When Krisma Reinvented Music TV

When Krisma Reinvented Music TV

In 1993 a villa caught fire in Gignese, a town between Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta: photos from local newspapers show what remains, the skeleton of a large satellite dish. In that villa, the Krisma, namely Maurizio Arcieri and Christina Moser, had been living for almost 10 years: they had transformed their house into a recording studio where they experimented with their music and with the images captured by that dish.

In the late ’90s, the duo – who had topped the charts in the early ’80s with the electropop of “Many Kisses” and “Cathode Mamma” – would found Krisma TV, a cutting-edge satellite channel funded by Eutelsat, which combined live broadcasts from the Cocoricò club in Riccione (where they had moved to DJ) with a sort of techno blob.
That cutting-edge experiment will be celebrated next July 26th at the Stresa Festival, in the woods of Gignese, a few hundred meters from where the Krisma villa was located. The event is part of the “Young” section of the historic classical, jazz and contemporary music festival that takes place on Lake Maggiore: in the same place, guitarist Trace Bundy will perform (July 24th) while on the 25th Anna Castiglia (recent winner of Musicultura) will play; in the main festival, among others, Ludovico Einaudi (July 17th) and Giovanni Sollima will arrive in Stresa, in the tranche that takes place from the end of August to September. Krisma TV is a project by producer Bienoise with vocalist Olga Condry, born from a proposal by Teho Teardo, who participated in the festival in 2023.

What were the Krisma?

“Krisma represented the quintessence of Italian post-punk culture,” explains Francesco Maria Spampinato, art historian and professor at the University of Bologna. “As experimenters on the musical front at least as much as on the audiovisual one, creating capsules of reflection on issues at the heart of the reflux era such as the fragmentation of identity and the growing confusion between real and hyperreal caused by the definitive affirmation of television in those years, and by the spread of screens, personal computers and electronic devices.”

In particular, Krisma TV celebrated by the Bienoise concert at the Stresa Festival remains an avant-garde experiment, which tried to rewrite the codes of the television language of the period and its relationship with music. Krisma arrived there after having already worked in the 80s on the video clip, also collaborating with Mister Fantasy, the program by Carlo Massarini that in Italy went on Rai1 starting from the spring of ’81 even before MTV was born in America.
Spampinato, who dedicated an essay to Krisma TV, says that it was the pinnacle of the duo’s experimentation: it lasted 4 years, from 1998 to 2002, a live broadcast from Cocoricò that combined electronic music with looped images taken around the world. “It was a real metalinguistic device for the deconstruction of what in the early 1980s they had defined as the ‘Cathode Mamma’, or television”, explains the scholar.

“Produced by Eutelsat Communications, Krisma TV alternated live footage from Cocoricò with disorienting loops of samples from a variety of sources, distorted through fisheye and other lysergic editing techniques, set to a hypnotic soundtrack that ranged from techno to trance to goa.”

Krisma TV, Lake Maggiore and Subsonica

The choice of location for the event dedicated to Krisma is anything but casual: the Krisma villa in Gignese, on the slopes of Mottarone, was a meeting place with other artists and a place for experimentation – there, for example, the video for their “Be bop” was filmed with Red Ronnie, which was supposed to become their theme song for the host’s “Be bop a lula” (images of Vincenzo Muccioli’s trial were added to the video, and it was rejected by the record company). After the fire, the Krisma moved first to the Lombard shores of the lake, and then returned to the area, on Lake Orta, before going to Riccione where Krisma TV was born.

Krisma TV “is a project rooted in the territory”, explains Adele Paganini of Stresa Festival Young: “It takes shape through the fusion of influences and creativity: from Krisma, icons of Italian electronic experimentation, who have transformed the atmospheres of Stresa into an attraction for lovers of electronic music, to Bienoise, laptop composer, teacher and researcher with roots in Verbano-Cusio-Ossola”.
“The work was born at the explicit request of the Stresa Festival”, continues Alberto Ricca, aka Bienoise.

“Teho Teardo’s suggestion to celebrate Cristina and Maurizio’s work starting from their connection with Stresa has been happily accepted: we will be close to the place where their studio/chalet once stood, unfortunately burned down in 1993 but still remembered by those who met them around Vanzone”, the area of ​​Gignese where their chalet was located.

Ricca says that, like many of his generation, he met Krisma thanks to Subsonica, who called them for “Nuova ossessione” in 2002. “I frequented the world of avant-garde Italian rock a lot, and from there it was inevitable to get from Subsonica to Krisma. I immediately loved their punk and iconoclastic approach, from the video experiments produced for the Cocoricò in Riccione, which give the project its title, to a free and curious attitude that I still find very fresh”.

The Krisma TV event, explains Ricca, “is inspired by the last phase of the duo, more performative and less tied to the technical heaviness of the beginning. On stage I will be accompanied by Olga Condry, a London singer who accepted the challenge of translating Cristina’s charisma; behind the scenes there will be Fabio Brusadin, a transmedia technician with whom I have a close collaboration, and who has been irreplaceable in the work of research, restoration and formatting of the archive videos that will manifest the fundamental theme of the performance: that of an absence that continues to offer a clear alternative direction”. Maurizio Arcieri passed away in 2015, Cristina Moser in 2022, but their legacy remains alive.