Berlin-based DJ and artist, Lucrecia Dalt finds inspiration in her surroundings, familiar sounds and her past career, creating a space for many voices and experiences to converge. As this year’s SónarMies artist invited to intervene the Mies van der Rohe Pavilion, Dalt explores the relationship between sound and architecture through a consuming performance that features sound with no fixed listening point.
We sat down with Lucrecia Dalt ahead of her three performances – between July 18 and 20 – to discuss her architectural, sonic, and aesthetic investigation of the emblematic building through her conceptual performance, Dazwischen, one of this year’s highlights of Sónar+D – which has previously invited other sound artists like Mark Bain, for example.
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First of all, welcome to Barcelona. How are you feeling after these days preparing for your performance at Mies van der Rohe Pavilion?
I’m feeling pretty funny today. It’s been intense but a very nice thing to do. It was my first time doing something so complex so I’m feeling good.
Before speaking about the piece, let’s get to know you better. You’re a geotechnical engineer. How does this technological background influence your musical and artistic practice? How do you go from the more technological to the more artistic side of knowledge? How do you find the balance between the two?
In the past, it used to be something completely separated. I would be an engineer and work in that field, and then I would have music as a hobby. I quit my job because I started to have some intuitions that maybe this music career, as crazy as it is, was going to work out. Now, after ten years, I started to question how can I bring back those memories of being an engineer to participate in my music in a way. Everything that I bring is more theoretical, but it somehow affects everything I do. I mean, being an engineer already affects everything in my life for sure, like the way I make decisions and how I account for myself, but this is the first time – since my last album, Anticlines – that I bring back those memories and incorporate them in a theoretical way.
Sónar is known for its focus on technological innovation, which the organization has been promoting since the first edition. How do you feel about being part of such a festival? How do you feel your work fits among this music/technology/innovation environment?
I did play a long time ago – I used to live in Barcelona and when I was living here, I played just a normal show. This year, it’s different; I don’t feel as a part of a festival anymore. I know the whole structure of the event is working to make this happen, but it’s like a very private thing. A private ceremony is how I feel about it. I can do whatever I want in the whole space, they have put no limitation whatsoever, nor artistically nor conceptually. Everything that I wanted to do, I could do. The schedule; I could set it up in whatever way that I wanted. Or the number of performances; everything was kind of my decision. That was very nice because when you’re invited to play in a festival, there are a lot of rules, schedules, what type of stage or conditions they have, etc. But in this case, it was the other way around. It was very exciting because I had a lot of artistic freedom, which is the best to have.
Did you have any difficulties creating music that could encircle a space such as the Pavilion Mies van der Rohe? Especially with the way sounds were fragmented through different speakers and different areas like the pool or the garden?
I had the chance to come one month ago and do a lot of tests. I was already putting the speakers on the floor, in the ceiling, and I kind of had that into account when I was making the piece. So I had an idea of how the sound behaved and I could adapt to that. But again, I made the whole piece and the performance, and then I came back and readjusted a few things according to how they sounded. It was a whole weekend – from Friday to Monday – adjusting something here and there, filtering the frequencies, etc. It was a lot of preparation.
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You worked to create a very personal experience for the audience based on their perception of sound in relation to the exact points where they are standing within the Pavilion. What are you trying to evoke?
I think the space is already suggestive enough and that’s why I didn’t want to try and force any type of behaviour. I don’t know how people were instructed from the beginning, but I told the guys running it that maybe people should be suggested that it would start at a certain point, but after that, everyone’s experience is free. It was kind of funny that certain people would sit like in a normal concert setting, and then I would see other people walking around, which I think is the ideal setting – that there’s a concert but then the concept expanded to this place. That’s how I thought it, like people could decide how they wanted to view it.
I guess people started to notice the sounds. In the beginning, they were more concentrated in the first room, and then some started to move around the sculpture, noticing that there was something. Even I was thinking very consciously that if the stereo wasn’t really intense and suggestive, it could suggest people to move from room to room. That’s why I made the first piece that way, because it allowed people to know there were many elements to the show.
You began the performance by reciting a poem inspired by the sculpture by Georg Kolbe. Why begin here? What is it about this statue that piqued your interest in relation to exploring the space and sounds?
Many things. It has to do with talking specifically about architecture and how everything is set in this very clean environment – of course, it’s the ‘less is more’ philosophy. Then you look at the sculpture and to me, it breaks the whole thing because it’s very feminine and masculine at the same time, it’s very androgynous. And because of my relationship with materials, I started to think about marble and the materials that compose the structure.
Parallel to that, I was reading a story by Clarice Lispector in which a guy transfers all this knowledge to this entity – kind of like an AI but from the ‘70s –, so I was thinking that this sculpture has been here for such a long time observing all these and situations. But she’s also put into this very weird position of not caring. She looks like she doesn’t care about perfection, she’s just there, so I thought it would be nice to do something from her point of view.
Did the poem come first and then you thought of the performance, or was it simultaneous?
It was sort of parallel. I always start working and then things start to come together. When I first saw the sculpture, I started to think about doing something like this. Then, the curator, Sonia Fernández Pan, told me about this J. G. Ballard story where a sound artist builds a piece made of a material that carries all the history of sound art, and as they tried to cut it, all the pieces kept screaming. Everything sort of linked together.
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Within the opening poem, the question of whether “paralysis (can) transform a person into a thing” is asked. At first, the answer is ‘no’, but at the end, the question is left open-ended. A larger commentary begins on everything the sculpture has been witness to. To me, this forces the audience to become even more tuned in to our surroundings, being aware of what is around us every day and the stories they could tell if given the chance. What do you hope the audience takes from this poem, what is your message?
I never expect anyone to get to a conclusion, the things I do are very open. I’m not moralistic whatsoever. I put together things that make sense and carry a message. It was something I was reading about before. I’m very intrigued by the fact that we humans tend to be so precise about history when history has been watching us the whole time. What I was trying to say about the sculpture is that it is made from materials that have been here way before us: I tried to put subjectivity to these materials. It’s as if they were saying, ‘hey, I have the form of a human but actually, I’ve been here longer than you; I’ve watched the histories and the universe’. I’m not trying to make a point, just reconstructing ideas that are important to me.
Can you describe the creative process behind developing this intervention? How much time have you dedicated to Dazwischen?
It’s been a process. I came to the Pavilion for the first time in March when I started to imagine the performance in the space, so you could say that since then. Sometimes I think of ideas but don’t sit down to create something right away.
Creating an intervention such as Dazwischen requires attention to spatial details and the way sound moves and behaves. What exploration of the space did you have to do yourself to be able to develop Dazwischen?
I started by placing the speakers and figuring out the sound. When I saw the sculpture, I knew there needed to be a speaker dedicated to her. Then, when I came, there was someone talking on the phone and I noticed the sound has a very peculiar way of moving through the garden, so I thought, ‘okay, I’ll have something there’. And then I thought about the castle in the back. I wanted to explore the places where I could put speakers so people didn’t notice them to create confusion. People are looking around like, ‘okay, is it there? No, it’s coming from there! Or I hear it here’. Explore sound and how it has different ways of reflecting.
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You worked to create a space where many types of voices could converge, including the literary voice of Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, which you mentioned before. Where did the inspiration to include her come from?
A friend of mine with whom I had collaborated recommended me Clarice and I started reading her more until I discovered A Breath of Life; I totally fell in love with this story. With Clarice, it’s really crazy because I sometimes just look for quotes and there are many things that I take from her. I think she says something very similar to, ‘I achieve simplicity with great effort’, which is the leitmotif in the piece. I feel like it connects in a very different way to the ‘less is more’ idea because there is the whole process that you have to do to prepare yourself to achieve what is very simplistic in the end. I thought that this sentence connects so much to this type of architecture, but it’s a little bit more complex because it doesn’t show you all the things people had to do to get there.
The path that you trace while reciting the poem, is that something planned or improvised?
It was totally improvised. I had no idea how people would converge. I remember when I was walking, I got into a very intense state of trans-meditation – I don’t know how to call it. I’m in a very weird state of mind when I’m performing. I know people are there, but I just have to walk through. I saw they separated from me, which was sort of cool. It’s as if I were a zombie or someone with a contagious disease and people open up for me. I decided randomly to go left or right, which is pretty much the same for the music. For example, there was some loud music outside, so I decided to intensify my sound there. I take into account everything that’s happening.
A while back, you posted something on your Instagram account about Crossings, a new project you’ve collaborated with. Can you tell me a bit about the project? What is in the future for you?
Crossings is a compilation. It was an invitation to all artists to participate in this project that benefits refugees and a hotel in Athens that welcomes them. For this, I remixed one of Aaron Dilloway’s songs and he remixed one of mine. Regarding the future, I’m actually working with Aaron on a collaborative album. Also, I’m working on my next album as well, but I have no idea when that will be done. Also, I am creating an orchestra piece for Alarm Will Sound, from the United States. We are meeting in October to do the first workshops, which is very exciting because I have never composed for an orchestra and it’s a very big challenge.
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