Synth Master Goodiepal / gaeoudjiparl / Parl Kristian Bjørn Vester
Interview transcribed and edited from audio recording.
Goodiepal: Ok Dorothy. The Goodiepal speaking and I’m speaking—in—a—rather—slow—voice because I was thinking; if you can hold up the amplifier of this audio recording to your iPhone or anything like that, it will be able to convert my voice into text using the speech to text converter. Now how about that.
Dorothy Howard: I’m curious about aspects of your work that might imagine potential, unrealized, and perhaps impossibly scalable and therefore science fictional, modes of distribution and production. Do you see your use of analog technologies (instruments, hardwares, softwares, methods of distribution, methods of analog communication with your friends and fans) as questioning progress narratives about technology, where using analog technologies constitute a sort of political act/action?
GP: Ok, so to the first question: well generally speaking I do not see the way I distribute or let my work travel as so much to do with a science fiction aesthetic actually I do think it has more to do with a necessity inside the ways of things and the means of distribution. Let me point three examples at you. Ok here we go.
I currently run a little record shop in Copenhagen (Khioskh) and that is not any science fiction move, but simply because nobody else around Europe is running record shops at the moment. Bamboo tower in Paris is closed. These Records in London is closed. And the new record shops that are run are these kinds of mixed things where you have a tea shop or let’s say a place where you can get your haircut or something like that, and that is ok. However, in order to keep distribution going you need to run a record shop, which also has books and counterculture and such. These things are still printed and distributed in other ways than the internet generally speaking, so as long as they are distributed in that way, it is important that there is a physical place where you can get them. One day when they will stop being distributed in that way, things will change. Most of the old record labels are anyway super boring nowadays. Anyway I run a very small record store inside a corner shop just like any other hipster of 2017, but I’m almost sold out on the daily so it’s more like a fish shop people drop by to see if there is any fresh items on display.
Let me give you an example. Editions Mego once called just called Mego in Vienna was a fantastic label for modern music for a long long time. I myself am myself a Mego artist and therefore I think I can criticize the label a bit. Nowadays the label is all about fancy re-issues of vinyls, but that is not the way modern media art has to be distributed. In around the year 2000, they set up an under label which was called Falsch and they started to distribute data cds with a lot of media art content at the time.1 We were quite a few people that were laughing at it, but I do believe looking in the black mirror, that this was a genius move and a very brave move for a record label to distribute the content of media art in a physical form. This is also the only way to keep it documented. Everything else disappears very fast on the internet. If Editions Mego whats to be a real relevant label in 2017 we need more things like Falsch.
For example after a discussion with my friend Florian Cramer I think that I can give you this one: let’s take the idea of UbuWeb. It only takes a bit of complaints. I think currently they are hosted at UNAM in Mexico, that is what I have heard. And it only takes a few complaints about copyrights, and the whole UbuWeb will be gone. The internet is not here to say, but the internet is here for distribution of things. It has been that way from the very beginning of the internet, and it will keep being in that way.
When I deleted all the SYGNOK films, all of my friends from SYGNOK got very angry because they thought that Youtube for example was a place where we can store our content forever, and that it can stay there and people can look into it as some sort of museum.2 Now the thing is that the rules of these services constantly change, and since we as artists constantly change as well, we have to redistribute our materials in various ways. Simply because if a film on Youtube was just uploaded to Youtube, it will stay there forever while the artists are changing, and the distribution form will be static. Or, scenario two; the artist builds its they, the artist builds he, or her, or she, or whatever-’s career on giving film on Youtube. And one day—various copyright, or for various copyright reasons, or violation of any kind of nudity or whatever, no new law inside this and that will delete parts of film. This has happened to a few of my films on Youtube. Whether it has been the use of music of other people’s material. Youtube simply has an algorithm that goes into the actual film and cuts out that specific bit of music used in that film.
So for example, a friend of mine called Sami made a little film about me and my bike, and at the end, there’s a film sequence where I go to a party at the President of Iceland’s house.3 At the same party, the British rather irritating person Brian Ferry, was there. And because the arrival of my bike looked so similar to his song, “Slave to love,” we played his song, “Slave to love” upon my arrival in the video. That thing was uploaded to Youtube since quite a few years ago, and the film thing is still there to be seen. However, the “Slave to love” data is now removed, and the film appears without any sound–or actually that part of the film appears without any sound,
Example 2: the Spanish record label ALKU, released back in 2003, a cd called IMBECIL which was a collection of useless software that was a CD-R and that cd is today a landmark in small arty pieces of software however the website for this thing is long gone and forgotten.4 Inside the world of CD-Rs, a lot of interesting things are happening at the moment. I personally like Creel Pone, which was, or is, a US, well right now he’s not living in the US any longer so I wouldn’t say it is a US label any longer, but anyway it was or is a bootleg CD-R label run by Keith Fullerton Whitman, where he was copying old fancy records of electronic music and converted them into micro-versions of the same LP like micro-photocopying the cover down, etc. and made a very fancy CD-R version of the same electronic music. For me this is a very very very sophisticated and interesting way of dealing with formats that are now distributed on the internet, most of this music is obviously available on the internet on many servers, Youtube and Ubuweb alike. However, Keith Fullerton Whitman had the need to have his music represented in a physical format. That reason is a bit question mark for me, but I found it rather interesting. And as long as Keith Fullerton Whitman will keep doing that, I will keep doing the record shop in Copenhagen.
Generally speaking, one way of distributing your things, does not overrule the formal way of distributing your things, that’s why I’m still sending a lot of physical letters to people. That’s why say I still use a fax or a phone line, that’s why I still communicate in different formats, which has interest for the receiver. And here I use the word “interest” because that is exactly what it is. You have to communicate in a way which is open for mystery and magic to unfold. If you receive 99% of your information through your email account or Facebook, a letter in the mailbox will seem magical. If you have an old fax in your house, and you haven’t had a fax in your house for about 3–4 years, no matter how boring the fax that appears will be a bit magic and special. So I see it much more as being a juggler of information than any kind of nostalgia in that respect. At the same time, of course all ways of distributing messages hold criticism of messages themselves. I made an equation which I called the Goodiepal equation, and I still think you can’t disprove it. It goes like this: The further a message has to travel over space and time, the more important things you can add to its content.5 This could very well be one of the most interesting things I have ever said. Now that would be my answer to your first question.
DH: A lot of your work deals with, in different ways, the topic of surveillance. In what ways does this topic occur in your work or perhaps your investment in escaping from surveillance through a certain type of passage through national residencies and international mailing addresses, wifi, softwares, etc.?
GP: As a child, you always try to find a free-space for your artworks. This will be my answer to your second question. As a child, you try to find a free space where you can art-out or play-out–those things are connected—art and play are the same to me. That is why I fled to the internet because when I was young, my mother didn’t understand what computers—hence the internet was—therefore it was my free space. Today a lot of youth escapes social media like Facebook because their parents are active on the same medias. Now there is nothing new in that. What instead is new is the fact that the older you get, the more of a body of content do you build.
I just went to the Danish composer’s union summer fest. And there was a lot of white people sitting around tables drinking, eating meat, and being very proud of being Nordic. Nordic rules, Nordic beauty and Nordic specialities like painting the nordic lights in the sky, or “painters paintings” the special melancholy in Swedish tonality in the låts and that kind of folk music was discussed a lot, and every single person around the table was somehow feeling like they were part of the elite. There was also a little quiz, and at that quiz we were quizzing statements from other Danish composers. This is nationalism on its worst accord. And of course, no free space can be created inside such a thing.
So if you want to have a free space, you have to make loopholes and constantly jump in and out of them. So I am not so much afraid of surveillance as I am afraid of being cornered in one way of existing versus another one. That’s why I have never sharpened my English to be like, for example, a national English-speaking person’s English, I am still speaking with just the language of the unknown foreigner. I still rock my English as the language of the unknown foreigner, yes.
So the older you get, the faster you have to run to find the loopholes that lead to free spaces where art can grow. I am still running, but I am getting older.
DH: Do you see yourself as a digital nomad?– defined as being anarchically outside of institutional / work / perhaps also regional or governmental affiliations because of the growth of digital work practices, and the ability for artists / creators to work remotely. Or perhaps maybe you see your life on the road as a sort of attempt to understand or parody the way that artists, representing a sort of globalized middle class in their access to the institutions of the rich, while stereotypicalized, and sometimes performed poverty, are able to find loopholes in national administration, taxes, etc. and subvert aspects of national politics by finding creative ways not to abide by their rules and borders. What do you think?
GP: Question number 3: If I see myself as a digital nomad? No, but I find it flattering if you see me like that. I am still out of most institutional frameworks. However, I don’t believe that it is a necessity to stay out of institutional frameworks, I think you just have to be aware that they exist, and to be able to attack them from the inside, if you are allowed to enter one way or another. However, so when I have done my lectures at Harvard, Brown, Cal Arts, or the Danish Composer’s Union, I have done it in ways which could attack the system from the inside.6 Not attacking for breaking it down, just seeing how much their walls could resist. And that is the only way that you can talk pure academia because that is the only way to challenge things from the inside that have been going on inside of the world of academia ever since the word was originally invented.
I like what you write here “stereotypicalized, (catalyzed) and sometimes performed poverty.” The only thing I will say is that you will have much more freedom if you by any chance can make it impossible for people to find out if you let’s say are from Austria, Sweden, Germany, or Iceland. These are places that are very close to each other but you will be reacted to in very different ways if you blur the lines of where you are from. Most people like to draw, or mark up their lines of where they are from. But I think it’s much more important to blur the lines, if you want to find a free space where art can grow. Yes.
DH: The notion of “open sourcing” seems to be a recurrent theme in your recent work, where you are literally taking to Facebook to offer free original artwork giveaways if the recipient promises to modify or improve upon the object–as in the case of the Kommunal Klon Komputer 2 and other versions of the bike. One might say you are playing with the idea of seriality in the names you give to the artworks, almost like a Fluxus throwback. But more generally, in what way are you using objects (or lifestyles) you produce to understand or modify the conditions of open source culture? How do your chosen limited releases, one-time editions, enact a sort of Marxist materialism?
GP: Your next question ends with “Marxist materialism” and I find that very, very “whoa.” Marxism is debated a lot these days and I think all these ideas and thoughts just when we thought they were disappearing are coming back in a very massive way. The notion of open-sourcing in my work. Well, I’ve never talked much about open sourcing to begin with… I generally think and believe that all artworks have to be alive, else they die. It is Disney’s only luck that fan culture exists and that everybody likes to take home and play with, and reinvent stories with the characters, else it would have died a long time ago. Although this is in many ways against Walt Disney’s ideas and ideals.
I have just noticed myself that as soon as art objects end up in galleries or museums, they generally die. Therefore I run my own exhibition at the National Gallery in Denmark, where I present other people’s artwork, and I constantly change it so that something new is happening all the time. That keeps the room and the Goodiepal collection at the National Gallery of Denmark alive.7 So far, I have done a lecture in the room every week, and I am present at the Gallery almost every day when I am in Copenhagen. The Museum hates me for this, and wants to kick me out. But I have done some clever ins and outs by selling my mechanical bird to them, or actually only selling half of my mechanical bird to them. I still own a lot of the screws to the bird, because actually there are two, so that will be bird-s. And if they kick me out, they have to take my work apart. Which they are not ready to do, because they have paid money for it to begin with. Money is not power in institutional games but it is certainly the key to opening the big door of actions.
Now about money in art. Well, I was paid quite a lot of money for my mechanical bird when it was sold to the National Gallery, or actually my gallerist was paid a lot of money. But he has spent all the money on cocaine and he is really hard to get ahold of, so I am probably never going to see much of that money. But it opened up some doors where I have been able to do a lot of interesting things at the museum. Like a lot of interesting lectures, synthesizer workshops on, workshops on escoterity, resident computing, and the likes. Things that I found interesting.
So art has to be kept alive, and that would be my answer to that. Open source or not, the only way to keep things alive is by making them live, like a story, or a campfire story. They change over time and are abducted by the times they exist in. (…) You have to build change into art or the stories about art.
DH: I’ve noticed that there is what seems like a strain tendency within contemporary art to gesture towards an incorporation of techno / rave subcultures within contemporary art production methods and themes. Your musical work, specifically tracks that impose poetic spoken word mixed over dub / rave tracks seem to be playing with or troubling the idea of philosophical and dub / rave work combining, does this make sense? In what way are musical terms of musical subcultures; whether the discourse of syncopation, arpeggiation, reverent or irreverent approach to melody, and improvisational aesthetics that collided in your work, and how are they used as stand-ins for certain types of political sentiments or tendencies?
Right. The incorporation of rave culture and techno cultures in contemporary art. Well, that is just the same as how beat culture liked to incorporate jazz music in that art form. It has something to do with the fact that techno-culture is dead and therefore not scary any longer, and young people can relive it and play with the beauty of it, just in the same way as in the 90s people started to be interested in acid rock from the 60s, and in the noughties (00s) people started to be interested in punk culture. I mean, when I was a child the Sex Pistols seemed so ridiculously outdated, just laughable for me. It was first later on for me when I was told, I did not understand but for me they were noisy, ugly, rock musicians because I was part of a techno underground when I grew up. Later on I was told that it was very advanced and very sophisticated what they were doing and I actually even went to some dinners with Malcom Mclearne (Sex Pistols) because all the people wanted me to do that, and he was a very nice old man but I didn’t understand anything he was saying. He talked about breaking down society through clothes and fashion, and he talked about how music was an instigator of revolution, and I was just thinking, “this man comes from a different world.” Today of course I can see different things in it but generally speaking it was because, I think that when a culture is severely dead, you can relive it and extract a bit of beauty from it and make that beauty live again. I mean hippie culture died through the 70s and 80s, and some of the progressive hippie culture had enough power that it could be reopened or re-animated in the 90s. Personaly the only 3 things that interests me of the 90’s is this relatively unexplored music that I would love people to explore some more:
There is a hidden free space for the youth in the unexplored pockets of the 90’s, but be carefull Red Bull will be there in a second.
The same is happening with techno-culture, only the strong survives, the rest is just mimicking. But there is a ton of modern music machinery that makes techno sounds by the book, which is of course also very different from original techno where nobody had keyboards that made techno sounds. You had to work rather hard on them to make them do techno sounds. None of them when you bought them did techno sounds to begin with. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that, but I think a lot of artists that have a lot of money and buy retro gear for a lot of cash–these people are all romantics and they are dreaming of a time when they were not there, and I was there, so I can tell you how it was, and I can also tell you about the stupidity in the culture. But that doesn’t really matter. It is a thing, and all modern art basically right now includes dub and rave elements in its music making or in its aesthetics; it could be visual, it could be soundwise, or this sort of thing.
And that is very interesting, but it’s also just a way of dreaming. Because right now techno culture and subculture is a free space, simply because mainstream culture has moved on. For example a lot of music by Drake and Kanye West, uses the 808 rhythm box. [beatboxing] And the 909 rhythm box used in 80s music has completely different frequency range sounds [/beatboxing]. These kinds of rhythmic structures do not exist in mainstream culture, and so therefore it is a freespace. It’s the same thing with visual art. People are so tired of handdrawn record covers, and hand drawn fliers, nowadays they want to go back to the printer, and the computer layout. Can I blame them? Absolutely not.
“Goodiepal and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation Conspiracy,” January 22, 2008. WFMU blog. ↩︎
is a Faroese/Danish computer musician, composer, storyteller, and writer. From 2004 to 2008 he was the head of the electronic music department and teacher at DIEM (Danish Institute for Electro-acoustic Music) at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark. He is the author of the books, Radical Computer Music and Fantastisk Mediemanipulation (2009) and El Camino Del Hardcore—Rejsen Til Nordens Indre (2012).
Supposed computer music prodigy in the 80’s:
Supposed techno maverick in the 90’s:
Supposed game changer in the 00’s:
Supposed bandleader in the 10’s (Gp. & Pls.):