|publishing date||August 31, 2012|
|photography||iamamiwhoami: John Strandh|
Interview for Clash Music website.
If one of the defining aspects of postmodern art is the integration of various media forms to create a multi-media spectacle, then iamamiwhoami is the definition of the postmodern artist. In late 2009, short video clips began to appear on the internet referenced only by strings of numbers corresponding to letters of the alphabet. They were art pieces, to say the least – the ambient electro and fragmented vocals providing a sonic backdrop to surreal landscapes and images of seemingly random animals. In each one, the identity of the female performer was concealed with macabre and highly theatrical make-up, costumes and camera work.
With the second series – similarly intriguing, disturbing videos whose one-letter titles spelled b o u n t y – there was a progression into full-length songs. The mystery artist was not just preoccupied with the ambient and avant-garde, but could write structured, highly listenable songs, too. This structure did not detract from the fluid nature of the work, and the revelation that iamamiwhoami was the project of Jonna Lee and producer Claes Björklund did nothing to dispel the aura of mystery surrounding them.
With first full-length, multi-media album, kin, to be officially released on September 3rd (videos for each track are already available on YouTube), Clash was determined to discover a little more about the elusive Jonna Lee, and ended up with more questions than answers.
- You’ve said in interviews that you initially concealed your identity because you weren’t sure what you wanted iamamiwhoami to be. How did you feel when you finally revealed who you were?
- I wanted to create undisturbed away from the noise together with my collaborators. It was necessary to work in the quiet for iamamiwhoami to be able to continue to have a life. My identity was not hidden but neither articulated by me because what is relevant is the work we have done and the audience reflection of my identity.
- Why is it important to retain an element of mystery?
- There is no need for over articulation. Our audience is clever and I know their capacity. Their interpretations of what we do shape the course of the story.
- Do you regard yourself as a performance artist, musical artist, video artist or artist?
- I'm leaving that up to others to articulate.
- You seem to be fascinated by the ephemeral and the fluid - in structures, identities and also sonically. Is this how you interpret the world?
- Challenging the conventional shape is necessary. The fluid brings new life.
- In your videos you explore the grotesque, carnivalesque and the uncanny – where do these images and ideas come from?
- The instinctive human behaviour is fascinating to me as well as to my collaborators. So is raw emotion as well as no emotion. The contradictions in our nature are many. In the bounty series there’s a dramatic juxtaposition between the natural and the manmade.
- Was this a conscious decision?
- Yes. They represent two different realities.
- Is the visual aspect as important to you as the musical element? Are the two separable?
- The music is our foundation. The visualization of the music is an extension of it. Blending them together they create a new way of communicating for me. 'kin' can be experienced either sonically, visually or merged depending on what is preferred.
- Can you tell us about the dancing yeti in ‘sever’? Is it an exploration of self and other, or something completely different?
- It represents a part of me and most others. Life with it is very much a delight. I have experienced the consequence of living without it. Which has the greater cost?
- Do you ever throw in motifs, themes and images for the sheer hell of it, or does everything have significance?
- Everything has its purpose. Sometimes the simplest setting can have the greatest meaning. What meaning my purpose has to you will differentiate in proportion I suppose.
- What are stranger, your dreams or your video art?
- It's often difficult telling dream from reality I find.
- What inspires you?
- The world we have built around iamamiwhoami is solid. I feed off of that. Working without creative boundaries is a prerequisite for iamamiwhoami. That takes me places.
- There seems to be a lot great experimental electronica and avant-garde-inspired music coming out of Scandinavia at the moment – Fever Ray, Jenny Hval, Hanne Hukkelberg… Why do you think this is?
- The northerners are breaking out of their shells I think. So likeminded people that have similar references share their good work.
- You’ve described 'kin' as your child, the result of 9 months hard labour. Will you love your next child in the same way?
- All my creations are all equal to me. The question is - who is its next of kin?