Gabby Loo sat down with a local maker of dreamy, soulful and mysterious music, Mei Saraswati, just before her performance at Proximity Festival 2015.
What does your general artist practice involve?
My general art directive I’d say includes collage, beat-making and sampling. I’ve found character development in art constantly and as an art musician I’ve been able to weld the two together.
Is Proximity Festival a first of its kind for you?
Yeah it’s a first! Proximity is different in the way that the audience is an individual music participant forming the soundscape. Usually I perform shows, so an audience always has a bigger effect on changing how you feel (as a performer). In Proximity Fest participants are able to explore and realise the influence they have in their role of empowerment, which is interesting. Empowerment, yeah that’s a good word to describe it.
So tell me about your piece Meditations on Water.
I’d say it is a work in progress. It’s about rediscovering one’s self, and experiencing the use of water as an instrument in a swampy environment.
Ah, so does your piece reference the past history of Perth’s wetlands?
Yeah, without giving away too much, it’ll be hosted in a cell at AGWA below street level. It’s quite secret and special because it isn’t available for public access. The space does have this mysterious past that does evoke a feeling of awe. I’m hoping people will be able to feel the past-existence of the wetlands that were once there. And at the same time create these new sonic encounters with the environment.
It’s a very unique performance experience, how are you feeling about it?
Nervous, excited. To be honest I’ll be embarrassed if they’re bored. I’ll be processing 10 people in a row, with 15 minute breaks in between each session. So it’ll be quite intensive. But Proximity Festival has been so helpful in setting up and developing my skills more. As an Artist Run Initiative all 12 artists receive mentors in forming their piece. The level of sensibility and support they’ve provided me with has been great.
Woah that’s great to hear they were so encouraging!
Yeah Proximity Festival is a fantastic opportunity open for all (kinds of art). And it’s great for both emerging and established artists!
How did your artistic career start?
In high school. My boyfriend had an MPC (Music Production Centre) so I used to play around with that. I also entered WAAPA, got in, but turned that down because my boyfriend didn’t get in and he was upset about it. I felt so silly for doing that, honestly. Later on when we broke up I owned a MPC myself, I had it sitting up on my shelf for a long time gathering dust because I had forgotten how to play it. When I tried it out, recording was a fun new thing. I felt so amazed by hearing my own voice, in a musical sense. Felt like quiet beginnings, a soft start. Like, in the music class I teach, this little girl was using the MPC, she had the quietest voice and was so shocked to hear her own voice recorded. It’s those new, bewildering discoveries that you find in singing and recording that bring you forward.
And what or who would you say inspires your practice?
There’s this electronic art piece fused with sculpture by the Dingo Flour (Mill) in Fremantle that I like. Bjork definitely, and the local community of creative, unique friends and individuals. Also Akioka, I definitely recommend checking her out. She’s a local improv artist.
Just on a side note to your practice, a recent interview you featured in for DIY Magazine was titled “You’re not alone Perth: The best new artists coming out of Australia’s most isolated city”. What do you make of that perspective?
I’m flattered, but it really does get my goat when people say that about Perth. We’re not isolated. Not everything is on the coast! People can cultivate in Perth.
Totally true, we have gotten better and the city is rapidly developing. Calling Perth isolated is a bit of an outdated statement.
I agreed, Perth isn’t slow moving. Sydney is too far away from here if anything!
Interview by Gabby Loo