Few have been as successful in interweaving electronic club sounds, experimental music, and critical reflection as Holly Herndon. Central to her practice is an exploration of the manifold aspects of the increasingly intimate and simultaneously problematic relationship between man and machine.
For her, the computer is a hyper-emotional instrument, not least because of its ubiquitous presence in our everyday lives. In her pieces, she tries to make tangible the dilemma presented by our inextricable connection to digital data infrastructures: the exponential multiplication of human possibilities for communication, knowledge acquisition, creativity, and publicity also means long-term surveillance that feeds into neo-feudalist power, monopolies, and the pre-formatting of independent will.
In its marriage of emotional and political critique with innovative club music, her second album, Platform (RVNG Intl. / 4AD), signaled her arrival as a singular voice in contemporary electronic music. Although the music was sublime and joyous, it was also defined by its utter contemporaneity and awareness of digital-age dilemmas, making it a kind of 21st-century answer to the 1960s protest singer. The interactive, ecstatic experience of her live performance has now evolved into a group which includes the artists Mat Dryhurst and Colin Self. For their next album, the trio will record together with a vocal ensemble of Berlin-based musicians.
Herndon has collaborated with artists and theorists from Trevor Paglen to Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani to close friend and footwork wunderkind Jlin. Since May 2017, she has been performing live with her vocal ensemble, a euphoric, motley crew of Berlin-based creatives. They compare and contrast the raw, guttural aesthetics of traditional folk singing styles with the humanoid, future-hailing flair of voices sent through synthesis and processing. For Holly's CTM 2018 performance, the ensemble will consist of Evelyn Saylor, Albertine Sarges, houaïda, Jenna Sutela, Josa Peit, Annie Gårlid, Lyra Pramuk, Roman Bindert, Marshall Garrett, and Colin Self.