M. Lamar is a New York based artist whose captivating performances have him singing on fierce piano with a gripping countertenor voice and addressing complex and at times uncomfortable themes such as slavery, the sexual aspect of lynching and their legacy. After being in various punk/goth bands and a church choir, while being classically trained, he dropped out of Yale University years ago to pursue his solo musical project and since then he has released two critically acclaimed LPs.
Speculum Orum – Shackled to the Dead is his new album and to promote it he recently played a show in Berlin. I caught up with M. Lamar at Südblock during the first leg of his tour to discuss the state of America today, black dicks, white supremacy and how he sees art.
How did you come to the decision of dropping out of your art school to pursue music?
I should say that I completed my degree in Fine Art. I went to graduate school, I went to Yale for a year where I did mostly sculpture. And I dropped out because I knew I didn’t want to be part of the bourgeois art world. And I also realised that I didn’t want to make visual art. I was going to New York to do shows and perform music in some way and along the way I was taking private voice lessons and music theory but that was just for me. I am actually part of the same festival in Stockholm as Penny Arcade and it’s funny because she is talking about the things that sort of happened in the mid 70s to 80s, all these professional artists who were determined to make money.. And I realised I really didn’t want to do that. And so I dropped out of Yale and moved back to San Francisco.
Were you trying to rebel against your upbringing or family?
No; if anything I was rebelling against society, in general and I was trying to find my people. I went to school in SF undergraduate and then went to Yale; I dropped out and then returned to SF with my people; I moved in with this sort of punk rock, goth, trans crew. That’s when my life really got going when I rejected the whole professional artist thing. I’m from Alabama originally and my mother, who is a teacher, was the first out of ten children in her family to go to college so the longing within that context was to create these very bourgeois children, who would go on to be doctors or lawyers. My mother was very disappointed because my sister also became an artist. So dropping out of Yale was me completely rejecting that longing and was also me finding my own way.
When did you got into black metal?
I came out of this goth, punk thing. I remember at first there was this boy I had a huge crush on and I don’t know how I ended up in his car and Cradle of Filth was on the stereo. And as horrible and commercial as they are now they were probably my introduction to it around 2001. It was the voice that really got me. He was doing his high singing and it really turned me on, and when I was in bands I wanted to do this high singing with this sort of heavy music.
Bombay based queer-feminist artist Tejal Shah‘s visionary and imaginary video work “Between The Waves” was my favorite piece shown at last year’s Documenta 13 and still haunts me. The installation cosists of 5 different “cannels”, which are projected on two screens, showing goodess-like one-horned creatures in a post-civilized environment. The films follow a utopian and dystopian approach at the same time, showing a world that has obviously suffered from the collapse of the eco-system, but at the same time is imbued with new transgressive forms of spirituality, technology, gender-identity, sexuality and body practice.
If you have the chance to be in Munich in the next few weeks you will be able to “Between The Waves” it it’s full beauty, since it will be exhibited at Tejal Shah’s German gallery Barbara Gross in conjunction with Munich’s Cinema of Art week. The exhibition opens tonight (April 25th) and will run until the 1st of June. The opening includes a guided walk by the artist which will start at 6pm. You find a short video excerpt of “Between The Waves” on Vimeo and some preview pictures below.
Ryuichi Shiroshita aka Hachi was born in Fukuoka, Japan and has started his Tokyo based fashion label BALMUNG in 2008 at the age of 21, shortly after finishing fashion school. Amongst the customers of the young label are Lady Gaga and the Tokyo based DJ and electro musician Mademoiselle Yulia, the designer has also collaborated with artists such as Terence Koh and his magazine THE international (#8). A beautiful shooting of his latest BALMUNG collection “Tokyo Trash Utopia” (preview below), for which Hachi worked with typical Tokyo trash bags, was released just recently and can be found in its entirety (+video) on the website Tokyo Dandy. I also really like the collection for this years summer season entitled “Sand”, which can be previewed below as well. The full shooting by Wataru Fukaya / Shunt Takano can be found on the label’s website.
Photographer and Original Plumbing maker Amos Mac has sent us a collection of beautiful pictures from a photo shoot with New York City based writer, visual artist and performance artist Stephen Boyer, one of the co-founders of the The People’s Library and editor of the Occupy Wall Street Poetry Anthology. Stephen has just recently released his debut novel Parasite, which was published by Publication Studies in January and tells the story of a young boy, who runs away from home and becomes a sex worker in San Francisco. You can get a first impression of the book and its author by watching this recording of a reading Steven did at the St Marks Bookstore earlier this year.
The photos of Steven were taken at his home in Chelsea, where he lives in the basement of the former house of Geraldine Page and her husband and partner Rip Torn. The place is today occumpied by Page 22, an arts space managed by Page’s son Tony Torn. All pictures are courtesy Amos Mac.
New York City-based photographer Veretta Cobler‘s book New York Underground 1970-1980 offers beautiful insights into the New York club scene of the disco era and overflows with glam, glitter and sexual tension. The book, which is completely kept in black and white, was published in 2004 by Parkstone International and is currently available for a sale price of 5,00$ on Amazon.com. It is also available in German (similarly cheap) and French (a little more expensive), although it is only the photographer’s introduction that differs. Here’s a little preview:
With their new singles Full of Fire and A Tooth for an Eye and the accompanying videos, Olof Dreijer and Karin Dreijer Andersson aka The Knife have already made very clear statements about where they are heading right now: Their approach in their own sounds, lyrics and artwork has become more opently political, more radical, and less easy to consume. With the full stream of the new album “Shaking the Habitual” on the duo’s website it is now finally possible to experience the consequences of their new turn in full force: Many of the songs on the record are longer than 10 minutes, most of the tracks have no clear song structure and are full of unidentifiable sounds and noises, the lyrics are full of open statements against heteronormativity, capitalism and patriachy.
After the interview I did with Olof and Karin for the German Intro magazine a few weeks ago I was really impressed by how hard the duo has questioned not only their whole project, but also the structures under which they’ve been working as artists and musicians in the past. I’ve rarely met artists in the pop industry that have so radically rethought their work and transformed it into something new and more reflected. This English transcript of the interview published below was edited by Sean Dunn, the German article I wrote about the interview and my experiences with the new album can be found on the website of Intro magazine. All pictures were taken by Alexa Vachon.
In the note you submitted to journalists to read before the interview you mention that you started working on the new album by reading together. Tell me a little bit about this, how did you do it?
Olof: I was in Stockholm at the time at the Gender Studies Department and we both decided to study more and read more theory around the issues that we had already been into, like feminist theory and queer theory. We wanted to learn more about colonial history and anti-racist theory. We hadn’t studied so much theory so both of us were into learning more. So we kind of read the books from the field of Gender Studies, both of us, and wrote down many common interests that we wanted to learn more about and gather books on. And started a common ground, a good equal starting point.
Karin: Olof came to Stockholm and I’ve been in Berlin a lot as well in the past years.
Can I ask what you read?
K: First it was the literature list from the Gender Studies Program, like Mohanty’s “Feminism without borders”, also Franz Fanon, Judith Butler, Foucault, Spivak and some of Wendy Brown. Some fiction as well, I’ve been very into Jeanette Winterson… Olof, did I forget anything?
O: Well, there is so much, but I mean we’ve also read a lot of Swedish post-colonial feminists who are really good at summarizing different international thinkers and talk about intersectionality. Are you familiar with this term?
Yes I am…
O: … kind of how to use that. And that’s been really important for us. It has really helped us understand many things, like limits in feminist activism for example.
You’ve involved other artists into your most recent work, both the video and the album. At least four of them queer women – you worked with Shannon Funchess and Emily Roysdon on the song „Stay out here“ and with Marit Östberg and Liz Rosenfeld on the video for „Full of Fire“. Is the Gender Studies background the link to these artist, is this how you approached them and why you chose them?