© t thaemlitz/comatonse recordings
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In Rave Magazine (Australia), June 8 2004.
What is love? The question is a particular favorite of musicians (thanks Howard Jones) but multimedia artist TERRE THAEMLITZ attacks it more rigorously than most. Interview by KATE SCOTT.
When did you last say 'I love you'? And when you said it, did you think about what it meant? Really meant? What you wanted in return? It's a line of questioning that'll get you reaching for the razor blades before you can say 'Beckett', but a brutally relevant one in a society that elevates love above all else. Terre Thaemlitz - multi-media producer, writer, DJ, owner of Comatonse Recordings, and philosopher, among many other things - knows about love. In fact, his latest audio-visual performance, Lovebomb, is "an analysis of love as a cultural mechanism": an unflinching presentation that examines the dizzying scope of atrocities - terrorism, domestic violence, social abuses, happy house (really!) - committed under ardour's banner. Close yoru eyes and you could dance to it.
Missouri-born (sic. Minnesota born, Missouri raised) Thaemlitz is now based in Japan, where he spoke about this weekend's show at Fabrique.
What was the inspiration behind this performance?
I was thinking about trying to do an albumb about the uses and abuses of the term 'love' in the music industry for quite a while. Then after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 I was asked to partake in a Japanese magazine article asking DJs how the club scene can spread more love around the world, or some stupid kind of bullshit thing like that. My response was to basically be the devil's advocate and say well, 'What do you mean by love?' There's all this empty rhetoric that the house scene always puts forth about love and unity, when basically we're dealing with clubs that are deeply connected to crime.
That got me thinking about htis project and how I wanted to approach it: Instead of thinking about love in opposition or as a solution to violence, really thinking about how - socially - love functions as an actual mechanism through which societies enact violence.
Tell me about the musical component of this show.
There are some MP3 files from the project you can get online. Basically it was originally an audio CD and then I developed a video component to help with the live support. I was having problems trying to incorporate all of the themes of the text, so I developed the video to put text and images in front of people, to help them get through some of the themse that might not be so explicit in the music.
Do you hope the audio and visual elements will have equal impact?
The way peopel with eyesight function is that the visual element is often more dominant. So basically I use a technique in my video work to show repetitive images. I don't necessarily want to draw a comparison to pop art, but it's like a simplistic pop art approach towards certain kinds of images in order to let them function as grey-screens. So people can get the image and then slip back into focussing on the audio.
Can you personally draw a line between politics and art?
Well, art is political. Everything is political. The personal is political. Everything is pushed through these social filters... but how easy is it to identify it? That can be difficult. Especially with music. A lot of people don't want to believe that music is political, they just want to space out or trip out or whatever.
So, final question: What's love to you?
This is actually one of the most common questions I get asked: 'Do you believe in love?'
And I really have to say love is not so much about emotions. Love is about the cultural mechanisms through which we manifest certain types of emotions and social behaviors between people. So for me love is that. It's not important to say 'Is there love?' Yes there is love, but I'm not talking about love in the kind of fictive, abstract, romantic universal sense that extends throughout all people and cultures. What I really mean is that within certain cultures, within Western cultures, love has ver specific contextual meanings, very certain social and sexual patterns associated with it, and trying to understand those systems is understanding love.
Lovebomb is part of Fabrique at the Brisbane Powerhouse on Saturday