Interview with Auguste Vickunaite and Hugo Esquinca
It was a cool May evening in the capital of Armenia, Yerevan. Music lovers were gathered in a very specific location: Old Railway Station. They came to experience the music of a wide spectrum from artists all around the world within the program of Urvakan Festival. From analog to digital, from ambient to noise, you could find it all. One of the performances that caught our eye, was located on a stage curated by “Klammklang”. Siberian-raised, Moscow-based label with very precise focus on contemporary sonic performances. Artists were well lined up and the stage was our favorite during the festival.
Members of the duo were from Berlin. Lithuanian sound artist Auguste Vickunaite, who uses reel to reel tape recorders to play and create sounds, which contain diverse field recordings and malfunctions of the old technology itself. And Hugo Esquinca a.k.a. DEKJ, a sound researcher from Mexico, who explores spatio-temporal relationships of technology’s interactions with the sonorous, both within and beyond audibility.
Hugo: I’m really interested in time. Augusta works with a really different kind of temporality, meaning that it’s mechanical. So everything that she does and every single way she intervenes these tapes dictate how I will interact with them. So it gives me a kind of guideline of how things are shaping up. I’m interested in temporalities, and obviously the mechanical – analog one is really different from the digital discrete one. It is interesting to fuse temporalities, to continue signals without getting too much into sampling rates. It is something that goes beyond and comes back, she hits the machine and I process.
Augusta: I think the thing that attracts me to work with analog, is organics of that tape and about the glitches in the devices. I like how they are broken and sometimes you cannot really control them. When you play a tape you don’t know exactly what is hidden in and what do you hear. It depends on your movement, from the tension. It’s very organic how you place it and which device are you using to play the same tape. It’s always something hidden and when you bring it to gigs you never know what’s going to be in the sound.
Hugo: When I perform alone, the duration depends on the sound system and the venue. I like to explore the full capacity of the sound system. The fact is that I program things where I don’t really know what will happen. I just try to explore the further ranges of those things and I start performing. With Augusta it’s a bit longer than I used to because she’s engaged in the process. She’s taking tapes and that involves the aspects of taking, placing, and playing them back. I think in a way we all are co-creating all the time. It is hard to tell who is the author, even if you are creating alone.
Augusta: Lot of “tape” people kind of have a plan for how they will do it. Whether it’s a recording or it’s a gig and you start doing it and then you cannot control yourself. You just grab things and do something random. A lot of unconscious mechanisms involved in doing music. When you are listening to it afterward, and it already exists in the world whether you like it or.
Hugo: I’m interested in programming, but I’m not a programmer. I’m interested in using all those environments called object-oriented programming or scripting. But I’m not really interested in working with them fully at their best. I can mess with these things and actually make them fail at some point. Or execute them in a way where they will actually destroy whatever I was planning to do. I’m interested in working with technologies, where by intervening, I’m getting involved in the process of understanding and listening. That happens with analog technologies as well. I can work with a synthesizer because I know how the synthesizer works, but I’m also interested in triggering things and pulling things. There is a particular way of understanding technology, where technology is just a prosthesis, it needs to reflect what we’re doing.
Augusta: I think I am starting to have a signature that can be recognized. I like to do sound which is close to natural, but it’s a little bit processed. You cannot recognize is it purely analog, processed or it’s like something in between. The performer turns to machine-like personage. I think when I am performing in the audience I am still a bit afraid of pauses. I am a bit desperate of filling the silence. So when I’m playing alone I keep longer pauses than when I’m playing for the audience. It requires longer experience to keep the silence.
I think when I’m performing I don’t feel conscious contact with the audience, I just do what I like. The only requirement for me when I perform, it’s just to feel good and don’t get desperate and get stuck. If you feel stuck you need to just move on, in order not to lose that feeling that goes further.