Interview was conducted in 1999 by Rafal Kochan. It was published in the second issue of Polish STETOSKOP zine in 2000.
Translation: PIOTRON SLAVITRON and Przemyslaw Chojnacki.
English version published in SPECIAL INTERESTS #3.
How long have you been making artistic noise and what is the context of your work?
-The only correct and definitive way to describe my work is: ‘concrete, effective and continual realisation of the need to tame the theoretical heritage of futuristic bruitism by understanding the existence of technology as a form of dialectical and historic formation of nature itself.’ I formulated this concept many years ago as my initial work with sound goes back to 1978/79, an era which treated this sort of work as something completely improper (to put it mildly). As for the context, it emphasises the coincidence of the strength and the means of production that was present during the early days of my work. An incredible significance is the fact that I grew up in the industrial area of Rhone-Alpes and I ‘dwelt’ in that very specific atmosphere. It had a profound influence on what I found to be interesting when it came to the sound of the industry itself. In fact my earliest work deals directly with what I found to be real and to be the formation of a working world (industry). That is what you can call the original context of my work: you simply need to listen to albums such as “Fondaments Bruitistes” (1984), “Realities Servomecaniques” (1985) or “Machines” (1985) to grasp and understand it immediately.
You are the only person I know who is so enthusiastic about the idea of reviving the idea of futurism while offering a new view on this style. Did the formation of THROBBING GRISTLE and the rise of industrial avant-garde music outside of academic institutions have any impact on your interests? -Even though most of my work is based around studying ‘noise’ of mechanical provenance, it still stays under the influence of a society which is industrialised. I do not think I belong to the musical world that is known as ‘industrial’ and I also have no idea why ‘relics’ of Anglo-American rock music are called ‘industrial’.
To make it clearer: if any term is wrongly associated with a type of music it is actually the term ‘industrial’. What could be industrial about music that is mystic- esoteric – gothic – naturalistic and full of psychedelic sounds that pretend to be industrialised? I think the serious problem of this small musical world is that it is still filled with ‘pop’ as a continual mimetic and sick tradition of the Anglo-American scene of the 1970s and 1980s. It is dominated by psychological cliches and full of pathological behaviours, explained very naively using sound, executed poorly by repetitive and systematic singing, ritual screaming, moans, cheap thrills, fear, torture, a world of tragedies, etc. which creates a very immemorial and tiresome source of ‘inspiration’ for this entire scene for over 20 years. I have already proved to be against such ideas of the world with my first bands: GLACE (1978) and MECANIQUE POPULAIRE (1979), against its small-town mentality, fake snobbism, complete loss of contact with what is concrete.(1) We were convinced that what was realistic was a whole lot more rich in artistic expression than the ravings of ‘babas indus’ (VIVENZA is probably referring to such bands as: THROBBING GRISTLE, CABARET VOLTAIRE or S.P.K. – early creators of industrial avant-garde rock music – ed. RK). I have not changed my mind about this, although I must bring up a positive aspect with regards to something like ‘industrial’ music becoming popular and trendy to like in the 80’s – which was the tendency to bring forth an idea to create something truly original. This is where my work with the industrial scene and close relations with certain industrial projects came in. It was a very fertile time with regards to concerts and festivals, and it allowed something innovative to be made by individuals who were united, but with totally different orientations. Unfortunately, these tendencies/ideas, with the exception of a few individual projects, burnt out very quickly, falling into the trap of functional music, weak dance music with the goal to “make you sweat”.
Why did bruitism become so popular in the 1970s and 1980s? How important was the role of intellectual artists/ students within the avant-garde of rock music (The VELVET UNDERGROUND, FAUST, CLUSTER)? What are your feelings on the artistic idea by industrial artists where the music becomes the transmitter of all emotions?
-Even though concrete music, as well as the already mentioned by you avant-garde rock music projects belong to forms of modern music that study sounds/noise, I do not see that as authentic bruitism. As to the actual term ‘bruitism’, I would like to remind you that it first appeared in my first work in 1979, before that it had not been used much, it was a term that was unheard of, mentioned only by a few art historians specializing in the early 20th century avant-garde. I really try to emphasize the difference between futuristic bruitism (for which I take credit) and industrial music (which is also referred to as concrete or electro-acoustic). I think it is true that the differences are quite serious, but it was the historical separation of the two that allowed making a clearer understanding of futuristic bruitism. It is worth mentioning once again the great analytical difference that made futuristic bruitism stand on its own, is separate from any other form of modern artistic expression. I do not insist that there is anything to be gained here, unlike the pseudo-conceptual artists/groups that like to call themselves ‘industrial’. In fact, the theory of bruitism was founded by Luigi RUSSOLO in ‘The Art of Noises (L’arte dei Rumori) published in 1913. The text clearly explains the leading ideas behind the study of futurism. The main principles define the basics and form the foundations of authentic bruitism to this day, outlining the direction of my acoustic work. It can be summarized in a few points:
- The necessity to broaden the field of reflection in regards to industrialized civilization
- To open one self to what is realistic by going beyond certain limits to the artist’s individual subjectiveness
- To bring order into the chaos of sound that is associated with the industry, motors, machines, and treating the forces of technology as a form of modern dynamic magnetism that forms matter.
So, all the assumptions of modern music (including neo-, para-, post- or pseudo-industrial) consciously speak about the concept of noise, a subjective blending of the sound of objective reality. The ideas of RUSSOLO, as well as any other objective/realistic concept on the futurism of sound, confirm that any artistic output begins with experience, but it is not the same to begin with experience and to begin with a concept. One cannot find the objective energy of noise, its actual state, by searching for an a priori embraced concept, which all modern artists seem to do. It becomes crucial if one does want to fall into the trap of subjective illusions of modern music, to be open to the realistic world, to the actual reality of a productive industrialized world. True futuristic bruitism is the creative participation in reality, listening and being open, an innovative way to absorb existence. At the root of every piece of work of a bruitist artist, is the world in motion, matter and its energy, the earth, and her dialectic and ever changing rebirths. In this regard, the ideas of futuristic bruitism do not differ much from the directives of BERGSON: ‘to return to something that is concrete, by separately identifying the abstract idea behind it’ (2). To return something that is concrete, in other words, to show reality through a creative process in which the world is ever changing, that is the foundation of my own work, as well as the foundation of futuristic bruitism (as the only and true objective art). At the centre of my research, as well as during the search for other futurists, there is a hidden invitation to an inner union with the primordial elements of matter, there is a longing to find beings of this world, its first primal energy. Futurist bruitism is an experience of reality, which is in combination and participation with objective dynamics of noise as a form of matter, and with reviving the ever changing and eternal present time. The loss of these basics, which are so relevant to futurism, is very noticeable in today’s modern music, which is a mixture of all tendencies possible. This theoretical emptiness turns the production of concrete, acoustic, as well as pseudobruitistic and neo-industrial sound into something weak, compared to the artistic wealth that it could potentially be if only the false schematics of its methods were rejected, if only the production were brave enough to venture into the roots of theoretical ‘Art of Noise’. This is why every authentic bruitist attempts and encourages the reactivation of the main arguments of the futurists (renewing the historical and organic relation that is futuristic at its root); in this context it is a dynamic reactivation, in other words, it is something that shows originality when faced against the present time. That is tremendously important to me, and I express that in my work. That is the attitude I wanted to stress in the Manifest “The Work of Bruitists” in 1984: “There would be no realistic and artistic consciousness, without a deep historical understanding of it”. It is critical to be harsh towards modern industrial music, because only by harsh criticism can dramatic inadequacies of reduced forms of sound art be exposed , and one can also then understand why the propositions of futuristic bruitism of Luigi RUSSOLO have been dismissed by those projects.
What are the characteristic traits behind bruitism, and which ones do you identify with? Where would you place yourself in the history of futurism of our century?
-The main characteristics of bruitism can be summed up in a few points that I have already mentioned, and which play a big role in the history of European art. In fact, the point of the futuristic revolution at the beginning of the 20th century was based around the spiteful will to return to what is real, and to pull away from narcissistic egocentric behaviour, which was expressed by the Italians. A deep criticism of the past which we find in the futurists is foremost a rejection of the artistic schizophrenia, which the 19th century artists restricted themselves to. Futuristic bruitism stems from this superior enthusiasm. The theories of bruitism formulated by Luigi Russolo in “The Art of Noises”, in 1913, bring together the domain of sound with the propositions of the futurists contained in the Manifest of 1909. Let us refresh the main ideas of the futurist movement:
- being open to reality and moving away from the figments of symbolism and romanticism,
- connecting with the dynamic elements of matter; rejecting the bourgeois past,
- understanding that the technological advancements of the world were a dialectic manifestation of nature,-
- the will to liberate language, as well as other forms of art (sculpture, music, architecture and others), and to get away from archaic rules which preventing portraying the true nature of matter
Those rules formed the main ideas behind the many futurist movements. They still form the backbone of the movement today. My place in the history of futurism was determined by history itself. As someone who has been directly involved in that epoch, I take all responsibility for that definition. I still create the historical union with the old futurists, especially the one that embodies the post war organic continuity of the movement: Enzo BENEDETTO. I do not think that my work is done in vain when it comes to the evolution of what is now called ‘industrial music’ as well as what is now the doctrine of ‘Art-Life-Action’
Would you agree with my argument that the Japanese form of bruitism (MERZBOW, MASONNA, INCAPACITANTS) is in a way an artistic polemic with the Western-European, as well as American, interpretations of RUSSOLO’s work?
-I have to admit that I absolutely do not agree with your opinions on this subject. To explain, I will add that the traits of Japanese bruitism seem weak when it comes to practice and theory, and I would not call them polemic, when compared to the European or American theories, but rather very naive and void of depth.
Allegedly, after leaving Milan and giving up on futurism, Luigi RUSSOLO began to play around with the occult. What is your personal view towards magic and the occult? I ask this question, as I observe certain elements of a transcendental rapture in your music.
-A very important correction: RUSSOLO never gave up on futurism (this is what I gathered from reading Christy BAUMGARTH’s “Futurism”: “After the war and revolution, Marinetti could again dedicate himself to art, but from the old guard, only a few were left. Boccioni and Sant’Elia were both dead. Severini was in Paris walking his own personal path, Balla returned to painting objects, Russolo, on the other hand, developed an interest in the occult. And when this bruitist artist began to find Milan too noisy, he returned to the quiet of Lago Maggiore to take up painting objects again” (Film and Art Publishing, Warsaw 1987, p. 186 ed. RK). He moved away from the official futurist movement of Italy, that is true, but he always stayed loyal to the fundamental theories that were formulated in 1909 and 1913. Proof of his attachment to the bruitist movement is his research in that field up until 1932. Of course, from that date forth he began to search deeper into the occult, and he focused on that until his death in 1947. He had been seriously engaged in that research throughout his artistic career. RUSSOLO thought that his bruitistic art was always there to bring to light hidden forces that exist in matter. My opinions on this do not differ much from RUSSOLO’s, the art of noise is arealistic form of ‘awakening’ of hidden forces that rule the world, that is the entire secret and occultist element of artistic futurists (3). On the other hand, the fact that you experienced metaphysical moments while listening to my albums does not surprise me, I experienced the same while creating them!
What do you think about the ideas of FREUD, specifically his idea of the never ending conflict between the nature of man and his culture – the conflict of the ego witht the super ego?
-Freud showed the important role of the subconscious irrationality (instinct of death, libido) ignored by humans, yet being the main driving force of existence. Freud did not mention a number of important creative factors related to humans. This is why he believed in a conflict between the individual and society that could never shrink or end. In reality, the position of Freud could be justified by the new psychoanalysis, which teaches us about the discrimination of lust and creativity, intentions of an individual, and life. The social conflict could only be solved by the awakening of the variable and creative nature of a human. It is only the constructive and synthetic realisation can save a human from the social anguish. This realisation has its roots in what it is real, it modifies the creative forces of the matter and production, it is the main force of history, as well as a constant bonding force of the productive world.
Do you see any common points in religion and futurism? What do you think about the goal of human evolution? Does everything head for nihilism, or rather for a form of near death ‘nirvana’?
-In some way one can find some common points, but the perspective of the futurists portrays more of a hermetical form of metaphysics than religion. When it comes to the goal of evolution, this point requires an explanation as it is not about reaching a goal, but rather about a eternity continuity rooted in the heart of an individual, in the heart of matter. This means that the dualist visions, unable to perceive the nature of nihilism, are completely wrong, as they only observe problems as a form of breaking away between tradition and nihilism, ‘nirvana’ and illusion. In reality, modernism is the fruit of tradition, a metaphysical tradition, the supreme of traditions. It must be understood that this is about a triumphant modernity, the fate of tradition, and not about the emergence of a foreign reality; to understand this is crucial, otherwise we will fall in the trap of a misleading analysis of our world, the trap of the essence of life in the context of a badly grasped ecology. Historically, art, by which the Greeks mimicked the poetry of nature, is the predecessor of technics, our modern technology. It is not a coincidence that this art is historically rooted in the Greek tradition. From the very beginning, we have had common roots, logos gives birth to techne and techne gives birth to logos. We are constantly exposed to confrontation with what is being said and what is being done, and this is what brings order into chaos and the formation of the world. The techne mimics nature and nature’s creations by its own creations, technics is a skill; by mimicking nature, which is both poetic and technical itself, techne creates modernity. Separating itself from nature, but in reality, remaining constantly at peace with it, techne seperates from it, but also shapes it at the same time: techne offers the world its own production. By being both a ‘dweller’ and ‘continuator’ of nature, techne remains obedient as well as savage, it discovers what has already existed and creates new mysteries. Paradoxically, modernity is a revelatory expression of the original sense of tradition. The technical modernity is a symbol conveying the emptiness that exists in our language of phisis. That is why future is a product of past, of the beginning, and the root that is a seed, because logos is dialectical, polemic and always in the mode of searching in the first place. The original identity the creative dispersal existent from the very beginning! The dark and lethal side of the world, dominated by factors of production, destructive techno-production, by planetary alienation, turns out to be a trendy embodiment of logos, that is emptiness, regression and absence. So, it is from this from this deepest misunderstanding that the ‘Presence’ of logos emerges. The only real danger that always lies in wait for us is our ‘deafness’ to ‘the appeal of that which speaks to us from the abyss of technique’ (4). It is only that appeal that we should monitor and manifest. It is not, however, about rejecting the world or the industry, it is also not about being critical in an anti-utilitarian, emotional and literarary way, or about moralisation; it is about a more ambitious and fundamental reflection in order to expose logos, expressed in modernity. A real problem is the academic and technical thought related to its basic and ontological meaning, that is the one showing our involvement in history, and the fate of tradition itself. Futurism revealed the presence of ‘logos spermatikos’ in the modern technics, underlining its existence through absence and emptiness. In the reversal of values and general havoc, the triumph of technology is the actual fate of traditional thought, whose nature has always been to a degree tragic. Idealistic fantasies about the perfect tradition must be done away with because at its basics there are only abyss and chaos! (5). Modernity is a chance as absence and abandonment are regarded as nihilism forming our history, tradition and thought, what NIETZSCHE referred to as ‘the death of God’. Our history and tradition are are an original erring: ‘our night is our sun’ (6), as it was splendidly put by MARINETTI. The futurist spirit is written into that capacity of setting a light during a full night. From the beginning we have been surrounded by the darkness of our past and fate, which is our tragedy. Futurism is aware of this and underlines this in its theories. The essence of modernity lies within its roots, it is a process of never ending continuation, a kingdom of technology, and according to the latest analyses, the most precise expression of tradition, of our cybernetic technology, which itself is a hermetic form of being. But this hermetism burns out due to incessant babbling of self highbrow thinkers, those who mistake empty theories (the manichean ones, and as such, incomplete) and the profound ones. To quote the Manifest of 1909 again: ‘we must break down the gates of life (7); this means we should not reject the idea that our minds must comprehend what is really going on in order to reconstruct the most ‘mysterious’ history. The ‘mysterious’ history leads the futurists. We must remember that there exists only one tradition, the one that illuminates the energy of logos. This is why we must beware of making the mistake in identifying it and separating it from the place of its birth. Our roots are at the same time our creation, our origin is our future.
What are your philosophical, ideological, political and spiritual fascinations? Could you tell us about your artistic inspirations?
-I can only answer such a complex question in two ways: either in one sentence, or on ten pages. Not to tire out the reader, I have picked the first option – so the answer is: all of my fascinations boil down to my attachment to the ideas flourishing under the philosophical sun of the Greek Logos, which were then put through Germanization from the Indo-European people over a few centuries, to be finally adopted by the philosophical and artistic futurism. Also, let us not forget about a possibility of spotting this process in contemporary forms of modernity (through perceiving ontological nature of technology as a realistic form of dialectic formation of nature). Let us not forget about yet another possibility – about the fight to preserve and bequeath this historical and metaphysical heritage, to the next generations. As for my artistic inspirations, I will not surprise anyone here if I reveal here my fondness for works by the futurists from Russia, Italy and Portugal, mainly V.TATLIN, RODTCHENKO, VESCINE, EXTER, MALEVITCH, ALMADA, SANTA RITA PINTOR, SANT’ELIA, RUSSOLO, PANAGGI, PRAMPOLINI and FILLIA. I should also mention my passion for rational architecture (the best example here being TERRAGNI), whose greatest masterpieces in Italy are EUR, the University of Rome, the train station in Florence, the Palace of Justice in Milan, the FIAT factory in Milan etc. Since futurism is not only limited to music, painting and architecture, I will also mention its poets (young EVOLA, PESSOA, MARINETTI, Ezra POUND etc.) and filmmakers (Dziga VERTOV, RUTMANN), all of them ingenious artists. My work and research on futurism continues their work in an organic manner. What is important is the realization that the futuristic artists from Russia, Portugal, Germany, Japan, Poland and Italy are a part of the same battle, that of the animated spirit against the ‘mercantile’ ideology of the past. They also give voice to a new concrete self-awareness, called Futuristic Dynamism, ‘an accidental and mysterious force, without which a collective soul of nations cannot exist, as the wheels of history do not allow for stopovers’ (8). This would explain why the futurists were involved in political movements which had a potential to be vehicles for the revolutionary perspectives to which futurism aspires.
Your live performances are rare and the releases even rarer, why?
-This was of course a very conscious decision, as I follow one very strict rule: always to present only what I find to be important, and not to dissipate my energy on what is marginal. The available albums are a reflection of that idea. This is the same reason why I would rather play fewer concerts, but under good conditions. Obviously, this limits the number of my public appearances. I tend to favour distance and rarity, thus cultivating in a way what might seem to a bruitist artist a paradox – silence and invisibility!
What is your attitude towards women, family and sex? Is it any different than the ideas on this subject of the Italian futurists?
Do you think it is possible for post-futurism (neofuturism) to develop?
-It is not about developing a post-/neofuturist movement, but about incorporating yourself into the historical continuation of the doctrine of eternal formation! Futurism, which is a concept beloging to the course of history, shall, according to Enzo BENEDETTO, keep going along the once chosen course, it shall stick to its original principles of 1909. Either way, futurism is not a complete period, it had existed before MARINETTI, it does and shall exist long after him, because it is a concept of energy that is contained in life, it is a constructive vital force of existence. MARINETTI combined these concepts, putting them in the artistic perspective. But the concept is not a fossilised creation, assigned to a specific historical time, it is history that is eternally continual.
(1) We reffered to the projects/groups like: NEU, KRAFTWERK, HELDON, FRIPP & ENO,
GUERILLA, ELECTRONIKA etc
(2) H.BERGSON, Les Donees Immediates de la conscience, PUF, 1976
(3) As to life and works of RUSSOLO, they are discussed in issue no.
6 of the bulletin ‘Volonte Futuriste’ from March 1990.
(4) M.HEIDEGGER, Essais et Conferences, Gallimard, 1990
(5) This concept tallies with the teachings of the ‘traditional’ (if this word still means anything) works. Let me remind them: Vedes, Enuma elish, Tao, Bible, Zend Avesta as well as closer to us historically: Theogony of Hesiod.
(6) F.T. MARINETTI, Mafarka le Futurisme, Bougeois, 1984
(7) F.T MARINETTI, Manifeste Futuriste, Milan, 1909
(8) FILLIA, L’Impero, 1928