Wednesday, 25 September 2013

INTERVIEW - Heinz Riegler (part 2)

Here is the second and final installation of the interview I conducted with Heinz Riegler on a sunny August afternoon at Jamie's Espresso. The focus here is on the Open Frame festival and its curator Lawrence English, and future projects.

SONIC MASALA – I’ll come back to this, but I wanted to briefly talk about Open Frame as well. You are playing with Francisco Lopez and Angel Eyes…what Lawrence does is amazing, and in a bizarre way I think it’s underappreciated? In what he is able to bring to Brisbane. It’s always been a situation that Brisbane has a “scene”, even when I arrived at the dying stages of the 20th century as a fresh-faced kid, it was still very much a Custard, even Not From There, type of environment, which of course was great and I appreciated it then, but thinking of that space then to now, seeing artists like Mark McGuire and Lopez, Benoit Piourlard and High Wolf – I couldn’t imagine such a thing happening ten years ago. Yet Lawrence and a few others like him are creating these pockets of existence, and I think that is amazing that Brisbane is a part of that.

HEINZ RIEGLERFor me to start talking about Lawrence and the work he is doing, his own output, what he is facilitating, I gush, I tend to go into these…I don’t want him to feel too good about himself (laughs). But I think what he brings to the table is outstanding and I feel – I have been friends with Lawrence for a long time and we’ve done work together in the past – every time he encourages me to make something to create something with him or through his channels, I'm very honoured and pleased to be working with him because I have an enormous amount of respect for the guy. If we talk about Open Frame and the events he brings to Brisbane, I think it’s…I remember seeing Chris Watson, who used to be Cabaret Voltaire a long time ago, and he does a lot of field recordings now, and manipulates them into quite musical pieces. I think it was an Open Frame at the Powerhouse (in 2009) – I remember sitting up there as the guy presented his work, and it was recordings coming from four speakers set out in the room, and the room was packed with people sitting on cushions. I went up to Lawrence after the show and told him “All these people? You made this thing happen, you’ve made it a consistent reality in Brisbane.” It’s a really wonderful thing that it happens in this town. It was the first time I realised that – here I go again, I don’t want to boost his ego – but he brings an enormous amount to this town. Anyone who is half interested in music or art would have to acknowledge that. And I'm not sure when you say underappreciated, because I haven’t been back here for that long, but I do go to his events and people seem to be embracing what he is bringing here…

SM – I guess I'm implying that in the current climate it still remains, he is lorded in the right channels, but you would certainly like to have a situation whereby the Open Frame Festival is openly celebrated in mainstream media. It is never going to be mainstream, but it’s another element to Brisbane that should be overtly embraced. I mean, those shows he puts on at the Powerhouse or over at the IMA (Institute of Modern Art in the Fortitude Valley)…I mean, he managed to bring Grouper to Brisbane, the only show she played in Australia – what a coup! And she played the exact opposite to what she has played in her entire career to date, much of which comes from her latest album (The Man Who Died In His Boat), and it polarised the audience – but that is the beauty and majesty of music, and it’s great that we can have it here in Podunk Brisbane.

HRYes! (laughs) When I hear that people would be disappointed in that performance, that it gets that kind of reaction, that this sort of music or creation, that they would not want to get caught up in a new stage from an artist, I thought that was the pop music world where people get upset when the artists doesn’t play the hits.

SM – (laughs) It was funny to see some of the reactions. I mean in fairness she did abjectly refuse to play anything that had defined her up to that point…

HRYeah, but it is still a disappointing response from people. I have seen shows with Lawrence, some of the early Room40 shows with artists like David Toop, Scanner; and we are talking about filling rooms in Brisbane, about making quite challenging work at times. I played at the Open Frame in London a couple years ago, and it was quite packed. So it isn’t just Brisbane, he is moving things on a global scale.

SM – When you see things written about Lawrence in publications like The Wire, that really excites me because often I even forget he is from Brisbane. He is certainly one of a kind but he is – I mean, I love Brisbane, for its weaknesses as much as for its strengths…

HRSo does he, you know…

SM – He is someone who is working outside of the slipstream of, well, I'm not going to say the Brisbane “scene”, that isn’t what I mean – so when I read about him and listen to his last actual album album, The Peregrine, then reading about it when travelling through Europe in various magazines and blogs, then his last couple of field recording releases (Songs Of The Living/Songs Of The Livedreviewed by us here)…

HRThere is a bit on there where he came up to the cabin with his wife actually.

SM – My favourite part from those recordings has nothing to do with field recordings per se, it’s the one where he’s captured the sound of one of his microphones falling over ('Microphone Collapsing Into Grass Sinclair Wetlands New Zealand'), and it’s this slow disintegration of sound, you feel this open space and because the mic is going into the ground, the grass, the dirt, and the rustling of Lawrence trying to set it back up again, I thought it was brilliant. This unguarded moment captured in audio. And it’s things like that that amazes me. But enough about Lawrence…

HRYeah, fuck Lawrence!

SM – (laughs) OK, well, I'm really intrigued to see where, with those few elements where you had the isolation of the Austrian Alps, from technology as well as from people, physical noise and mental noise, to doing this installation which funnily enough was indirectly impacted by the environment from the landslide anyway, another added moment, then Sleep Health designed to help you sleep – I get the sense that you don’t really pick and choose your projects, something just takes interest or suddenly appears and that becomes an obsession for a while?

HRIt’s an interesting kind of time for me. I have spent a great portion of the 2000s saying no to things, and feeling unable to complete things. It’s starting to over the past few years to say yes to almost everything that comes my way, within reason. I've chosen to say yes and it’s a remarkable thing that happens when you start doing that; you are taken out of thinking, you are put into positions that you otherwise wouldn’t be in, and there is something always imparted on you. I'm less concerned with the quality of the outcome as I am in putting myself into interesting situations. I'm less concerned about what stands at the end of that , but I don’t think I’ll have much time to consider that because I’ll be onto the next thing. Maybe one day I’ll make something really good, but maybe not, and it makes you really free. If you get glimpses of that, and avoid getting really anal about how something continues to sound like or looks like, if you are able to put yourself into a “well, it’s not that important or crucial’ thinking space, you become free in what you can and can’t do. A lot of fear falls away, and when the fear falls away you start to work on things that you otherwise wouldn’t have attempted and you may fail, but I may fall over and be dead in 24 hours, anything is possible. Fuck it.

SM – So what’s next?

HRI was going to be flying out of here pretty soon, but I think I'm going to be here for a couple of months extra, with a couple of projects coming to light that I’d really like to follow up on. I'm doing one show in Sydney and one in Melbourne to support these records that are coming out, and planning a couple of other site-specific things that may be happening here next year. The one really concrete thing is that I’ll be in Europe again for the winter, and a friend of mine who is an architect, he doesn’t really build things rather than follow the theory, and he teaches at Bauhaus, he’s a fascinating cat who happens to end up living in my hometown village and we reconnected. We did this thing a couple years ago. He is this really sought after guy so he always has these interns coming and going from all over Europe wanting to work in his office, and we all came up with this idea of having film work being displayed in some kind of architectural development that had been constructed out of snow and ice. We made this thing called -20 Degree Cinema, basically it tended to be a party for all of us, and we ended up sourcing some short films and video art, and architects designed this cinema in the open air, the seating was all built out of snow, there was a workshop kind of environment, and we had this screening of hours long of a bunch of shorts and video art. So we are doing that again, but this time we are wrapping it up a bit. I'm looking to have a life that is transient between Europe and Australia, so I will need things to do while I'm here and while I'm there that is the first thing, this strange hybrid festival built around architecture, film and video art.

SM – And that’ll be in your hometown again.

HRIt is, this tiny village in the Alps. There will be an open call for people to submit work, and it will expand in the sense that it won’t be a straight up 16 x 9 cinema screen, it’ll be more objects that will be projected on, maybe even projections from within objects…So that is concrete. There is already a project for early next year here in Australia for documenting the floods in Bundaberg with a photographer friend of mine Brad Marsellos that centres around North Bundaberg and the destruction centred around there. There’ll be a sound work for this in conjunction with some photography of his. That’s firming up also. My dream is to have an eternal winter – six months in Europe then six months here. Mainly so I miss the wretched heat here in Brisbane. We’ll see.


One other project that Riegler has on the go is artwork - he is launching Sisyphus/Unlearning. It will be at the same venue this interview took place, Jamie's Espresso, on Thursday October 3 from 6pm. 

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