Exploring life beyond music and how cultures intersect and interact together. In conversation with Jeff Mills about “Drift”, his latest work in collaboration with Isabel Lewis developed through REIF and Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève’s “Sonic Catharsis” program. Much more than a musician, a modern philosopher of the universe with a rare innovative brain. Jeff Mills’s journey starts from the early 80s at Detroit club scene and continues to his recent audio-visual conceptual performances, cinematic soundtracks, galleries, and museums (Louvre is one of them). The unknown is a charming challenge for him, and his main source of inspiration. Deeply absorbed by his sci-fi obsessions and ritualistic nature of music, Mills combines all these elements together into a new kind of aesthetics, based on the ESP (extrasensory perception). According to McLuhan, his music is associated with detribalisation, and how humanity will be back to the original state. Conquering space, his creations are based in the present, embodies the future while respecting the past.
In a recent interview, you mentioned that innovation and creative mindset are often overlooked in favor of things that are convenient and predictable. Nowadays, how can a person in the art field keep the authenticity and avoid the “easy ways”?
Simple, when the artist completes their work. Review the piece with the question: “Does this feel like something I’ve heard/seen/felt before?” If it does, erase/delete it and start over. If it doesn’t, continue to make more music inspired by that work (I suggest 10 more works) until you arrive at something magical. Then, let the World experience it. Society and culture advances by the way of these magical works. We do not need to know your process, just your conclusion.
Music is perhaps the art that presents the most philosophical puzzles. You often talk about philosophical concepts through your work. What is your relationship with musical ontology?
My ontology revolves around the natural way of being. Where there are no mistakes or mishaps, just actualities and the consequences of reality. And even with the precision we find with using technology, I would prefer to allow ways for the human connection to be exposed. It more honest and what people are able to recognise is the level of skill and craftsmanship of the work. I imagine (a human life) on another planet similar to a human life here on earth. Because we are a limited species that rely on oxygen and water to survive, we will always have to be concerned about our safety first. This will always keep us at a distance from experiencing the unknown with the human eye. Instead, we’ll use technology to render ad impression.
What is your perception about time? Enemy, friend or just a source of inspiration?
None of the above. I don’t think of time as something in which one can have a bond with. The way we consider time is manly for practical reasons, humans have created “the clock” – something in which we can use to sectionalise and measure how much time we have left so that we may feel empowered – to feel as if we can some control of what happens between a sunrise and a sunset. Which I might add, are also for our convenience. My perception is not based on a linear view (second by second), but by a dimensionally cyclic understanding. Time does not repeat itself, but its clear to see that humans have a deep affection to re-live (almost worship) the past. Even the worst of it.
Earth is not the limit to your music. How do you imagine life and sound on the other planets?
The nature and physicality of that planet will dictate how humans will translate those encounters. Discoveries have already showed us that the scale, depth, mass, weight and other calculation of things on other planets are far beyond anything we’ve seen here on Earth, so I would imagine that there might be many new things to describe through and art form.
How would you describe your latest work for those who still need to hear it?
Actually, that’s hard for me to do. Because music is suggestive form of communication, I’m not used to describing what I create because I don’t have to. I tend to put more effort into creating something from nothing. And the something is what the listener determines.
You were invited recently by the Berlin based collective “REIF” to participate to their first compilation 01. How did it all come about?
I’m very close friends with the project director Marcelo Alcaide and have worked with him and the dance choreographer Isabelle Lewis for the French fashion house Courrèges in the past. Marcelo invited me to join this project and inquired if I could create something unique for the project and compilation. As I’m an admirer of Isabel’s work, I did not hesitate to accept the invite.
In your collaboration with Isabel Lewis entitled “DRIFT” for “REIF01” there is no division between human internal and external experiences, mind and body are totally interconnected through movement and music. Is the construction of these performances a healing, therapeutic process for you?
To see the music come alive with Isabel’s imagination gave me the feeling of progression. That, how she heard and interpreted the music through human physical movement gave the music, not just more purpose, but it also bridged the gaps between art forms so neatly that it is now more than the sum of its parts. There is a special aura around the film when these two elements are mixed together.
As an artist which is your biggest fear?
I don’t t fear anything.
Which is your main inspiration these days?
The Metaphysical World.
Future plans you would like to share with us?
The next few projects or years will explore our human Inner Space. Works with many psychological subjects that revolve around the necessary changes we might have to make in order to make giant leaps forward as an organic species in the future.
Artist: Jeff Mills/ @jeff_mills_official
Editor: Anca Macavei / @ancamacavei
Interview: Iro Bournazou / @irwb
Film Stills & Video: © Jeff Mills, Isabel Lewis, Drift, 2021 REIF
“Drift” is an encounter between the sonic composition by Jeff Mills and the choreographic compositions of Isabel Lewis. Hatsumi, composed by Mills appears on 01, the first release from Reif—the work is inspired by Masaaki Hatsumi. Lewis’ work O.C.E.A.N.I.C.A imagines human beings swimming through a social ocean floating and sometimes drowning but surviving. The collision of these two works suggests that there is no division between our interior and exterior experiences, further proving that integrated mind and body connections are totally natural and easily observed through movement.
For Sonic Catharsis, REIF commissioned a group of artists who participated in the eponymous record label explore various cultural instigation strategies and form an investigation on how we, as a community, can reignite the fire of nighttime culture and create new ways to gather as the world slowly reopens.
Choreographic Composition – Isabel Lewis
Director – Marcelo Alcaide
Videographers – Matteo Stocco and Matteo Primaterra [Kinonauts]
Editor – Melanie Glueck
Perfomers – Claudia Veronesi, Gabriele Valerio, Cecilia Xuetong Feng, Marta Vergani, Gaia Tinarelli, Elio Rosalba Bonaccini
Umberto Zanette, Antonio Giuseppe Bia, Eleonora Camerotto, Vittorio Messina, Laura Inzoli, Beatrice Brunetto, Chiara Cecconello, Andrea D’Arsiè, Heidee Alsdorf, Federica Bastoni, Miliana Reale Calabrese, William Nylind, Leonardo Sinopoli, Giulia Pellin Mattiocco, Danila Gambettola
Thanks to TBA21-Academy, Ocean Space, Eleni Tsopotou, Yoko Uozumi, Richard Kennedy, Melanie Glueck, Axis Records, Nike Berlin, Andrea Bellini and Polaroid.