Truth, what is it good for? Not much in these seemingly truthless times. News and information seems to be in bountiful supply right now, but we’ve all become accustomed to treating versions of ‘truth’ that are spun to us with varying degrees of contempt. Which is probably why FACT’s current exhibition, No Such Thing As Gravity, is chiming so much with us, as we’re all groping for the nature of truth that we want.
As the exhibition draws to an end, FACT are teaming up with promoters of avant garde electronica to present an event that pitches two of the most exciting female producers in electronic music into an environment that gets them to search for their own truth. London-based sound sculptress NIK COLK VOID (one half of fabulous DFA industrial techno outfit Factory Floor) and experimental Swedish composer KLARA LEWIS are joining forces to create a spontaneous and improvisational piece of music in response to the work in the No Such Thing As Gravity exhibition. Given that both artists specialise in creating vibrant mixtures of art and sound that incorporate experimentation, field recordings and various electronic trickery, what they produce in the live event will surely be an entertaining trip.
Before the event, we spoke with Nik Colk Void to find out a little more about her approach to the process.
Have you ever worked with Klara Lewis before? What do you know of her work?
I haven’t worked with her directly, but we have shared the bill a few times, at Incubate festival and an event with The Quietus in 2014. I asked her to perform at the ICA with us [Factory Floor], and it was there we said that ‘we should work together’. We talked about me going to Stockholm – then this show came up, and it seemed like the best opportunity.
For this live event, you’re going to be working with Klara on responding to FACT’s No Such Thing As Gravity exhibition. Is this an approach that you feel suits your style well, crafting music for a situation-specific brief?
I’ve only performed a handful of solo shows to date: 3 Guitars for Live At Jodrell Bank, that Quietus event and at Wysing Arts Centre. For each show I’ve always prepared a unique performance. I prefer it this way as my practice is all about the here and now. I see these opportunities as a way of creating a concept to encourage and push my improvisation – be it with a collaborator or a machine. The same goes for exhibitions I have been involved with and releases; for example, Third Floor [made for Georg and Tobias’ Cyan Yellow Violette exhibition in Switzerland in 2013] and Gold E [a 2012 piece of guitar bowing pressed to a degradable material which changed the way it sounded after repeated plays].
Will you be leaving room for spontaneity in the live performance when you’re working on this piece of music?
We’ve both thought about the brief, and we’re interested in stretching the boundaries of time manufactured via technology and time produced via our instinctive body clock. So, in essence, this performance could go any two ways, randomness or beat. Naturally, both will be fed from the feeling of the room.
How would you say that your solo work now differs from what you did when you first started out?
I hope it’s got better! This whole trip is about learning. The main emphasis of outlining a plan and a formula has stayed pretty much the same. It doesn’t matter what instrument or tools I’m working with, my purpose is to push it, mould it into something it’s not used to. I disregard traditionalism – I grew up in the countryside being bored! There were no shops, [I was] an outsider at school, so I’d make things. I had a big imagination. I wasn’t street or worldly, so that’s why I fell for music, my ticket out. My naïve approach was a blessing, as I’d play things my own way, experiment. I’ve always hit my guitar or played around with my voice to make it sound like an emotion.
Does collaborating and working across boundaries fire your creativity in different ways to working in a ‘band’ environment?
You get the best out of me when I collaborate. It took a while, but I’ve found my strength! I like walking into a situation when I don’t know what to expect. I like spending time with other artists and musicians, I find it easy. Having an aim together, and coming out the other end with a great result, is like having the best conversation ever. I work the same with my tools: I could choose guitar, voice, electronics… This time I’m bringing my modular synth rack for its one-off nature. We’re setting up base at Metal Gallery to prepare and perform, so being in Liverpool will help us get a demographic feel for the place.
There’s an element of this exhibition that is aimed at ‘demystifying’ technology for young women. Do you feel that some elements of the technology sector are alienating for young women?
I really hope not. It’s not the language of technology, it’s the lack of confidence in ourselves that makes us stand still. I think it’s down to the commitment of ‘you’. With improvisation there is always that worry that it’s all going to go wrong and you stand there on stage looking like an idiot. But if you’re not afraid of that and think ‘what are ya gonna do?’, you can move on. Getting past that fear of asking questions, taking bits of the answers on board and making it your own is a way of achieving something great. If you put your own foot into that technological community it has to open up for you.
Did you feel there were any barriers for women when you were first getting into the field of experimental electronica?
I have lived in an environment built around music and performance since I was 17. I’ve experienced many different genres and, to be honest, they’re all very similar. There are preconceptions, but finding your own way, working things out for yourself, means you will come up with a unique way of working. Money is perhaps the major silent factor that’s the gender divider, but then again it’s not just the music/art community suffering with this. I feel I have come so far, I had no other option but to embrace the electronic world – it suits me because I like an exploratory approach to making music and with this comes research. It has opened up the art and fashion worlds to me, and it’s enabled me to put all these attributes in one box.