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IRL euphoria for the terminally online: Namasenda talks live shows & staying independent as a pop artist before Balance / Club Culture Festival

20 September 2022

“I’m only talking to the people that I’m actually working with creatively,” says Stockholm’s Namasenda, on forging her path as a pop artist through independent labels. “Everyone else, I don’t go telling them what to do business-wise. I feel like working with a smaller label often means that you get to kind of decide, do your own thing and, and basically get help with building your brand.” 

Namasenda (2021). Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London.

Calling via video chat from her home in the Swedish capital, the PC Music stable member is talking in the lead up to Leipzig’s Balance / Club Culture Festival, where she brings her euphoric stage show to a celebration of club music’s expanded field, alongside Loraine James, DJ Swisha, Métaraph and more. Emerging with the eurodance inflected pop of 2017’s hot_babe_93, Namasenda signed to London’s PC Music in 2019, finding a kindred production collaborator in labelhead A.G. Cook. She’s since gone from strength to strength with 2021’s anthem-laden Unlimited Ammo, collaborated with and had her work remixed by the likes of umru, Himera, Woesum and more. There’s a consistency for ecstatic hooks across her discography, from the bubblegum favourite ‘Donuts’ off her first release, through to the self-confident bravado and hoover synth accentuation of 2021’s ‘Finish Him’ featuring Joey LaBeija.

While her’s is a sound beloved by a terminally online generation, it’s nonetheless music that is best heard in a sweaty crowd through a PA, with her energetic live show making the artist a favourite in appearances from her label’s recent showcases in London, to the main hall of Berghain this summer. This is an opinion shared by the artist, suggested in her reflections on the pandemic’s sending gigs towards livestreams. “I hate the online stuff. I think it’s so cringe, so I just kind of did it because there was nothing else to do,” Namasenda explains of the digital gigs that became a staple of 2020. “It was kind of fun the first couple of times, but it’s really not my vibe at all. I just like the ritual of going somewhere, getting ready for the show, meeting people in real life.” 

**You have an excellent stage presence. Do you write music with playing live in mind?

Namasenda: That’s a really fun question. I mean, it’s not like when I’m doing a song I’m thinking about how it will be live, but I know the only way for me to know if a song is good enough is if I feel like, “Oh my god, I can’t wait to play this.” It doesn’t have to be a party track, it can be a calm one. But if I’m excited to play something live then I know that it’s a good one. 

Namasenda. Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London.

**Being from Sweden, how has the country influenced you musically? With labels like YEAR0001, who you’ve worked with, there’s a very distinct thing going on there—but also the eurodance history, I definitely hear that in hot_babe_93.

N: It might not be so much musically, it can be more the whole vibe, visually, everything. Everything that I did for hot_babe_93 is very Swedish or European in my opinion. I think it’s that we have this sense that we like it here, but also a sense of longing, wanting to be somewhere else. That’s very present in Swedish music and I think in mine too. 

**PC Music is independent, has this been interesting for you as a pop artist, rather than working along a major label pathway?

N: There’s a lot of artistic integrity. You’re allowed to do your own thing. I have this rule where I don’t discuss the creative stuff with people that aren’t creatives themselves. I’m not gonna talk to an A&R about, oh, we should do this with this bridge, or what do you think about this cover. Because an A&R or someone that sits in an office, they don’t know. They know the business side, so they should do that. I feel like when it comes to a lot of major labels, a lot of people that don’t even know what they’re talking about, they’re having a lot of opinions. I can’t really do that. I don’t even do it with PC. 

**How has working with A.G. Cook on the production side of things played a role in your songwriting recently? How do you two bounce ideas off each other?

Namasenda (2021). Photo by Arvida Byström + Hannah Diamond. Image courtesy the artist + PC Music, London

N: I think he was one of the first people that actually really listened to my ideas, and made me trust my ideas, made me believe that I had good ideas. So I feel during this process I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter. To be able to have the confidence to sing a melody that might not be the best, but if you’re three people in the room, then someone can be like, “Okay, let’s take this and do this and this.” That’s how you collaborate, and to be open to sometimes singing or writing something that’s not really great, but because you wrote that we can take from it and make something.

**There is a very strong visual element to your work. Can you tell me about this side of your project, do you keep visuals in mind when writing music?

N: Usually I do. Right now, it’s not really that I have an idea, but I feel for the first time the visual idea is kind of growing with the music. So I don’t really know what’s gonna happen, because with Unlimited Ammo I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I knew exactly what type of influences I wanted, and what the whole theme was, already set before we started writing the mixtape. But now it’s a bit more floaty, so it’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of it.**

Namasenda performs as part of Balance / Club Culture Festival, Leipzig, on September 30, 2022.

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Sonic Acts announces 2022 Biennial, opening with group exhibition one sun after another, Sept 30 – Oct 23

13 September 2022

Sonic Acts is announcing its 2022 Biennial, running from September 30 to October 23 across various venues in Amsterdam. The biennial celebrates Sonic Acts’ nearly three decades of creative productions while provoking questions of care and collectivity through a series of site-specific interventions and music performances. The program will open with one sun after another exhibition that draws up Sonic Acts’ research focus on climatic change and crisis. 

one sun after another offers a constructive approach to environmental storytelling, with the included works inadvertently responding to each other through their perspective on time geographyThe group exhibition explores relationships between time, nature, and industry, tracing degrees of ecological impact across various visual works and interventions. The works range from research into cartographic languages and non-hierarchical technologies to photography, video, and field recordings. Participating artists include Louis Braddock Clarke, Zuzanna Zgierska, Lucky Dragons, the 2021 Prix Marcel Duchamp nominee Julian Charierre, among others.

one sun after another takes place from 30 September to 23 October at W139, Zone2Source, and Het HEM. Visit Sonic Acts’ website to purchase tickets to the exhibition and the entire biennial program.

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THE FAIREST debuts annual art fair, Open Your Eyes Again at Kühlhaus Berlin, Sept 14-18  

12 September 2022

THE FAIREST— a Berlin-based curatorial group, led by Eleonora Sutter and Georgie Pope— opens its first annual art fair entitled Open Your Eyes Again at Kühlhaus Berlin on September 13, 2022. The exhibition runs from September 14-18, featuring over 60 artists that participated in the group’s teaser editions over the past year. The five teaser events focused on themes that lead up to the annual fair, ranging from carnal melancholia to transformation under crisis. Open Your Eyes Again includes works from Jonas Wendelin, Lukas Stöever, and Hannah Rose Stewart, amongst others.

THE FAIREST’s inaugural annual art fair, Open Your Eyes Again, runs from September 14-18 at Kühlhaus, Berlin.

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Disobedient bodies, femininity & technological mediation in the mixed media work of Arvida Byström

5 September 2022
Arvida Byström, Ett Dockhem (2022). Exhibition view. Image courtesy the artist + Galleri Format, Malmö.

Ett Dockhem (A Doll’s House), a solo exhibition by Arvida Byström, is on at Malmö’s Galleri Format, running August 12 to September 11.

With photography, mannequin sculptures and video, the artist explores technologically mediated representations of the body, femininity and online culture. As noted in the press release, her work presents a “journey through an aesthetic universe occupied by disobedient bodies; fruits in lingerie, tulips, and teddy bears.”**

Arvida Byström’s Ett Dockhem is on at Galleri Format, Malmö, running August 12 to September 11, 2022.

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Fingertips seek touch: discussing design, collaboration & printed media in the digital age with Monika Janulvičiūtė in an interview for TLTRPreß’s The Yap

18 August 2022

Berlin’s TLTRPreß has released the latest issue of The Yap, first printed in March, with an excerpted interview from the zine re-published on AQNB today.

Enver Hadzijaj, Going from One Problem to the Next as Gracefully as Possible, illustration from The Yap no. 77 (2022). Image courtesy the artist + TLTRPreß, Berlin.

Led by Ondřej Teplý, The Yap’s 77th edition addresses printed media in the digital age, musing, “can publishing projects also experience a mid-life crisis?” Focussing on the subject of independent presses from the perspectives of a writer, book designer, and a performance artist, the project features interviews with Habib William Kherbek, Monika Janulvičiūtė, and Ivan Cheng, who discuss their recents projects and experiences working with publishing houses such as TLTRPreß.

In the final interview with Monika Janulvičiūtė, up today on AQNB, the designer and artist discusses collaboration, seeking touch through printed media and her book design for Habib William Kherbek’s STILL DANCING, published in 2021 via TLTRPreß. Janulvičiūtė’s practice is broad, spanning an array of outcomes. There’s video work such as ‘Water Striders’ with Antanas Lučiūnas, premiered by AQNB in 2020, featuring a video game-like first person exploration of derelict industrial buildings and farm estates. Or the uncanny fiction of her TLTRPreß book The Great Outdoors (2017), which examines desire and cosmic orgies. As a designer her work challenges established publication formats, most evidenced in her work on STILL DANCING, in which Janulvičiūtė converts the digital elements of social media into a material object.**

Read the excerpted interview below and see TLTRPreß for more information.

Ondřej Teplý: Still Dancing has a quite specific design. It’s long, slim, and flippable – you can read it from both ends. When I talked to Habib William Kherbek, he described the whole idea of an infinite scroll of Instagram standing behind your design. How was it for you to transfer digital elements into physical, paper form?

Monika Janulvičiūtė, The Great Outdoors (2017). Book view. Image courtesy the artist + TLTRPreß, Berlin.

It took around a year and a half to make such a book. From the beginning, all three of us, me, William, and Martin Kohout from TLTRPreß, were leaning towards a landscape format. Such a format isn’t common for books at all, but it has undeniable qualities, especially when it’s flippable. So that was our natural reference. Funny story, I accidentally exported the book as spreads, but Martin and William thought it was single pages, really long pages. It was a misunderstanding, but they both liked it, and they were like “ Why don’t we do it longer?” I was like “Oh my god but it’s extremely long!” Nevertheless, later we encountered a few limitations. As an independent printing and self-sustained practice, you just try to fit into standardised sizes and modes of printing, because, if not, it’s quite costly and it requires many more steps in the chain of production. I knew that the long landscape shape is complicated, but what I didn’t know was how many negative answers we would receive to our order. After this experience, we ended up deciding that it should be Riso and that we would print it in Prague at Kudla Werkstatt. In the end, it was a more traditional manual assembly. The whole process was quite loopy, and we knew that we would have to sacrifice something to finish the project. We sacrificed time.

Lately, I have been interested in film and video essay-making, and, because of that, I can see a lot of similarities between audiovisual work and books. Montage and video editing are, in my opinion, similar to designing a book layout. That’s why these two mediums don’t seem so far from each other. The book’s animation and its flippable format, which enables the reader to choose the way of reading, are the elements that bring some of the digital experience into physical paper form.

OT: As you indicated, you are a multimedia artist with a broad field of interest – from graphic and audiovisual work to architecture. How do these various media influence your book design work?

Monika Janulvičiūtė zines. Image courtesy the artist + TLTRPreß, Berlin.

It allows me to see the new projects more openly and not to have an a priori fixed idea of what I want. The openness is also supported by the fact that most of my work is collaborative, except for commercial stuff. On the other side, the works that are less graspable, not straightforward, in a sense of artistic quality, are collaborations. It allows me to discover an interesting and sometimes even unexpected intersection between different fields. Personally, it helped me a lot in my praxis; for instance, from designing fonts to making furniture. It can be exhausting, but, overall, it has its quality and what is most important is that it’s super entertaining. 

OT: Collaborative work has lately become an important issue. The urge to erase today’s hyper-individualism in the artistic community is omnipresent. As you mentioned, your work is based on collaboration. Is the intention only practical, or do you use this type of work also because of the aforementioned reason?

I think it’s difficult to hold a collective together, so I prefer to do more interpersonal types of collaborations. For example, both books from The Great Outdoors series for TLTRPreß were made in collaboration with writers and other artists. Not that I wasn’t capable of doing it alone, but working in the collective helped me to capture the right moment in time which I was seeking unconsciously. Such work is, in the end, much richer and more saturated than doing it solo. Besides, working in a collective can accelerate the workflow, and you can also receive immediate feedback. When producing books, you want people to desire them. That’s why I always find it weird when people don’t send pre-final drafts, or even a few pages, to their friends for general tastes, not even necessarily proofreading. There has been so much energy invested already. And you simply want to have someone who will root for your work.

Sometimes you just need more time to find out what works for you, like in my case. When I was a beginning designer, and, later, a beginning artist, the pressure on being hyper-individualistic was very strong. However, I felt like this wasn’t for me, even though the pressure was telling me the opposite. It took me quite some time, and a lot of courage, to internally refuse the individualistic type of work and accept the fact that being collaborative doesn’t mean being weak, or being unable to do it on your own. With the rise of social media, an additional pressure appeared – it was desirable to be collaborative, but only with a certain type of hyped and cool people on board. It ruined it a fair bit, to be honest. It did set back the whole thing, but now we know better, I guess.

Monika Janulvičiūtė, The Great Outdoors (2017). Book view. Image courtesy the artist + TLTRPreß, Berlin.

OT: What’s the difference, from the perspective of a book designer, between working for an independent publishing project and a commercial one?

It adds a certain freedom in the sense of being involved in the project from its earliest stages. On the other hand, it’s probably rarely giving the freedom of printing something outrageous. However, finding a printing company that’ll be able to produce [the book], and for a good price, you feel like you’ve hacked your way through. For me, it’s always so charming to see something on paper. There’s still a lot of magic when you’re working on a project for a long time. You know everything by heart, and then it lands up in a book: a physical object.

OT: Collaborating with independent publishing houses certainly raises the question of the materiality and tactility of paper in our post-digital age. What’s the difference between designing an ebook and a physical paper book?

Well, there’re many technical differences, but I get it’s not the answer you’re seeking. What I like about publishing, in general, is that you never know where your work will end up. That goes both for books, ebooks, films, and posters. You are overpowered by their circulation. I remember, it was already a few years ago, when I went to someone’s house and I found copies of books designed by me on a bookshelf there. That’s enthralling. Our fingertips seek for touch, we should remember to divert it from steel and glass and plastic routinely.**

The Yap No. 77, edited by Ondřej Teplý and featuring Ivan Cheng, Monika Januleviučitė, and Habib William Kherbek, with design by Rasmus Svensson, is out now.

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