Ah! Magazine- interview/ entrevista

Entrevista a LRM Locus,
 por Irene Calvo para Ah!  magazine 
Interview for Ah! magazine by Irene Calvo

Irene Calvo nos ha hecho esta fantástica entrevista para
 Ah Magazine en la que hablamos de Kowloon y de todo el proceso que hemos desarrollado este año y medio en el estudio.

This is a wonderful interview about the creative process in our workspace for Kowloon through this last year. We thank Irene Calvo for it.
Here you have the english translation: 

The place, the weathering, the moment, the performance

LRM ( "Locus", Rodo, Momentum or Place, Scraping, Time) is a group from Madrid focused on performance art. They define their works as abstract avoiding any narrative thread in their creations, where we can find music, light, dance and projections. Transdisciplinary performances that will not leave you indifferent.

IRENE - Who are LRM Performance- Locus and how did the project come about?

Berta - David and I are the core of the collective. David comes from the world of musical composition, is MA in composition and I am an MA in Fine Arts. We met fifteen years ago at a Ute Lemper concert. We were interested in many artistic aspects, such as multidisciplinary work and we had many common references. Then we started making short  musical improvisations with live digital media and physical painting; we also created some short video art pieces ... and thus our way of working was forged. We did some presentations of these works, for example in Matadero Madrid; the format was kind of a concert, we were sitting in a chair with the computer and two screens behind us.

David - Those first performances with prepared piano and painting improvisations happened in 2004 and then we had not a name yet. When we presented in Matadero In 2007 the piece was titled "Lugar, Roce, Momento (Place, Abrading, Moment), hence "LRM". In fact, in that piece already included movement, light, and overhead projections.

In 2008 we worked with a dance performer for the the first time. By then we had already increased the size of the pieces, combining lights and video and mixing them with music and movement. From that moment on we always work with a dance performer.

B- … we always work in three dimensions: devising the piece from a sound, visual and movement plus spatial standpoint. 
D- Someone recently told us we are "anti-disciplinary" rather than interdisciplinary; for we are not interested visual arts, music and movement alone, we are interested in a discipline that is none of these but contains all of them, because if it doesn't, we get bored [laughs]

I- With what aims or needs does LRM come about?
B- With the need to learn, because every time we get into the studio it becomes a laboratory to try out everything at once: sound plus a structure, lighting, how to move with such structure, how we move ourselves in space ... it is an ongoing learning process and we build on those new learnings in every new piece. For example, when designing structures for composing a piece - which is usually made up of short scenes and each one has a particularity-.... there it is this need to discover, to learn. Presenting the piece is another kind of task altogether.
D- It also has to do with the fact of feeling trapped within your own discipline I think, the one you studied, for those are endogamic worlds. We have a craving for seeing what is on the other side, what is in there. In this sense, we somewhat like the total idea of cinema, bringing together all the elements, perhaps we are after something like live cinema.

¿I- What are your influences?
B- We like Taiwanese director Tsai Ming-Liang. He has a very abstract cinematographic work. He works from scenes sometimes with a small plot, but not always fully narrative, some actions apparently have no meaning. We are struck by the way he composes the frame; the character enters and leaves the room but the framing is fixed. It is very contemplative.
Moreover, Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand also makes a quite abstract kind of films, closely related to nature, where things take their time to happen. There is no such overwhelming directionality we find in Western movies, where the camera pushes the observer into pursuing the character's direction. This type of asian cinema does not have that directionality, the way they compose the image and its relationship with the character is important, but so is the environment, light, the temporality ... There is none of that western pressure for something to occur, Asian arthouse films do not consider that problem.
Regarding colour we are interested in japanese anime, for example Koji Morimoto
D- The perception of color in Asia is quite different from the West, it becomes evident in japanese Ukiyo-e prints, chinese opera, or traditional dances of Thailand. Also in many other cultures, like sub-saharan african colour and rhythm concepts which are very interesting.

I- You have many Asian influences, but any European or Western?
B- We do, simply by living here we already have such influences. In this our latest work we had so much in mind Into Eternity (2010) a Michael Madsen documentary filmed in Finland about "Onkalo", a nuclear repository with kilometers of underground tunnels to store nuclear waste.
D -  … we are quite excited about the work of Swedish film director Roy Andersson, his style is quite different to ours, a little more narrative, but it's still pretty abstract. And we can not deny we have a lot of influence of Goya, specifically his black paintings. We also got inspired by New York artist Gordon Matta-Clark (1943-1978) and his treatment of light in his works. Or Andrej Tarkovsky (1932-1986) films, like Stalker (1979). About dance, we were amazed by the work of british dance company DV8 and also by Legend Lin Dance Theatre, (which is not european but taiwanese).

I- Why did you decide to include light, sound and other elements into your works?
D- guess we always regarded the video projector as some device emitting light rather than film. We then decided to buy an overhead projector and found it very interesting to work with shadows.
B- Light defines figures, volumes and space. Light and darkness are equally important to us. In darkness we set up what you will see later and the idea of light / shadow helped us a lot when devising each scene in time. Light is an important recourse to integrate a human figure because we do not want it to become too important, we want to merge it with the scene. It is a recourse for bringing public attention into the illuminated part, a way of composing. It is the remnants of painting in our work, in fact, some scenes become utterly pictorial.
D- Darkness is our blank canvas. But (for me) the most interesting thing about light is that it is temporary, so usually it goes along with music.

I- How does this sound part of the work is created along with light changes, scenes ...?
D- by accumulating material and later in the studio assembling one thing with the other. Sometimes we start with a sound and want to do something with it, so we begin to try it with lights; sometimes even the sound demands for certain colorus, somewhat like synesthesia. Sometimes we have an already lit scene and add sound. Our procedures for devising each scene are diverse. 

I- How is your creative process?
B- It normally starts by thinking about structures built on bars, fastened with pins, using materials such as cloth, paper, plastic; considering how to light it up, what kind of bodily relationship we have with the structure, what movements are emerging around it ... At the same time we improvise with sounds or music David composed. We record many different tryouts. After a year and a half, as it was the case with the latest work, we end up with hundreds of tests. among these, we choose those we liked and from that selection we make a final sorting out, based on whether it is feasible to group them and perform them in succession, since it will be necessary for a scene's structure to be moved over for the next scene, and you have to see how to join scenes together. And thus an internal coherence of the work emerges. We love to have people over to the studio to see our work and hear what they think. If all visitors draw a similar conclusion, we often change elements in the work in order to make it more non-narrative. It is a task that goes beyond the investigation period.
D -Something we've always wanted to from the beginning is doing nothing narrative or conceptual. We think that is already tired. We want to do something that is telling no story, or that it's story lies inside each person's mind. We like our audience to use their imagination.
B- There is some fear for open works, for instance in cultural institutions… when presenting our work, we must indicate a topic, check a box ... That dictates much of people's works.
Also, when we comprise so many different elements into each action, most individuals coming from certain 1960's type of performance art find our work terrible. They (hypocritically) regard the usage of multiple light and sound elements as "selling out". 

I- Is there a heavy legacy of 60-70s performance art?
B- Yes. I think it's a problem in Spain, because here Performance art means performance as is was done in the sixties –a particular kind of performance art…and then you investigate a bit and learn there was a lot of people doing many different things in the sixties, including music, light ... awesome stuff. In Italy, for example, they have a freer conception of performance art, almost scenic.

I- What condition is Spain's performance art in now?
D It is striking how performance art, coming from the 60s and seeking to be a liberation movement has stuck in the twentieth century; It has become intolerance instead of pluralism: a single criterion has been imposed. What is sought in it now is to "épater les bourgeois" -currently the gentrified-, with political support from institutions that are not precisely supporting the ideals those artists claim to defend, rather attacking them.
B- Performance art in Spain is always much associated to political issues or activism, usually improvised and with little toil, even if in its origin it was not necessarily that way. So when we say "this is also performance", some disagree because what we do is not a protesting, spontaneous or impromptu action.
D - We believe any political action must be done as a citizen, not as an artist, because the current situation invalidates any political discourse of a work; for example by the context in which it is exposed.

I- If there is something you have in common with this performance art from the 60's tht is the usage of the body.
B- Yes, but it is the body in a context. In such so-called "classic" performances it is usually naked, and we do the opposite: we put on layers and layers and deform the body, using prosthetics or masks, somewhat in line with the Triadic Ballet: regarding the body as a part of the composition.
D- I get the impression that the use of the naked body in an empty space of the stereotypical performance art ends up being quite narcissistic. In that sense we do integrate the body with light, color and the environment, which are as important as the person.

I- You say your performances are abstract and consisting of scenes. Did you ever fancy  telling a story?
B- No, but what really is more complicated is not telling any story. Especially since our components' gender, we currently are two women and a man, and just because of gender people tend to see relationships where there is actually nothing. We have to see how to run the entire set of stimuli (music, light and movement) not to provoke a clear general feeling in the audience, such as sadness or joy ... There must always be elements preventing a predominant sensation and that is very difficult. So we work in a very formal way. If we want to include a scene in which someone falls down, we have to think about what kind of sound we may use so that it is not recognisable whether it was good or wrong that he fell down. That's when your mind starts working as an audience.
D- To achieve this effect we do things like mixing the sound of an iceberg with recordings of rhinos while one of us appears dressed in something like a Samurai armor, dragging objects indefinitely ... is a crazy mix, but your brain will try to assemble all and look for consistency, and that is what we try to avoid. 

I- Do you have any difficulty exhibiting in galleries or art circuits?
B- not difficulty, pain [laughs]. Especially because there are many adverse circumstances. There are many people interested in presenting our work but willy-nilly they will not not pay for it. There are centres and large institutions holding the belief that live arts are not to be paid for, and we refuse to work without being paid. We have been working with great effort for over ten years already. If you do not get paid everything is devalued, not just our work but the whole art system. And this restricts the possibilities to continue creating. 
On the other hand, stylistically we must find someone who understands our work, which comprises several disciplines. We have been to art, music, theater, dance venues and festivals ... the best reception comes from non-specialists, generally audiences have no problem with us.
D- When dance people see our stuff, they say it is theater. When visual arts people see our stuff, they say it is dance. But when theatre people see it, they say it is not theater, rather visual art for them… We prepared our work so it can fit into any kind of space: auditorium, theater, art center ... for we have to be versatile. But in the end it depends on how open the programming or curating person is when deciding about giving us a spot or not.
B- Performance art is often regarded as a "pure" discipline that came from nowhere, although it usually feeds from the many sources available. Because we have many influences and there is nothing wrong in working from them. That's the problem. I think many times curators, programmers, etc., they need to get out of their so proudly closed world .

I- How long took you to put together the latest work? Tell us a little about it 
B- It's titled "Kowloon" and takes the name from a neighborhood of Hong Kong that interested us for its architecture. We had also seen a lot of films shot in that area in the 80s-90s. Certainly some of those influences from cinema and architecture are present but it is not a narrative or descriptive piece about Kowloon.
The difference from our previous work "Memory Root Light" is that it is much quieter and contemplative. We included new lighting colour, for before we only emplyed LED light, which provides a very specific range of  colour, but now we include incandescent lights, which give a warmer colour. The montage of the scenes is more cinematic, there are more "frame shifts" 
D.- is the first time we use no digital video projection.
B- No, we did not like how it looked like in this one, so we've worked hard with overhead and analog projectors customizing, transforming them, and we managed to coordinate their light with sound. In movement matters, we included more very slow motion, our previous work was much faster and could perhaps be perceived as more aggressive. We have further developed built structures that are now attached to the body, for before they were around.
D. - Also we included more natural sounds. We have sounds of Madrid, Hong Kong taxis, volcanoes ... used in a non narrative, not obvious way.  For example, for some scene cicadas –recorded last August in Madrid – are mingled with the sound of an Antarctic iceberg.

Do you contemplate video art as an option?
D- The problem is that what works live does not necessarily work in video, and this adaptation takes time. Actually, it is like making a new piece and you have to re-think it.
B- Now the main thing is to present the live work, then we will see other options.

I- What are your future plans?
B- traveling, meeting other environments and other artistic circles. We consider emigrating. Our previous piece could only be presented once in Spain, and looks like the same thing may happen with "Kowloon". So we have these two very elaborate works we would like to present, so to achieve this it seems to us we have to go abroad .
D- The art circuit in Spain is increasingly limited, the crisis has done much damage especially in terms of infrastructure, perhaps we were already worse off than other countries in Europe and that's why the crisis has been so catastrophic here in terms of artistic activity. In this regard we are considering searching for a market, find places where we may get a greater reception and a professional surrounding that is a little less closed in aesthetics.

I-  Finally, as usual, we ask you to recommend a book and a song to us… 
D- song ... well, I'd say the music I recommend is "Coming Together" by Frederic Rzewski. And a book, "Memoirs Found in a Bathtub" by Stanislav Lem.

B- My song, that is the piece I recommend is "The Rite of Spring" by Igor Stravinsky and a book, "The Art of Spirited Away" by Hayao Miyazaki.