The Power of Listening:
Forecast 8

“Generous listening” is an alternative way of receiving – and processing – information. The term refers to the act of listening empathetically and trying to see the world from another person’s perspective. It has several applications, from interpersonal therapy to successful workplace management, and its importance to the arts is in the transfer of ideas. The concept was at the heart of this year’s annual Forecast Festival. In his opening speech, Artistic Director Freo Majer recognised generous listening as integral to successful artistic collaborations, acknowledging how it transforms passive listeners into active participants.

Forecast, now in its eighth year, is a Berlin-based initiative dedicated to “facilitating, mentoring, and promoting trailblazing creative practices and audacious artistic practitioners.” Following a period of open submission, shortlisting, presentation and selection, Forecast pairs six successful entrants – often emerging artists – with more established creators working across photography, fashion, poetry, performance, film and sound. It’s a collaborative process through which projects are produced, showcased, discussed and, in many instances, activated via audience participation.

The 2024 Festival was a celebration of diverse and experimental practices. On the roster was a dynamic sound installation inspired by the Bolivian Highlands, as well as a so-called “kidney activation” through which performance artists raised awareness of pesticides and their connection to organ failure. The selected mentees were inspired by personal narratives as well as ongoing social and ecological issues, leading them to engage with wide-reaching themes from fashion pollution to the intergenerational trauma of the 1973 Chilean coup. These are challenging topics, yet Forecast presented them in works filled with life, vibrancy and ingenuity – galvanising the audience with a sense of humour, intimacy and protest.

Designer and filmmaker Aidan Jayson Peters presented a combined fashion show and moving-image piece titled Deadstock – Life of a Garment. It’s a powerful project that underscores the environmental impact of the clothing industry by spotlighting Dunusa, Johannesburg’s most famous flea market. Inundated with discarded European garments baled together in mismatched 50-kilogram bundles, the site is described as “a chaotic vortex” filled with people digging for buried treasure. Peters’ own collection is formed from scavenged Danusa Market items. They have been upcycled and “redirected” into dynamic, avant-garde high-fashion looks inspired by African street-style. This “fashion protest” is crucial; right now, vast quantities of unsold items from the market are being sent to giant landfills. Moreover, even its sold items are having a negatively impact on the local textile industry.

Elsewhere was filmmaker Gustavo Gomes’ Manhandle, a docufiction created using testimonials collected from survivors at the Centre for Violence Against Men. The film is hard-hitting – it deals with male sexual violence – whilst being stylistically surreal and fantastical. Enclosed spaces, such as storage containers and drag stages, embody a sense of claustrophobia and vulnerability, whilst masks offer a protective yet isolating anonymity.  Gomes’ use of subtitles is striking; at several points throughout the film they deviate from faithfully reflecting the audio, instead forging a dual narrative. Here, Manhandle reflects a disconnect between what is being said, what is being heard, and truths which cannot be voiced aloud.

Forecast 8 also saw the premiere of Mari Kalabegashvili’s photographic installation, If You Catch My Drift, which presents urban environments as extreme playgrounds. The double-screen picto-narrative offers a look inside rally and street racing subcultures via images produced on-the-ground in Tbilisi, Armenia, Croatia and Egypt. There are the expected action shots of cars spinning or suspended in mid-air, but these are outnumbered by photographs capturing the wider context and community. We see jovial roadside gatherings under the cover of darkness as well as skid marks, debris, displaced gravel and surgery scars that hint at races gone by. Moreover, many shots are defined by abstraction – contextless neon lights, anonymous apartment blocks, a Mercedes logo shrouded in fog and fumes, as well as multiple pictures which are blurred and out of focus, having been captured from the window of a speeding vehicle. These images portray rapid movement and a sense of disorientation. It’s a visual metaphor for the subculture and the liminal space it occupies – on the peripheries of society and legality.

These projects are testament to how fruitful generous listening can be, amplifying the often-unheard voices of different subcultures, underrepresented communities and survivors. The message: now, it’s your turn. Audiences come away with the duty – and privilege – to continue this labour of listening.

Nominees for the 2025 Edition of Forecast Festival will be announced on 7 May, with audiences invited to engage with shortlisted projects from 4-5 August as part of the Forecast Forum.

Words: Megan Hobson

1. Aidan Jayson Peters, DEADSTOCK. Photo: Jack Markovitz.

2. Mari Kalabegshvili, If You Catch My Drift. Forecast Festival. March 2024, Radialsystem Berlin © Forecast Photo: Camille Blake

3. Gustavo Gomes, Still from Manhandle, STUDIOPRAMUDIYA.

4. Gustavo Gomes, Still from Manhandle, STUDIOPRAMUDIYA.

5. Mari Kalabegshvili, If You Catch My Drift, 2023.