Trailer for Joy, to be performed at Vault Festival in February
all good artists are dead is a performance collective co-founded by Dina Gordon and Ella Gamble. JOY is their second production together, and you can see it at Vault Festival next month. WIA caught up with Dina to find out what inspires her and how she puts together her creative work.
WIA: What are you doing today?
DG: Performing ‘JOY’ a post coitus concert, at the Vault Festival this february together with my best friends and creative partners, Ella Gamble and Andrea Giordani, in our performance collective all good artists are dead. In parallel to this I’m in the process of writing our next piece.
WIA: Tell us about your creative process.
DG: The work in all good artists are dead has so far always begun by improvising together in the studio. We always begin by walking. When we get bored of that something usually happens. After a few hours there’s usually a narrative. Usually an unsolvable argument between two people who may or may not love each other. We build on this narrative, so that it becomes an improvisation on a theme. After a few months of these sessions the improvisation comes to an end, and I go away for a few months to write a script somehow inspired if not based on these sessions. We then go back to the studio with the script, and begin to develop a play. Which is the process of a restricted improvisation, bound by the laws of the script.
WIA: Describe where you do most of your creative work.
DG: It’s either on Brick Lane in place called “Hookah Lounge” or in Malmö in a place called “Simpan”. Both are quite dingy bars, quite sad too. I go there to write. I have my favorite table in each place. Always by the window.
I particularly like how I never quite form a friendship with the man or woman behind the counter, despite frequenting the place regularly, letting the staff know what exactly it is that I’m writing, what I fear, what I hate, what I love… but should we ever see each other on the street, we’d pretend we didn’t notice, or worse, notice but “fail to recognize each other.”
I like that. It makes going to the place like entering imagination itself.
WIA: What’s the most exciting project you’ve worked on?
DG: It’s the one I’m doing now, JOY.
WIA: What made you decide to become an artist?
DG: Art is the only thing I do without being told to do so by work, society, school, university, friends, family, guilt or conscience. I can’t even remember ever deciding. I just happened to live like that, always thinking about what to create next.
WIA: What are you currently working on?
DG: “Dr Kunt.” A piece about a German professor in psychology.
I don’t want to say much more since I’m still in the process of writing it. In parallel to that we will begin to work on a new piece in may, written by Ella.
WIA: Do you listen to music while you work, and if so, what’s your soundtrack?
DG: Oh yes, always. Constantly. There’s so much that it would take forever to list it. I’ll just summarize it with, everything from ‘Cardi B’ to ‘Bach’.
WIA: What are the key themes in your work?
DG: Love, hate, sex, Christianity and Africa.
WIA: What would you like people to notice in your work?
DG: Humor. An abundance of heartbreaking humor.
WIA: What attracts you to the mediums you work in?
DG: When it comes to performance, it’s the audience. I love the audience, but I fear them too. I think I fear them so much that I need to get up on stage and perform for them to get over it. It’s a one of a kind experience. It’s like in that dingy bar, it only happens then and there. You tell the audience what you fear, what you hate, what you love and they believe you for one hour. And you believe yourself too! It’s a strange game but people love it.
When it comes to writing it’s the sense of power I get in telling what the world really looks like. According to me, sure! But that doesn’t matter, in the same way details don’t matter when you’re telling the truth. At best I feel invincible when I’m writing. At worst like a bad writer, but that agony I’ll bare, cause it’s always in exchange for the next moment of invincibility.
WIA: What equipment could you not do without?
DG: I’ve grown very fond of YouTube, if you can call it equipment. They have everything there. Old documentaries about Russian ballerinas from the Romanov empire, interviews with Jay Z confessing cheating on Beyonce. But what’s more, you don’t have to be Jay Z or from the Russian empire to make your appearance on the site. Literally anyone can air their views on the world and get a following that sometimes exceeds publications like the BBC, the Guardian etc. It’s the wild west of the 21st century. It gives me shivers cause it’s beyond my opinion of it, it is its own means and its own end. You know? Perhaps it’s the Russian ballerinas I can’t do without…
WIA: Who or what inspires you?
DG: I am inspired by the idea of God, by the idea of sacrifice, by romance, by Mother Teresa, by strippers from Bronx, by rappers from Compton, by scholars from Harlem, by derelicts, by hypocrites, by idiots, by everyone who does not feel sorry for themselves. I’ve come to realize that it’s the most powerful thing to behold in a human being. When despite of what is perhaps enough reason to announce yourself as a tragedy, the very birth of! You keep on going forward with dignity. There exists few things more beautiful than that.
WIA: How does gender affect your work?
DG: I’m tempted to say it’s for the observer of my work to have an opinion about. Or not. To be really honest I’ve never felt that anything I do is particularly female in its nature. But it probably is. I have always lived with the suspicion that the female psyche is of no real interest to anybody. Not even to women, because of its underdeveloped nature in most depictions of it. In any case in comparison to the depiction of men. And we all have as our prototype, the man. He’s often the most interesting in novels, his world view is everywhere, thus he is the most explored of the two sexes. He gets to go and discover the mind, and then come back to us all, like a warrior or something, and tell us stories of what he’s seen. He’s telling the stories to women and children. Most other people can at least attempt to go and discover life for themselves. Women appear bound by their reproductive organs and by the responsibility that comes with it, to dedicate their life to the procreation of our species. What baffles me though, is that nobody seemed to think women had time to ponder anything but care taking those long boring days at home. It is precisely when you’re bored that the best ideas come to you. The most visceral, the most dangerous, the poetic. The perspective of a woman is the perspective of the ultimate outsider, and they always have the best stories. Why they’re rarely heard of is another question.
Perhaps it is my rage that has a particularly female nature. Yes, perhaps it’s that. I think my capacity for rage has a distinct female character.
WIA: What’s your favourite gallery, or place to see or experience art?
DG: The Vakhtangov Theatre in Moscow.
WIA: If you could own one piece of art, what would it be and why?
DG: I have always dreamed of having a Marc Chagall painting. Only because he’s from a small Belarusian village, like my grandmother.
WIA: If you could collaborate with one artist, from any time, who would it be, and why?
DG: There is a dead Russian artist, ‘Daniil Kharms’. His world view is very strange. Very banal. That of somebody with nothing left to lose. The type of person who’s humor goes utterly unnoticed with people who have never been disillusioned, or missed out on opportunities to become so. I was in awe when I read his work. It is incredibly funny, but the darkness of it, my God! He wrote a one minute play, called ‘an unsuccessful show’. Almost three years ago we began improvising around that very short script, which set the ground for the creation of JOY.
WIA: Is there an artist, movement or collective you’d like to see re-evaluated, or a contemporary artist who is underrated?
DG: I would say that the musician James Blake needs more recognition. Although I don’t know how it’d be possible to give him even more. I think it’s more a question of how we recognize people in our time. I always had a feeling that if there was to be a Jimi Hendrix out there somewhere, perhaps even in front of our eyes, playing the guitar with the hairs of his mustache, we wouldn’t think much of it. We’d give him the Mercury prize and forget about it. But some people aren’t really meant to be forgotten, and we don’t seem to be able to tell the difference between what’s worth remembering and what’s worth forgetting. It’s grown into the same category. I’m trying to think of why that is, but I can’t quite figure it out. Perhaps there’s too much out there for us to acknowledge anything for the miracle that it is. James Blake is not ‘a cool DJ at the boiler room’. He’s a Renaissance man. His music is used by choreographer William Forsythe for the Paris Opera Ballet. The same person is spinning records at an underground club in London in the middle of the night. The same person is producing hip hop beats for the greatest rappers of our time, quoting romantic poets the likes of Byron and singing; “I hope my life is no sign of the times” to the beating of electronica. James Blake is merging what does not merge. He transcends the restrictions of genres like some sort of angel levitating above dystopia. I guess he deserves the mercury prize.
WIA: What’s your favourite colour?
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