2020 was full uncertainty, hope and waiting, the world was on a break for the good and the worst. Sarah Assbring, also known as El Perro del Mar collaborated with Blood Orange for the song Alone in Halls. Sarah goes in-depth about the song’s meaning, how it all began, and what were her main inspirations for her EP Free Land released on November 20. The song was also interpreted by the photographer Benedict Brink for the final visual piece, it is filled with all the different emotions that were felt during the lockdown.
In the film for Alone in Halls, you collaborated with photographer Benedict Brink to visually represent the impact 2020 inflicted on our minds. The interpretation really shows the loneliness and the melancholia, what this the purpose of the film? What conclusions can we make from it?
I left it up to Benedict to interpret the song and her feelings around this strange time we’re living in. Having worked together previously I trust her mind and eye so much. She has a directness and fearlessness that still manages to always portray the beauty in a person. I love the way her camera looks at you with love.
The film is shot in lockdown in London and I know Benedict struggled to find any place where she could shoot it as restrictions grew and changed all the time. This is something that I feel is tangible in the film as well. The feeling of being restricted, isolated and in many ways alone. For me, it shows so much how we need each other and how much we need closeness, to touch. I long soo much to hold and feel the ones I love. To relate to others and to move. To move freely.
As I’m reading more about how Free Land started, can we say that Alone in Halls was inspired by your visits at the Museum of Modern Arts in Stockholm?
Yes, my writing started there but was interrupted by the pandemic and the lockdown. And so when I was let back in again to finish my work I found that the meaning of it had changed because suddenly our whole lives and existence had been turned upside down. Literally, I found walking around in the empty halls, in the company of the artworks, changed me again and again. It hurt, it felt soothing, it made me cry, it made me want to change and it wanted me to resist. All of that at the same time.
Your collaboration with Blood Orange turned out amazing. How did you make it work so well? Did Devonté Hynes also share your visions? Or did he bring something new to Alone in Halls?
Thank you! I knew immediately I wanted Devonté to be part of it. And very much like how I gave Benedict a short description of how to visually interpret the song, I told him sparsely what I was after and let him feel free. He definitely brought something new to the song in being just that, himself. Which I love!
Black Sabbath’s song Changes was inspired by Bill Ward’s breakup with his first wife and was described as forlornly pretty. Do you think your interpretation is giving a twist to the meaning of the original song within the current context?
I hope it does! It’s strange because starting off, I had this very personal relation to it and then with the pandemic it became universal, and while Dev and I were sending files to each other the demonstrations and protests after the death of George Floyd was raging more or less all over the world. The song came to have these multitudes of meanings. It’s definitely going to define 2020 for me.
We all were affected in a different way with the pandemic and the uncertainty of things. You seem to be coping positively despite everything, listening to your EP Free Land gives us hope and motivation. You mentioned that art was the main revelation, that it gave you the power to change. Do you think art was your refuge during these weird times?
I’m glad you say that I totally think so! The good thing about the halt that we’ve come to is that it’s forced us to stop and think and hopefully make changes. For an artist, it’s been a moment I seem to almost always ask for – a space in time. Free Land is my way of giving praise to culture and art, and this time has really shown how much we build our lives and the world around that, hasn’t it? How much don’t we all miss going to concerts, theatres, museums, the movies? Art has always been my refuge and always will be. I think now is a time we really need to revalue the things we most treasure in our lives.
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