AND ALSO THE TREES

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

And Also The Trees came into being in a small village in Worcestershire, United Kingdom, a setting which has been significant for you from the very beginning. While analyzing your more recent releases, these undercurrents seem to be easily traceable in your songs. What has changed throughout the years?

S.H.J.: Justin and I lived in a hamlet in Worcestershire for almost thirty years. There was a period when we made an effort to get away from this environment creatively speaking but it does take a conscious effort. This is where our roots lie and I imagine we will continue to be taken back there one way or another. These days it seems reflect our relationship with nature or solitude for example, rather than the place itself.

In shaping your songs, you seem to begin from identifiable places and moments (related to rural history or to English literature, for example) and then construct a narrative that detaches completely, while positing itself outside geographical and even temporal framings. Would you consider your body of work as an attempt of “looking back” or as something that goes beyond that?

S.H.J.: It is more than just looking back, as you say there is a certain disregard for “temporal framings” – lyrically I have always enjoyed the freedom of being able to drift backwards and forwards through time. Having said that I don’t recall moving into the future that often. I sense the past around us, for good or bad it is there, in the city or in the countryside, it is in our minds and dreams. It can hold us back but there is also a lot we can learn from it.

Nostalgia seems to play an important role even in today’s cynical culture. While having gathered experience from your tours and travelling, would you see it differently perceived in Britain than in other places you have lived/visited?

S.H.J.: I think nostalgia is a human emotion isn’t it? Which would make it the same everywhere.

In terms of music, listeners seem to be currently more nostalgic about the past than they were some years ago: the growing interest in early post punk or cold wave releases, for instance, compared to the inclination towards deconstruction/nihilism in the early ’80s. How would you regard this shift and what music & visual art where you interested in when you formed AATT?

S.H.J.: It goes round and round in circles, we are constantly learning from, referencing from, yearning for what has past… we always have been and we always will. Whilst the punk scene in the late 70’s was about deconstruction and rebuilding it was quickly followed by a big Mod revival and then a few years later there was plenty on interest and nostalgia for the Rock–a–billy scene.
What I see now is that the lines between one scene and another are more blurred and that scenes in general are more fragmented than they were and as a result I expect they have less of an overall effect on society.
As a band we have been influenced by many artistic/musical movements from Pre–Raphaelite romanticism to the Jazz age, East European folk to Psychedelia. These avenues of exploration have been and still are very important to us creatively.

Listeners have often linked AATT to post–punk/neo–romanticism, genres which expose(d) urban anxieties and dystopic visions regarding the City. Is the urban environment with its cultural turmoil significant for you, as artists?

S.H.J: It has it’s significance to us yes but obviously, due to our environment when we were growing up and indeed forming the band, much less of a significance than to other bands who were at their creative peak at that time… like Joy Division, The Gang of Four, PIL, Magazine etc… The atmospheres and emotions generated by that era and it’s “urban anxieties”, as you say, were something we felt close to and even a part of as young people growing up but creatively we were compelled to write about subjects and themes that were more closely linked to our actual situation.

Do you believe that we could talk about a striking dichotomy between the rural, idyllic environment and the industrialized blackened city? I think that those lines tend to get more and more blurred…

S.H.J.: They certainly do get more blurred yes, especially in our part of the world. This ebbing and flowing of the rural and urban is a subject we’ve thought a lot about over the years.

Your music is charged with melancholy, a quality that is given by both the vocals and the haunting instrumental. Would you regard it as a pervasive element throughout your releases?

S.H.J.: I’d say all of our work has a pretty thick vein of melancholy running through it, yes. Our aim is to balance it with an energy or light that comes either through the music or words.

While listening to your songs, one is tempted to visualize them as vignettes, similar to the Photo–Secessionist photographic pieces that used Pictorialism as a source of inspiration. Would you regard them as separate narrative fragments or as a continuum that supposes thematic connections between them/between full albums?

S.H.J.: I regard them as separate narrative fragments that can often be linked one to another. They separate move off in opposite directions then eventually, sometimes come back together again. This at least, is how it happens in my mind… the lyrics are usually born from the music, yet in the context that we are speaking about now I am sure they take a different course – I mean I imagine that the musical connections are different to the lyrical ones.

This summer you have performed at the Temporäre Kunsthalle in Berlin, within the frame of the exhibition FischGrätenMelkStand by John Bock, who is also a close friend of AATT. How did this collaboration come into being?

J.J.: John is one of life’s interesting characters. He approached us when he was planning his show at the Kunsthalle as AATT are one of his preferred bands from the 20th century. We met a few times and have become friends. I’m hoping we can collaborate on another project next year…

Have you also participated with artwork to Bock’s exhibition?

S.H.J.: He hung some of my photographs (five) in the Virus Meadow music room. I used to work as a photographer and have exhibited my photographs from time to time. John saw my pictures and wanted them as part of his exhibition. He also exhibited Justin’s guitar and a film of us performing live made by the La Blogotheque team in Paris was projected on one of the gallery walls.
J.J.: It was good to have our own room in the “house” at the exhibition and we all loved playing the show in front of this “mad Terry Gilliam like structure”.

Many people came to see your acoustic performance, the location ending up full in a couple of minutes. What are your thoughts on the public and overall atmosphere in Berlin?

S.H.J.: I was really quite moved by the whole Berlin experience. I felt like I wanted to live there.
J.J.: Strange that after playing in Berlin so many times after these years we finally had time to experience the city and walk it’s length to discover the massive roads with tall houses with bars and Biergartens. I always thought of Berlin as a winter place but the summer suits it very well.

Nowadays, Berlin seems to be a point of convergence for many artists and musicians. Are there any performers that caught your attention during your stay? What contemporary musical projects do you find interesting nowadays?

J.J.: (didn’t stay long enough to experience anything of this kind)

Your official site has recently divulged that Justin Jones will contribute to the future album of Othon Mataragas: Impermanence. What do you think of Othon’s music and what are your ideas for the collaboration?

J.J.: I met Othon on a boat on the river Thames in London. Turns out he knew of AATT and some months later he asked me to play on this song as he had my guitar sound in mind. The he got Marc Almond to sing on this same track which appealed to me as I have followed his career for a while. Recently I saw him (M.A.) at The Royal Court where he was singing as a part of project entitled 10 Plagues.
Othon seems to be a brilliant pianist as well as a creative mind.

In 2009 you released the acoustic album When The Rain Comes, and you are currently working on an Acoustic Live DVD. Are you going to focus more on acoustic performances and recordings rather than electric ones in the future? Are acoustic performances important for conveying a certain atmosphere?

S.H.J.: The acoustic project was a very successful and hugely enjoyable one, we would like it to be a side of AATT that evolves, we are certainly thinking of continuing the live shows anyway. We have learnt a lot from it and it’s true that certain atmospheres come through more effectively in the acoustic environment and with the different instruments, we didn’t predict this.

Would the release of a video also be fitting for rendering visible the themes that you approach?

S.H.J.: I don’t know, I am quite content that what the listener pictures when they listen to our music is made and remains in their heads, however some of the short films and videos that people have made for our music have been interesting and I’ve liked watching them.

A question which you might have been addressed a couple of times already: how was the name And Also The Trees born?

S.H.J.: It was the name of our first song.

“Never stop, never stay” (Jacob Fleet). And Also The Trees seems to be constantly moving: what are you taking with you next and what should listeners expect in the near future?

J.J.: A new album should be recorded in 2011. It will not pretend that it is still easy to be creative in an original sense after more than 10 albums. This is why it takes us a long time to write them, we already wrote one and decided to start again. I’m sure that the acoustic project will influence this next album one way or another it is still early to know. We always have a feeling for the imminent work at the start. It’s realizing this which is where the magic happens.

questions & photo by Diana Daia

answers by Simon Huw Jones & Justin Jones

Full article here.

IDI I SMOTRI | COME AND SEE

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

From its title – Come and See – Elem Klimov’s last and most notable film – may sound like an invitation of sorts, but it may turn out to be one which many casual viewers would wish they had sidestepped after having fully experienced it.

The film offers an incursion into a place where the deepest terror meets the most depraved side of human nature. There is no relief, no forgiveness and no happy ending, and there may not even be a message either. Come and See is not a movie “about something”, but it is a movie depicting something. And given its form (anti–war movie), there aren’t many things to say either. War is well–known, and it has been known for ages, but it was only experienced by those in the battlefield. Maybe one single truth is relevant – that all wars were started and fueled by the few, and yet unleashed upon the many, like some many other things in society.

However, the film barely touches upon that. It is something that comes along the way and fits perfectly with the atrocities that the viewer witnesses. Yet, Come and See is not solely about the horrors of war, they only play a part in the film’s game, because yes, as odd or sinister as this may seem, this is more like a game – if you can picture a morbid game played by a wounded child in her last minutes of life. Which brings us close to one of the reasons why this film is unique: its protagonist, a 13–14 year old peasant boy named Florya, whom, in spite of his mother’s protests, joins the partisans, only to be left behind by them. We either see brave children or victims or we rarely notice a mix between willingness and helplessness, between his prompt decision to fight with the partisans and his overall unarticulated way of being. Of course these are things that can easily coexist, but in this particular context form an unique mix.

There is a scene where Florya meets a young girl (Glascha) – right after he is left behind by the partisans – a scene which has a sweet and tender touch, but it remains at the same time haunting and – why not – disturbing. It describes very well the movie’s approach. While most war films these days rely on explosions, dying comrades and some corny love–story (Pearl Harbor is a good, yet tedious example in this sense), this one displays atrocities in a poetic and haunting manner while still being very realistic. Even when the climax of Klimov’s imagery reaches a nightmarish exaggeration, it is hard to perceive it like that. Because when you are there, you feel it, it may not be there, but you feel it and see it even.

There is very little significant dialogue in this film, because such films do not need dialogue – on the contrary, a solid dialogue pattern may get in the way, it may weaken the material. There are not many things left unsaid, not many lines one can come up with that would not have the “already used a thousand times” tag upon them. Besides, we may know what the characters are thinking; it is easy to figure that one out. There are only the lingering images, the sounds and that is enough. War does not encourage a talkative behaviour either, it is more about submission than it is about negotiation: the submission of the many to the desires of the few, however hopelessly or ridiculous they may be. Or, from a victim’s perspective, it is about doing everything you can to defend what someone else wants to take from you.

There are no real heroes in wars and this is why the film doesn’t focus on them. Or even if there are, they wouldn’t be in full focus either, their grief will be enough burden to allow wasting time with such vanities.

However, in spite of all these, the film itself is less a depiction of war and its atrocities than it is a depiction of the animal nature in people. It is a known fact that, when allowed, people may act in a barbaric manner, leaving aside their beloved ethical code. An example of this is the scene in which the prisoners were told that “Germany is a civilised country” and that each and every one should have a brush when they are deported there. However, the German soldiers’ actions seem to dictate otherwise. There is a nearly overwhelming tendency to conquer and destroy, and during wars the social context preventing such atrocities to happen is absent. At the same time, there is also a childish, yet effective motivation: you do whatever is necessary for your country. There is no bigger lie than this, because a country does not make such demands, however some of its people do, to fulfill their delusions of power.

Come and See is a film that leaves no hope, gives us no reward for witnessing its atrocities, but I find this to be the best approach when it comes to such things. For there were countless movies that used violence as a selling point (and maybe countless others will come), and once in a while it is good to have a film that does not try to make such horrors entertaining, but instead depict them in an honest and uncompromising way.

Having said this, viddie well, comrades!

Movie still: Come and See. 1985.

by Shade

Full article here.

PIERRE ET GILLES

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

Pierre et Gilles are Pierre Commoy, born in 1949 in La Roche–sur–Yon and Gilles Blanchard, born in 1953 in Le Havre. They created through their artistic symbiosis of photography and painting a magnificent authentic universe. They have been inseparable ever since they met at a party in Paris in 1976, having solo exhibitions all over the world in Paris (European House of Photography), Glasgow (Museum of Modern Art), Tokyo (Ginza Art Space), Turku (Turun Taide Museum), New York (New Museum of Contemporary Art), San Francisco (Yerba Buena Arts Center for the Arts) or Vienna (Kunsthaus Wien).

Having worked together for 30 years, they produced over 700 artworks including portraits of celebrities from all over the world such as Salvador Dali, Yves Saint–Laurent, Paloma Picasso, Nina Hagen, Boy George, Catherine Deneuve, Kylie Minogue, Claudia Schiffer, Laetitia Casta, Dalida, Juliette Greco and close friends like Marc Almond or Nina Hagen or just random people. They create an unique experience of artificial settings, theatre elements, decors, lighthing, make–up, hairstyles, costumes made from special, varied material, sometimes receiving help from known specialists.

Their style is immediately recognizable because of their distinguishable technique, which leads to creating a unique handmade object: after Pierre takes the picture of the model, Gilles, without any digital manipulation and only by using successive layers of glaze and paint, brush and airbrush, adds new elements to the original frame transforming a reproducible photography into a unique piece. The boundaries between media of artistic expression are erased, and the photograph gradually transforms into a painting where their models find perfection and become porn or pop stars, religious figures, gods, saints, sailors, human clichés, at the crossroad of the sacred and profane, beautiful and ugly, good and evil, popular culture and classical elements.

Instead of representing the world as one marked by violence, they consider that they have the task to create a fairy–tale universe, dominated by kitsch, which is a result of mixing elements from Asian culture, extracted from their visits in Morocco, India, Thailand, while finding adorable the chromatics of these places and the people’s way of being.

To them, kitsch is just a way to meditate about themes as love and hate, tenderness and violence, and to combine commercial and high art, poetry, glamour and homoeroticism, adding to their artificially enhanced subjects exotic backgrounds with star–filled night sky, floating clouds, forest floors or industrial cityscapes and frames with flowers, branches, trees. Pierre et Gilles, like many other gay artists, focus on the male body, homoeroticism being one major aspect of their artwork. They use beautiful melancholic male models, naked or partially dressed, with muscular bodies, heavy face make–up, playing with notions such as masculinity, perfection, superficiality, body in modern gay culture.

Artwork: Pierre & Gilles 1992 Les Maries Models: Pierre et Gilles Courtesy of Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris

by Anca Stirbacu

Full article here.

JON ESTWARDS

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

Name: Jon Estwards

Location: Windsor, Ontario, Canada

Occupation: Artist

Definition of personal sphere: Living in an empty bookstore and never being around anyone

Artwork in 4 words: Playing along the cactus

What is inspirational for you: Anything with no connection to anything I’ve seen before

Currently favourite artists: None for a long time but I haven’t been looking around

Tools of trade: Mostly undisclosed. Cameras

Current obsessions: None

Personal temptation: Destroying my computer

Artwork: Untitled

 

Full article here.

INEXPLICABLY ANALYTICAL

   

The following article was published in N-SPHERE November 2010 issue.

 

We dreamt of a high speed chase across the heavens and of a spineless army throwing calcium arrows at catatonic targets. The firing squad has never been so beautiful. This is but a small token of my appreciation for the big black book on my night stand.

“Did you hear the chorus chanting in the afternoon sun?” “Not this time. I was indulging together with my ego into the remembrance of the bizarre conversations, in simpler shapes and sizes. You had something to say back then. Now you’re again mute.”

“Do I sometimes still think that one bullet brings the silence and another one the long forgotten ovations? I couldn’t say. There’s still much work to be done until that level of performance.” “I will excuse myself then, and return when you’ll desperately cry for help.” “You’rYou’re planning the future sufferings and rapture as always. I occasionally hate you as much as I hate myself. I’d gladly rip off every square inch of your skin and feed it to the subjects of your experiments, leaving the illustrious meat for the posterity to dispose of, and polishing of the bones for the children’s primitive amusement. Any further resemblance to your methods sickens me profoundly.” “Yes. Jumping in and out of psychotic episodes like in a new found game of hopscotch, spreading the joy and fun, is primitive indeed. But I am positively convinced that you can go beyond primitive.”

Let us agree on how not to make each other feel uncomfortable and out of place again. It shouldn’t be that difficult. And if by any chance it turns out so, we’ll summon our old friend and referee. Shall we begin with the appetizers?

by Bahak B

artwork by Vel Thora

Full article here.