long time unimaginable to us – brings together many actors and initiatives across music, culture, and technology to imagine, discuss and celebrate open and pluralistic structures.