Atkinson places a great emphasis on the experimental side of her music - constantly adapting, constantly changing in response to a myriad of influences. Not content to settle on any one medium, Atkinson blends together seemingly unconventional sounds, resulting in originality and innovation in their purest forms. Self admittedly inspired by the simultaneously “petrifying and attractive”, it is no surprise that Atkinson’s literary influences include Edgar Allen Poe. With Poe-like reverence she splices this dichotomy with other mediums - most notably in her recent release, “A Readymade Ceremony”.
Describe your work in 1-2 sentences.
"I am musician, a visual artist, a poet and the co-publisher of the music label and imprint Shelter Press. My work, often improvised but sometimes not, oscillates between a concrete approach with the materials I choose to work with, and a a research of abstraction and free forms through the way i use them."
What/who are your influences?
"It’s vast of course. It goes from minimal poetry (Aram Saroyan, Emmett Williams, EE Cummings…), to early electronic music ( Delia Derbyshire, Eliane Radigue, Suzanne Ciani..) to cinema ( Antonioni, Nicholas Roeg, Barbara Loden…), novelists such as Don Dellilo or Chris Kraus, to artists such as Helen Frankenthaler, Robert Filiou, or Isamu Noguchi to more contemporary artists /thinkers such as Donna Harraway or Jessica Stockholder."
What overarching goal are you trying to achieve with your work (in all mediums)?
"I don’t have any goals. When I am working i am in the present in order to feel free."
You’ve said before that you do a lot of your work in-situ. What makes you decide to record in a particular place? For example, why did you decided to record Readymade Ceremony in the Alps?
"I often record where I live, at home, or during a residency. For a Readymade Ceremony, I was living in the Alps ( I stayed there between 2013 and 2015), in a small village. I recorded the album in the attic studio I had at that time. It was the first time in my life I was not living in a city.
Now I live in French Brittany and I just finished recording there my new album; it will be out on Shelter Press next spring. I also recorded for it some sounds at EMS Studios, last November in Stockholm."
How does your cultural background influence your work? Does your diverse family background (polish mother, French father, English Great grandfather ) have a major impact? Or the many places in which you have traveled and worked?
"I guess I learned diversity. Right now, I don’t feel I belong to one place, I am not a home owner, neither my family. Maybe one day I’ll settle, but for now, I feel home is where my heart is rather than my origins.
I don’t feel particular French, I don’t feel specially proud of my country and its values right now, France seems to come back to a certain conservatism nostalgic of so-called old values, that I feel is egoistic, not realistic and stupid.
I feel European most of all. But I travel also every year to California and the United States' West Coast and those moments are very important to me.
I want to visit more the other continents. I love travelling not as a tourist but as an artist who comes somewhere to exchange a moment with people.
I am very scared right now of the rise of populism and nationalism everywhere in the world.
I think I gather in me different places and identities, a cactus in the desert, a polish dish, a Parisian way of taking the subway, a pine in Big Sur, a Belgium way of drinking beer, a rock in Brittany, a log in the Alps…. as Walt Whitman, said, i feel like a multitude. Plus, I feel humans should realize that they are not the only inhabitants in this planet and be more concerned of animals, minerals and vegetables. I feel sometimes closer to a forest than a group of people."
As an experimental musician and educator, do you see problems with the way that institutionalized music is being learned and played today?
"In France for sure. I learned music between 4 years old and 14 years old and pleasure was rarely mentioned after kindergarten by the teachers; like if the fact of learning how to read music and words would bring you to a very serious world where pleasure had disappeared. On the contrary, i feel knowing how to read music and words gives you even more freedom!
I teach art in an art college, so i don’t know so much about educations for the young nowadays. My students are between 17 and 37… I am 35.
But I think every kid should have the possibility to learn how to play and listen to music and do art at school, but also that if adults where playing music in their homes or with their friends after work instead of watching TV they might have more fun.
Concerning my music, I play often in art centers rather than music halls. I feel art centers nowadays are more open to contemporary experimental music that regular rock clubs and music venues, or theaters, they seem to take more risks music wise."
Do you “deep listen?” If so, how?
Ah, it’s in a way an intimate question. We can’t ask unfortunately Pauline Oliveros anymore about it. I think deep listening is an everyday practice. It allows you to find your path in the cacophony of the world, to embrace storms and silences. I am more and more interested in the act of (deep) listening. It’s a way of leaving somehow."
As an artist of many different mediums, what do you find to be the relationship between visuals and audio? In your experience, what can sound communicate that other mediums cannot communicate?
I don’t like that much to compare effects between one thing and another. I think each thing is different and part of a whole at the same time.
I don’t think there is visual in one corner and audio in another one. Even when you close your eyes you see things.
I think sound deals with the invisible, but so does painting, writing and dance.
You can touch with your hand as well as with your forehead, what makes the difference is the relationship with what you aim to touch and the part of you that touches it, the feeling. Well it’s the same with sounds and colors. Sometimes you need « it » blue; sometime you need it « crystalline » sometimes you need « it » as a rhythm, sometimes you need all of those sensations together.
In a way I don’t want to know the how but not the why, if the mystery was solved completely, I would stop doing art and music immediately.
Photo courtesy of http://ddab.org/fr/oeuvres/Atkinson
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