“Release the pressure, release your spell, release your desire, release the curse. Release your bowels! Release your mind!” says Tyler Matthew Oyer via email chat about their love for the “actual and symbolic” function of the word, which is also the name of their latest project RELEASE DELUXE.
First premiered at Los Angeles’ Human Resources in December 2017, the multi-faceted project, realised over a number of years, includes a self-released LP with original music and remixes by collaborators ( Kembra Pfahler, Max Boss, Nightfeelings, Nedalot, Bendik Giske, Kelman Duran, Busy Gangnes, Ben Babbitt), a vinyl edition, music videos, a live performance as well as drawings which will feature as digital prints on satin at the upcoming Material Art Fair in Mexico City (Feb 8-11).
Oyer’s projects are never pinned down to one medium and often involve collaboration, such as the three-act operetta Shimmy Shake Earthquake, 10-person theatrical performance STAGED: Three Crimes in Three Acts, a 2.5 hour one-man cabaret CALLING ALL DIVAS and 4-channel feature film installation Conquest of the Universe or When Queens Collide. Both highly political yet accessible through entertainment, the multi-disciplinary artist describes themselves as “a master of nothing,” who’s work moves between forms in an open and fluid way.
** You began your practice in training classical voice right? Can you talk us through the transition/evolution of getting into an art based practice from there?
Tyler Matthew Oyer: I grew up in a rural town in Pennsylvania that had a vibrant theatre presence in the community, in schools, and in churches. From about age five I was singing and dancing for an audience. When I was eleven I played Oliver Twist. This transitioned into private voice lessons studying classical music and opera during my teenage years. I always took visual art classes in school and had great encouragement from my art teachers. I loved seeing how the costumes were made, helping build the sets and props. When I applied to university I thought I either wanted to study musical theatre or fashion design.
This all makes sense now but at the time I thought they were completely autonomous creative realms. Fate took me to the theatre program where, during the first semester, I decided against that decision and transferred to the art program. I had an instant allergy to the conventions of acting and to proper straight theatre and to directors I did not trust or agree with ideologically. At the time I lacked the framework for a generative critique but knew I had to get out! Luckily the art program admitted me and within that context I began to merge theory and practice in these wild sculptural installations.
TMO: This has become a way of working for me. I am not easily bored in or out of my studio because I
try to do it all. For most of my projects I create the concept, build the objects, design and construct the costumes, edit the videos, write the press release, build the melodies… Each time the work takes a different form.
RELEASE DELUXE started as a collaborative music project but quickly became woven into the paintings and sculptures I was making in my studio. The drawings then translated into “merch” like t-shirts and a vinyl edition. When I premiered the record in December at Human Resources I built a light sculpture and made a new outfit to perform in. My new sigil drawings are a product of having made the music. The works constantly influence each other.
I love this way of working but it has proven difficult for institutional and commercial recognition. Some people think I am only a performance artist and are unaware I have a painting practice. Others think I only make music and don’t know about my theatrical works. I love these confusions; as if the work is many genres but sticks in none. It’s very queer that way. It feels deviant and endlessly open. Like, what’s next?! I think this way of working is a reflection of how late capitalism makes us into subjects inundated with loads of information but lacking specific technical prowess. Like I do it all but I am a master of nothing. Maybe that is my mastery, moving between forms. My next focus is on pedagogy and how to build material collectively. Oh, and a line of steel furniture.
** How long did this project take to make and what did life look like for you while it was happening – what were some of ur obsessions, boredoms, dreams, realities…?
TMO: RELEASE DELUXE took a handful of years. Because I do not produce music this project relied heavily on the talents of my friends and co-conspirators to contribute beats in response to the conspiracy theory concept. Some people responded immediately with gorgeous beats, some promised and never followed through. I anticipated this, so while I was accumulating the music I was writing lyrics, making paintings, editing my movie, and working money gigs.
I have always been obsessed with pop music and was raised listening to Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Patti LaBelle, Celine Dion, Mariah Carey… I love watching videos of divas performing live. There were many hours spent digging through the YouTube archive! At the same time I was researching the 1980’s and how right wing politics introduced the war on drugs, growth in the prison industrial complex, neoliberalism, HIV/AIDS, the culture wars. Also the 80’s brought us MTV, space exploration, test tube babies, and Epcot. I became obsessed with researching the moments before I gained consciousness in 1987. There are disturbing similarities between that time and this moment. Extreme conservatism has again become the white-lash of a failing economic pyramid scheme puppeted by a few billionaires.
** Is your interest in conspiracy theories coming from a place of tongue-in- cheek criticality or do you have a genuine interest and investment in them?
TMO: I believe in conspiracy because I do not trust imperialist governments and corporations as they
are always hiding the violences and exploitations that contribute to their successes. This lack of transparency produces a demand for conspiracy theory from the public. For RELEASE DELUXE, however, the conspiracy theory functions in a Brechtian dialectic. It is completely fabricated by me with the purpose of critiquing historically specific social issues. It exists in the realm of art. It uses magic and spells as symbolic sites for agency amongst those of us stranded in the matrix of capitalism. The spells are meant to revive a revolutionary spirit that is consistently suppressed by white supremacy, imperialism, patriarchy and capitalism.
TMO: I have a desire to move my work out of these spaces and into a broader, diverse public. I have always performed in a variety of places from nightclubs, public parks, museums, galleries… I want to take RELEASE DELUXE and CALLING ALL DIVAS on tour to universities, community centers, churches, festivals and gay bars. I want to get out of the cities that are considered cultural capitals and infiltrate the localities similar to where I grew up. That’s where the work has to be done if we are going to shift consciousness away from nationalist conservatism and encourage critical thinking and action. I think RELEASE DELUXE is the right work for this because although it is tied to an extremely political agenda it is accessible as entertainment.
** Most of the tracks are called ‘release’ [that word, mmm so nice, the pressure valve being opened] with different iterations through remixes and featured artists. Are they all considered separate or rather variations/iterations built out of one concept? I like this multi and fluid approach to the concept of a ‘finished’ track. How do we know when a project is finished, it could effectively go on forever…
TMO: YES! Release the pressure, release your spell, release your desire, release the curse. Release your bowels! Release your mind! I like release because it is both actual and symbolic. When you release a spell it is a word action.
The songs are considered separate variations built on the same concept. Each collaborator was sent the conceptual framework as part of the creative process. Of course my lyrics and melodies took on different aspects of the work; some telling the history, some looking for the missing pieces, others conjuring new spells for the different tomorrow. I really love the remixes because abstraction intersects with the beats and lyrics in a new way. The newest song is ‘Patriarchal Death Grips’. It is a variation on the RELEASE theme. I made it one year after the EP came out and I wanted to add urgency to the music, to demand something, like an anthem.
While the project could go on forever in theory, I do see the pressing of the vinyl as a landmark. It materializes the project in a finite way. I plan to make more music but I want to focus on moving RELEASE DELUXE around the world! There may be some video in the works as well.**