Odd Beholder


Odd Beholder have just released an EP titled 'Lighting' on Mouthwatering Records. We loved the soothing dreamy electronica sound and the stylish, soulful video (see below), so we decided to pick their brains a bit. To make it a bit more interesting for all of us, we asked them about what's music got to do with art...

Since you guys are mixing the channels between conceptual art and Pop music with your output and general approach, we'll do the same with this interview. Is that okay?
Why not? But first of all, our music is far from being conceptual art. I use some basic art strategies that many other songwriters use – and they would never say that they are “mixing conceptual art with pop music”. I go to art exhibitions, I read poetry, I paint, I take photographs. But I am not challenging the production conditions of music through music / performance – I am not questioning the way people consume and experience music. There is nothing “meta” about our music, it has no “aboutness”, it’s just music.

Can you name 5 musicians or music based projects that could easily make it into the Tate? And tell me why?
I think no musician would easily make it to the Tate. A lot of excellent full time artists aim to get there, and it’s usually not something that happens by chance. If any musicians gets there, then it’s because a curator wants to experiment with his definition of art. The way I see it, it’s then more about the curator or the Tate than about the musician. I assume that the respective musicians had to have a certain visual or conceptual aspect that could qualify them for an exhibition. Björk would be an obvious choice because of her visual language and her ties to Matthew Barney; a less known and younger example could be Holly Herndon, which I would quite like to see in the Tate. Haven’t there already been some expositions that featured pop musicians?

From active concept artists, who would you wish would be making Pop music, and what do you think it would sound like?
In general, painters or video artists are more akin with musicians than conceptual artists.
Sophie Calle: She would sing very subtle, French chansons in hotel lobbies an use a different pseudonym for every gig she plays.
Richard Tuttle: Some very quiet field recordings, chopped apart and reassembled to a jolty, slow IDM.
Gerhard Richter: Very sterile string arrangements. Very sterile. Maybe made of crappy midi sounds.
Peter Doig: Indie. Weird lyrics about him admiring a girl with a beard.
Jonathan Meese: Hard-to-listen-to neofolk. He’s in a fetal position on stage clinging to his self made guitar.

What genre of music is Damien Hirst an equivalent of?Something pompous. Very serious. Not very funky.

Who is the most Punk conceptual artist ever?
Maybe Santiago Sierra. He paid six people to have their back tattooed – I think he gave them ten dollars for their disfiguration. Sierra is definitively wreckless, not afraid of dirt and not very subtle.

Who is the Beyonce of the art scene?
Hirst’s art is mainly craft, if I want to be that mean. He pretends that everything he does is deep shit and political – he comes across like a know-it-all. To him, art is a megaphone, not a path to enlightenment. He makes a ton of money and even pretends that his status in the art market is part of his art. Beyonce pulled a huge trick off with her Tidal album. Tidal is owned by the very same guy whom she seems to accuse of betraying her. She seemingly talks about her relationship problems and turns it into a gigantic promotion for her album. She uses feminism as a hashtag – I’m not saying that she doesn’t care at all about feminism and that her efforts are pointless, it’s just that I don’t think feminism comes first for her. Damien Hirst makes me feel like he deals in the same way with his convictions. He mixes a little bit of baroque memento mori with late pop art, nothing new, nothing shocking about it – boom, and he’s a superstar. After all, I prefer Beyonce over Hirst, her voice is amazing, she either knows how to write songs or choses good people to work with. Most of all, I like that she gave Warshan Shire a platform.  

If you could turn Justin Bieber into a concept performance…
A lot of concept art is – the way I’ve come to know it – about revealing the skeleton or the structure of a phenomenon. It’s about lending visibility to a power structure behind something, for example. So I would try to figure out how a big company turns the hysteria of young girls into money. I would want to display the company that Justin Bieber is. But that’s a typical first idea. It’s too obvious. If I really wanted to do a concept performance about Bieber, it would take me two months to write a better concept.

Odd Beholder remixes Ai Wei Wei, live on stage…
Ai Wei Wei sung a song about a lama. It is actually a Chinese word play with “motherfucker” and “lama”. The two words are really similar in Chinese, apparently. So he kind of released some musical material that would be easily remixable. Otherwise, we could turn his sculpture “Forever Bicycle” into some kind of instrument. “Forever Bicycle” is anyway a pretty nice title for a song, I would say.

If you could choose any artist to design your LP cover, who would you go with?
We had the privilege to actually work with two established artists, Taiyo Onorato and Nico Krebs – for real. I’ve observed their work for a long time. They have a rather playful approach. I admired their crossover between sculpture and photography. They built camera obscuras out of impossible objects like turtle shells or (supposedly) ethnological artifacts. I can’t explain what exactly they are doing, but with their work they are translating stuff into other stuff. When I watched her exhibition at the Fotomuseum Winterthur, which is quite an institution in Switzerland, I discovered that they made a road trip to Azerbaijan. I found it an interesting coincidence that we shot our video clip for the single there, too. We had a lot of discussion about exoticism during the shoot, and I had the impression that they addressed this topic in their work. I wrote them if they wanted to collaborate. They agreed! I am already very excited about our actual cover, a dream come true. For the next EP I would maybe ask the Chinese photographer Weng Fen. He made a series of school girls sitting on a wall and looking into the metropolis of China. I like the series. But maybe it has to do with the moment I encountered it. I have seen a huge print in Shanghai in the Mogashan Art District (I don’t remember which art gallery it was) and I still think about my study time in China very often. It left a huge impression on my approach to art and music. Second, the series of Weng Fen fit the sociological questions that moved me during the songwriting of the second EP.