Nestled within the sprawling green hills in central Ibiza, four DJs from different backgrounds have come together to instil a powerful message; that regardless of what state the world we find ourselves is in, together, despite it all, we are all human beings. Here in this garden of imagination, they embody this notion by sharing in an experience with hundreds of passionate people on the dancefloor.
This group of forward-thinking individuals, dubbed the Cultural Crusaders, consists of London-born, U.S-based DJ, producer, artist and curator BEARCAT, London-based DJ and Pxssy Palace co-founder Nadine Artois, Shanghai-based co-founder of the all-female and LGBTQI+ focused collective NVSHU Amber Akilla and Rishab Joshi, one half of Indian DJ duo Lost Stories and co-founder of the Lost Stories Academy DJ school. While each member of this collective is from a different background, they all believe that a notion of acceptance and inclusivity needs to be amplified.
Brought together at The Gardenarium, Absolut and elrow’s debut music festival at Cova Santa, where revelers are encouraged to leave inhibitions and prejudices at the door, embrace the unique side of their personality and take off the masks they wear as everyday humans.
In dance music there’s an inherent nature of acceptance that’s not found anywhere else in society. People share a strong connection on the dancefloor when locked into the same rhythms. Now more than ever, it’s important to establish these safe spaces where people are welcomed for who they are. For Nadine Artois and their Pxssy Palace event series, establishing a safe space is not as simple as one might think, suggesting people need to actively think about their intention when attempting to do so.
“I don't like to use the word ‘safe space’ because it doesn't exist,” Nadine declares. “Instead we say ‘intentional’. Our intention at Pxssy Palace is to make it as safe as we can, but we can't control everyone there. The problems that we're trying to fight at Pxssy Palace are sexual violence within club culture and wider society. These are problems we also face within the dance music community. The community is not perfect and we're not trying to make it this perfect place. We're trying to see where there are holes that can be filled and we’re filling those holes where necessary.”
At The Gardenarium these holes were addressed by establishing an atmosphere that reflected the collective’s values. This celebration of life and humanity brought forth a new element to the isle of Ibiza unlike anything that’s taken place there before. The unique collaboration between Absolut and elrow delivered an array of interactive experiences that pushed the boundaries of imagination. Once the gates opened it was as if stepping into a world free of judgement and discrimination, where there was nothing holding one back from positively embracing their neighbor.
It’s this radiating energy that’s at the heart of Absolut and elrow's vision behind their collaboration of events. The Cultural Crusaders played an important role at The Gardenarium in harnessing this energy for the Ibiza crowd. A sentiment they apply in their own lives to work towards, pushing this progressive message to the public, whether that be through DJ sets, cultural consultation or organizing events. BEARCAT, who is part of the Discwoman collective and has provided creative direction for live events and festivals such as Afropunk, Glastonbury, Reading and Lovebox, as well as her own event Seltzer that provides space for black and brown queer bodies, expressed why this initiative with Absolut and elrow is so crucial for spreading a message of inclusivity, something that was felt in full force at The Gardenarium.
“For me it's very important to be part of something like this,” BEARCAT states emphatically post-rave. “It's very touching. I kind of cast myself as the underground and I feel like I am underground. So, for someone like me to be part of such a campaign that’s bringing communities together and creating visibility, I think that inspires a lot of people. If someone who is looking at me or sees me doing this and it reflects back at them, maybe they can feel that they are able to embrace this message too. And that's the whole point of what my work is."
“I don't know if in my lifetime everyone will be treated equally, but the message that we are all human is something that needs to be emphasized. I don't know if I'll see that in my lifetime, but I'm here for it. I'm someone that can never guarantee a safe space. I will not call my event a safe space, because I can't guarantee that. Instead I do everything in my power to work towards that. I feel like that's the same ethos with Absolut and elrow’s project. These little baby steps in a hundred years from now can lead to incredible progress.”
This progress BEARCAT alluded to happened in real time at The Gardenarium. As Seth Troxler and Gideön took the festival deep into the night with tracks like Cinthie’s remix of JVXTA’s 'Brawn' and other bits of soulful house, it became clear that a cohesive energy was taking over. With glowing neon greenery hanging from the ceiling and surrounding the hidden cave of the DJ booth, the party was given new life as a distinct harmony was felt throughout the dancefloor. A sea of rainbow lights drenched every reveller, creating an atmosphere where The Gardenarium and the Ibiza crowd became one. Throughout the colorful filter it was impossible to see someone else’s status by what they looked like or what they were wearing. Instead everyone was letting go of their place in society to become part of this accepting community.
Outside of The Gardenarium, Nadine Artois is constantly working to instill these values and educate the public so that queer, trans and intersex people of color can live with more acceptance in society and they hope this new initiative by Absolut and elrow can make a real impact. They see this as an outlet to help amplify their message, which is greatly needed.
“If not for Absolut, elrow and The Gardenarium, this message can't be amplified in the way that I want it to. No matter how hard I try, I can’t amplify it in that way. This support from them is a way for me to put my message across to more people and therefore amplify the community I’m a part of and the musicians I connect with. This is the idea of not only inclusivity, but also striving for change.”
Continuing to spread this message of inclusivity, acceptance and freedom of expression around the world, Absolut and elrow have big plans for the years to come. The Gardenarium is just one of 30 festivals and nightlife experiences they are hosting in 10 countries across the world, including Absolut’s pink cathedral at elrow Town Amsterdam. As all of the upcoming sessions will be following suit with what took place in Ibiza, expect thousands more to embrace this message on the dancefloor and beyond. And the world will be that much better for it.