Last weekend we attended the very first edition of FRAC Festival: an event organized by CRAC (Contemporary Art Research Center) in the deep south of Italy, in Calabria. Aieta, a tiny, ancient, evocative village on the hill overlooking one of the most beautiful corners of the Tyrrhenian Sea, was the location designated to showcase an eclectic mix of visual installations, live and DJ sets. In the village palace's Renaissance courtyard, turned tropical garden, we had the chance to attend shows by international headliners such as Koreless, Ghostpoet and Voices From the Lake, along with a bunch of niche artists from the Italian electronic scene who made everyone dance until sunrise.
An amazing beach party beginning at sunset and continuing well into the night wrapped up the event with featured DJ sets by local artists who are worth a listen: Robert Eno and Luca Gentile. We met Nicoletta Grasso, art director of the new festival, and had a little chat with her to learn something else about her project in the aftermath of its debut event.
What is CRAC?
Crac is a Contemporary Art Research Center located in Lamezia Terme, Calabria. It’s a former IT school that will be active as of September thanks to a government grant for startups that we were allotted last year. After one year of hard work with a general makeover of the physical space, today we are proud of our beautiful and functional location: we have a big gallery with a coffee area, three project rooms, an auditorium and two offices. Moreover, we are going to be able to organize live shows and performances. September will mark the start of all our activities: exhibitions, experimental theatre and contemporary dance festivals, workshops, artist-in-residence programs.
What was the concept behind FRAC?
Frac stems from a strong desire to “create” in Calabria, an unchartered territory as far as this specific subject matter is concerned, yet beautiful and uncontaminated from a geographical point of view. The idea was to create an international festival that could embrace different artistic fields: live shows, video/sound, visual and performing arts and experimental theatre. All of this was to be set in a historically important building like Aieta’s Renaissance palace, in all of its astonishing architectural glory.
Tell us something about the location. Why did you settle on Aieta?
I was looking for the perfect place in Calabria and, quite frankly, I would have loved to make this dream come true close to Lamezia, my hometown and the city where CRAC is located. In terms of logistics, it would have facilitated transport issues because of its proximity to the airport. Nevertheless, as soon as I crossed the threshold of the palace in Aieta I fell completely in love.
What about the line up? It was very eclectic yet everything came out perfectly balanced, in my opinion.
Yes! We wanted to embrace different musical genres trying to create two different theme days: one more electronic oriented and the other more indie. That’s why we chose Koreless and Voices From the Lake as headliners, two important names in the ambient/electronic and techno scene, together with Franz Rosati; and the day after, we had Ghostpoet, a leading artist from the post hip hop scene with his overwhelming voice… I remember the first time I saw him live at MIT in town, in Rome, I was astonished by his performance of the Peanut Butter Blues & Melancholy Jam album. It was love at first sight, so much so that I remember thinking, “should I ever organize my very own festival, he’ll be the first headliner I call.” I can say that we definitely wanted to start with a bang!
We had an amazing time and hopefully we'll be coming back next year. Are you guys planning another edition?
Absolutely, we are going to start working on the second edition of FRAC very soon. For next year, besides the visual arts exhibitions and all the live shows and DJ sets, we would also like to host some experimental theatre and dance shows. Moreover, we want to expand the location to the whole village and not only in the palace. Every corner of Aieta, churches, private gardens and buildings, will host our live shows and performances. See you at FRAC Festival 2016!