To celebrate Meltdown Festival and curator Antony Hegarty's stint as Dazed Digital guest editor, we put experimental American artsist Laurie Anderson and Planningtorock, aka the electro artist Janine Rostron, in one room, tasked with interviewing each other. Filmmaker, artist and NASA-consultant Anderson shares a similarity of vision with Planningtorock’s Rostron, whose work also questions expression and the use of new technology. Here, for Dazed Digital, Anderson and Rostron discuss music production, intellectual women, Meltdown Festival and Anderson’s grandmother.
I suppose that politics seeps into my work anyway and that there are things inside it that are extremely political. But I actually hate it when people tell me what to do
Planningtorock: You combine political dialogue with your music in such a unique way. Are there any particular pieces of music or maybe an artist that you feel have managed to achieve something interesting by combining those same elements ?
Laurie Anderson: I try pretty hard not to use my work as a way to send embedded messages - especially political messages. Art codes and meanings and the way we communicate are already so dense adding politics seems to muddy the waters even further. I suppose that politics seeps into my work anyway and that there are things inside it that are extremely political. But I actually hate it when people tell me what to do. I think, "You don't even know me why are you telling me what to do?" I'm not sure it's really the obligation of artists to make the world a better place. To me that's a very 19th century approach (not to put down the 19th century!) Whenever I hear about someone who wants to make the world a better place I think, "Better for who? For you? For you and your friends? For working people? Rich people? Your idea of democracy?" I don't think artists have more of an obligation to improve the world than doctors or mechanics or barristas. Although of those people we also have some sharp tools. In fact the world is a complete mess so it can never be that far from anybody's mind. What to do about it? Maybe try a new approach every day. But sometimes political art is so unbearably smug and narrow. Sometimes a giant blue painting can be more about freedom than an artist's earnest political ramblings.
Planningtorock: I attended the Meltdown festival you curated in 1997. The exhibition in the foyer was amazing and I especially loved the piece where you projected video onto small clay figures of yourself, do you still enjoy working with video? Is it still a relevant medium for you? And how involved do you get with filming?
Laurie Anderson: I made the first "fake hologram" film projected onto little clay figures in 1975. It was a way of trying to put a story in an installation. This is usually impossible because you literally need a captive audience to experience the time and timing of the story. And people in museums and galleries are walking through. They don't generally want to stop – or go into some dreary improvised "video room". But stories is what my work is about so I put them into objects. Putting things into words and words into things basically sums up what I do- or try to. I'm working on a huge exhibition of these figures now, and yes I'm a hands on person when it comes to image making. One of my favorite things is to make multi image performances- projections onto all sorts of surfaces- like making a big 3D painting.
Planningtorock: Producing music and sharing it with the public has changed so much in the last 10 years... has this change effected your artistic world at all?
Laurie Anderson: Making producing and sharing music has completely changed a few times since I started making it. At first it was completely do it yourself – then working on a corporate level and now back to a much more personal approach. Since this is how I started part of that is familiar to me but I'm still trying to reinvent a way to do it that will be fun and make sense for me. I have so much stuff a this point that I'm starting to put it out in a very non precious way. Working this way is a big relief to me.
I love producing music... it's a such an inexhaustible language which seems to transcend all boundaries... I feel like producing music educates me
Laurie Anderson: You once said, "... the internal worlds of women are not that well represented by society." But who are a couple of your favorite women writers and why?
Planningtorock: Ah, this comment was a reaction to a feeling that society thinks of a woman's image before their intellectual/internal worlds... so a woman's intellectual contribution to society comes second (if at all) after their visual contribution. I'm reading a lot of Adrienne Rich at the moment; stunning poetry, great social commentary and inspiring ideas on gender. I'm also reading Nina Power, British writer and lecturer in philosophy who wrote "One Dimensional woman" and I love Clarice Lispector's "The Passion According to G.H."
Laurie Anderson: You talked about liking Arthur Russell. What a genius! He was in my first band called Fast Food. Tell me a little bit about what you like about his work.
Planningtorock: Oh wow, Fast Food what a brilliant name! Arthur Russell created such a distinct sound which embodies this extraordinarily gentle intensity... his hybrid of improv and dance music was radical. I think his music is timeless.
Laurie Anderson: I'm glad you asked about music production. How do your ways of making and producing music affect what you write?
Planningtorock: I love producing music... it's a such an inexhaustible language which seems to transcend all boundaries... I feel like producing music educates me, like it comes right back at me with new ways to articulate... my sonics definitely drive my lyrics!
Planningtorock is playing the Meltdown Festival today, Laurie Anderson on Friday. More info HERE. Antony Hegarty is guest editing Dazed Digital this week, more info HERE. Read more from our Summer Takeover HERE.