It was with some trepidation that we awaited the third installment of AGF’s work on women’s poetry. After Gedichterbe (2011) and Kuuntele (2013), based on German and Finnish poetry respectively, rumour had it that that AGF was working on a Japanese project. We met in early July, just before the launch of A Deep Mysterious Tone. Despite being in the middle of her European tour, AGF has been incredibly generous with her time. Our chat moved from her recent work with an amazing group of collaborators, to her involvement in the Visibility Project and the Female Pressure Blog, and finally to her great work at a local level on the island of Hailuoto in Finland, where she currently lives.
You can read part 1 here. This is part 2.
Malcolm Angelucci: We were talking about music as dialogue, music as a journey of discovery… and the fact that this is not knowledge as theory or academic stuff, but rather a practice…
AGF: Yes, sometimes it feels a bit like… ‘how dare she make that kind of statement’. Why am I doing this, why do I take this? I feel this is what I can do, and that is what interests me, and then I have to throw it out there and live with the results. For instance, when I was working on the album, that Bjork article on Pitchfork came out and she was talking about visibility of women producers, and then a group within the female:pressure network decided to make that blog (female pressure). I ended up realizing the idea on tumblr kind of overnight and it had a huge success… in my opinion, I had the Huffington Post calling me… like… ‘what the fuck’? And right now the blog is exhibited in London’s prestigious Photographers Gallery at Oxford Circus, nice.
And then I had this song with Tujiko Noriko, I am/New Woman, which was based on the first Japanese feminist text from this women’s magazine and it was so… you know. The pictures of contemporary women producers on the blog and Tumblr page; I didn’t plan that they were going to be at the same time there, and then I said ‘ok I am going to make this video’, this stream of all these pictures of women producers underneath that song. I don’t know if it helped the song or not, but I think there are also a lot of people who don’t like that approach, and I understand that and I agree with them to some extent, but I also understand that it is more important, right now, to take a strong feminist stand and keep pushing, instead of going ‘oh no, everything is going to be fine’…
Malcolm Angelucci: I am/New Woman, in this sense, sounds like an anthem of what you are doing with the Visibility Project…
AGF: Yeah, well, the words are not from me, right, I would never write a song like that, I would never say ‘I am the new woman’ etc. I could not say these things, but it is such an old, original text, it was awesome to use it and the way Tujiko Noriko sings it, it is so touching. I was just really happy that it came together like this.
Malcolm Angelucci: I was going to ask you about female:pressure and the Visibility project, which is, amongst other things, a project of self-representation… you already told me that it is getting bigger and bigger… anything more to share with us about it, any plans… after the an exhibition, what is happening?
AGF: Yes, lets see where it goes from there… I think already many other women picked up that wave I had picked up from Bjork, and they ride their own ride… really good. We are surfing now! Surfacing :)
Malcolm Angelucci: I am wondering, with all those producers, who will write the soundtrack…
AGF: It turned out to be a big part of my work right now. I didn’t intend it to happen, but it is happening. This blog took a month of my life away… in a good way… and it was intense: I had to give interviews all the time, and at the same time it was practical, because this is voluntary work… it is activism… I could promote my record anyway so it was a good deal… but yeah it was intense. We had 5,000 followers right away and lots of new members, 1,000 new Facebook followers in a week or something, and, you know… for an artwork it is quite nice. Many people, many women came and asked how they could be part of it, and we had so many new members in a blink… funny. And now, all this younger generation of girls, they are now really kicking ass, they are making festivals, they are making records, you know, they are really starting to go for it.
The nicest thing was when I was in Estonia, two months ago, the curator there had the idea to find a very young girl interested in music to interview me. She was fifteen or sixteen, very young… and she knew the Visibility blog. And I was so happy to see the way she was talking about it, with big eyes, you could see that it was starting to become a vision for her, that she could be like that, she could be a woman like that. It was awesome, and it was in a little town in Estonia… you don’t know what that stuff does to people, you know in any country like Iran, anywhere. What I was really working hard on was diversity, to get all sorts of people from every part of the world… that was the hardest work I had to do in this context. It was quite easy to find the Japanese, American and European producers, but I have less knowledge and access to people from China, India, Africa, and even South America. Even though in South America there have been lots of articles about it, I had not so many contributions… but it is still going, even if it is obviously a little bit slower… and I am touring now so I can’t do much research.
The most watched entry and most commented is a Somalian woman working on the radio, and then there is Bjork… but I have that picture of her on the radio, and she is really running the tech. It is quite interesting to see how people respond to it. So if you have any women working in production, please send me their contact or encourage them to get in touch, especially in Australia. We have done two surveys of clubs, festival and labels, and we collected huge amounts of data… and counted women, men, couples and gender undefined artists, (https://femalepressure.wordpress.com/) to see how the gender balance is, and it is really bad overall, but in Australia it seems to be especially bad.
Malcolm Angelucci: Do you think that the producer’s scene is still a bit ‘boys with her toys’?
AGF: Well, mostly, and many men get very defensive about it. It would be great if men could start showing a different reaction saying ‘yes, we totally support that’.
Malcolm Angelucci: Back to your album, but more in general to your music and how it is developing. I noticed a lot (maybe a lot more than usual?) of referential or diegetic sounds in your tracks; not only field recordings, but also sounds that represent images of nature. The track Crows of Sapporo is quite explicit in this sense, but you also have insects, butterflies, the river of ice, all quoted both in the lyrics and in the music. Does this come form your works such as Source Voice (2013), in which you merged voice, technology and nature?
AGF: I recorded all of this in Japan for the other project, and the love of nature is very present in Japanese poetry, so I just wanted to bring it in there. The crows…I was doing field recordings in Sapporo, and there were those crows, and they have a different voice from our crows. It sounded like AGF to me, they sounded like a piece I have made, and they were flying and they were singing in different pitches, maybe a hundred of them going nuts, and I was like ‘this is AGF shit up there’…I was just meeting my buddies. And so I made this piece with a bit of humour in it, and they contribute with their voice. I made another one with cows already… also really intriguing to work with voices of other species too. Waiting to hear from aliens.
Malcolm Angelucci: Other field recordings in the album?
AGF: A lot. For instance, the ‘rain song’, with the rain falling, is only a long field recording of rain, just pitching from high note to very low… a very simple thing. There are also field recordings of Ainu voices. I think the album is noise music, field recordings and voice, and a little bit of extra stuff (bass, and a little bit of synthesizers, but very little).
Malcolm Angelucci: Speaking of sensitivity to a sense of place, you have an international profile as an artist, but in recent time a lot of your effort seems to have gone into local projects, in the Finnish island of Hailuoto, with Hai Art, a cultural organisation. Can you tell us something about it, as a way to conclude this chat?
AGF: I founded Hai Art in 2011, with the idea to work locally and make a point that remote live is awesome. I applied international urban and rural practices and develop ideas how a place can benefit from it. Over time I built a nice team and now that it is established, I am starting to diversify, so I am taking more care of the international part right now. We are working together with different cultural organisations in Europe, and we received a grant from the EU to make a sound exchange program. So this is what I am mainly doing at the moment, but also, when I am there, I am working in the LAB with the kids, and I am going to have artists in residence over. We are making camps now and we will have micro-residency projects for students at the end of August, where we do purely sound related work. However, we have now expanded a little bit and we also do dance and movement, and we ‘make things’. Our lab is turning into a ‘making lab’ with a volunteer working with the kids, so it is amazing… and I want to make a CD with the kids of the IPad Orchestra (6-14y.o.) in Autumn, with only them making the music. I will probably release it on my own label AGF Producktion which could be an interesting experiment. The only common denominator of my label is me… you know, sometimes it is field recording, sometimes it is poetry, sometimes is collaborations.
Well, it is time to say goodbye, but we can still dream of making it one day to visit Hailuoto, as the Australian sound artist Mitchell Mollison did last year. You can check his work with/inside the Hailuoto Organum, to see what kind of special natural, cultural, artistic landscape this island is…
For more information go to AGF’s home page.