A Moment In Time: LUMEN PROJECT
In what is sure to be one of the most unique enounters with music and art of the year in Stockholm, LUMEN PROJECT at Eric Ericssonhallen presents as a 12 hour sound and light festival which according to its organizers revolves around the notion of a church-like context that is entirely devoid of the trappings and baggage of religious or culturally specific iconography, within which people can join together to recover a sense of inherent belonging. C-print speaks to musician and composer Nathan Larson and Lina Enqvist who are the initiators of the great project, as well as with music icon, legend and long-time idol Melissa Auf der Maur who is participating in the festival.
C-P: When I first heard of this project and its main event, I was immediately compelled by it. You think sometimes of the notion of an event defined by a time and place; this one “transient” moment that is so unique and shared collectively by the people present and which is identified whilst and perhaps more so after as a moment which really only happened then and there and so significant that it creates the feeling of a bond between those who were there to partake in it. Your project inevitably brings this to mind. As you see it yourselves, what is the LUMEN PROJECT and how exactly does it materialize?
Nathan Larson: Thank you for your kind words and for this opportunity. I could certainly talk for ages on the concept of the “moment”, and the present moment, in the context of these longer form concerts; LUMEN PROJECT (and prior to this; 24 HR DRONE / DREAM MUSIC) …. Because these shows are entirely about this moment. It’s so true that our mental energy is exhausted by concerning ourselves with both the past and the future, which are useless exercises. We lie awake at night agonizing about a future which we can neither control, nor affect by our obsession with it. I just did this last night myself: and as I sit here this morning, those 2 AM agonies can’t be seen as anything but useless (although there seems to be something cruelin the structure of the human brain by which we have this tendency to brood, and this is perhaps simply a function of humanity). We spend so many waking hours lamenting (or praising ourselves for) past events or accomplishments that, again, we have no ability to affect with our lamentations.
In this way, something like the LUMEN PROJECT in Stockholm puts the performer and the audience alike squarely in the present. When you eliminate or warp time by elongating and ignoring it, you no longer need be concerned by what has happened, and what might happen at some later date. If you allow yourself to be in that state, outside of linear time, which is such a natural place when you are divorced from your phone and from your spiraling thoughts, you are free of these fears. If only for a second, I guarantee these events can take you there.
But to address the question: very simply: I’d begun doing these 12 hour concerts, which were an extension of what my partner and co-founder of this kind of format Melissa Auf Der Maur had initiated back in New York state…Lina came to the first such event in Sweden and it spoke to her. Lina then, fortunately, contacted me about doing something similar in Stockholm. It’s come to mean much more than these concert events, but this is how we came together.
Lina Enqvist: Yes, I agree to what Nathan says about time - it’s about leaving the (quantitative) chronos time behind and entering the (qualitative) kairos time. By creating space for being instead of doing, we want to help people to take a break from their regular thoughts, worries, and to-do lists and create social connections through this shared experience, and in the longer perspective also plant seeds that can help increase the level of consciousness and awareness – for a more meaningful way of living.
Again, living today is much about chronos time, being rational and effective. But that’s not what being human is about, or what makes us to who we are. I believe that the arts play an important role in reminding and connecting us to what’s sensory, irrational, transcendent, authentic… to all of that which is difficult to describe with words.
On the more practical side regarding the the main event: music will be seamless, and you can come and go as you wish during the 12 hours of the festival. You can lie down, sleep, stand, sit.... and there’s no stage, no barrier between the artists and the audience.
C-P: I love how you’ve previously referenced Alain de Botton and Stephen Batchelor for the project along the lines of collective spirituality unrelated to religion; the merits, loss and potential recovery of it. On a more personal level, what prompted you to work with the project?
L.E: Nathan and I come from very different backgrounds… I studied at Stockholm School of Economics, and then entered and lived in that world. For myself, I started feeling a longing for something which I didn’t really have words for, at the same time as more and more of my friends and acquaintances were (and are still) hitting the wall from exhaustion or entering into depression. I felt a strong need of leading a more conscious, meaningful and sensory way of living. I wanted more presence, connection, flow, mindfulness, awe… in my life, or whatever words one wants to describe that aspect with. Music, arts, nature have always been my vehicle for this, but life today doesn’t really provide us with many spaces or right circumstances for it.
Then a few years ago, I was coming out of a bad breakup from a job as well as from a boyfriend at the time, and I decided to get some headspace and went out to a small festival in Arizona called FORM. One of the things that I experienced there was a performance by Julianna Barwick (who’s also playing with us at Lumen Project) and it had a great impact on me. It sort of defined the very feeling I had been longing for, and it became the starting point of me wanting to create more of these experiences and spaces, the atheist cathedrals and the experiences that makes us feel like everything is just exactly the way it should be. This was also the start for me of doing my own projects. Later when Julianna Barwick was playing in Malmö, I went down to see her, and I also got to know Nathan’s projects. Reading his words from the festival leaflet was like reading much of my own thoughts, and about much of what we are talking about here, put down on paper. I loved the concept, and the rest is history…
N.L: Regardless of our spiritual leanings or belief systems we all feel that aching desire for connection. To be loved and to give love. We may fancy ourselves to be so enlightened and scientifically-minded that we view consciousness as nothing more than a function of the human nervous system…and this may well be the case, it doesn’t matter because the longing, the loneliness, the sense that there is something more is universal. If one makes art; and music is a very direct vehicle for emotional content, you’re quite familiar with art’s ability to act as connective tissue between others, and to this “larger” sphere of consciousness.
Music has always taken me there, beginning with my earliest experiences in the Baptist church in the USA, and later with my parents’ records, and then through what I found in punk rock and hip hop. The music and associated scenes came with people attached whom I immediately recognized as my tribe. This began to shift as the 90s brought corporations and money into the equation. The wonderful result of this shift personally was that it led me into the orbit of other 90s survivors (like Melissa Auf der Maur) who like myself needed to redefine the function and usage of music in their lives, and it was this impulse that led us to “drone” music, which is really the exact opposite of the 3:30 pop songs we had allowed ourselves to be forced into creating…via the drone, we were able to rediscover that feeling one gets from singing in a choir, in a gorgeous cathedral. It has nothing to do with a “god” or “God”, it has everything to do with what the energy exchange with the bodies and spirits in that space, and sharing something eternal.
C-P: Eric Ericsonhallen is absolutely gorgeous and the location is so prime on Skeppsholmen. I would think it’s a site many people will pass without ever entering while still registering it from the corner of the eye. For a project like this, the scouting and finding of the right venue must be cruicial? What drew you personally to Eric Ericsonhallen?
N.L: Lina had mentioned the place to me in an early email. So she was wiser than me in this respect. I had forgotten this completely…but it happened that I had a meeting on that island in Stockholm, and saw the church out of the window of the office I was in…I asked the folks I was with what they knew about the church, and they only knew its name, so I googled it, found a phone number, stepped out of the meeting, and called them cold; a woman I later came to know as Anna. I explained what we wanted to do, and luckily could contextualize it as they’d just had this Marina Abromovic event there. I said “Yeah it’s like that kind of vibe but with louder music.” That somehow made sense to her, so I booked the place right there on the phone, and then went back to my meeting.
Since then they’ve become our partners and are becoming good friends. We were so fortunate to have reached out to them at a time when it seems they themselves were feeling like they could stretch out and use the space for more experimental stuff. Good timing. And since then SOUND OF STOCKHOLM and John Chantlers organization have used it for some amazing performances, so the hall is becoming known, I think, for this type of thing, which is wonderful.
L.E: Yes, I think it’s really changed the last few years or year, especially with Marina Abramovic’s performance. I was there twice last year, and that too was a really strong experience. We’re super happy and grateful to be in this very special space for our events, and especially for our collaboration with Eric Ericson International Choral Centre that co-produced the Marina performance.
Lina Enqvist & Nathan Larson
C-P: Since you are both the main organizers, I will have to ask you; what are you most looking forward to yourselves ahead of the main event this Saturday (Febuary 23)?
N.L: I am looking forward to being in that space and feeling that feeling. That’s the whole game for me. The organizational part is necessary but I don’t enjoy that aspect, I enjoy the result. I want to be there with old friends we’ve brought in from my earlier life in the US, old friends from Sweden and other parts of Europe, and new friends.
And then I am looking forward to the next day, when I can wake up with no further responsibilities!
L.E: Haha, agree! But then yes – feeling what we have talked about earlier, and then also feeling that we’re adding something to the city, making it a bit softer and warmer.
C-P: Lumen will be an ongoing project and you will already have carried out a couple of side events. What does Lumen have in store once the main event is held, in the rest of 2019?
N.L: We will be co-organizing a larger scale event like this one in Beirut, this is already well underway. Pushing the format out of the West. From there I’m very excited to open it up to new ideas, smaller scale events, perhaps a permanent space where the public can come and have this experience on a daily basis. This will likely be in Stockholm at first but I look forward to expanding that to as many cities/ locations as possible. The goal is transformation and the only question is scale
L.E: As Nathan says, we already have Beirut happening, and then a few other ideas hopefully transforming into reality. On my end, I’m hoping to make this a stable format in Stockholm. We already have a few events in the making, that we hope to be able to announce shortly after the February 23, also in collaboration with Eric Ericson International Choral Centre.
Melissa Auf der Maur
C-P: First I definitely want and need to say “in print” that I absolutely adore the music of Hole and that there are still days at the office when a whole day will pass of my just listening to the albums until the end of the day. But also, your debut solo album from 2004 to me is such an underrated masterpiece. A fave record from the last decade. Having said that I only learnt about Basilica Hudson recently and had missed it until then. The idea of this arts and events center in a barn-like venue located in the small town of Hudson in Upstate New York seems like a bit of a dream, really, and it looks from what I can tell gorgeous! How did the idea come about?
M.A.D.M: My life started in Montreal, which in my opinion is one of the most culturally vibrant independent cities in the world - it really shaped me as a multi-disciplinary appreciator and creator of the arts. I went to an amazing music and art school for all my youth, and when I started to unwind from my 15 years of rock music lifestyle and the cycle of making albums, going on tour for a year, rest, making another album, going on tour for another year …. I was really ready for a new chapter. When I fell in love with my filmmaker-husband Tony Stone (who was from NYC), I had just moved back to Montreal after living in the USA since I joined Hole, and when we decided to make a life together, we choose a geographical middle ground between Montreal and NYC; Hudson, NY, which is in between the two and is a very eccentric small city, with beautiful architecture, natural and amazing history. It's the birth place of the first American arts movement; “Hudson River School Painters” and the birth place of the modern environmental movement - this was enough to be hooked very quickly.
The 1880s industrial factory, that became Basilica Hudson, is in an old and abandoned industrial area on the edge of the Hudson River, with beautiful mountain ranges and renaissance-like skies in the background. Its the view from the house we moved into starting our new life, and we instantly feel in love it it, had a dream of an arts, film and music center in the middle of a forgotten landscape. It was also at the time that I was ready to have a child, and I knew I didn’t want to tour as a mother to a young child, so it all made sense; if I can’t travel the world and do what I love, then to create a platform to bring the world of music and art that i love to my backyard!
Melissa Auf der Maur
C-P: Researching I found so much of great interest and in the midst a benefit performance by John Waters held at Basilica Hudson a few years ago in close conjunction to his anniversary of 50 years in cinema, but inevitably was nerding out when Pitchfork published some video footage from a tribute evening last fall honoring the achievements of Courtney Love. You also took to the stage alongside her to perform a couple of iconic Hole songs at the event. I have to ask you; what was it like?
M.A.D.M: PIONEERING PEOPLE, is an event we hold every other year at Basilica Hudson as a fundraiser for our non-profit arts programme, to do that we honor a pioneering person! John Water was our first, Rufus Wainwright was our second, and last year I knew it was time to honor a woman … 2018 was the 20 year anniversary of the release of Celebrity Skin, the last Hole album, and it felt like a long enough time had gone by for me to revisit and reframe what Hole and Courtney’s legacy looks like now.
After the 2016 election of Trump, I really began to crave Hole and Love’s outspoken direct voice, I actually had daydreams of her and Trump in a debate or boxing match and knowing she would win. Shortly after that when the #metoo movement began, I thought of her again - a video emerged on youtube of her on the red carpet over 10 years ago,outing Harry Weinstein’s “hotel” visits, shortly after she said that her Hollywood film career began to fizzle, and I think I heard she even was dropped by managers or agents at the time. It became painfully apparent to me, that Courtney never got the pioneering respect she deserved BUT that most of all, her voice was needed NOW.
So I put together a super fun and cool format, a bit like a variety show, starting with a short “this is your life” style video, followed by tributes from a string of performers; from actors reading her lyrics, to performing artists interpreting her lyrics, feminist academic readings and musicians performing Hole songs. It all culminated into she and I having a conversation about her life that went from her early music and film influences, to the #metoo moment and climate change. The whole night was profoundly moving to all there, and the tears began when she and I took the stage with a teenage-girl cover band called “Rock Academy Rebel Girls”. We played a couple of old songs, and it was like a magic passing of baton between these 15 year old girls, us and every woman and girl before and after us, who ever loved music and dreamed to speak their mind. It was a PERFECT EVENING, I'd love to do it again. www. basilicahudson.org/pioneering-people-courtney-love
C-P: One of the things Basilica Hudson is known for is an annual 24-h drone event and I realize this will have served as an inspiration for Lumen Project in Stockholm. Basilica Hudson also serves as one of the partners for the event here. What can be said about the 24-h drone event?
M.A.D.M: 24HR DRONE:EXPERIMENTS IN SOUND & MUSIC is the dream festival that I never went to until I made it. It's an endurance music exchange experiment; continuous sound and a communal experience in our factory every year, come spring … it's how we open our season of events, it's how we come together as open-minded people who consider music to be one of the deepest connectors of humans. It'ss a one of a kind place to be.
Personally for me, it's my journey back to the simple love and worship of music being a healing force that brings people together, transcending genres, individuality, time and place. It's magic. It's bringing me back to the place where music began for me, deep inside, before it became a thing on the outside, but only a dream on the inside. In fact, as you mention my first album, the story of the actual dream I had when I was 18 years old, that inspired my life in music, but more specifically this festival is recounted on the last track, “I Need I Want I Will". The lyrics are in the booklet …. It was the precursor to this experiment - I am so thrilled by the satellite and partner events taking place internationally, and so excited to be in Stockholm this weekend celebrating the magic and the love of sound with all of you.
C-P: You are performing together with Nathan Larson which begs the question of what the set-up for your performance is like?
M.A.D.M: An experiment in the moment. We will only know when it happens. it's the opposite of my former life of “songs” and preparation. This is a vulnerable, unknown and an exploratory process. It will involve ambient, unplanned and abstract sounds and rhythms.
Melissa Auf der Maur
C-P: Lastly, I imagine not everyone will be so in the know of your also being a photographer. I was looking into some images of yours online that I just loved; in particular an image from a series of self-portraits from hotel rooms. On this side of things, what might you be up to with your art soon?
M.A.D.M: When I have more time, I will put out my photo book that began when I was only 13 years old. My photography is protected by a timeless structure. The more time goes, the more new perspective on the images I have. I took about a roll of film per day during the peak of my years in Hole and The smashing pumpkins. A lot of hotels, backstages, travels, but also just about every crowd I ever played to. Really colourful stuff. The moment phones became cameras, I stopped photographing. There is some interesting old vs new photographic tale to tell there. I’ve been slowly digitally archiving my 40k negatives, which will eventually come tougher in a book and/or exhibit, telling the story of a girl who loved music more than anything and had a camera by her side to document that relationship.
LUMEN PROJECT takes place at Eric Ericsonhallen February 23 on Skeppsholmen in Stockholm
Tickets can be bought at billetto.se
Image credits: Portraits of Lina Enqvist: Photographer: Paulina Westerlind Portraits of Melissa auf der Maur (b/w): Camilla Rehnstrand