The Her Noise curators, Anne Hilde Neset and Lina Dzuverovic, share their joint history and explain how the concept for Her Noise developed through their past experiences curating audiovisual cinema art nights at The LUX, a series called Interference, and through their experiences working in music and the arts. Both women bring to the interview, and to the project as a whole, different interests and experiences, reflected in this interview in a discussion about the effects of creating an all woman programme such as Her Noise. Issues of ghettoisation, integration, the creation of networks, aesthetics and audience participation are all brought into focus as Dzuverovic and Neset discuss their curatorial framework.
Her Noise curator Lina Dzuverovic, interviewed by Electra’s Irene Revell, discusses the curatorial reasoning behind her decision to recontextualise the communities of riot grrrl, post punk, nu‐wave, and experimental musics into a visual arts context as an important strategy aimed at transposing a very specific set of politics from one community to another. For Dzuverovic, the process of curation is one of asking the right questions & making responsive decisions as a method for developing strategies to affect change. The possibility of intrinsic qualities in the work of women, issues of gender stereotyping and the relationship between an understanding of the landscape of experimental musics and sound arts and how that landscape may manifest in peoples work are discussed as the intrinsic feminist politics of the Her Noise project are teased out.
Anne Hilde Neset
Her Noise co-curator Anne Hilde Neset, interviewed by Electra’s Irene Revell, discusses the political implications of the title Her Noise and the different possible meanings that may be interpreted. Through the interview, Neset reflects on her experiences in the experimental music scene working at London’s Rough Trade and at The Wire, where she contends that women have predominantly been perceived in secondary roles. For Neset, the Her Noise project was about facilitating networking strategies which included searching for new, less obvious and less well known artists to challenge the narrow stereotypical roles for women in the industry that she had encountered. As a further strategy, Neset discusses her idea of a ‘messy aesthetics’ as a way to encourage non-linear and decentered modes of participation and interaction that may form inroads into open-ended and non-hierarchical energies.
Chicks On Speed
Chicks On Speed were formed in Munich in 1997, when members Melissa Logan, Kiki Moorse and Alex Murray-Leslie met at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich. In this interview they discuss systems of bartering as an example of how things could be different and methods of working in the music industry in which the artist has control over their own content so as to avoid exploitation. The discussion continues through the band’s history, raising questions about feminism and the implications of being an all female group. The fact that they have been categorised as feminist, rather than feminism being a conscious choice, they suggest has made them more aware of their position as women and as a result, their feminist agenda is not to explain, but rather to redefine feminism through their actions.
Christina Kubisch, interviewed by British artist Emma Hedditch for Her Noise, talks through the trajectory of her work as one of Europe’s foremost sound artists, from her early beginnings as a classical flautist through to her training in visual arts & electronics and how these experiences manifested in her early aduiovisual works from the 1970’s and ’80’s when she first began working with magnetic induction. Kubisch responds to questions of if and how gender manifests in her work, the nature of documentation and the construction of nature, and of her position as an artist in relation to these issues.
In this interview by Her Noise curators Anne Hilde Neset and Lina Dzuverovic, Diamanda Galas shares some of her early musical influences, many of which she experienced through playing gigs with her father in San Diego as a child. For Galas, singing offered a way to ‘blast out’ of a strict and foreboding family upbringing which would have preferred her to remain silent. Resultantly, Galas understands and discusses the performative aspects of using the voice as a way to break from overbearing patriarchal systems and considers the political perceptions that her work has garnered through her five albums dealing with the Aids epidemic. Interestingly, Galas does not perceive herself to be a political artist, but is aware of the ways in which she has been perceived as such.
A film by Copenhagen Free University
Produced by FreeUtv 2005
This informal interview originally filmed by Copenhagen Free University, captures Else Marie Pade at home, where she takes the listener through her early tape works, the Glass Bead Game II, Illustrations and Symphonie Magnetophonique. The interview is in Danish. Camera: Solvej, Jakob & Henriette. Sound: Jakob Jakobsen. Edit: Henriette Heise. Produced by FreeUtv 2005 and kindly donated to the Her Noise Archive. www copenhagenfreeuniversity.dk
British artist, Emma Hedditch discusses her role in the collaborative development of the Her Noise Archive, intimately integrated with the series of get-togethers that she facilitated for the Her Noise exhibition called, We’re Alive, Let’s Meet!. For Hedditch, how archives become historicised, and how they can be activated to have political agency in the present are relevant concerns that inform her own action. Hedditch, here interviewed by Lina Dzuverovic, discusses the importance for her of all women programs as platforms to enable a self-defined agency for women through communication, the sharing of knowledge and participation.
Film by Victoria Yeulet
In this post-gig backstage footage, Erase Errata, consisting of Jenny Hoyston, Ellie Erikson, Bianca Sparta and Sara Jaffe, talk about the different performance roles that their musical practice demands of each of them. Hoyston considers her role as the band’s singer, the performance of which has shaped her perceptions of herself and her interactions with others.
In this interview Hayley Newman shares her formative experiences, those that laid the corner stones of her continuing career as a performance artist. She reflects on her early work as Malcolm & Lily with Nina Koennemann among other early art making memories, and illuminates upon some of the important influences in her life. The trajectory of Newman’s practice, from her early works, such as Tour (1995) Microphone Skirt, Spoon Lady, Volcano Lady, Head, the Connotations Performance Images 1994-1998 through to MKVH and her current projects Common, The Gluts and the Smelly Hillock are elucidated upon in conjunction with the importance of collaborative processes, the body, materiality and physicality in her work, identifying as a feminist and the different experiences she has had working with men and women.
Artist and musician Jutta Koether discusses her early works and approaches to painting and performance art through subjectivity, perfomativity and site specificity within a transdisciplinary field of cultural production. She explains the methodical development of her creative vocabulary, expressed through gestures and layers that she uses to build up a body of work.
Koether discusses the trajectory of her collaborative projects with Stephen Perino as leading to the Club in the Shadow, which she made with Kim Gordon and which was the precursor for the Her Noise commission, Reverse Karaoke. Koether explains some of the difficulties of getting the Club in the Shadow project off the ground, from galleryists fearful of a collaborative project to a perceived distrust of Kim Gordon’s profile as a visual artist. The installation, which was finally taken on by Kenny Schachter’s gallery ConTEMPorary in New York in 2003, lasted 5 weeks, and included a video lounge, weekly curated programming, performances and bands, multi-layered programs and parties. Koether discusses the development of this concept in the guise of Reverse Karaoke for the Her Noise program and highlights some of the differences from the previous installation and her hopes for the work at the South London Gallery in 2005.
In this detailed interview, filmed in 2006 after the Her Noise exhibition, Matthews gives an account of her background and musical beginnings, from playing the violin as a child through to her early influences and experiences with the Fabulous Dirt Sisters. It was as a sound engineer in the acid house scenes in the 1990’s, that Matthews often found herself to be the only woman in a male dominated field, experiencing a steep technological learning curve countered with what she calls “happy accidents”. After studying zoology at university, Matthews returned to her practice of the violin and began developing experimental embodied playing techniques, inspired by a trip to Senegal and further developed during her time at Dartington College of the Arts and later at STEIM where she gained her first experiences performing with midi violin and the software LISA. Through these experiences, Matthews tells of how the technology changed her playing techniques and of how her desire for an audience to listen rather than focus on the visual aspects of her performance led to her research in extended musical gesture as a performative practice.
Camera: Susanne Oberbeck
Kembra Pfahler traces through availabism, anti-naturalism and feralism and her early performance art pieces, influenced as she says by Gorges Bataille and a contrariness to the bikini culture in which she grew up which manifested in an attraction to the horror genre. She charts the development of The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black, of which she is the lead singer, and expresses the importance of her relationships with the ‘girls of Karen Black’ and of being able to work with great people such as Annie Sprinkle. She continues to discuss the feminist backlash in the United States, propagated by corporate media homogenisation and expresses the need for more free-thinking to escape the clutches of Stepford.
Kevin Blechdom (Kristin Erickson) gives a refreshingly honest interview backstage after a gig at London’s ICA in 2002 where she shares with Anne Hilde Neset the importance of performance and music making as a kind of ‘public therapy’. Blechdom expresses her thoughts about record collecting, tough-ass girls and contemporary perceptions about the role of the vocalist as one that is specifically appropriate for women, which she finds problematic. The interview continues with Blechdom sharing her early musical experiences, from an early love of Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, to studying at Mills College and her contemporary musical influences.
In this interview Kim Gordon discusses her early influences and art/musical beginnings in the New York no wave art scene with Mike Kelly, DNA, Christina Hahn, Glen Branca and Barbara Ess among others. Interviewed by Her Noise curators Anne Hilde Neset and Lina Dzuverovic, Gordon answers questions about group and gender dynamics in the playing of music with different people and the formation of Free Kitten as a noise band formed as a rebellion to the free improv scene at the time. Gordon shares her views on contemporary women making music and the inevitability of the appropriation/commercialisation of the Riot Grrrl scene. Women’s relationships with the voice and body are addressed through perceptions of contemporary female pop singers as “technocised robots” or “squeeze dolls”, that Gordon perceives as resulting through technologies of erasure.
The inimitable Lydia Lunch starts this interview by talking about her early involvement in the underground film scene of New York with people like Viviene Dick, and Beth B who were documenting the scene at the time. She discusses pornography, good and bad and weirder and deeper, and her script The Psycho Menstrum.
For Lydia, how we are socialised to be defined by our gender is hugely problematic. She frames herself as the third sex so as not to be defined by her gender, discussing the implications of aggression and energy as character traits normatively associated with the masculine, but not as equating with her conception of the world and her relations with others. The issue of gender is tied with her outspokenness of US politics as a tragedy, which impels her speeches and performances of spoken word and music. The political is fleshed out through strategies of consumer revolt, the problematics and importance of voting and the imperativeness of eliminating wars and gender divisions. Politicians and film makers who speak out about injustices are great, but are not enough.
Lydia continues talking about the autobiographical in her work, how it informs her views of power or the lack of it, and the need to empower women in a society where the idealised body image, the market and consumerism combine to disempower. Finally, Lydia gives her advice for women wanting to get into music and art through sharing her own need to express obsessive desires and insane tendencies as transformative processes to create work.
Norwegian sound artist Maia Urstad shares her early musical background and her trajectory towards studying art as the two formative aspects of her practice. In searching to define her own processes, she travelled to South America and on her return to Norway found punk and the electric guitar. She talks about the early bands she was in and their influences through reggae, ska and nu-wave.
The environment then was very male dominated and it was a performance by Laurie Anderson that hinted towards a turing point from playing in bands to making sound installations. Urstad’s early sound experiences grew out of experimenting with a 4-track recorder, enabling a layering of sounds that opened up to another world. At the time, Urstad was sharing a textile studio with five women when the lunch space evolved into a space for her sound experiments. Layering sounds was like the layering of textiles to build textures, a practice which grew into working with sound for early audiovisual installations in theatres.
Urstad discusses how she began to define herself as a sound artist, through not identifying as a composer, nor an artist, but as floating in-between the disciplines of music and art. The development of the sound art field has allowed her access to a wider audience and other people doing similar things, providing access to a global community different to being in a band but offering similar benefits of collaboration.
Maia Victoria Kjellstrand
Noise musician, Maia Victoria Kjellstrand talks about the differences she perceives between noise and pop music, and expresses her process of noise as a total embodiment of sound. She discusses the differences between approaches to collaborative music making, especially of how to talk about the process with others through synaesthetic language rather than traditional musical structures. Early Polly Shang Kuan performances are remembered, illuminating how Kjellstrand began to expand the limits and sonic possibilities of her performance practice, contributing to her own conception of noise music and DIY ethics.
Marina Rosenfeld is an artist, composer and musician whose work combines fixed written composition and improvised performance. Her work develops from outlined instructions and musical guidelines to an ensemble of musicians and non musicians alike, resulting in compositions that are open-ended and variable. She is also an accomplished turntablist, her sonic palette, made up of curious scratches, melodic fragments, resonant electric hums and other delicate, raw noises is the result of a complex process in which recorded sounds are transformed through repeated live performances and re-recordings, as well as transferred from dubplate to dubplate.
The Sheer Frost Orchestra is led by Rosenfeld and operates at the interface between music making and performance art. Existing since 1993 and until 2001, it consisted of seventeen women (non-musicians, sometimes randomly chosen) playing electric guitars lain flat on the floor, picking the strings using nail polish bottles — ‘sheer’ and ‘frost’ indicate different nail varnish colour. The SFO is deliberately against technical virtuosity in favour of serendipity, against guitar-heroism in favour of a detached, unphysical approach to playing.
This interview took place while Marina Rosenfeld was in the UK on a Contemporary Music Network tour titled Turntable Hell. The footage includes documentation gathered from the rehearsals for the Emotional Orchestra as well as footage of the actual performance at London’s Tate Modern in September 2005.
Interviewed by Lina Dzuverovic and Anne Hilde Neset, Rosenfeld shares her experiences of being bought up in a musical family with a father as an orchestra musician and her youthful aspirations of becoming a pianist. A move into composition pre-figured a break with the piano as an instrument, as Rosenfeld began composing for different time based media, especially video and then later acetates and turntables. She discusses the importance of the visual arts to her creative processes combined with inspirations from hybrid, boundary crossing artforms.
Rosenfeld continues to reflect on the differentiations between improvising with women and with men through her experiences with the Sheer Frost Orchestra and of her deliberate intentions to dissolve the boundaries between amateurs and professionals, pushing the limits of notions such as virtuosity and training, and focusing on the relationships between players released from strict musical regimes.
Men in Experimental Music
Jim O’Rourke and Thurston Moore are presented in these two interviews with the kind of gendered questions that female artists and musicians are so often asked by industry journalists. O’Rourke responds by analysing the stereotypes of record collecting and quickly assumes a satirical and ironic persona to answer questions that, once put into a masculine context, take on a surreal quality. Moore takes a more personal approach, talking about his own experiences of being stereotyped as a “man in experimental music” and how he perceives of gender differences and their assumptions in the scene.
This quickfire interview was filmed at London’s ICA, post gig, and has Peaches relating how she got into playing music, her early inspirations, early collaborations and how she got the name ‘Peaches’.
She briefly talks about how she develops her stage shows, audience reactions and the resultant break down of inhibitions that her performances encounter. Dance, sexuality and objectification are discussed along with contemporary inspirations, stage fright and possible feminist agendas.