All today, we're celebrating London producer Actress's jaw-dropping new album, Ghettoville. Possibly his last album, it's a dark trip to a dystopian city, so we asked him to curate content to take you on a day trip to Ghettoville. His favourite writer, Mark "kpunk" Fisher, offers his thoughts on the album, and we interview early inspiration Adamski and premiere the awesome video for "Street Corp." Here, we catch up with the artists behind Actress's unique world.
Riyo Nemeth is a mixed media artist. She was born in Tokyo but is now based in London, and her work focuses on our perception of objects, frequently using digital techniques to alter our understanding of the world. For this moving-image collaboration with Actress, she chose to apply her ideas to "Street Corp."
Dazed Digital: How did this collaboration come about?
Riyo Nemeth: Werkhaus got in touch with me, asking me to make a sculpture for an exhibition that Darren (Cunningham, aka Actress) was planning in New York; however we later on agreed on working on a music video for Ghettoville instead. I like the idea of the video as a parallel reflection of the music. I often make short videos for my on going practice, blending static and moving images. Collaborating with artists and designers has also been a constant in my work.
DD: Did you take inspiration from elsewhere?
Riyo Nemeth: My work is often related to ideas from my previous projects. For this video, Darren and I discussed our interest in ordinary objects in everyday locations. My artwork tends to deal with the idea of an object’s presence in time and space, and the idea for this video emerged quite instinctively.
DD: The video is compelling. How did you make it?
Riyo Nemeth: The filming and post-production were challenging since working on a music video has certain restraints: you have two variables - video and song - that must come together simultaneously to create a harmonious result. In terms of how it was physically made, I set up objects on a table and moved the light from side to side. I chose to use household objects as they give an automatic narrative but create a sense of abstraction. It’s a simple approach but I focused on the balance between light and shadow being pulled by each other, and how the objects change their appearance and narrative.
Noted for his abstract oil paintings featuring geometric shapes, William Stein provided the album artwork to Ghettoville. His work is just as sparse and austere yet involving as Actress’s music. Stein has been honing his craft in London since 2000 when he began studying at Slade School of Fine Art, where he currently also works as a researcher.
DD: How did you develop your idea for the album cover?
William Stein: It’s the first time I’ve ever done something like this, so it was an exciting challenge. But I suppose I approached this project with exactly the same preoccupations that I do my paintings - to try and remain open, to move my own thoughts into the background, and to then attempt to bring a sense of something to light. I do not take inspiration directly. The potential for transformation is what drives me, and it is this potential which I wanted to conjure in the visualisation of Actress's sounds. Perhaps I was also influenced by the prose that Darren wrote alongside the release, but I can't help feeling there is an end in here somewhere. Compared to his previous work, the tracks on Ghettoville feel like they have been condensed to an essential form.
DD: How do you the album relates to contemporary music?
William Stein: Firstly I'd have to say that I am not convinced that Darren, as Actress, is making music. I think he is making something beyond music, which is why I tend to think of it as sounds. Even when we are presented with what appears to be a straight-up garage track, there will be a twist, a shock, which throws it into a different territory. And in light of this I would say that it doesn't fit in with most other contemporary pop or electronic music genres. Which is precisely why it is so wonderful. And as an extension of that point, I think the special thing that Actress offers us is the suggestion that there is another way: that we can make our own rules and that we do not need to follow other people’s.
DD: What are your favorite tracks on the album?
William Stein: "Birdcage". The contradicting elements on it are just absolutely stunning. Next up would be "Don't". It’s just phenomenal. It sounds like it’s telling an infinite story in one fell swoop. And then "Frontline", because it’s fucking killer!
Based in Tasmania, Australia, Nic Hamilton is a multimedia artist who has previously collaborated with Actress on videos for "Grey Over Blue", "Voodoo Posse Chronic Illusion" and "IWAAD". A self-trained animator, his formal education is in architecture. As such, his work also examines ideas of place in terms of both geography and psychology. For the launch of Ghettoville, Hamilton created exclusive illustrations inspired by Actress’s music.
DD: What do you think Ghettoville is about?
Nic Hamilton: There has been a lot of terribly wordy stuff written about Ghettoville, so all I can say is that I think with this album, Darren is recreating and refining snippets of spaces and experiences around him into his own language. It's what you do when you create stuff - filter out bits of your everyday life while at the same time trying to make them your own.
DD: How did you approach this project?
Nic Hamilton: The way I use CG tends to be time-and-technology-intensive, so creating more than an hour’s worth of rendered footage for my last work with Darren was challenging! For this project I just took screen grabs from nine CG environments made from found and constructed 3D models. I like depictions of cities and landscape in films like Werner Herzog’s Lessons of Darkness, which is essentially one hour of long, slow exploratory shots of Kuwait. It makes Kuwait look like another world, and it’s a much more powerful approach than the depressingly dull science fiction landscapes you see these days.
DD: Are you working on anything else with Actress? What do you think he's going to do next?
Nic Hamilton: There will be another project in the near future with a strong spatial and performative focus. Not sure if I should mention this, but apparently Darren is moving to an off-grid Tasmanian community to do some walking, so I’m looking forward to visiting him there!