Julia Eckhardt ‘Collaborating Forever: Auto Interview’

–What motivation would you say is at the core of your work?

I think what interests me most is to observe how there are always new constellations occurring in which experimental music can move on and keep itself alive. In the projects I have initiated I try to set a frame through which these mechanisms can be magnified enabling me to observe more closely and in detail at what happens, just like the arrangement of a scientific experiment. In my work at Q-O2 I get the chance to observe how communication leads to new constellations, ideas and forms.

That all art works are mutations of previous ones is an idea that Manfred Werder talks about in the project //2009//. No idea can experience a development without exchange and resonance. The ingredients are never new, yet the conclusions are. Each has to be set in context to become relevant.

It’s interesting to observe what conditions are needed in order to be open and receptive to a work, to let it speak to us – or simply said; to like it and then to observe how we draw conclusions.

–What have you observed so far?

I think that the first condition for renewal is that it has to happen collectively. One isolated person can never make the next step simply because an artwork will develop meaning only through (or at the moment of) its reception by other people. Of course there are always personalities, like for example John Cage, who have the charisma and the diction to transmit ideas to a very large group of people; prior to this however, a stage is necessary in which many people can feel free to experiment, exchange, and most importantly, listen to each other.

It is here I observe that people can take specific positions in the complex beehive that is experimental music: some are good at proposing, others at listening, observing, verbalising, etc. But all those tasks are important, and often we switch between them.

For me the most fascinating, and in many ways mysterious, activity in all this is listening. I wonder if it is possible that one can learn to listen free of disposition.

–Are you yourself a good listener?

I’m getting better at it. As a trained musician you get such a rich and also heavy luggage of references that it can be difficult not to compare what you hear to all those references, which can seriously close you up. But by being aware of such I’m learning to abstract from the person playing, the place where it happens and the material being used.

But I certainly feel at home in the role of observer, which for me is much the same as listener. Although sometimes it is quite an effort to sustain a silence (a void) in myself in order to create space in which to be receptive. The success of which is obviously dependent on the inner and outer situation.

–What do you think is essential to listening as it comes to a renewal of (experimental) music?

Listening is always a form of interpretation. Between what is said or played, and what is understood or heard there is always that little gap, the blind spot, which while listening we actively fill in, as a creative act, with our inspiration. It’s a collaboration between sender and receiver. It’s actually an insufficiency in the communication, the impossibility to feel what another feels, but we can make it turn out positively. It is comparable to the blind spot we have about ourselves; we appear differently in the eyes of each person we meet, we make a imprint there about which we can only guess.

This moment of reception will be more creative the more we give the message ‘credit’. The philosopher Dorothea Franck calls this, ‘the advance of trust’, which I find a fascinating notion, precisely because it seems to be so evident.

I also feel it is very important to toss around ideas, to be generous with them, but also to respect people in their own way of listening and communicating.

–Such as?

Some people are eloquent, others excellent performers, exuberant with ideas, ingenious organisers or inspiring by their mere presence. There are many ways of listening or picking up ideas, many of these ways exist out of reach, they can feel indirect.

It is important to create a situation and context which favours exchange, in which each of these ways is welcome. The message in the bottle must get the chance to find its way to the right addressee.

There is also historical context to consider. In the 20 years I have been working moments have arisen in which artistic aesthetics were largely closed, hermetic, where certain things were just not done. Those were times of deepening. It is clear that in such a climate everything functions differently, roles are taken up in a different way.

And when that changes again, I’m sure it’s not because somebody is doing something different but because people are ready to listen to something different, and differently, they feel ready to provide an openness.

Sound, words, thoughts, listening, silence, shape a movement with an unpredictable course. Impulses for a change of direction begin at the bottom provided by experiments, accidents, and discoveries; like little earthquakes. I’m very happy to be involved with my work at this point, where the research and questioning is still in its most pristine state. Nothing is reference yet, thus I can stay open and non-judgmental.

–Isn’t judging something we can’t help, like liking or disliking?

Liking is human, but I think it is a notion which isn’t relevant in this context. It would mean that music, sound, art, etc. would be there to serve people’s expectations, whereas even if something is strange, we should try to make a fair attempt at listening. A resulting controversy is to be considered as ultimately constructive; you can put question marks on the basis of subjective observations, but you need a certain courage to make yourself heard within such subjectivity.

Judgment on the other hand is quite poisonous, it blocks the permeability we need to be able to collaborate, and there is something dogmatic about it. If you make the effort to get to know something you’ll probably find making a judgment unnecessary. I remember it as the most negative part of my classical training. The reasons why judgment is present are obvious: you’re dealing with big references that in order to absorb without secondary information is almost impossible. This is – again – why I feel so at ease in ‘our’ segment, in experimental music, where it is so much easier to really listen, discover and be surprised.