CTM partner Glissando magazine caught up with Eugene S. Robinson ahead of his CTM.13 appearance with Xiu Xiu, to creative approaches and inspiration.
Jacek Plewicki & Piotr Tkacz: Do you consider yourself, as an artist, to belong to or be developing any tradition, movement, current or be strongly influenced by one in particular? Or you are not so much concerned with the past?
Eugene S. Robinson: Well you have said two things here in assuming that a movement I'd identify with would not be active and current... and if active and current not sporting a name that would allow us to identify it. And while I am obsessed with the past I am not feeling very much at all like I'm standard bearing any previous tradition, which is why my pursuit of whatever it is I am pursuing is so rabid. Before someone else does it... before it has a name I'd like to do it and name it. And because of time and life there's only been about 25 percent of what I'd like to do getting done...but theater, film, performance, installation.... all of it... I'd like to do. But the day is 24 hours and I only spend 4 of them sleeping and so where do I get the time for the rest? Probably wherever I'd get the money. Which is something I'd for sure need to figure out.
I mean you know I co-wrote the script for this dance troupe performance in Poland in November right? Grupa Tanca Wspolczesnego Kiosk Ruchu... what tradition is that? Unknown... but at the end of my life a mosaic will form that will answer each and every question about that life. I'd just want to get my hands on as much of it now as possible so that I could maybe enjoy its creation post-facto. Which is to say: as an audience member.
JP/PT: Could you tell me something about the "The Birth of Tragedy" magazine?
ER:The issues ran thusly: Sex & Depression, Fear, Power, God, Love.
Interviews... one of the first spoken word records came from some of these interviews... investigative stuff... chats with everyone from Rene Girard to Anton La Vey from the Church of Satan... a heady brew...
JP/PT: A little bit more about "The Birth of Tragedy", please? like: why to start a magazine in the first place or why to name it after Nietzsche's book?
ER: Why start a magazine in the first place? Well, it was then and is now a pretty effective way to communicate and there is no other way like it... I mean to a certain degree punk rock created a license whereby people could do without worrying about it being done well enough to end up on a newsstand. So I did. It enlivened the life of the mind.
And naming it after Nietzsche's book was necessary as the magazine, in total, was a magazine about the transformative powers of misery.
JP/PT: So Tragedy is born from the spirit of Music or is the other way around?
ER: Tragedy is born from the spirit of life and our endless desire. In this framework music is medicine.
JP/PT: But music (and art in general) could be also seen as confrontational, do you agree with that?
ER: Your use of the word "confrontational" almost means nothing here. If by confrontational you mean it aggressively challenges certain previously held precepts? Why yes. But a small child might also do this to you/for you. I mean everything you encounter has the ability to CONFRONT you with complex truths. Music and art for me are always about, to a certain extent, measuring where we are in space. I don't know what this has to do with being confrontational though.
JP/PT: Using this word I wanted to describe the way sound and/or a staged musical performance situates two subjects - one that is active and somewhat liberated, potentially convincing and aggressive and the one that's just there to witness, experience, survive, the one that's prone to something unknown. Can we think of other stage-like spaces in an online world? Is stage necessary? To what extent?
ER: The stage is a frame I would guess. Is it necessary? Depends on the viewer but largely I say NO. But then it is called LIFE and not ART.
JP/PT: What do you need it for then? (appart from the most obvious answer)
ER: Some paintings have frames. Some do not.
JP/PT: How did you manage to separate the critical/journalist standpoint from the way you behave on the stage?
ER: They are not inconsistent though. Below is a well published study about careers and psychopathy... now I am not saying I am a psychopath but when you say JOURNALIST you are not saying much, hahah...
JP/PT: Ha, I realize that well enough. How to survive internet age while being a performing artist?
ER: How to survive? Play LIVE.
JP/PT: Could you tell something about a duo with Philippe Petit? How does it differ from your other works? I sense something akin to radio-drama in your pieces, am I right?
ER: Well the most recent Petit project is called LAST OF THE DEAD HOT LOVERS and it features this great Polish singer from Szczecin Kasia Meow... who also sings for Terrible Disease... they played with us in Stargard. And it differs from the music I am making with Oxbow in that it is very tightly cast on JUST words and music and atmospheres. Oxbow is a band and the songs are in service of a band vision. Something like LAST OF THE DEAD HOT LOVERS is much more like a story I am whispering to you... so yes...it is theater and theatrical and the subject matter is always going to be that which most obsesses us. With Petit it's sonic structurings. with me? it's the collapse of space between me and the world. for good or ill.
JP/PT: And how does your previous collaboration "The Crying of Lot 69" relate to Pynchon's book?
ER: Well one is a book and the other is a record.
JP/PT: Yep, I've noticed that, but you are referencing it in your work – why? A pastiche? An homage?
ER: For various plot points connected to cash. And the fact that Lot 69 is what WE are talking about. The snake that eats its own tale or in this instance sucks its own cock. Ever inward serving of self. It could be a critique of cash/lucre. It could be I just liked the title.
JP/PT: At CTM you are going to perform with Xiu Xiu, is it going to be your first performance together? What's the idea for this project? And I should ask again about a reference because it's called Sal Mineo.
ER: Oh yes. The first performance. Though Jamie had a band once a long time ago that opened for Oxbow, this will be the first time we're consciously performing something we've worked on together. The idea? Musically? Well, it's a distillate of experimentalism based on songs that are 30 seconds to 3 minutes long. Lyrically? It's about crushing failure. After great exhalation. Hence the reference.
Based in Warsaw, “Glissando” is a quarterly, popularising magazine devoted to all ambitious forms of contemporary music and other arts presented in relationship to it.