Decadence XVII Anniversary

Celebrating a new year of Decadence.

“This is the world where I come from and it is the reflection and origin of yours. A timeless place, crowded in dense darkness. Here is your past, your present and your future. Harmonious and gloomy as the sound of thousands flapping wings of ancient Gods chanting their obscure life ceremonies.”

An exclusive photo coverage of Decadence’s XVII anniversary party at Dumbo in Bologna earlier this month and an intimate conversation with Carlo Valentine, the founder and artistic director of Decadence. Also a soul burning selection of tracks curated by Valentine for our latest Soundscapes release to get you in the right mood for their upcoming castle party this Saturday April 2nd at Castello del Capitano delle Artiglierie.

We dare you to go to all depths and lengths to investigate the space in between, a space where lived experiences can be art itself. Become your own person, your own ongoing process of intimate reflection. No rules, no boundaries, bliss out with abandon to discover everything that lies on the other side of fear. Out of time, out of place, just absolute existence where you don’t need to become but you are desire itself until the day breaks and the shadows flee away.

Decadence stands for “an extreme expression of elegance and diversity, a cultural movement unique in its kind”. How did it all come about and who are the key players behind it?

Decadence is a driving force that’s born with self-respect. The key element behind it is the egregore. If you don’t know Decadence, you don’t know yourself.

How did you end up choosing the name “Decadence”, is there any particular story behind this choice?

I didn’t choose Decadence, it just happened. You cannot talk about it, or process thoughts, without first mentioning the word itself. How can you tell when something is truly yours? When it is carved deeply within you, as an integral part: that’s how. I wanted something which reflected that feeling each one gets when finally letting go after a long period of restrictions. Of course, the word itself has its own etymological history and has taken on different meanings in different languages. In French, it denotes decline or deterioration, while in English it refers to excessive self-indulgence. Our Decadence encompasses who we are, what we do: we push boundaries and blur the lines between art and excess.

How/where were the very first events organised, what changed most throughout the years and how did the crowd evolved?

The crowd evolves when it decays into indecency. Since its inception in Bologna in 2005, Decadence has been a roof for many subcultures. Over the years, BDSM community has been growing exponentially. The culture oriented over style and submission that prevails within this particular subgroup, then, gave birth not only to its fashion, but also the opportunity to experience one’s passions within the community.

Decadence has travelled around Europe in intriguing castles, historical mansions and sumptuous villas. How different is it to party in this kind of locations rather that in the usual club?

What characterizes our events in locations other than clubs is the apparel, more akin to this type of place, and also the way of experiencing such event, which in clubs is often music-oriented instead; in the villas and castles the dress style is sophisticated and rather gothic. The halls of the locations, reminiscent of history, are set up with bondage equipment, the focus is more on art exhibitions, magical practices and the music can be from classical to darkwave/electronics. Inside some of these venues there are also museums. In the club there is certainly a greater energy, an excess in which the experience is lived physically in an intense way: the dress is more naughty and fetish, leather or postpunk oriented; we host live concerts, body modification performances, there are the hardest underground musical genres and themed events for people with specific interests and preferences for clothes, focuses on medical dress-up culture, for example or dedicated to fetish uniforms.

What is the most common misinterpretation about your work and Decadence?

A social, structural and bodily interpretation couldn’t accurately capture its essence, because Decadence goes way beyond such boundaries.

Decadence has hosted some extraordinary artists and performers over the years. Are there any particular acts that stand out in your memory? Or someone who you particularly desire to collaborate for the next editions?

Visage played in Italy for the first and only time on the stage of Decadence; Steve Strange died shortly after. Psycho Cyborgs and Aesthetic Meat Front have left an unforgettable mark also, being the most extreme performers worldwide. I remember people fainting during the show! P.Cs is one-of-a-kind experience, in all times: some of their shows’ blood paintings have been exhibited in Parisian art galleries. Thoughts become real, so: if I had to choose someone we have never hosted, I’d say Haus Arafna, a highly controversial band that has never performed live by choice.

Tell us about the music you like playing at Decadence, how do you usually prepare your DJ set? Have you ever considered producing your own music?

I like to provide rare music, gems from decades past, songs from eastern Europe that are unknown and almost impossible to find. I try to play the same tracks in different sets, in order to get the audience acquainted to them, make them “catchy”. I love to mix very different genres, blend all the varied types of participants in one single dancefloor. New beat, minimal synth, industrial, deathrock, techno, ndw, italodark all coexist in my sets, all united by an obscure sound which is suitable for the type of event. I don’t pre-plan anything at home, I have to be overwhelmed by the situation; until just before, I am waiting for the epiphany to start with, that’s why I use 4 or 5 devices at the same time. Once I produced a song which was included in the Decadence compilations (now unavailable, probably because the album covers were censored in several countries). I would love to produce other songs, but at the moment I am focusing on film production and writing. A book of mine will be released: “Madonne”, an observation of the figure of the Woman through the Sacred Scriptures, a work that deals with religion and BDSM.

What are you listening at the moment?

The noise of the hair dryer switched on in the bathroom, two TVs in the living room, one in the bedroom, the extractor hood and a background song that doesn’t captivate me or disturb me, played by a bluetooth speaker placed in the stove to reverberate. The entirety of these elements combined is an orchestra that reaches perfection when none of such instruments overrides the other, until it becomes the background to my actions, a soundscape of everyday life, for hours and hours until I decide to move or change some. It’s not just the sound but also the colours, images or contents that I indirectly absorb.

Which was your first fetish experience? What drew you to this scene in particular? Do you personally practice it as lifestyle?

Well, the encounter with the Lord and the Catholic schools, these were my first fetish experiences. After all, we are well aware how much corporal punishment and submission appeal to religion. By discovering God, I got to know fetishism! When I created Decadence there was no real fetish scene, especially in Italy; I was intrigued by the looks, the sense of mystery and unknown that one could sense from that world.

Fetishism as a deviation of the drive or sexual instinct (Freud) or as an elevation where the erotic affirms the inner life of man and, as such, is sacred (Bataille). To which school of thought do you feel more close to?

None of the above, I have my own personal vision, ideas that come from my different interests and fields of study. As I said before, I attended Catholic schools, so the religious theme has always been part of my life; from there, I approached esotericism, I obtained a degree in metaphysics and high competence in bibliology. Precisely starting from these researches, I began to write reflections on God, magick studies, passions and experiences met while creating Madonne.

Tell us a bit about the various areas within Decadence. Do you feel that the needs/requests/fetishes and people’s interests have changed with time?

Today, Decadence unites several subcultures under the same roof, varied but united by a passion for obscure and extreme forms of art. Initially, such realities were divided, the strongest and most characterised subcultures being Goth and BDSM. Over the years, the apparel of both genres has become similar. From leather to latex, it is possible now to talk about a simil-fetish clothing, a distinctive dress code that embraces all such different realities. You can hear people say “I dress in Decadence style”.

Nowadays, in a post–Fifty Shades of Grey-world fetishistic themes and iconography have been increasingly integrated into the mainstream more than ever before. Let’s take for example latex, long seen as something niche, that used to be taboo and that now is celebrated with hyper-visibility on the runway and in some of the most commercial fashion magazines. What is your take on this phenomenon, is it a positive one for those true and devoted to the scene?

The explosion of latex, both in the media and on the catwalks, was something that also benefited BDSM lovers. Compared to a few years ago, prices have now decreased and the availability of this type of clothing has increased. Before, very few people knew how to handle the material and the clothes were custom made. Everyone has a fetish, BDSM is something rooted in all of us. I believe that an interest in BDSM clothing can push people to hang around certain environments and discover their passions (their fetishes). Those with a true alternative soul will always stand out in style with a touch of uniqueness. I also want to add that before 50 Shades of Gray there was Pan Play Decadence, in cinemas and festivals, which won several awards and explored the obsessions connected to the body and mind of some of Decadence’s most loyal protagonists.

What sexual taboos you feel are yet to be challenged?

All sexuality still is a taboo, it is a subject so scrutinised, judged, that one feels obliged to have to communicate one’s sexual preferences or gender publicly, in order to be figured out and accepted.

Which films/books/music/artists influenced most your work, lifestyle and way of thinking so far?

The Bible, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”, William Friedkin’s “Cruising”, with Al Pacino sent deep undercover into leather bars, which song track ‘Walk the Night’ has been a Decadence hit.

 Reveal us a secret.

I don’t like heels, the whole body appears to me as in a sort of aesthetic aniseikonia. I have a fetish for a certain kind of leg, a shape that’s clear in my mind, of which I have a private collection of photos taken by myself that could one day become an exhibition. I also don’t like naked bodies, even if they are perfect. I think that beauty, as you at Nasty know well, passes through the dress.

Listen to Soundscapes vol.89, a playlist curated by Carlo Valentine

Decadence XVII Anniversary


Decadence / @decadence_official
Artist: Carlo Valentine / @carlo_valentine
Photography: Marco Giuliano / @marcogiulianoph
Interview: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei

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