Can you talk about a breakthrough work, event or performance in your career? Why does it feel special to you? When, why and how did you start working on it, what were some of the motivations and ideas behind it?
Our last release Vis-à-Vis does feel quite special to us by now - we don’t know if we’ve quite broken through to anything, but we’re now wondering how that work will feel for us in five or ten years. It was our first full length LP, and a real chance to take creative agency over every aspect of the music making process from building instruments to designing the artwork. Even more, we took these small portable instruments and traveled overland from Tbilisi to Shanghai, playing concerts along the way, meeting people, and just generally learning about the world in a way that has left a huge impact on us. Recently, we started rehearsing that music again for some long overdue live concerts, and it feels pretty fantastic, like visiting an old friend.
We started working on this piece for the first time in Beijing. Our friends there (who also run the label AnyOne that releases all our music) always push us right into the deep end when it comes to collaborations and composition. They really pushed us this one month that was completely packed with concerts and collaborations and after leaving exhausted we left with this 15 minutes of music that just kept growing and growing. Finishing the entire project was this incredibly satisfying thing to happen at such a dark time as the start of the pandemic, and it gave us a lot of satisfaction.
There are many descriptions of the ideal state of mind for being creative. What is it like for you? What supports this ideal state of mind and what are distractions? Are there strategies to enter into this state more easily?
We’ve spent so much time working through artist residencies, and I think they are our creative crutch - something which we can always rely on to enter that ideal state of mind.
When you’re on a residency a few things happen: your position changes, the clutter of your life leaves, you meet new people and learn about new things, you’re given an opportunity to try anything, and there’s a deadline / compartmentalization of time. All of those things add up to be the perfect situation to push us to create new work - if it wasn’t for artist residencies we don’t think we’d be half as prolific as we are, and so our main strategy for entering that state is to change our environment frequently, but once changed give ourselves just enough time to really create something, the motivation comes easily when everything else is in place.
Music and sounds can heal, but they can also hurt. Do you personally have experiences with either or both of these? Where do you personally see the biggest need and potential for music as a tool for healing?
Music is one of those few things in life that’s worth doing poorly - even if we never reach anyone with our own music, we’ve reached ourselves in a way that’s absolutely improved our lives. This is why we personally see music's biggest potential for healing is on a person to person basis - with each persons own practice as a audience member, listener, curator, or instrumentalist providing a much needed form of expression and understanding in the world.
In a sense, creating music has become much more accessible through technology. And so there are a lot more people with budding music practices, and of course we hope that this is also improving everyone’s own life and experience of the world. There’s another thread through our work of connecting people through music in a very person to person way - for example with our Sound Envelopes that travel from person to person.
There is a fine line between cultural exchange and appropriation. What are your thoughts on the limits of copying, using cultural signs and symbols and the cultural/social/gender specificity of art?
It’s an incredibly difficult question, and as artists that are always traveling it's one we’ve had to think about a lot.
For us, the key word is collaboration, and having a true effort in understanding is essential - if we’re working with people, and there is an ongoing dialogue that shows reciprocal respect and exchange of knowledge, then we think it’s on a good path - but of course, every case can be very complicated.
We’re always trying to make collaborations with people that can benefit everyone involved, and we think that’s the most positive side for cultural exchanges.
It’s also fortunate that we’re not ones to “sample” sounds, and since we’re also building most of our instruments ourselves, there usually isn’t too much “taking” of sounds from anywhere we’re going, but rather creating things from scratch with ourselves and with the people we meet.
Our sense of hearing shares intriguing connections to other senses. From your experience, what are some of the most inspiring overlaps between different senses - and what do they tell us about the way our senses work?
One main aspect of our interdisciplinary works is how we get the chance to think in musical and visual terms at the same time, not only for the experiential aspect of these projects but also in the creative process - we’ve made a handful of projects based on this approach of mixing disciplines, with music box paper in “One Meter Per Minute”, and with tape in “Splintered Landscapes”. We’ve also completed collaborations with visual artists and tried to create live painting events where the two things play an equal role - generally we have a highly conceptual approach, so we can model it into diverse mediums.
Trying to take the working process from a different discipline and applying it to music is something very intriguing and inspiring to use - we think what it says about our senses is that art itself normally transcends the senses, and that an artistic concept can be understood in any medium, but the way it is “sensed” will be different - by changing the sense of a concept, we get to see different hues of the same idea.
Art can be a purpose in its own right, but it can also directly feed back into everyday life, take on a social and political role and lead to more engagement. Can you describe your approach to art and being an artist?
We think about art a lot for a personal transformation kind of experience, but also in terms of relations between people and the world around us. Generally, we tend to stick to very positive kinds of messages, trying to put our audiences in a certain state of mind where they can hopefully multiply a sense of optimism, creativity, and balance - we’re a decidedly unpolitical group, but we do see our duo as a way of reconsidering the way in which artists exist and work today.
We think the very minimalist decisions we’ve taken on in our life (in having very few possessions and living mainly through art and music), is something that can push against the status quo for artists, that is living poor in a city far too expensive grinding away at one's own practice. Early on we decided not to take this path, and to take on a more global approach that sees us being a very small part of a lot of different scenes instead of a big part of just one. The result has been meeting hundreds of wonderful artists and creative people from all around the world, and also getting to work with many of them too.
Perhaps the most powerful idea behind making music for us, is the idea that this object of an instrument can provide a lifetime of fulfillment, joy, and activity for one person - in such a highly materialistic world where things are obtained, used, and create waste so quickly, it’s such a special thing to be able to play a musical instrument.
What can music express about life and death which words alone may not?
It is such a cliché to say that music is a “universal language”, but as two people who have used music to communicate with people where language barriers existed, we can say that what music expresses is a sense of communication where others can’t exist. Music is, in most cases, a creator of bridges between people, communities, culture, and artists, and that’s something we appreciate on a daily basis.
As far as music’s own expression, it’s a highly subjective art form, and for instance people will always hear all sorts of different things in our music - but it's in this lack of clarity that there is some magic happening.