marcopantella

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

Tag: modern

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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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