marcopantella

———– Writer / Music re-views / inter-views / and my points of view ———– The GROUND Magazine / HungerTV

Tag: Bjork

A Conversation with SAMARIS

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We usually think of Iceland as a magic place, a mysterious island beyond time and space where Nature still runs its course peacefully. It’s true that music coming from Iceland, from Björk to Sigur Rós, is as breathtaking as the islands’ landscapes, but progress and modernity is something that won’t hesitate to step into this fairytale land. This is one the many things The GROUND found out talking with Jófríður Ákadóttir, the enchanting voice behind Samaris. The trio, including clarinet player Áslaug Rún Magnúsdóttir and electronic producer Þórður Kári Steinþórsson, is set to release their new album Silkidrangar on May 5th, a piece of work where pagan voices collide with minimal electronic bits, creating an alienated space that feels like the perfect place to reconnect with Nature.

Silkidrangar transcends language and symbolism, casting a spell on the listeners who will discover the authenticity of Samaris’ music and their beloved island. Talking about tradition, modernity and the importance of surrealism, Jófríður welcomes us in the glacial yet romantic world of Samaris.

 HOW DID SAMARIS CAME TOGETHER?

Áslaug and I have been friends for a long time, we both attended the same music school and played the clarinet. We were really bored of everyday life so, we started talking about making a band that would do something different. Áslaug knew about Þórður being a producer, they went to the same elementary school, and so we contacted him to explain the idea we had in mind. He was on our same wavelength and this is how we went to the studio in our school. The outcome was this: Samaris. It’s the name of this female character from François Schuiten’s graphic novel called ‘The Walls Of Samaris’

I GUESS THERE MUST BE A GREAT CHEMISTRY AMONG THE THREE OF YOU…

I guess we all have a great chemistry because we are all good friends. I think a lot about the melodies and chords’ structure, basically about the notes and the way they come together. Þórður thinks a lot about the sound and groove we want to give to the music. It is a very interesting process because we get inspirations from very different directions.

ARE THE LYRICS OF YOUR NEW ALBUM STILL BASED ON 19TH CENTURY’S POEMS

Yes, definitely. We kept on using that concept and develop it a little further; it’s very interesting to us because it represents the whole idea of combining everything we love. I love very much folk music and traditional music while Þórður is all about the 90s, house music and electro music. Áslaug brings in the classical elements, from the clarinet and her classical music training, so these combinations become our sound. This is our ground and when we create, we layer on top of it; it’s our inspiration.

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 WHAT ARE THEY ABOUT?

They all have some sort of mysterious feel to them, and they say a lot about Nature. Most of them are from the Romantic era, when poets were allowed to love Nature and had big feelings towards it; they respected Nature and were even scared of it: this is something we do really appreciate. They’re also about the circles of life and love to a certain extent, there’s some kind of love conflicts in a few songs but always in a mysterious way. It is not a direct language, the poetry covers up the meaning so you have to think about what is happening and what are they trying to tell you.

‘SILKIDRANGAR’, THE TITLE OF YOUR ALBUM, MEANS ‘SILK CLIFF‘. WHAT IMAGE DID YOU WANT TO CONVEY?

We wanted to give a very sort of visual title because when you hear it, or at least when you know the translation, you get an image in your mind. You think of something surreal that doesn’t really exist but at the same time it’s very beautiful and it feels distant. All of these sensations can be captured in one word, ‘Silkidrangar’, and it means a lot to us. It’s not even a real word, it’s a put-together word.

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 WHAT DOES INSPIRE YOU VISUALLY?

We have been working a lot with faces for our album covers, the previous one had a face of a baby on it and you couldn’t see his eyes; he’s like a crying baby. It was more of a painting with a surreal feel to it. The cover for this one is not a painting but a combination of thoughts that we put together in a way that you don’t really know what it is. Your brain sort of makes a face out of it and it’s very interesting. It is usually about faces, or dogs or a lion! Anything surreal and symbolic that triggers a reaction. You have to use your imagination, at least to some extent, when you listen to us. We sing in Icelandic after all, and you don’t know what’s happening.

HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED TO SING IN ENGLISH?

We have definitely considered it, we thought it would be fun but we don’t want to translate the lyrics. We would rather create song in English from scratch, so it would be true to itself. I don’t like it when musician write something in one language and then they just translate it; it looses the original idea, so we’d rather work the other way round.

MANY PEOPLE ARE FASCINATED BY ICELAND’S MUSIC AND LANDSCAPES. WHY DO YOU THINK IT IS SO APPEALING?

It think it is because people don’t know much about Iceland, it’s a sort of isolated place and most of the people haven’t been there so they have a fairytale idea of what is happening there. I think this is why people are fascinated by Iceland and I personally appreciate that they think about its nature because it is something we have to preserve and protect. I wish everyone would do something to support it and that our music could make people think about this in some way, and make them want to try to protest against some injustices happening right now. Big companies, especially from abroad, often come to build huge factories and the Icelandic government is weak sometimes, because it only thinks about the money. They don’t see that building factories, trying to make energy out of the nature, is actually ruining nature itself. They should protect it because there is only one Iceland in the world, this is the only land we have and we must not destroy it to make money out of it. It is a very special place and it has to be like that forever without declining.

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WHAT WAS YOUR MAIN FOCUS BEHIND THE ALBUM?

We thought about more details for this album and through the sound we wanted to create an experience the whole from the first song to the last. If you listen to the album you have to think about that, you have to think about its context because nothing has been added by chance. There are also more details in the percussion for example, and we used the clarinet to create sounds-capes rather than melodies.

IS THERE ANYONE WHO INSPIRES YOU VOCALLY?

I was very much inspired by Joni Mitchell when I was a kid. I know we don’t sound the same at all but I was inspired by her songwriting. She’s my favorite singer.

THE VIDEO FOR ‘Góða Tungl‘ IS VERY SYMBOLIC, WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND IT?

The idea behind it is what people do when they can’t sleep. It’s about sleeplessness and the song is like an ode to the moon and how it helps and lends its light to those who are tired and suffering. The video builds around that and what happens in darkness, how the creatures of the darkness go into the light. It almost got a sexual feel to it at the end, it gets a bit provocative and I like that.

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TRAVEL THE WORLD COMING FROM SUCH AN UNSPOILED PLACE?

I love traveling, it is good to go to big cities. Reykjavik is so small and when you go abroad, you get the feeling that you belong to a much bigger crowd. Keeping a balance is not easy, we travel a lot, jumping back and forth; the last few months have been a strange way of living. In the future we won’t come back home often, so we will get more out of each journey and each day. Traveling is a healthy and necessary thing for someone who comes from a small society. It feels good being on the road to promote Something you have been having in the make for so long. It’s like having a baby in your stomach and giving birth to it. I guess it’s the same feeling, though I never had a baby before, so I don’t know!

IS FASHION SOMETHING IMPORTANT FOR SAMARIS?

We just get inspirations from the internet, we pick a few things that we love and put them on right before the show! Sometimes we make things ourselves and we get help from our designers and visual artists friends. It’s very spontaneous, we don’t have one specific theme we work on, it’s always different time to time.

HOW DOES IT FEEL BEING A FEMALE ARTIST IN TODAY’S MUSIC BUSINESS?

I think it’s good to be a woman, it’s getting better and better. We are reaching this point where men and women will be equal; that’s my hope at least. Pop music culture is all about sexuality and if you are a woman, you should be selling your body along with your voice. Our scene is more liberated, we are free to do what we want without playing with our sexualities I am not saying it is a bad thing to do, there are no problems in showing off your body as long as it comes from yourself. It’s wrong when someone is telling you that you can’t make a music video without wearing a bikini.

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YOUR FAVORITE LINE FROM THE ALBUM IS…

My favorite song of the album is the first. I really like the feel so the baseline is my favorite line

 

‘Silkidrangar’ is out May 5th on One Little Indian / Pre-order on iTunes available now

Official Website http://www.samaris.is

 

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A Conversation with LIARS – a MESS on a mission / The GROUND Magazine

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

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Endless choices lead to endless possibilities and while for some people this condition may result in anxiety and paranoia, Liars apply these side effects at the basis of their creativity and drive. They always manage to take unexpected turns with every release, miles away from their previous work and yet without compromising their identity. From punk-funk, garage rock, dance-punk and even modified drum sounds on 2006′s Drum’s Not Dead Liars’ attempt to experiment with electronic music created the introspective and self-analytical 2012′s WIXIW. Ahed of the release of their seventh album Mess, The Ground spoke to band member Angus Andrew who explains to us what it means to “not only face fear but chewing it up and spitting it back out in all its technicolor glory”. This is the new schizophrenic sound of Liars, aiming for the first time to create a beautiful and colorful mess out of the doubts and fears of our real, yet very fictional, existence.

“It is beautiful here in LA” Angus tells me as soon as I get on the phone with him, but it’s not another ordinary sunny morning in LA, it is the day after the Oscars. “All the celebrities left town” he remarks sounding relieved about it even tough Mess is the band’s third album recorded in the City Of Angels. 2010′s Sisterworld focused on the struggle of finding your own space and identity in  a city like LA while WIXIW saw them intentionally retire into an isolated cabin in the wood to completely remove themselves from the ephemeral and plastic reality of the city. The recording sessions, aimed to analyze their internal anxieties, gave life to a beautifully crafted electronic piece of work. In line with their drastic musical shifts, Mess hides a new intention, to finally attack fear, and music, from a different angle in the same city where false promises and discarded dreams can turn out to be a source of inspiration or at least reflection. “LA can be enticing and it’s difficult to navigate away from that. I was living in Berlin before and that was perfect for avoiding all of this. I felt really nicely isolated because I didn’t speak German and it felt like being in a little bubble. I could cocentrate on my own work with no distractions but in LA is the exact opposite, I’m constantly defending myself from the onslaught of media and things trying to grab my attention. It’s difficult but at the same time possibly inspiring too”.

I think about how schizophrenic LA can be since the day before, as I was listening to Mess for the first time, I felt like I was being assaulted by the analogue synths and electric drum pads. It sounds intense and it literally leaves you breathless track after track, as you witness a direct moment of pure instinct and purposeful abandon. Unlike WIXIW this album doesn’t give you time to stop and think, starting with the opening track Mask Maker. “Generally with the whole record I just wanted to have a lot more fun. WIXIW was a great experience but it was very heavy and quite dark. It was a really tough record to make and it took us a really long time and I wanted this one to be the exact opposite. It had to be spontaneous and immediate to kind of get back to the idea of having fun with making music rather than struggling. The reason why I wanted it to be the first track is because it exemplifies this concept. When I did that vocals that you hear at the start, I spent a few hours in my studio kind of talking to myself in that voice and recording it. It got stranger and stranger as I kept going but I loved the feeling and spontaneity of it. If I had been in the mindset I was when we made WIXIW I propably would have thought about it for a month and then decided that maybe it wasn’t the right thing to do. Instead with this record I was like that’s it, that’s what we are doing, let’s just live with it! It is a good track to start.”

The doubts Liars always had about human conditions and relationships were the same they experienced with electronic music but in Mess they are almost nonexistent, at least the ones about electronic. “I always wondered how to rid myself of doubt” he sings in Voc D.E.D and questioning everything may just be the reason of their distinctive sound. “Particularly with WIXIW we where making a record for the first time with electronic instruments and what that meant is that we had a manual open all the time, trying to figure out how to use everything. It was very uncertain to me but part of that was a good thing because being in a mood of questioning everything brought out an interesting sort of sensitivity to the music. On the other hand it is also a bit of a plague and with Mess I wanted to avoid that and the best thing to do was just to work faster. It really helped to get rid of that doubt”.

It’s interesting that despite more than ten years in the music business, Liars’s journey has never been a process of reinvention or a strategy plan to keep their sound fresh all the time. Their journey may be defined as an anthropological one, a study on identity and the culture of our generation: anxiety. “I think this idea of too many choices which leads to a certain amount of paranoia and fear is a very common idea for a lot of people today. The song Dress Walker is about this kind of modern situation you may find yourself in. You are overwhelmed by all the possibilities, the amount of media that we get bombarded with everyday and all the choices you have in terms of life itself. Everything isn’t that compartmentalized as it used to be, even in music. You were a rock band or a jazz musician and now every rock band is an electronic artist and vice versa, everything is very mixed up in a  way. Obviously it is a great thing but it’s also paralyzing. I personally feel overwhelmed with choices in every part of my life and it is not an easy thing to deal with. Sometimes what I try to do is to block everything out or say to myself I’m not going to turn on the TV or the radio, I’m just going to focus on these books that I have. Also having a walk somewhere where there are no billboards can help. Most people have strong feelings inside about what they really want to do and achieve but the problem is that they get pushed around by all these other stuff going on. For example, it is difficult for me to listen to pop radio because I know what I want to make musically but if I listen to a new Gaga song, suddenly I’m like Oh my God I really like that , but it’s really not what I wanna be doing.”

The universe of Liars, just like LA, is an endless dichotomy but when it comes to music their challenge is to produce uncommon sounds with common tools. Technological progress is ever-growing and this definitely contributes to Angus’ anxiety and his way of making music. He actually talks about the insanity of progress in the song Pro Anti Anti but not because he’s a traditional guy. “It’s just admitting that it is hard to keep up with technology. There are artists who embrace technology just like a photographer who is really up on all the new equipments and saves his money to buy the latest lens or camera but there are also the ones who just want to shoot images with their crappy old camera. It’s the same with music but I don’t love the idea of keeping track of the new trends, instruments and programs. I wish I was more technologically advanced but at the same time I don’t want to use the apps on the iPad to make music, it is not interisting to me. I see how it could be and I love that Björk is into that for example but it’s not me”.

Mess On A Mission is the first single off the album and despite its immediacy, it raises the problem of what is real and what is not. In the song, Angus almost commands the listeners to “trash the book the film’s half based on” but if life is a film, on which book is it based on for him? “I just have to go with my gut reaction and that would be Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just because ever since I was a kid I really connected with the character of Charlie Bucket. He’s a very poor kid but with big dreams. The whole movie kind of speaks interestingly about society, greed and the way people take advantage of each other. Groundhog Day with Bill Murray could be another option”. It also seems necessary to mention and remind oneself that “facts are facts and fiction’s fiction” no matter how near of far we live from the Hollywood hills. Angus tells me “the most basic fact to live by is that you gotta be honest, with yourself most of all. That’s where our band’s name kind of comes from because we’re really trying to be honest. The biggest fiction is success, money, popularity and all these things that make for a good life. I think that’s just bullshit. The most important thing is to be happy with what you do yourself, that’s the key to living a good life”.

Julian Gross, the drummer of the band, is also the maker of the artwork for Mess and the long colorful thread that we have been seeing in the album’s trailers. Inspired by contemporary artist Urs Fischer and conceptual artist John Baldessari, Liars wanted to manipulate something in a live setting, as to express their uneasiness towards life in a fucked up, but most importantly vibrant way. “I love contemporary art, particularly conceptual art, that’s where I get a lot of inspiration from. The simple idea that the idea itself is the most important thing rather than the product and end result fascinates me. I love that because it removes this emphasis on technical skills. I like the idea that anyone who has a very interesting idea can put it forward without being a professional painter or musician. The idea of a ‘mess’ is obviously what we where trying to talk about and it is a very personal sort of subjective opinion. If you walked into my bedroom right now you would say that there’s such a mess but ,ayne for me it’s actually really clean. It’s just a way of seeing things differently and I like that about our artwork. One person can look at it and think oh that’s just a pile of strings but another person can realize that it is a very specifically placed and very worked on piece”. Where does he intend to lead his fans following that string in the trailers? “Hopefully it is leading people to think about how they asses what they see in everyday life. To make them think about, or second guess, whether they think what they saw is what it really is”.

Doubt and uncertainty once again. Mess may be a cathartic experience and a way to release some pressure on the subject but sticking to electronic music to finally find some sort of balance doesn’t seem the solution. The more unstable the territory, the more likely is the chance to find Liars there on a mission. “If I had to guess I wouldn’t bet any money at the moment. We spent quite a bit of time now with electronic instruments and I do find myself thinking about how nice it would be to sit in a room with an acoustic guitar and a microphone and just have fun. It is exciting to not know what we are doing next but I’m pretty sure it would be another change. For example I really love that kind of electronic music which uses a lot of acoustic instruments. The Civil War by a band called Matmos made me think a lot about how you could use traditional instruments in a way that was taking advantege of the modern technology and tools. Liars approach music in lots of different ways when making an album; you can be conceptual about it, focus on a particular idea and experiment in a way that you are pretty confident that you’ll end up being uncertain about what you are doing. All of these approaches end up giving you a different but interesting result”.

I can almost picture the trio in the studio dealing with this intricate net of sounds and possibilities but at least for this album they didn’t question too much what they were doing and part of that was in the better understanding of the tools they were using. Mess is a manipulation meant to create fun and color. It was necessary as Angus explains to me “you spend a year or two working on an album and then you go on tour for about a year and that whole time your mind and expression is based around that album. When we get past that point it always makes us want to try something different to experiment with and I think that’s really the way it works. I love the idea of being a band like The Ramones and being able to make a record over and over and make it sound awesome. I also admire people who can be great guitar players for example and choose to keep on playing the same instrument in order to get better at it but as you said before maybe I’m too schizophrenic for that!”

As the album comes to an end, Liars tastefully place Left Speaker Blown as the closing track. It is the quiet moment after a party or a concert. The moment where your mind is still while your ears are buzzing. Every intense experience needs to end like this and despite singing “I hope you never learn how to play music” this is a personal moment of reflection as you finally allow yourself to take a deep breath. “What I was trying to talk about is the idea that when you play music and write songs you express yourself in a way that sometimes could be a little hard for people to swallow. You are constantly putting yourself out there into the world with quite personal feelings more than a lot of people do. As a musician I do it on a regular basis so it makes you very vulnerable. The idea of what it is to be a musician is evolving so much just like technology and you feel certain obligations to keep up with it. Obviously nowadays it has so much more to do with everything except the music but I’m always very interested in the visual aspects. Nevertheless, if you just compare the different mediums of being an artist, the ones who really put themselves out there the most are songwriters. A visual artist or a painter certainly do the same but not in such a direct way of expression. Not even an actor could do that. Songwriters talk about themselves putting words to music and are really speaking directly from their souls”.


The world may be evolving too fast and forcing us to adapt and synchronize our personalities as easily as we do with our iPhones but isn’t this the endless conditions every human being faces over and over? LA, life, and a piece of work from a contemporary artist can be so full of nonsense and meaning at the same time and instead of looking for an answer, Liars let their sensibilities float on this beautiful mess; the only way to create music that never lies. “All I know is that there is an equal chance that what we are doing next is moving to Fiji or making a jazz record. The opportunities are wide open and that’s the only thing I can be confident about”.

Facts are facts and fiction’s fiction.

 

MESS is released on March 24th (25th USA) – Mute Records

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Website: http://liarsliarsliars.com/
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The Salvador Dalí Theater and Museum / The GROUND Magazine Issue IV

BREAKING BOUNDARIES

An interview with Montse Aguer, Director of Dalinian studies at The Dalí Theater-Museum in Figueres.

By Marco Pantella

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image courtesy Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, 2014, all rights reserved

When André Breton first defined Surrealism in 1924 (a “pure psychic automatism”), little did he know that Salvador Dalí would take his words to an extreme extent, by not only introducing a revolutionary way of painting, but also changing the interaction between the artist and the world.

Dalí’s genius lied in ceaseless exploration of the world he lived in. Instead of homologating his identity, he unleashed his genius, creating an unconventional and provoking character that managed to challenge the important role of the media in society. There is no question that he redefined the meaning and the role of the artist, who might be unafraid to experiment with all art, from painting to fashion. He created a unified field in a fragmented world with his versatility and his thirst for modernity. Dalí continues shake us free from our fears and limitations to connect us with our “genius-gene.”

The indisputable genius of Salvador Dalí comes down to the exaltation of the self, combined with a raw talent that defies logic, creating a body of work that goes beyond a mere painting. You don’t become a genius by playing it safe; you have to understand the world you live in before turning it upside down. You also have to be misunderstood as you embody the revolutionary ideas that are provoking and shaking up tradition.

There was a time where Sigmund Freud was playing with something the masses didn’t know they already knew: the unconscious. At a time when painting was an academic matter, mass culture was about to invade us and fashion started setting trends. As tradition was faltering, Dalí grew his flamboyant mustache, influenced by Spanish master painter, Diego Velázquez, and Dalí’s history was made in front of the media. Dalí became a pioneer in using and manipulating the media to achieve global acclaim for his utterly intimate work. Dalí’s inspirations are found in the most remote corner of the mind where the unconscious floats, fears lurk, residues of dreams remain, and talent and personality are unleashed. This is why anyone can connect with Dalí’s mind and yet, the only place where we can try to find more answers is at The Dalí Theater and Museum in Figueres, Spain, the place where he is now buried in a crypt and where his essence is more palpable than in any other museum. Director of Dalinian Studies, Montse Aguer, invites us to play the game that Salvador Dalí left for us to play with and that only an artist like him could conceive.

“Instead of being mere spectators of the museum, Dalí suggests us to discover all the enigmas hidden within it, to look deeply at his works and discover another reality, a double image. He provokes us and raises questions. He amuses and even disturbs us. This is the atmosphere he wanted in creating this museum.”

– Montse Aguer

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Photo by Josep Algans

Visiting the Dalí Museum is a real and surreal experience. The museum used to house the town’s theater when he was a child. It was bombed during the Spanish Civil War and it was finally inaugurated in 1974. “I like the museum as a whole,” Ms. Aguer said, “the fact that it is meant to be a complete work of art conceived and created by the artist himself to express the totality of his life and artistic career is extraordinary.”

Ms. Aguer was offered to become the director for Dalinian studies in 2004 during the celebration of Salvador Dalí’s centenary, and this task turned out to be as challenging as looking at one of his paintings. “You enter a new dimension. Whenever you believe you mastered a certain area of his life, a new document comes out and you have to question everything again from the start. It takes me to a permanent state of expectation and awareness.”

How did Dalí become a genius? Dalí said that he wanted to be a cook when he was six years old, Napoleon when he was seven years old, and the parallelism is striking when you think that Surrealism was born like a revolution that Dalí, like the French emperor, transformed into an empire reigned by his wild personality. He proclaimed himself as “El Salvador” (the savior) of painting from the dangers of Abstract Art, Academic Surrealism, Dadaism, and all of the anarchic “isms,” a statement that only an expert like him can express. “He knew art history extremely well and all of its different techniques,” Ms. Aguer said, “He knew the Italian Renaissance and found Raphael’s and Michelangelo’s treatment of perspective and colors fascinating but also… avant-garde. His style is to be found somewhere between tradition and… absolute modernity with the incorporation of the latest scientific progresses and discoveries such as stereoscopy or holography.” With his archetypal eyes wide open, Dali’s investigations shifted from art to the mysteries of the mind.

“Each morning when I awake, I experienceagain a supreme pleasure: that of being Salvador Dalí.”

“The difference between false memories and true ones is the same as for jewels: it is always the false ones that look the most real, the most brilliant.”

Dalí had one-time encountered Sigmund Freud in London and to prove that he was Freud’s most ardent pupil. It was then that Dalí showed Freud the painting, “Metamorphosis of Narcissus.” The drawers of the unconscious discussed by the Viennese professor work as much as the ones portrayed by Dalí. It was a way to state that psychoanalysis was able to shed some light on the unconscious, but what was he looking for in the psyche, dreams, and sexuality of the human being? “I think he was looking for answers, but at the same time he reflected on his obsessions and tried to break free from them.”

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image courtesy Fundacio Gala-Salvador Dali, Figueres, 2014, all rights reserved

At the age of 17, his mother died. His homage, “The Enigma of Desire” couldn’t be more complex. Dalí’s mother never actually appeared in his paintings. However, in this work, she takes the shape of a monstrous womb, resembling the weather-beaten rocks along the Cadaqués coast, a place Dalí loved which became a source of inspiration for his fantasies. “His relationship with women used to be quite complicated and he actually speaks very little of his mother,” Ms. Aguer commented.

The only female presence that became the absolute love of his life was Gala. Dalí asked her, “what do you want me to do with you?” and she replied, “kill me.” She became his muse and set the machine behind his success in motion. “There is no Dalí without Gala,” he once said, and, in fact, she acts like a manager; she looked for the best frames and materials, and she negotiated with galleries for Dalí. She was the ultimate cure for his madness and a fundamental presence. Absolute despair was what he felt after her death, a strange feeling for someone who never gave up even when he was expelled from The Academy of Fine Arts and from the Surrealist movement.

“It’s obvious that other worlds exist. That’s certain; but, they are inside ours [our world]. They reside in the earth and precisely at the center dome of the Dalí Museum, which contains the new, unsuspecting and hallucinatory world of Surrealism.”

There are a couple reasons why Dalí wanted his most extravagant work to endure in his own town. The former Municipal Theater was the perfect place for someone who thought of himself or herself as a theatrical painter; it stands right opposite the church where he was baptized and where his first exhibition was held. After ample experimentation, Surrealism was the movement where he found his religion. Ms. Aguer remarked, “It is very important in Dalí’s career as he represents irrationality in a realistic way. There’s a moment when he defines his painting as hand-painted photography. In fact, his canvases are often almost hyper-realistic, but always with references to the unconscious. The mastery and control of technique, his passion and obsession for knowledge and ultimately his insatiable curiosity are all elements that contributed to his success.”

After the Nazi occupation of Paris, Dalí moved to the U.S. and during this period, The Secret Life of Salvador Dalí, a very important autobiography, was published in America. Ms. Aguer said, “I would recommend it to anyone interested in his life. Dalí was a great writer and used to read a lot. He himself, once declared that he was a better writer than a painter.” As the world started yearning to see what he would come up with, Dalí fed his image and talent to the media, succeeding in different collaborations: Walt Disney’s “Destino,” Hitchcock’s “Spellbound,” Madame Chanel, and Elsa Schiaparelli.

“A true artist is not one who is inspired, but one who inspires others.”

“Those who do not want to imitate anything, produce nothing.”

Think of Alexander McQueen’s fashion shows, Lady Gaga with a lobster on her head and Björk’s music videos. The presence of surrealistic elements is very persistent even today; it is noticeable from the way art is evolving to the way certain pop stars try to create their image to shock the media. When Dalí painted one of his most famous and recognized works of art, “The Persistence on Memory,” people were led to believe that it was inspired by Einstein’s The theory of relativity, but when asked about the comparison, Dalí replied that his iconic melting watches came to existence from the perception of Camembert cheese melting under the sun. Is this the truth or just another of his many provoking statements? Nevertheless, his originality lies in translating something as real as the discovery of the relativity of space and time through art. Ms. Aguer, thinking about how Dalí would respond to modern technology, said that Dalí “would master computers and everything that new technologies and scientific discoveries are offering us.” When asked what Dali would find surreal in our society, Ms. Aguer answered quickly with “Reality itself!” as if it had been a rhetorical question.

Maybe this is still the only way to create meaningful art nowadays: learning to imitate our modern world and creating a new one that would resonate with us more than the reality we live in. Just think about what Salvador Dalí could achieve in experimenting with graphic design and what contemporary artists could create if they would break free from the dogmas we are still dealing with.

“I am not strange. I am just not normal.”

How does a genius see himself? The answer might be seen through an artist’s most personal statement on himself or herself: a self-portrait. Dalí’s self-portrait, “Soft Self-Portrait with Fried Bacon,” portrays the artist’s face as a melting bronze mask supported by mini crutches, another obsession from his childhood, something to lean on during life and, at the same time, something to push death away. He wanted it to be an “anti-psychological self-portrait,” to paint the outside instead of the soul, or as he called it, “the glove of myself.” There is also a piece of bacon and ants in the portrait, to symbolize his generosity in offering himself to be eaten by the media, and to act as inspirational “food” that succulently nourishes our time. Are the props and supports in the portrait a way to express a hint of insecurity? “The private Dalí was very friendly, but he was aware that he had created a character. In meetings with friends, if journalists or a camera appeared, he would immediately say, ‘I’m going to play Dalí.’” Thus, it is not surprising that Dalí painted his self-portrait in the U.S. during a period “when he clearly connects with mass culture” and with icons such as Marilyn Monroe, who were also “playing” their characters.

“People love mystery, and that is why they love my paintings.”

No matter what walks of life we are coming from, to stand in front of Dalí’s works is like watching an endless enigma, something that sets our mind in motion with no limitation. “We already know a lot about him, but we need to keep some mystery,” concluded Ms. Aguer. She may be right, as a continuous thirst for knowledge can drive us mad just like with Friedrich Nietzsche, the only person, according to Dalí, who could be on Dalí’s level. “My equal will not be found in other centuries either. My painting proves it,” Dalí said.

Delirious? Mad? Arrogant? Self-righteous? Still, nobody came along to leave a mark like Salvador Dalí did with his art as Dalí manifests our inner worlds, showing us the way we feel about our existence. He portrayed our irrational fears, the things we only see in our dreams, and the magnificence of the human mind with its fantasies, perversions, and endless possibilities. A genius maybe be granted the power to say anything he or she wants. Ms. Aguer shared her personal favorite Dalí quote from memory:

“Do not waste time trying to be modern. Unfortunately, it’s the only thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid being.”

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Visit the Dalí Theater-Museum here

The GROUND Magazine Issue IV – Globalization and Empowering Women / Buy Online and Stockists here

Björk / The Biophilia Experience / Live in London

Read it on The GROUND Magazine

If the term “biophilia” literally means “love of life or living systems” and it is a scientific hypothesis suggesting that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and other living systems, in Björk’s immense creative world biophilia is a whole new universe that stands for a never seen before concept project.

The Icelandic artist released “Biophilia” two years ago making it the first app album, partly recorded on an iPad and promoted as a multi-media-dimensional project meant to make us experience each track within the app as a single universe of its own. Biophilia also became an educational program designed to inspire children to explore their own creativity, and to learn about music and science through new technologies. In the last couple of years Björk has been touring in a unorthodox way, at times headlining festivals and at others presenting Biophilia through residencies in selected cities and in venues like The New York Hall Of Science.

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The world of Biophilia comes to life at London’s Alexandra Palace for the last time on an in-the-round stage featuring an octagon of video screens projecting the digital animation that each track has on the app. We are told to experience the show without taking any picture and as the lights went off, London was ready to travel to the secret core of the Earth, the microscopic world of a cell, and listen to the sound of the universe thanks to Björk’s voice and a range of specially-conceived instruments for the project. This is why Biophilia is not a concert or a show but an experience and a “meditation on the relationship between music, nature and technology”.

 

 “…much of Nature is hidden from us… like the one phenomenon that can be said to move us more than any others in our daily life. Sound. Delivered with generosity and emotion, is what we call music” says naturalist Sir David Attenborough during the intro video before informing us that a revolution is about to start, to reunite humans with Nature through new technologies, “until we get there… prepare… explore Biophilia” 

 

THUNDERBOLT Lightning, arpeggios 

The Graduale Nobili Icelandic choir, made of 24 female singers, look like a pagan group on stage and after their performance of “Óskasteinar”, Björk appears like a modern Mother Earth with an oversized and colorful Afro wig and lumpy dress by Iris Van Harpen. “All my body parts are one / As lightning hits my spine / Prime runs through me / Revive my wish / Inviolable” she sings as the Tesla coil makes electricity visible at the center of the stage and sounds like a far away haunting thunder that is about to strike the venue.

 

MOON Lumar cycles, sequences 

Based on four different sequences that repeat throughout the song, resembling the lunar cycles, this track explores the theme of rebirth. The line “Best way to start-a-new is to fail miserably / and kick in to the start hole”, expresses the opportunity we are given each month with the new moon and in this continuous hypnotic and soothing sound, her voice floats back and forth like tides.

 

CRYSTALLINE Structure 

As everything in Biophilia is a metaphor, here the crystallization of minerals serves to investigate Björk’s fascination with the growth of human relationships in our hearts. It is now time for the ‘Gameleste’, a modified celesta, to play before the song storms out in a drum and bass uproarious ending. “It’s the sparkle you become when you conquer anxiety” she sings as the beats, for a moment, really seem to create a piece of quartz. It is the sound of the invisible movements that our eyes can’t see.

 

HOLLOW DNA, rhythm 

During this performance everything becomes sinister yet fascinating and this feeling is enhanced by choir. We travel back to meet our ancestors as trunks of DNA are shown on the screens. Björk’s voice in poignant and almost desperate as she “yearn to belong”, and as the song suddenly ends, we exit this Biophilia’s constellation and realize, little by little, how the music, the app, and the videos are pieces of a single body.

 

DARK MATTER / Scales 

The phenomena called dark matter are directly “unexplainable” and this is why the song features heavy gibberish. Björk embodies Nature but at the same time she does not shy away from what we cannot explain and just like a scientist she questions everything and the result is an atmospheric and ethereal performance.

 

VIRUS / Generative music 

We are not surprised by now about the fact that Biophilia could easily be a natural history or biology book through music but the metaphorical connotation of the lyrics are a true work of art. In this song Björk surprises us singing about the fatal love between a virus and a cell. The virus loves the cell so much that it destroys it and this is a way to express a symbiotic relationship. It sounds captivating, darkly romantic, and truly passionate. On the screens we see the virus taking over the cell and decoding its DNA, “like a virus / patient hunter / I’m waiting for you / I’m starving for you”. No need to fight the virus, in fact, there is a game in the app related to this song where you need to stop the virus from attacking the cell but if you do so, the music stops…

 

MUTUAL CORE / Tectonic plates, chords 

In pure Björk’s style this song starts off with an ambient feel to it before erupting like the volcanoes in the video. The vocal crescendo of the choir, standing in a circle in the middle of the stage as to summon through their feet the powers of the Earth’s core, is outstanding and shivering and as the breakcore part kicks in, we feel how it feels like when the Tectonic plates move. The force of Nature is unleashed; the Earth is constantly seeking balance through imperceptible movements just like human beings, through unconscious actions.

 

COSMOGONY / Music of the spheres, equilibrium 

The sensibility of “Joga” is reinvented here. Trying to unveil the mystery behind the creation of the world means to apply a philosophical view. Is there a limit to what science can show, create, and explain? Maybe, and this is why the lyrics are so different in “Cosmogony”. They are not a metaphor for technical and natural phenomenon here. In its four verses Björks explores the theories behind the creation of the world, trying to look for a definitive explanation; the first verse is the American native creation myth, next verse is Sanskrit creation myth, the third verse is Aboriginal creation myth and the fourth verse is Big Bang theory. What matters is balance and harmony and you can feel it through the epic vibe and vocals of this song.

 

SOLSTICE / gravity, counterpoint 

The Biophilia stage is something unique as it looks like a scientific research camp lead by the free-spirited Björk together with the Graduale Nobili choir. They learn and explore with us on a stage that does not only presents curious and unconventional instruments but also a group of pendulums. They create patterns with their moves, transmitting the movements of the Earth to the sound of a harp making of “Solstice” an almost paranormal experience and a tribute to Foucault’s pendulum.

 

SACRIFICE Man and Nature, notation 

This last song from Biophilia is performed twice, like another couple of tracks during the show. Björks wants to make sure that everything is perfect as the show is being filmed, but her attention to details somehow interrupts the flow of energy created during the night. Nevertheless, she seems really happy, chatty more than ever, and proud to perform “Sacrifice” on yet another unique instruments, the Sharpsichord, a harp/barrel organ hybrid. It was not possible to carry it around during the tour she explains, and for a song that is about surrendering and forging for the love of another, this instrument creates a beautiful and melancholic aura in the venue.

 

They may not be part of Biophilia’s constellation but the setlist included a few back catalogue tracks like the majestic “Isobel” and a sublime rendition of “Possibly Maybe” with the Tesla coil thundering in the middle of the stage. Thanks to the choir, gems like “Hidden Place” and “Sonnets/Unrealities XI” almost become part of a sacred ritual. Among the crowd’s favorites is “One Day” from her 1993 album “Debut” that after twenty years, and through a minimal and tribal rendition, perfectly matches the overall Biophilia theme; “one day it will happen, one day it will all make sense”. The finale is a pure punk-electro-rave and Björk finally tell us to dance along “Náttúra” and “Declare Independence”.

 

The whole choir releases the pressure dancing with an infecting syncopathic rhythm and in this hurricane we are lead to believe that after this Biophilia experience, Mother Nature really manifested Herself through Björk’s work and voice. Björk’s curiosity was aiming to explore the universe from the stars to a single molecule and this is definitely her most arduous and ambitious project to date. She stimulates our minds and leaves us with more questions or, like Sir. David Attenborough put it, “I put on your music when I really want to think about something.”  Nature has its secret way of revealing itself but as long as people will be willing to listen carefully and look closely, we will see that all is full of love, for real, and that Björk’s talent and genius is a manifestation to experience with all the five senses.

Bjork at Alexandra Palace, London

 

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