Angela Nina Yeowell: “Sometimes the discrimination or assumptions in the air fuel me to wear more dresses, but is wearing dresses feminine?”
I hope it won’t get much warmer by February 7th because the “Speigas” event, literally “frost”, requires an adequate minus outside. The artists invited by “Agharta” to the fifth festival of stark and rugged music, on the other hand, will definitely lower the temperature. One of the guests this year is Angela Nina Yeowell, an American artist residing in Berlin.
ANY – that’s one of the few variations of her name – has performed in Vilnius some time ago but I deliberately didn’t ask her anything about that, simply because I believe she is creating a noise show of different volume each time she’s on stage. So less about music and more about a beautiful personality and her wanders in the real world and the one of art.
What is your first music-related memory?
It’s probably not my first memory but what comes to mind is singing in my backyard with my friend with the trees as our audience.
What did you listen to as a teenager? Did you belong to any subcultures?
The Chapel Hill music scene was flourishing when I was a teenager with venues like the Cat's Cradle and Local 506, so I mostly listened to local bands like Zen Frisbee, Metal Flake Mother, Family Dollar Pharaohs, Superchunk, Arches of Loaf, Squirrel Nut Zippers, Flat Duo Jets. A lot of them were my friends who hung out together on the post office steps downtown in between the fellow school-skipping groups, the hippies and the punks.
We were some kind of bohemian group that somehow got the name the dirt heads. I remember begging for money a lot, drinking Natty Boho's, and hanging out either on the train tracks in the forests or in makeshift music studios. That was my simple southern subculture.
When did you start to perform? Did you ever experience stage fright?
I started performing when I was 3 and I always experience stage fright, always.
Your art is interdisciplinary; was dancing first and then everything else later? Or everything was interesting for you from the very beginning?
The art forms seem kind of inseparable for me now but I know that specifically, music and dance were the most interesting for me from the beginning. Music made me move and moving made me want to make the music that made me move. Those forms fulfilled a more primal sensation. An interest in the visual came later, after or during an artsy education.
Have certain arts been more dominant in certain phases of your artistic career? Or maybe you deliberately try to avoid any sort of dominance?
I don't try and avoid any sort of dominance; it's more like letting the seasons pass. So it started with music as a teenager but then dance dominated a certain phase of my career, then performance art and visual art, and then music again, so it has been like a full circle, even though all the forms are always present in some capacity. But yes, the venues I am performing in have changed, as one of the forms dominate more.
I encountered a phrase “un-educating herself in Colorado” in a story about you on the web. Could you explain what was that all about?
I had just quit an intense career as a dancer in NYC and so, mostly that phrase is about un-learning my dance training and trying to find my way back to zero. This is when visual art and music helped me out tremendously. Also, Buddhism was popular in Colorado and its influence was inescapable, along with the Beat poet scene, and through these influences I started learning, developing and practicing a somatic consciousness approach to art. With this approach, I felt less censored by judgment or dualistic thinking. This was relieving after striving for perfection as a dancer and became a new basis from which to function from in all areas of life.
What was the most interesting part of the professor phase? Do you keep in touch with your most interesting students, maybe some projects with them?
The most interesting part was watching the students overcome personal restrictions and censorships. But equally important was overcoming my own terror at facing the students who seemed to come from more mainstream influences than I had ever even knew about. I stayed in touch with a few of them for a while, but that faded after I moved overseas.
Did you stop teaching when relocated to Europe?
Yes, I haven't found my way in over here, or at least not yet.
Was Berlin liberating, did you choose it because you couldn’t do something in the USA?
I probably chose Berlin because of a lot of subconscious reasons, but consciously, I know that I felt suffocated by the music scene in Colorado. It was too chipper for me. There was a lack of darkness, peaceful darkness.
What are your thoughts towards femininity and masculinity in art? Can it be classified as female or male? Is music industry sexist and male-dominated? Have you encountered discrimination in the creative field because of your gender?
I think art is both female and male, although any one particular art piece may have a more dominant quality. Yes I find the music industry to be sexist and I think there's room for a lot more progression in this. Honestly, it seemed behind the times when I got to Berlin because I often didn't feel seen as a fellow artist at first, but rather as wanna be groupie, or a dumb American. That was all confusing and disorienting, but maybe it wasn't Berlin, maybe it was because I didn't have a head full of black dreadlocks anymore and started wearing lipstick and dresses. My identity was changing at the same time I moved. I personally wanted to feel less protected, but yes, the female lack in the music scene is an issue that I don't know how to deal with, so I mostly stay focused on my desire to get better at giving what I want to give. And, I must say, sometimes the discrimination or assumptions in the air fuel me to wear more dresses, but is wearing dresses feminine?
Are you competitive?
My first thought is competitive against what? I think of competition more in relation to sports, which is really different from art. If one isn't trying to follow a formula, like in sports, then there is not too much to be competitive against.
On the other hand, I could think of competition in a positive way, in that it could be an inspiration or a challenge to dig deeper into yourself and to be more of who you are. So in this sense, I would say that I strive for competition without comparison. Once I start comparing myself, I start to feel really shitty.
What frightens you the most in terms of your artistic career?
That it hasn't given anything to anyone and has only been self-serving.
Can everyone be an artist, or are there special skills that one must own or cultivate?
Yes, I hold the belief that everyone can be an artist if they are willing or feel called. From that willingness and/or calling, comes the cultivation of whatever is necessary for one's vision.
Do you create musical and nonmusical instruments yourself or tend to seek for interesting objects that can create noise?
I create them as well as seek them out. When I create them, I often make a small piece of visual art that I like to bow. This sound is often the same but I like to think the energy of the visual art piece affects the space.
What stereotypes should one leave behind when going to watch your performance?
It depends what stereotype they are holding. If the person is expecting pop then leave the pop stereotype behind, if expecting heavy metal then leave the heavy metal stereotype behind, even leave the pure noise stereotype behind, and so on. Actually, they should leave all previously known stereotypes behind and open up to the pig-eared-alien-doing-trigonometry stereotype, whatever that is.
What are your favorite musicians and/or interdisciplinary artists that you’d recommend to observe?
I'd like to name a few Berlin locals: OKO, Vinyl Terrror and Horror, Fake Mistress.
D.D. 2004 - 2016
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