- Invent instruments and find objects for myself to play on, make sound sculptures/environments/installations/performances/poems and has also made a little sculpture and visual art.
At the same time, I've always but occasionally done critical writing on the subjects/themes of music, instruments, philosophy, politics, surrealism and skepticism.
- My creative point of view originates in surrealism which is a more or less moral attitude about the human condition and potential with not only artistic but also political and philosophical consequences.
Hence, the choice of art form is not so essential but the choice of attitude towards human creativity and human life and its conditions. The relations, criticisms and independence from the academy, press and other representatives of the art world, and whatever is established as “successful” or “good culture”, is very distanced. In fact, we often avoid to talk about art and artists whenever possible, and prefer to talk about imagination, sensibility, the poetic phenomenon, adventure, opposition and revolt. However, the outcomes of creativity manifest themselves very often in this society as art. Many of my things are hard to label between visual or musical art, if it's an instrument or installation, if it's a performance piece or a composition or an instrument, which makes me wonder how to e.g. categorize it on my website or whenever someone asks for a label. The reason I don't care so much which form it is, is that I don't care about the limits between the arts, or the concepts, or to be specialized in a field, and because the important thing for me is not to master an instrument or a technique, or to be established on a scene but to follow my inspiration wherever that takes me. Professionalism, education and labels are irrelevant in this view, but the power of the imagination and of the images created on the psyche and the whole human organism are what matters.
- In the surrealist circles very often through collective games, like different versions of “translation” games where one thing inspires something new through free association. I especially like games involving walks in the city, where you can find things on the street or give spontaneous gifts to each other, which are meant to be “interpreted” into something else, in whatever medium. I have also had concerts where someone presents pictures or objects to be interpreted directly into music. That seems to work without any problem or hesitation.
I've also worked with poems and let them suggest ways to work with materials to make sounds with.
With words and images, if you care about them, I often prefer to collaborate with them on a timeline, like a dialog and not simultaneously, since that tends to be the cliché with live sounds and “visuals” where neither influences or cares about the other. It doesn't have to be wrong, but it often seems unthought of and unnecessary.
When I started to perform with unusual instruments, like the saw, I was at first disturbed by the audience's interest for the visual side, and was perhaps prejudiced from some people in the Stockholm improvised music milieu, who despised anything that resembled humor or theatre in music.
I soon got rid of this feeling and instead embraced all feelings, aspects and associations that come with a musical performance. I was also then inspired by the books of music sociologist Christopher Small that sees music as a human ritual where a load of relationships are established and a virtual ideal society is created between the participants within a limited time and space.
To go into present detail, I've had a problem with the setup I use since 4 years, which is very visual. I use lots of small objects on a table but that's hard to see for an audience, even if I place myself on the floor and avoid an elevated stage, like here in Riga 2010. I've tried a couple of times with a camera mounted on my head or over the table, but it seems problematic anyway. Maybe it's enough to let people visit the table after the concert, as I usually do, or see it on film, or not see it at all.
Recently I've started a new collaboration with Tuia Cherici who improvises visually with objects and materials and projects it with active filming. We decided to try to mix our methods and she used my part of the table as objects and as a “stage” for her objects and I intruded into her area a bit too. Maybe the solution is to collaborate with someone like her, that specifically cares about my objects as visual things instead of trying to combine it myself.
I have also, I should mention, made different pieces inspired by political (the police violence and riots in Göteborg 2001)
or mythical events (the crash landing of a UFO in usa in the 50s)
that interested me, or a specific acoustic idea (analyzing Hitler's speech voice, or specific instruments that I play).
All of the below are 100% recommended as absolutely wonderful artists. They are all multi-disciplinary in some sense, and I recommend them without hesitation and with total enthusiasm!
- Sally Golding (uk/australia) – film maker that uses the film machinery as sound source and her own body as a “screen” etc http://www.sallygolding.com/
- Diane Landry (Quebec city) – installations and performance pieces involving parts of musical instruments related to human breathing or the “breathing” of umbrellas, combined with shadow play http://dianelandry.com/
- Martin Klapper (cz/København) – film maker and collagist using found film http://www.nurnichtnur.de/artists/klapper.htm
- Adam Bohman (London) – collagist and cut-up-poet that often uses his micro-cassette recorder with daily observances as a source for sound pieces, or cut up menus for the same purpose http://www.stalk.net/paradigm/pd09.html
- Vinyl Terror and Horror (dk/Berlin) – visual artists that started using gramophones as installation pieces and now as instruments http://vinylterrorandhorror.com
- Tuia Cherici/manucinema (it/Berlin) – mentioned above, live visual (and also musical) improviser with objects, materials and camera projection, explicitly inspired by improvised music in her work, often collaborates with musical improvisors http://www.manucinema.blogspot.com/
- Hal Rammel (Wisconsin) – cartoonist, visual artist, writer, radio host, musical instrument maker that likes to make instruments, often beautifully crafted and sometimes inspired by dreams, of which some are more exhibition objects than used as musical instruments http://www.halrammel.com/
- LaDonna Smith (Birmingham, Alabama) – viola/violinist/singer and also sculptor (clay) http://www.the-improvisor.com/transmuseq/ladonna/biograph.htm
- Davey Williams (Birmingham, Alabama) – guitarist, graphic artist who often involves objects or improvised stories in his playing http://www.the-improvisor.com/transmuseq/davey/
- Guds Söner/Sons Of God (Stockholm) – do anything, but probably started as visual artists, their work is often included in work related to other ideas http://thesonsofgod.com/
- Greg Pope (uk/Oslo) – film maker who manipulates film loops that can be seen in projection in order to make noise music with light sensors in collaboration with John Hegre http://gregpope.org/
- Jon Rose (australia) – violinist, musical instrument inventor, writer and radio art producer certainly looks for the odd, weird and humorous in his work which is often collage-like and uses fake personalities such as Johannes Rosenberg, which even has a museum of his own in Slovakia! http://www.jonroseweb.com/
- CC Hennix (se/Berlin) musician, composer, visual artist, mathematician, philosopher etc http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Christer_Hennix
- S-Å Johansson (se/Berlin) unique musician (drums with weird objects, improvised text, accordion with a back mirror), composer, visual artist http://www.sven-akejohansson.com/en/home/
- Luc Kerléo (Nantes) calles himself “a visual artist that works with sound”, which means not sound installation in the ordinary sense but defining a space/room through the use of electronic and other signals/sounds http://luc.kerleo.free.fr/
- James Brewster (uk/Malmö) electronic musician who is also a professional coffee barista – has an electronic coffee installation/performance where you buy your coffee with live electronic treatments of the sounds http://www.straydogarmy.co.uk/jb/
- Gregory Büttner (Hamburg) “acoustifies” electronic sounds with manipulating loudspeakers with objects etc, also film maker and graphic designer, and philosopher http://www.gregorybuettner.de/
- Birgit Ulher (Hamburg) trumpet player with radio projected into the trumpet for acoustic manipulation, has background as visual artist http://birgitulher.de/
- Axel Dörner (Berlin) trumpet player in improv and jazz, film maker http://www.efi.group.shef.ac.uk/musician/mdorner.html
Certainly. For a while I thought the term is misleading, but perhaps it's just a bit paradoxical. Improvised music in all its forms has certainly become established as an “oral tradition”, which also shows in that the ideology present in the beginning has largely vanished and much of it is in no way in opposition to anything anymore. The “experimental” is in some sense present in the method, on the micro-scale but maybe not so much on the conscious plane – with exceptions of course.
The experimental attitude which e.g. Stockhausen had, that every new piece also has to be conceptially new, or use a newly invented method or principle, is ambitious but not really necessary nor realistic, not even for himself. An important, maybe the most important, part of an art event is the community significance. And, to use the model of Christopher Small, this is in varying parts meaningful on the levels of confirming and celebrating as well as of exploring. This counts for “experimental” music as well, which confirms and celebrates (among other things) an ideal (or self-image) to be experimental, although it might not always be very exploratory. For me, the most important level of experimentation is what expands the view of ways to live together, or in other words, the field of possibilities.
To use the term “experimental” in public can also sometimes be a strategy to achieve more support from institutions, which, at least in sweden, usually say they want to support the “novel creativity” or such similar things, which is always a bit double-sided: where to apply for composing or performing music that is already a tradition since five, fifteen or fifty years? How old can the new be before it belongs to “traditional”, “classic” or “folk”? Are electronic instruments inherently experimental? Is “world music” traditional or experimental or just politically correct?
- To be conscious about the factors involved, in Small's concepts, which I think are valid in every musical situation, no matter how diverse:
- What relationships can we establish, and how do they help the above ends?
It's inevitable that the personalities of the organizers reflect on how to answer these questions. What's the social circumstances around the festival? What's interesting and inspiring to you, no matter how personal or nerdy? What's the ideal situations you want to create? My human motto is: if I'm myself actually passionate and interested in this thing that I do, then there should logically be the possibility that others are also interested. In that way, I think you create the strongest meetings.
A festival has to create a world to feel safe in, and it has to have the “fun aspect”, but it also has to challenge. The stronger the safety feeling, the more are people probably willing to be challenged. It's not so difficult to create situations which are only challenging, but don't take into account the social aspect. What to do with the experience, what significance does it have? How can you digest it, are you given time and a situation to do it in? Is it private or can it be shared? Does it create new links, new relationships? Otherwise it can be perceived as simply unpleasant, meaningless, pretentious or hostile. Not everyone needs to talk, but it's good to have a forum where you can talk if you want to, to meet the artists and talk to them on equal grounds. (That could also work as a press invitation, to help journalists to know what to write.)
- If the organizers are genuinly curious about odd and novel ways of playing, performing or meeting the audience, and to take chances to book unknown, interesting and risky things that noone knows about, that can't boast an artistic education or press reviews, then there will be an experimental element. If it cares too much about what they perceive as “feelgood”, already established and “hip” artists or other public demands, then it looses the edge. That can happen due to change of personality, social environment, fear, pressure, commercial or political demands or compromises etc.
- I think the participatory aspect is usually too small. Too much focus on performers as stars. I think the real importance of a festival is in the meeting, and the varying forms of meetings between the artists and interested visitors should be expanded. Everyone that could have a workshop, presentation or Q&A session should have one. Interview the artists. Challenge them as much as the audience! Too much in festivals is just motivated by building up careers, cvs and credentials, and I really hate how artists are presented as successful, educated and generally as some kind of stars and semigods. It's very much their own fault too, and it shouldn't be encouraged. That's not experimental at all, it's ego and part of the general personality market.
Just because something is needed, like e.g. more critical thinking on more levels, doesn't mean it will happen. The forces of conformity, stupidity, gullibility, commercialism and the enticements of success and career are way much stronger. But it's our responsibility to do what we can to present an alternative that might work as an encouragement to people who suspect that the middle-of-the-road is not all there is. This can be extremely important, but it's usually not on the mass level, it's on a personal level, one by one, often through personal meetings.
To make massive advertisements that cost enormous amounts of money is, I think, mostly the wrong way of thinking, it belongs to mass culture, not experimental ideas. Advertisements need short, catchy, slogans. Experimental culture needs time and space to delve, reflect and digest. It needs conditions in which both the brain and the body can absorb and react.
Also, we always have too small budgets. We need to economize. I think the right idea is to rely mostly on voluntary work, underground and DIY environments, participatory possibilities on a regular basis: collectives that gather and have a place of their own where they can use as much of their imagination and freedom of expression as possible, as long as possible. Possibilities to try out new things, new collaborations, new forms. Don't start with advertisements and big events. Start with community building and drop the ego of being a leader. Think of the common good that reaches each individual if you collaborate.
As above: at least equal portions of being inspired as a spectator and of being able to interact as a curious person (and not only students!).
- Gain: mixing audiences and challenge their superstitions and prejudices, which can be very great! Many concert goers never go to exhibitions or lectures, many workshop participants don't go to concerts, many visual artists have ridiculous musical taste and extreme lack of knowledge about music.
- Loose: the art might loose in power if things are artificially mixed. Collaborations between the arts should be genuine and not artificial or superficial. I certainly don't mean that parallel events (like sound + visuals) need to be obviously linked, but sometimes they could gain by being separate. Another thing is all those “new media technologies” performances that are easily funded but create meaningless content where all you think of when you watch it is “how does this dancer interface actually influence the sound and does it really matter” etc.
Is the ever-evolving search for new forms, new languages and the ‘’need for novelty’’ that characterizes experimental music actually fruitful?
Of course – in general and in the long run. It's ways of finding new ways to communicate – sometimes it fails, sometimes succeeds, that's part of the search, otherwise it wouldn't be experimental. “Need for novelty” could also be called curiosity or the wish not to be bored. That's what keeps us alive. (Charles Darwin: “In the long history of humankind, and of animalkind too, those who learn to collaborate and improvise most effectively have prevailed.”)
Absolutely – if you with “artwork” mean the artistic experience. And so is the architecture, the economical conditions, the design of light and sound technology, if there are foods and drinks available, the stage-audience relationship etc, all contribute to the significance or mythical contents of the event.
In our economical society, with a very pressed socio-economic situation and personality market which reflects it, it's impossible for an organizer to stand aside independently. A festival is in itself sort of an artwork.
However, I'd like to say that I detest organizers that establish their authority more than necessary. To be an organizer or curator is also a career. I think a “we're all in this together and noone is more worth than anyone else” attitude is much more fruitful and interesting. No artist or organizer is better than the cleaner or volunteer that mops the vomit and picks the bottles the next morning. It wouldn't be any festival without them. I can tell you an example of an organizer with the wrong attitude, who thought of himself as a star and everyone else were meningless or inferior to him, just tools for his career game. But that would take too much time.
If an organizer is an artist and has the egalitarian attitude, I see no problem for them to participate as artists too, unless they abuse it for their economical gain.