Introducing: La Mission

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Interview by Sarah Benhaiem, Berlin ethologist and clubber.

What have Pablo Roman Alcala aka Beaner, Mandie O’Connell and Luis-Manuel Garcia been up to with their hybrid project La Mission? Cult, label, magazine, art project and more, explained in its founders’ words.

SB: What is La Mission exactly?

Beaner: It is a situationist art project, a record label, a magazine, an experimental theater/performance group and a quasi-cult(!). We aim to raise social, political or current art-related issues, but express them in a light and satirical way. This project is about creating an artistic community, a new collective system to make good things possible, independently from marketing or profit considerations. It also refers to the Latino-American neighborhood, the Mission district in San Francisco, where I grew up. Therefore, in a way, it also relates to the questions of minority identity, origins and exile…

SB: When was it born?

Beaner: I started thinking about this version of the project three years ago. I discussed the idea with Mandie last year when we officially founded La Mission, and Luis joined us a bit later. It then took us nine months to build it, do all the crowdfunding campaigns, and release the first record at the end of January 2013.

SB: Who are the main people involved in this project and what are their contributions?

Beaner: I am a DJ and producer based in Berlin. I am mainly involved in the music section, but involved in the other aspects as well.

Mandie: I come from a theatre/performance background. My performances are based on the content and theme of each record, so I adapt myself to the music, and not the other way around.  I am responsible for the performance aspect of La Mission, but have a lot of help from both Pablo and Luis.  Luis is a music ethnologist responsible for the majority of the editing of the magazine. He is also involved in the crowdfunding and performances. In fact, our roles are not fixed and exclusive. We all participate in everything.. There are also many other people involved in our project; photographers, designers, costumers, filmmakers…


SB: Who inspires you?

Mandie: Louise Michel, a French revolutionary and anarchist militant, is of particular importance to us. She was a member of the Paris Commune, courageous and altruistic. She never stopped fighting for her ideas and helping others, even after being exiled and thrown in prison for several years, which must have been particularly challenging for a woman at that time…We wanted to pay tribute to this major figure, and placed her portrait on our records, membership cards and magazines.

Beaner: She is sort of a chosen patron saint, though she  functions more as a representation of our ideals than as a hero-worship entity.

SB: Tell us more about the record releases.

Beaner: Each release (vinyl + magazine + live performance in Berlin) addresses a specific issue.. All the music, performances, and texts, relate to an overarching theme, that of divesture from captial. The first release was an introduction, a preamble mission statement, a bit weird and all over the place…Our second record addresses the pursuit of utopia, collectivism, hierarchy and the human condition. Because we are involved in cross-disciplinary projects and propose socio-political ideas behind each record, our approach is quite different from other traditional record label releases. And the whole project uses crowd funding to finance itself rather than revenues from record sales.

SB: Many criticise the use of historically important political speech in electronic music; do you think politics and electronic music can be mixed?

Beaner: Well, historically, techno in Detroit and house music in Chicago, and the disco that preceded them are by their very nature political. See the militancy of Underground Resistance as an example, or the police raids of gay discos. We think that dancing and having fun is a political act in itself, especially when you are a minority living with societal oppression. The idea that techno and politics do not mix is in fact a relatively new one… Libertarian individualism and it’s relation to hedonism is more a product of current political climes than an inherent part of dance music culture.

SB: When will be your next gigs and events?

Mandie: On March 29th and 30th, we will  present the next experimental performance connected to the second EP.This will be performed at Import Projects, a gallery in Charlottenburg. Beaner will DJ around town and abroad, as usual. We might have a La Mission event at FluxBau in May, and we will potentially participate in two artistic residencies this year in Prague and Osaka, Japan. Ah, and we plan to release four more records/missions in 2013, one in April, with limited copies, and three more following that one. But don’t wait, join us now!