Images. Sounds. Words. Two women. Two artists. Anna Stereopoulou, music composer and dream detector and Jana Tziveleki, visual artist and apprentice of the writing, meet on the occasion of the International Women’s Day and chat about Art, their experience of being a female artist and the ways they have chosen to communicate with the world.
[A.S] Jana, apart from the personal need of expression, what motivates you to create Art and communicate it? Do you think that as a female artist there is any -positive or negative- difference in your work or the way it is treated by the audience and the intermediates?
[J.T] I would say that my answer hides within your question. The pleasure of creating, of expressing the contradictions you have inside through Art and being able to communicate with other people, are all the main motivation in itself for me. Apart from that, I believe that each one has his own agony to find a personal way to deal with life -and, therefore death-; to combine their experiences with the ephemeral element of life. Let’s say everyone has their own personal version of what life is, in general. So one decides to invest on having a family, other on properties and wealth, some of us on creating /making Art. As a female artist, I don’t believe there is any difference when creating, no more than the differences we have from one another as humans. But maybe there are differences in what is perceived from outside. For example, I think in the beginning it may be considered easier for a woman to occupy herself with creative stuff. I say this because even nowadays society expects from a woman to be more sensitive, to express herself more in different ways, to create things, for example, for the house. But it’s getting a bit more difficult when all this is not just a hobby, or something a woman does to fill her free time in, but something she on which she decides to build her life, to dedicate herself to her Art, leaving things on the side for this. Because in a way, people think this is contradictory with the role a woman has as a wife or mother, and this happens also now even if we are supposedly advanced as a modern society. Because according to the clichés, the main role of a woman is to take care of people, to give birth, to offer. And when a woman decides to live her life in a different way, then maybe is something calling attention. This whole idea is also the main point of the course I am organizing in this phase called Female Artists, about how certain women, more or less famous in the history of Art acted and how they have been treated by their society. I am really very interested in this, it’s a course I myself attended when living in Zaragoza (Spain) and I could tell you from the information there is, we know there are very few female artists exhibiting their work in museums all over the world, while there is a great number of paintings with female figures, created of course by men. What we seek is obviously equality in all levels and that a work of Art made by a woman is not considered of less importance. Personally, I wouldn’t say I have had problems as a female artist, but this could be due to the fact that I have come here from a rather unorthodox way. I would say though there is a certain surprise when people see my work isn’t decorative or this is not something I do to spend my time while dreaming of another life.
For you Anna, what is the importance of being a Female Artist in the field of music and how do you believe that influences the process of your work, from the inspiration to the promotion?
[A.S] During my stay in England, in both the academic and work environment, I had already met many obstacles, not only due to the fact I am a woman, but also because I am Greek (therefore, a foreigner), really young, but mostly because I chose the influences to form the first stages of my music, myself, without accepting to follow the art genre curriculum imposed by the university. This, of course doesn’t mean there haven’t been many open-minded people -within or outside academia- who really helped and guided me. Advantages and disadvantages is something subjective for each one. Personally, the difficulties found in the path of a Female Artist, I consider as the best way I can fight, each time more fair, for my beliefs and art, to improve my work through study and by getting informed, but also to appreciate Human, no matter the gender. Equality once claimed by women, is now achieved on a difficulties-basis, too. Times have changed, and thus, concepts themselves. However, the clash between the two genders will never cease. Anything that appears Different, even in cases it is promoted as a fashion or trend, it basically remains to be characterised as foreign, and thus, a source of fear. Equality with the other offers a more fruitful result when achieved through -mutual- respect and appreciation, otherwise we only manage to feed hatred, isolation and lack of freedom at all levels.
What is your reaction (thoughts or impression) when you hear the phrase “the violet cone”? Is there any feeling you believe it cannot be fully expressed or described through an ArtWork, or else, through Image?
[J.T] What a question! Well, hearing “the violet cone” my mind goes to cubism, paintings of Malevich or Mondrian. Also, I think there is some kind of contradiction between the form and the essence, one holds the other in prison and this is something that causes me stress to be honest.
Now about the feelings, I believe all intense feelings can be expressed through images, there are a lot of different ways and each one chooses the one that prefers. On the contrary, I think it’s extremely difficult to express absolute calm in a visual way. That exact moment you find yourself in balance with the rest of the world, I cannot imagine how it could be presented, because the truth is any image could potentially destroy that sense of calm. At the same time I consider practically impossible to depict happiness, from one part because it’s something totally subjective and also from the other part because feelings clearly positive are not easily expressed through Art.
Well, I would like to ask you, are there moments on your way you’d rather keep a distance from composing? When it comes like a need to isolate yourself and if so when do you think this happens? I know you travel a lot, how does this influence your music? I mean, are these journeys a way to give you some space for creation or an opportunity to be inspired?
[A.S] I don’t believe a person could ever run out of inspiration about art, or about life, in general. Creation of any kind is the expression of our inner world and this is already a whole universe, itself. What matters, in my opinion, is how much oneself looks for or even creates real occasions to express and/or develop any feelings. A journey to a different place, a visit at an exhibition or to the street market, reading a book or an article on a blog can have the same dynamics which depend on the mood of each person. Inspiration can arrive from anywhere at any time. I frequently get inspired by the short notice of an open call -with of course, an interesting subject for me. However, there are also cases when I choose not to work on specific compositions of mine, because I feel the subjects they are based on need to get absorbed and matured within me, in order to reach the point I will be able to express them more objectively, as well as more correct, technically. Those periods of silence or abstinence cannot be planned. Nevertheless, they are equally essential and creative.
As a person who expresses yourself through poetry, too, what is the description -in one or more words- you would give to the intangible medium triggering the feeling?
[J.T] Like a kind of smoke that departs from somewhere and reaches us, either to stay in front of our eyes and confuse us, or to take a breath with it and change the whole sense we had ’till that moment. This is what comes to my mind.
Do you believe images exist before sounds?
[A.S] Yes; they do, indeed; we first get to see the sound and then, we get to listen to the image. They are interrelated, both to each other and to the senses of a living being. They both consist of waves transferred in time through matter (solid, liquid, air). In other words, they are different forms of energy traveling in a constant change, due to various factors, such as density, mass and volume (of the -tangible- medium), temperature, memory. Each wave -sound or electromagnetic (light, image)- moves through and towards several surfaces or other forms of energy which reflect or absorb it -fully or partially- and thus, help its continuation, diffusion and development. This is what exactly happens also with feeling, memory, Nous. When a sound, a light, an image is received by a Sense, it triggers and brings to the surface anything that has the strongest and most direct attachment to oneself. I believe it is an eternal and creative clash of the two, but also a challenge for an artist how to serve an image or a sound.
Apart from the Art Language, which other written or spoken language, of the ones you use, do you feel more familiar to, or which part of your personality is expressed by each one of them?
[J.T] I find very interesting what you are asking me, Anna, it’s something I have thought about a lot. In general I believe Art is a translation of our inner world -concepts, thoughts, senses, emotions- in another language that somehow manages to communicate with the outside world. Each one can choose the language that can better transfer his ideas; in my case, what is important is the translation of the conceptual to visual, or if we are talking about writing, to discover those words that can translate the sense you have for something. It’s strange, but when I got back from Spain I observed it was easier for me to write (poems and small texts) directly in Spanish (although I was living in Greece) in fact I created a series of photos with Spanish phrases, called Original Version with Subtitles (a term used in cinema for films not dubbed). As time passed I realized that this happened as a personal need to close unfinished business I carried inside, in relation to my life in Spain, so it couldn’t have been in any other language. Now, I still play with words in Spanish as well, but I also write, articles and texts, obviously in Greek, too. However, what interests me more is to always find ways to advance the translation of concepts as a visual artist.
Do you consider there is a difference between the music you compose for someone else, a play or a film, from what you create as entirely your own piece of music? Also how does the way your music gets to world influence you (having in mind that communication is now easier via internet) is there a difference between a concert on local level or other ways people can hear your music at any moment from any part of the world?
[A.S] I don’t think I can separate the music I compose as a commission, from the one I create for personal projects. What I could say is that the music I make for a theatrical play, a film work, or a conference, is part of my musical world, giving me the chance to study deeper various subjects and which I will use as developed tools, afterwords. What I gradually notice is that the composition of the music, as well as the development of the subject itself, of the work «circe :the black cut:» includes many elements I was called to research in the past, whether out of personal interest or due to another artistic occasion. Various collaborations, such as «The Lesson» [«La Leçon», Eug. Ionesco] for the choreography by Daniel Lommel, «The Dance of Death» [Aug. Strindberg], for the theatrical play of Ioanna Michalakopoulou, the composition «Helios», for the astrophysics conference dedicated to Ilya Prigogine [organised by the University of Insumbria, Italy], as well as own projects, such us the «Heliconian Muses», «The Journey of the Soul», «…oneirograph…», show me how and why I have formed the specific and -hopefully, constantly more and more spherical- philosophy about Life and the World, but also inspired me to begin a scientific research, some years ago. Part of that research is the factors that make each person perceive art, while found or based in different geographical or time points; factors, such as the climate, culture, the history or the acoustics of a venue’s space, landscape, or even personality and psychology /mood. Therefore, I think it is a present for me if my music can be heard in many different places, because this also helps me Listen better.
[excerpt of the Teaser Gig of «c i r c e :the black cut:» /1st Presentation events (Athens, GR, 12/2014)
with the participation of Labros Kantzos and Ana Béjar, Pablo Cobollo]
What do you feel after you complete an artwork of yours and/or about the specific creation (whether immediately or after a while)? Which are your current and future plans? Is there one or more of your works, or past collaborations you believe they have played a role to form the way you create today?
[J.T] In my opinion the people we meet and influence our life don’t bring something from outside, but they actually activate something we already carry inside of us. There is no doubt that my meeting with Spanish Artist, Lina Vila, in Zaragoza and the course I took with her about Female Artists has enormously influenced me and made me take the decision to create, even though I was over 30 years old and did not have any studies in Fine Arts. My photography piece “Sex” is also important to me. It was the first piece to be exposed in a collective exhibition related to the ephemeral in Cordoba (Spain). Later, the same piece was part of the artistic action of the collective of female artists in Spain, where works were projected on the façade of the Museum of Modern Art Reina Sofia in Madrid. Also, the trust Mexican artist Blanka Amezkua showed me for Wind Within, the first exhibition I curated in her artistic space FoKiaNou 24/7 in Athens, has of course been extremely important for me.
Now, as far as creating a personal work, well you feel some intensity, the joy of discovering something new, maybe of isolation, measuring your fears, negotiating how important it is for you acceptance every time and of course the pleasure itself of creating and of communicating your work. For every artist I think there is a certain moment when he feels certainty, that everything are in the right place and it’s then when he considers his work finished. After sometime obviously you get joy to see how your work acts on other people and other circumstances but then you have the distance to see observe all this.
About my future plans, I want to find the right place in Athens to present my new project that talks about human relationships and it’s called The [Red] Project, it has pieces of various materials with always a red thread inside them. At the same time I am organizing the course about Female Artists I was telling you about and through open calls and contests I manage from time to time to expose my work in public. I also keep on with the work in progress project that started by photographing the keywords that inspire Circe, as you know. Well, the great thing about Art is that it gives you total freedom and infinite opportunities to work on and that way the road is always open -and every time more interesting- to the evolution each one chooses. As far as writing I have now started a column collaborating with debop.gr something I enjoy very much and also gives me new ways of communication.
Anna, we know each other from before but, Circe was the reason we got closer artistically, when you asked artists from different places of the world to be inspired by and for this project. How did you experience this initial phase of Circe, what emotions have you got from the concert of 21st of December at Iris cinema theatre and what comes next for Circe? Apart from that, with what other project you are occupied these days?
[A.S] «c i r c e :the black cut:» is a world, vivid “vehicle” which still has a lot to teach me. It has a force and entity of its own, which consists of everyone who participates and interacts within it. This is also what it initially inspired the spherical sound (speakers set up enabling the circular movement) designed by Nick Piliouris and I for the Concert Premiere in IRIS cinema theatre, although, from the very beginning, I had chosen to express the Whole -characterising the project- through a multidimensional basis and not to limit it within a venue. The first presentation of «Circe» consisted of 3 interrelated parts: Family Album («Vuelo Libre»; digital /free release on the Spanish 7MNS Music platform) – Audio/Visual Exhibition (various spaces) – Music Premiere (IRIS Cinema Theatre). «Circe» is Labros K., Michael M., Elsa P., Samir, who performed with us in the premiere; it is all various world forms of Mother -Goddess- Nature, worshiped through the composition, but also, all of our thoughts, memories and dreams. It is the universal gnosis which owes to be shared freely in order to get developed; it is (our) female side which must come in union and harmony with the male one -and vice versa-, so we achieve a stronger expression of the Feeling; in order to energise our Senses, more. Such a Freedom of Expression is easier to be found within children’s soul and therefore, the project will give a greater emphasis to education. In regards to the project’s supporters, the choice and way of encouragement is not accidental, since they are international art networks and music platforms offering an important work, by helping modern creators to meet each other and promote and develop their work, without any intention to exploit their art, as -unfortunately- frequently noticed, but the contrary, with the concern to protect their rights.
So, all feelings mentioned above have inspired me to get a better idea and give a better shape to the composition of the work, too. The album of «c i r c e :the black cut:» will be available within Spring 2015, with a thematic proem, recently released and titled «Nectar 0.165”». Also, at the end of March I will participate in the Festival Parachute Light Zéro [ACT II, France] and the ToBe Continued 2015 [Stop TB (tuberculosis) Day music marathon], organised by the Global Health Incubator and the (radio) Stazione Topolò [Italy]. Also, a recent collaboration with Chris Silver T [Purple Overdose, No Man’s Land] will be released on Plus Timbre, in April 2015.
outro note by anna stereopoulou:
I met Jana in an event where we both participated, on the occasion of the future film «A Place Called Home» (dir. Maria Douza), for which I composed the OST. Since our very first conversation I felt she is an artist with a rich inner world and I made sure I will keep in touch with her. The beginning of our collaboration arrived the moment it ‘should’ and Jana, apart from a Friend, is surely one of the people who have sincerely loved «Circe», helping me to develop the project, my research, as well as my art itself, even through the present interview. May our creative common course continue.
Official Website: www.annastereopoulou.gr
«c i r c e :the black cut:» [a/v report]: http://wp.me/p2zRWp-or
outro note by jana tziveleki:
I would like to thank Anna for the trust and the inspiration during our collaboration though Circe, for the images that rise from her music and for this interview between us that has been a bit like a journey we took together. I hope more journeys come in the future.