Eco part 2: Alma Laprida

This is the second part of Echo, a series of interviews of Latin American female artists.

This time I interviewed Alma Laprida, an artist from Buenos Aires, Argentina, whose work with sound has been drawing my attention for some time now.

Here the interview.

Q. How and when you found in sound a field to develop your artistic concerns?

A. I really can’t remember that. I started learning music when I was three. My mom is a phonoaudiologist and I grew up surrounded by images of ears and vocal chords. One of her more characteristic ways of showing affection was cleaning up my ears with her fingertips so I used to think a lot about my ears and to ask her questions about them. I was born with an arrythmia in my heart and I had a cassette with a recording of its sound. I used to listen to it when I was a child and think of it as music. I danced and wrote secret songs to the beat of my own heart. I always asked myself a lot of questions about sound. It was a natural path.

Q. From your experience do you feel that sound art is a line with greater presence in number of a particular genre? If so, have you seen this as an advantage, disadvantage or do you think it has no influence at all?

A. It has more male presence, which is a complete disadvantage. Ok, pursuing an artistic career is not easy for anybody. I am not interested in victimising women and I know that mostly everyone has had it hard. But I’ve seen girls who dropped out of their studies in Music degrees because they felt very uncomfortable with having almost only men as companions or because they suffered harassment by other male students.

When I started to do my own music I did feel a subtle “resistance”. There were sound artists who tried to convince me to make video art or take pictures -to them, of course- instead of working with sound because I didn’t “have anything interesting to say” (yes, two guys told me that). There were musicians who didn’t want women in their collective projects because they said they feared someone might fall in love with her and destroy the band. And there is always a jerk who accuses you of being “hysterical” -and makes a huge scandal about it- when you genuinely asked him about the circuits of his DIY soundtoys but then didn’t show any romantic interest. Also, everyone assumes you know nothing about sound technology.

These things bring you down all the time. But you have to show everyone what you’re made of.

Nowadays, these things don’t happen to me as often as before. I don’t know if it is because I’ve earned some relative respect as an artist, or because I’ve grown older and therefore am “less appealing” to society or because I’ve grown tougher -and carry a big “no bullshit” sign on my forehead.

I hope it is because times are changing.

Q. Sometimes the relationship between what an artist reads, investigates, eats, watches and listens, and the work that she or he produces simultaneously , is deliberate while at other times this relationship occurs in a more subtle and even unconscious level. How do you feel about this relationship in your work?

A. I think it is both deliberate and unconscious and as an artist you need to be aware of these processes. The things that I read, investigate about, watch and listen go through me completely and hence influence my work. I love to read and think about what memory is, and its tension with oblivion. I like poetry, philosophy and visual arts. I am also fascinated by technology but, on the other hand, I fear that is also a tool for oppression and authoritarianism.

I search for the truth in the music I make. I struggle and search within myself to have the most honest work I can. The nature of sound has a lot to do with affection. Sound reaches you and touches your entire body. This idea is always there in my process of creation.

Q. How do you articulate and experience in your work the following aspects of the sound practice: A) The immediacy and the presencial aspect of the performative in the concerts. B) The isolation and that can be lead into during the process of composition. C) The objectual and spatial facet of the exhibited installation or sonic sculpture

A. It is a time when virtuality seems to be dominating everything. In a performance, the bodies of the listeners are together and presence is essential. Also, in a performance the perception of time and space is transformed in a liberating way. I am very interested in exploring the concert situation and challenging it.

I love working alone. I like to work at late afternoon or at night when there’s nobody home and all is silent. It’s definitely a time for myself, like reading and writing, which I’ve always enjoyed. But of course I also like collaborative composition, which is thrilling as you can get to places you could never have reached alone.

I haven’t explored the objectual facet of sound installations enough. However, the relationship between sound and space -and meaning- is fascinating to me. I enjoy working in public spaces a lot. I like to hear a lot more than I like to see. I like matter but I like ether a lot more. Does that make sense?

Q. Being a female artist from Latin America, do you think that this combination of elements influences in some way your creation? If so how this influence occurs?

First of all, I want this question asked to every European male artist.

It is difficult to answer this. It is undeniable that artists produce in a context and within culture. And there’s also identity. I’ve realised that I’ve found it difficult to find female role models or mentors when I first started to make my own music and that made my way a lot slower.

I guess the best example to illustrate this question is that today -2017- I produce my work in a 2008 laptop that a European friend gave me in 2009 because it was too old for him.

My home studio does not have the best gear. I don’t have much money and sound equipment has been really expensive in Argentina these years. In my teenage years we experienced the neoliberal crisis of the late 90s and first years of 2000. I was raised in a house in which we never had money and a music instrument was considered a luxury. So today I think a lot before I buy audio gear or instruments. I just feel more comfortable using anything that I have in hand, things that I find in the street or things that my friends give me. Bad speakers? Never mind, I’ll use them. Cheap microphones? Yes, of course. Chinese toys and stuff? I love it. Broken technology? I’ll fix it, or create something else with it.

Q. In sound art, collaborations between artists are very common. Have you worked with other artists? If so, how do you feel that these collaborations have enriched your work?

Yes, I have and I’d love to do it more. It’s so much fun and more relaxed that working alone and there’s so many artists I’d like to collaborate with. I specially enjoy it when it’s artists from other disciplines.

Lately I’ve recorded sounds for the Spanish sound artist Sergio Sánchez (a.k.a. Jazznoise), who’ll release soon an album with only collaborations in the label Luscinia. But I prefer face-to-face collaborations. I really liked working with composer Tomás Cabado in a piece we wrote to be “guerrilla-performed” in the silent room of the National Library. One of my favourite collabs was with Celina Eceiza, a visual artist who has a great imagination for sound. We created together a site-specific sound performance for a solo show of hers.

And then there’s Juan José Calarco, a sound artist I admire very much but also one of my best friends. He’s a very loyal person and an artist with a strong integrity. We play together every now and then, he’s one of my favourite performers and I love his “musical” ideas. We’ll release a track together in a compilation for Pakapi soon.

Q. Is there any particular work or project you would like to talk about? If so, tell us about it in máximum 350 words?

A. I’d like to talk about a piece I “wrote” while in Mexico, for GIS Studio Residency. There is an online release of it by Audition Records (performed by Macarena Guerrero and Rossana Lara) and it was played at the Museum of Modern Art of Buenos Aires (performed by Tania Rubio, Gilberto Ramírez Lucero and Eva García Fernández). It’s called “La estela también desaparece” (“the trail also disappears”). It’s a piece for two or three performers sitting on a table and a director. The performers have sheets of paper, pencils, pens and charcoals. There’s a set of cards with instructions that indicate the shape, size and speed of the drawings the performers must do. They have to draw repeatedly. The table has to be amplified with contact microphones. The director indicates when to start, when to grab another card, when to change the element you are drawing with and when to end. You can arrange the cards as you wish to create the composition (or you can shuffle the cards if you want). So you listen to the sound of the performers drawing circles, triangles, squares, making points, etc. It is such a soothing, textural sound! When the piece ends you have a lot of nice drawings left -the memory of the concert.

To learn more about Alma´s work visit her website.