Before its premiere at tomorrow’s concert, we asked Fjóla Evans and Amanda Bonaiuto to talk about their collaboration on Running up that hill.
What is the conceptual basis behind Running up that hill? You’ve mentioned that it’s based loosely on I Love Dick, by Chris Kraus. How does the book relate to your piece? And does the title have anything to do with the eponymous Kate Bush song?
Fjóla: Chris Kraus has this line in I Love Dick that talks about the importance and radical act of witnessing women engaging intellectually with the world. Like that the idea of a woman just sitting or thinking alone, or reading a book or whatever, but being alone with herself and her thoughts, is a radical act. Back in the spring, Amanda showed me some clips of a piece she was working on where these monastic looking female characters were walking down a spiral staircase and I immediately thought of that line. The women looked really engrossed in their own world, and didn’t seem to notice or care that they were being watched. We talked about how cool it would be to make a piece that was about a series of women embarking on solitary creative quests, some kind of epic, wandering journey. I also just love how Amanda draws women characters – they always look super fierce and powerful, yet free and goofy at the same time. I wanna be more like those women!
Yup, the title is definitely stolen from Kate Bush – I’m a huge fan. I feel like more people need to know that she was the first female artist (this was in the 70s!) to get a number-one song that she had written herself. Isn’t that crazy!? I feel like Running up that hill encapsulates this boundless but kind of redundant energy; a spurt of excitement that pushes you to accomplish something ridiculous and amazing. It’s difficult to be alone with yourself and to make a bunch of creative work for no particular reason, but it’s also super exhilarating.
This isn’t your first collaborative project. Could you talk a bit about how you work together on projects? How does Fjóla’s musical language interface with Amanda’s visual language, and vice verse?
Fjóla: This is actually the first project we have done together! We have some drafts of earlier work, but this is the first piece that will be presented to the worrrld — thank you Echo Chamber! For this project we talked a lot about different conceptual and practical ideas, and then sent clips of music and video back and forth between the two coasts (Amanda is based in LA). I find that Amanda’s films have this amazing visual rhythm, a kinetic bounciness that is so joyful and alive. I wanted to try and have the music speak in this bouncy language (I feel like my music sometimes tends to be kinda … dour and austere haha :/ ). I also think this piece is influenced by conversations we’ve been having for years. For example, a lot of the landscape reminds me of Iceland (the mountains! The geysers!), and Amanda and I have had many talks about Iceland’s bleak vastness — Amanda has spent a lot of time in Iceland, coincidentally on a tiny island (Hrísey) off of its North coast where my family is from.
Amanda: We started some collaborations a couple of years ago, but never got it off the ground because of little time/resources, so it was exciting to have another opportunity! Fjóla’s work makes me think of open spaces, so when she asked me if I wanted to collaborate I decided to take a short trip to Yosemite to see some wide open Pacific Northwest landscapes. Since the concept for the piece is loosely based on ‘wondering women on a creative pursuit’, I wanted to literally go on my own short pursuit to generate ideas and material. I’ve recently been working with bodies and tight spaces, so for Fjola’s piece I was excited to explore landscapes and a slightly more expansive color palette.
Amanda, your work is strikingly beautiful and harkens back to an earlier kind of animation. Are you influenced or informed by 20th-century animation? How do you translate sketches and concepts into the final piece of art, given that you don’t work from the start on a computer?
Amanda: Definitely, I’m super inspired by handmade animations in the independent/experimental animation world. I get really excited when I can see the cracks and imperfections in a film because everything was made by one person. I love early films by Amy Lockhart, Suzan Pitt, Igor Kovalyov, Rose Lowder, and more contemporary work by Laura Harrison, Lale Westvind, Sarina Nihei, and James Bascara. The lines in my animation are all ‘analogue’, so I work out all of the movement and most of the compositions by hand with pencil on paper, and then I scan each scene into the computer and color each frame in Photoshop. Once it’s all colored, I take it into After Effects and do any compositing or any color adjustments.
Fjóla, how does a project like this fit in with the larger body of your work?
Fjóla: In this piece, I wanted to work with large washes of sound in a rhythmic context. I wanted to see if I could keep a droney/soundscapey approach to the instrumental textures (definitely something I’ve been exploring pretty frequently in my other works) but create a rhythmic energy between the different instruments that builds in intensity; to sustain a jittery rhythmic pulse throughout. This is the first time I’ve collaborated so specifically with a visual artist —I really feel like this was a collaboration from its inception — which was really fun! I feel like it pushed me to be much more concise and specific with my musical ideas.
We hope you can join us tomorrow, October 27th, at the DiMenna Center to see the premiere of Fjóla and Amanda’s collaboration!