|Derek Holzer on Mon, 2 Oct 2000 04:20:59 +0200|
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|Syndicate: Interview w/ Erik Hobijn|
*** Derek: What's your background as an artist?Eric: I have a big range. I fooled around a lot with ovens for pottery in the begining, so I got interested in heaters and stuff like that. Then I went to an art academy, but they kicked me out. After that, I had an art-group: SKG. In English it means City Art Group. We did all these actions. Some were humoristic, some were really serious, even up to bombing. Some openings we would bomb with smoke bombs or something, for the action. That was mainly because it was pretty stuck in Amsterdam and I needed a platform. It was like a media event, we would use the action not especially for the action itself, but for what it cost, and what kind of name we got in the media. They would try guess where we were from, like if we're from the ARF or something. Later on, I did some technical school. I always used to make things with fire, but then slowly I went into a more mechnical stuff and machines. Then I met Mark Pauline and all the others.
D: So you worked with Survival Research Labs?E: Yeah, I made a machine with them actually. They asked me if I wanted to propose an art project, and we would split the cost, so I figured out the Dante Organ, which is an organ with flame throwers. But then, of course, we had no money, so we had to five finger discount materials--'obtainium', as Mark calls it--and because they were running around anyway I just scraped my thing together and built at the same time. To be really painful, when they opened they had big big problems in the beginning because of the Dutch rain. Just like here, it's raining all the time, and because they are from California, none of the electronics were closed or waterproof, so my thing was actually the only one that worked.
D: Tell me more about this flame organ project. You made a flame organ for SRL first?
E: No, actually for my own show. It wasn't intergrated into their show. I had to do the show before their show, and then, after that I joined their show, but just as an operator. That organ was called Dante Organ. After that, I built the Delusion of Self Immolation. That was a machine in which you have three stages of burning. It's a machine eleven meters long and four meters high. There is a person standing in the middle on a platform, and on the back there's a flame thrower. It shoots liquid--not gasoline, but another liquid--on your back. While you're burning, the platform turns and then the extinquisher on the opposite side of the flame thrower extinquishes you. It puts out the fire by water, because water cools good. There are three states on the machine that I call "rare", "medium", and "well done". "Rare" means you survive without any wounds. "Medium" is more for, say, the SM session or for people who like pain or to understand parts of life, or to have this experience of pain. The third possibility is death. It is possible to die in this machine, I just have to change the liquid, and I have to change the timing. This is adjustable electronically, but not with a computer. There are too many bugs, and its not secure enough, so you have to use relays and electronics if you want to have no failure at all.
D: How many people have been in this machine?E: I think about 32. Actually, a lot of women. I made this machine in the time that I had so much energy and couldn't loose the energy, and I didn't understand the source of the energy and the meaning of it. I also had this desparetly urge to look for the sense of why I was there. Probably because I was so wild and overboiling with energy I didn't know where to look to concentrate and find out what this sense of being there was and the sense of meaning of the things were around me. I was very worried about that question, so I started to get more into creating tools which would create autoimmolation and pain to discover mortality. I thought at that moment that my understanding of what life was about had to be connected to the understanding of the experience of mortality, and so I built that machine for that reason. When that machine was functioning, I realized it was kind of ritual, because actually the moment you burn is very little, so its like an anti-climax, because its only 0.4 of a second to maybe one second. One second burning is enourmous long, and that really hurts you, so a half hour before, we put all this gel on you to protect you from burning. With all the people around, touching you to put this gel on, its like a ritual. I don't do it in public, I only present the machine to the public, to show that it's functioning, and after the public is gone I do private sessions.
D: It's never malfunctioned?E: No never. I have a team, and everybody in the team has a veto. They can say "No", "I don't understand it", "What's going on?", or "Stop", and we have to do all the checks again, like an airplane.
D: What would be the connection between that project and the fire organ? Is there a sense of mortality involved in the fire organ?
E: Which do you mean? The Dante Organ, or this one? D: This one.E: I call this one a Whistling Pipe. It's not actually an original idea from me. There are other people who are doing this, and that I like because art is all about originality and I wanted to break that idea in myself. Not just to the outside, but to myself as well. I had the idea already for a long time, because if you have flame thrower and you have a flame--my flamethrowers are already tubes welded to tanks--so then this is just the next step. I wanted to work in the region of low frequency sounds because they travel very far, like whales, and I want see if you can create really low frequencies that go over water. Actually, tonight we should have some of the public on the other end of the river, to see if the sound will arrive there. But this is the first step, definitely not the last step. I have to build some bigger burners. I will use balloon burners and bigger pipes which can create lower frequencies.
D: Would you be able to create frequencies which would be lower than can be heard?
E: Yes, definitely, you would only feel it. Some of the frequencies are actually quite dangerous if you are too near to it, too long. The French were doing a lot of research on weapons with low frequencies sounds.
D: What would be some of the harmful effects of very low frequency?E: Well, each part of your body has a certain frequency, and each activity of the brain has a certian frequency. Reading has a certian activity frequency, and writing, etc etc. I don't know exactly what damage it does, but I take for granted that if they wanted to find out a weapon with this, then it must have some effect on you. I noticed the effect on me if I'm playing is that, after a while, I hear everywhere low frequency sounds. The spectrum of low frequency opens up for about three hours, so while all the cars that are passing, and the big trains, I hear the low frequency. And also, when I fall asleep, I hear the low frequencies.
D: Actually I noticed a very similar thing after I left you practicing. I was walking through the streets of downtown Riga, picking up the trucks going by the low frequency sounds just like the whole environment is an equalizer where you've cut the top end of the sound off. You know, there's that fabled low frequency that makes you loose control of your bowels. Do you know which one that is?
E: No, I don't know the frequency itself. D: But you know it exsists? E: Yes, I do.D: What's the musicality of this project? It seems like you're giving people a lot of room to improvise, but also you've told us that you are going to go and write a score.
E: Like I said, this is the first time i do it. I'm not interrest in the perfect music piece. I'm more interresed in the quality of sounds and the organization of moments where each of the parts are falling into its place. I like this moments of accident in it. Most people are busy with a good project You see it all around. They want a good design, they want a good music piece, they say "Its nice, but when are you going to write down a good music piece?" That's not what I want because it's the fertality in the sounds of the sculpture that I found most important. For that, structures have to be open, it should not be fixed. Other eople can do that, they can write a beautiful piece. In that sense I'm not a musician, I don't know all the frequency, but this is not the accidental. The reason why I pull out a bit is because I'm not really a musician in that sense, so I think I should leave room for the musicians. Next time I want to play with professional musicians. There are three guys who are really into it, and they pick up fast. I would say it's like sculpturing with your hands. It's like working with clay, but with the sounds. The burner is really like a light tool in your hands, and you move it towards the mouth of of the pipe, and you go into it, and you go out to it, and you play with it. It's really tricky. You play with the valve and you open it a bit and then all at once it starts to have this frequency interference and starts to tremble and then you feel it go out again. So this the thing you play with. It depends on the temperature, it depends on the wind, it depends on the other sounds created.
D: Are there musicians of specific backgrounds who might have a more intutitive idea how to play these pipes, for example a saxophone player?
E: I know Gordon Monoham. He is a composer, and he knows all about this and how to really compose a piece, which I think really I should do one day. Now, the pipes are sixteen feet as it is. Divide sixteen feet by half, you get one octave. At sixteen feet in length, the sound is almost not hearable, its on the borderline, and so I cut that according to the quints and the tets and the octave, ect ect, for one little organ only. The others I didn't measure at all, and actually I like the others more. The sound is more full, more rich, and these first are more dead. I don't know what it is exactly , but that's the things which we had to find out by doing many many times. We had only ten days to build this one.
D: So it would be possible to build a scaled organ?E: Totally, but then you have to build it, test it, build it, test it, play it. Its not West Europe here. This is the Baltic, and things are done roughly. But actually that is exactly what I want. I don't want this killing perfectionism. I'm from Holland, and in Holland, everything--where ever you go, what ever you touch--is organized. There is no piece of land which some office or some person hasn't designed or created, and this makes me crazy! So I like this rawness, and I want this back This soul I want to have back in machin. I want to go back to the roots of industrial music. That's where I'm coming from. I used to organize concerts with my brother; the first concerts in Holland of Test Department, Laibach, Last Few Days, 23 Skidoo, and all those bands.
D: A lot of the very early Industrial music was very processed-based music. It was not very processed, but was process, where what you were trying to do was explore how the sounds were produced and not necessarily how they were orchestrated. I'm thinking of Throbbing Gristle or early Einsturzende Neubauten.
E: Neubauten really had control about it, though, they were absolutly great musicians. You can't change your roots, you know, and I don't want to. Actually, I didn't do this for a while. I was more into the visual, but the Dante Organ is also sound. It makes the very rythmic sounds of pneumatics and valves clicking, and this huge sound of a flame, but its like whistling. One flame thrower goes up 35 meters. If the weather is good, it will reach 40 meters. The next step flame thrower is 25 meters and the other ones are like 15, and I have 12 of them altogether. I can shoot sixteen hundred liters of gasoline in only a hundred eighty seconds if I have them full blast--which is impossible. In reality, the whole thing takes takes seventeen minutes.
D: These aren't being shot through tubes, though. They're just going straight into the air?
E: Yeah, just the flame throwers shooting straight into the air. D: Is this instrument still in commission?E: Yeah, it's still working. Its like a spear preformance. It's really heavy, its like the aesthetics of war, the aesthetics of violence. This is something I'm always facinated by. Even though the Delusion of Self Immolation is very controlled, it's still of course violence against the body, against the meat of the body: the skin, the sense, the nerves. My idea was that this contact with the nerves, this danger, must create another level of awareness, and that creates another level of knowlege which you cannot reach by studying or by another imput. You need this physical input, and what we done in our culture, first of all, is that we have used all the techniques we have to cut out danger. Look at the medical knowlege; it's all to make life gentle and soft and safe. Cars are look so safe, you don't even feel you're driving. I want to understand the driviing of the car, for example. I would rather have the accidents. If were to be telepathic, and I would know where accidents would take place, I would not try to stop that accident. I would actually try to build a stage and sell tickets so people would see the accident, because the accident is the contact and the awareness of the driving. You don't know this if you're driving, you don't know the danger, you don't experience the speed you don't experience the flying, none of this. But you do when the accident is there. It's only when something disturbs, when something breaks, when there is some demolition or disordering, that it becomes clear what is going on, and becomes clear what life is about.
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