The Life Form
An interview with Prequel Tapes, Valentin Tszin and Ksenia Mozhayskaya
Right after their collective audio visual performance at Berlin Atonal, Profet's Chief Ideologue Filip Lindström interviews Prequel Tapes, Valentin Tszin and Ksenia Mozhayskaya about what made their show, and of course their collaboration, what it was.
Photo: Frankie Casillo
I’m sitting right outside of the Modern Museum of Art in Stockholm, where I’ve just witnessed Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s touchy exhibition »A Journey Through Mud and Confusion with Small Glimpses of Air« when I call up Marco Freivogel, who makes music under the name Prequel Tapes and has just released an exceptional record named »Everything Is Quite Now«. A few days prior, he has performed an audio visual theatre piece at festival Berlin Atonal, with his two colleagues Valentin Tszin and Ksenia Mozhayskaya. The latter is also known as nomoreless, and Marco Freivogel starts telling the tale of how the two of them initiated the project.
»It’s a long story, I’ve known Ksenia a long time and I knew she’s a painter and a stop motion designer« Marco starts.
»Motion designer« Ksenia corrects him.
»Oh yes, motion designer. Ksenia moved to Spain and I visited her there, where we started talking about how we could present this at Atonal. Then, Valentin came on board and everything was different again, he added heavy theatrical character to the show. Ksenia, Valentin and Ksenia’s husband came up with the performance idea.«
»We started with a small idea that we later developed, I wanted to integrate Valentin only for a few moments in the performance and then I started building the whole performance around his character« Ksenia says.
»It was the feeling of Jazz«
- Valentin Tszin
What started out simple slowly grew into a dramaturgically planned story with a definite beginning, torso and end.
»It’s about a life form who is born and doesn’t know what it wants to be« Marco lets me know. »Ksenia and I had always liked the idea of a character, because the music has this emotional attitude. Ksenia had already come up with a painting of a character with no face that was very expressive with its body. Valentin had worked with other musicians before, and was open to work with us. «
Valentin Tszin works with dance and artistry in a peculiar way, combining theatre with martial arts in his outlet. He tells me how performances in the Audio Visual Techno scene normally are put together, where – if I understand correctly – the visuals are programmed by an algorithm that follows the movement of the music. The thunderous trio tried to take another path, and actually ended up going the opposite direction. Instead of what now is considered standard when this kind of music is performed live, they assembled the show in the manner of a theatre production, with equal weight on Marco’s compositions, Valentin’s choreography and Ksenia’s live stage design.
»Everything was created like how it’s been in classical theatre since ages ago. It was risky« Valentin says.
Ksenia, Marco and Valentin. Photo: Frankie Casillo
Hearing Valentin, I don’t personally see what the risk actually is when doing something mankind has done for centuries. When I think twice about it, I have to assume that he refers to innovating the Techno scene by declining modern technological aids and approaching an antique method. Presumably, this performance furthermore became a personal risk for each member of the trio, attempting something together that they individually never had tried before.
»Was the show well accepted?« I demand to know.
»Yes« Marco chirps enthusiastically, »the audience was really into it. We could see that they were really surprised. In the beginning, during the first twenty minutes, Valentin was in a cocoon. We wrapped him in plastic. Then he slowly started to move and came out of the cocoon. Like Valentin said, it’s very traditional methods but people really got it. We wanted to make sure that the visuals didn’t disturb the music, or that the music didn’t disturb the visuals. We wanted to make the whole thing a unit.«
I think of the exhibition I just went to in Stockholm, when Marco speaks of the importance of balance. Nathalie Djurberg’s monstrous sculptures of human-sized birds and imaginative rain forest plants filled the floor I roamed for hours, looking up on the dark walls where her heinous clay motion films told stories of abuse, murder, incest and despair. Hans Berg’s fluent music was ever present wherever I went, and never crossed the line to intervene with Djurberg’s pieces. Nor did the films or sculptures rob Berg’s tunes of any acclaim, rather did the three components work together to enlarge the room and explore the atmosphere.
Prequel Tapes' »Everything Is Quite Now«
I could compare Prequel Tapes music to Berg’s score, Valentin’s choreography to a more vivid version of Djurberg’s touchable sculptures, and Ksenia’s visual stage design to the short films. Imagining this symbiosis of formats, by picturing what I’ve gone through only minutes ago, I can more easily understand the co-operation of the three artists I’m talking to at the moment.
Valentin returns to the method at hand, how not using programming for the visual effects in his opinion made the show more organic. He feels the performance becoming more attentive to the small details when it’s based on human reactions and impressions.
»For me, it was the feeling of Jazz« he says. »The changes of the volume and the switching of the tempo creates this contradiction and a dissonance.«
Powered by his obvious joy for this successful performance and newfound trinity, Valentin happily says that the concept can be translated and adapted to smaller audiences or bigger ones, like the crowd they debuted in front of at Atonal. Both him and Marco imply that an observer would see different images depending on one’s location in the room, which would also indicate a varied experience.
Photo from Berlin Atonal by Frankie Casillo
At one point, Marco has a slip of tongue and calls the small crew a »band«, which he almost (but not really) regrets. I think the product of the conjoined forces of the trio can be likened with a band, in the word’s right meaning, and what a band traditionally does: collectively creating artistic material, hopefully in a state of balance.
I ask whether a lot of the performance was improvised or whether it was all manically rehearsed, and Valentin laughs at me. He says something inaudible and laughs again. I like Valentin, I really do.
For all you readers who are interested in seeing the triumphant trio’s performance again, you could either wait for the short video summary of the show that they might release, or you can hope that the enthusiasm I saw when talking to them is enough for a new date to be scheduled in the near future.