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Konrad Korabiewski

Konrad Korabiewski (1978) is award-winning experimental composer, sound and media artist. His background is Danish/Polish/Icelandic and he is currently residing in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland and California.

He is coming to Bodø and Gallery Stormen with NS-12 (2014-2019), an audiovisual collaboration with the filmmaker Kristjan Loðmfjorð. An multichannel installation and book using the means of sound and image, NS-12 poetically portrays the fishing trawler Gullver based in Seyðisfjorður, East Iceland.

 

Characterized by a marked tendency to transgress various genres and media, his sound art, film music, installations, radio, video and multi-media artworks have a strong site-specific element. Konrad Korabiewski’s musical atmosphere is sombre and intense, demonstrating precise attention to musical space; at times with a meditative character, where distortion expresses an emotional depth that demands and attracts attention in minimalistic scenarios of sound.

Among many international prizes and grants in 2014, Konrad Korabiewski was awarded the prestige Berliner Künstlerprogramm des DAAD academic award & working grant and nominated for 2 Media Art Awards: European Sound Art Award (formerly known as Deutsche Klangkunst-Preis) and Marler Videokunst-Preis in Germany. He holds a Master in Electronic Music Composition from The Royal Academy of Music, Aarhus, Denmark.

Konrad Korabiewski is the founder and currently the director of Skálar | Sound Art | Experimental Music, Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland. He is an independent curator and Research Associate at Film and Digital Media Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Also avmember of Danish Composers ́Society since 2004.

The festival theme is «truth?». Can music be “true”?Is this something you are struggling with in your compositions?

My works have a documentary element because of my site-specific approach, but I would say my compositions are more expressive of my experience of and understanding of a place. NS-12, for instance, combines audio and visual documents recorded at sea on an Icelandic fishing trawler, but it also leads the audience into a somewhat surreal environment where the dreams, myths and disasters at sea blend together–documentary and fable mingle. All of these are ‘true’ elements of the Icelandic fishing culture. So art can both amplify and express these ambiguities.

Can you tell us about NS-12 and your collaboration with the filmmaker Kristján Loðmfjorð.  

NS-12 is an expressive audiovisual portrait of an Icelandic fishing trawler being the heart of the local fjord community on the East coast of Iceland. The original piece is a multi-channel installation, which was exhibited in Canada, Chile, Poland, Iceland, also nominated for Marl Media Art Awards 2014 in Germany. In addition to the installation, we expended our research and project by publishing a book earlier this spring diving even deeper to several aspects of the piece. This book I also will present at NMD 2019 in Bodø.

When I first came to Iceland, living so-called fjord life was different and challenging at first for me, but I was and still I am amazed by how cosmopolitan and artistic a small place of 600 people can be–a place where most people embrace the arts and its role in the community.

When I saw local filmmaker and editor Kristján Loðmfjorð´s impressive cinematic works I felt a common passion for the “decadent darkness”, and we spoke about finding a reason for collaboration. We were both fascinated by the fishing trawler docking weekly in the harbour and started to research all aspects of it, including the machinery and the captain’s diaries, logs etc, extracting relevant texts. We were lucky enough to be allowed on board for 3 trips of about a week each in order to film and record audio, which we later put together with some of the texts.

What is the material for the music and soundscape of NS-12? How did you collect the sounds?

The original soundscape for the work is realized as a contemporary composition where all the sonic material is sourced from reality.

That was my dogma nr. 1 to surrender to the conditions on board the fishing trawler and to let it be affected to the physical and emotional impact the journey itself and the constant sensation of motion from the heaviness and roughness of the rolling trawler had on me.

The idea was to perceive what the fishermen normally saw as a big unromantic dead mechanical tool for their work at sea while I wanted to listen to it as a living musical instrument, where each room has its own way of carrying the sound from the engine, again in the faith of the mother nature.

My big inspiration filmmaker Krzysztof Kieślowski referring to his own film work once said: “..All you have to do is understand the circumstances around you to evoke this mood..”

I was thinking a lot about that before going on board the trawler NS-12, how to approach the task of listening, recording, making notes, and initially archive the sounds in my mind. But what happened was most unexpected, on the first trip I was fairly seasick, almost as soon as we left our Icelandic fjord, so I was lying in berth maybe 75-80% of time, in state of confusion or reverie.., while Kristján was effected in quite opposite way than me nearly becoming sleepless for several days and filming most of the time. At first, I was worried about this development, to be honest, but then I realized my slow and foggy active listing was everything to my music score. In fact, most of the music was simply composed in my head this way before I even took any equipment in use.

I selected the sounds layers carefully by listening first and experienced the strongest moments very clearly, so rough edit over the score was going on in my mind already then.

Without being superstitious in many ways NS-12 was writing itself, constantly playing industrial music revealing new hidden rooms of acoustics where I could hide for hours. So my role as a composer was more collaboration with the unexpected surroundings to embody where I was the collector, field recorder and editor of the magical sound. Giving it a context later in the editing room and in relation to the visual work of Kristján but we both quickly agreed upon NS-12 will be constructed from various perceptions of the ships. Nothing really needed to be added from outside of the site-specific sonic scene as the motivation for the piece was on the contrary to examine was already there. I was very stubborn about only using location sound for the score.

You deal with various genres and media in your art. But you also have a strong site-specific element in NS-12. Is this site-specific element common for your works?

Yes, in the last years my projects have been almost exclusively generated from fieldwork or place-specific experiences. I begin from a perspective of observation and feeling in a place, using artistic intuition so to speak, usually over a longer period of time. Sometimes that place might be where I live (temporarily or permanently), or it might be a place that I return to over and over again. With the NS-12 project, Kristján and I took 3 journeys on the sea with the fishing trawler in different seasons and weather conditions, so that we could build our experience of the trawler and its routines more fully. Together with Kristján the two audiovisual mediums explore the complete body of the trawler through our experience with the elements.

Can you tell us about Mrs Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, former president of Iceland and how she got involved as a voiceover in this project?

The interior of the fishing trawler is like a time capsule from the 80s. In contrast to the nude pin-up girls from a calendar that the fishermen have up in the dining room, there is also a framed official portrait of Mrs Vigdís Finnbogadóttir, from decades ago, when she was president of Iceland from 1980-1996. Vigdís received key support from a fisherman for her candidacy for president and their votes ensured she was finally chosen. This gave us the idea that maybe she would be willing to lend her voice to our project about the boat where fisherman still revered her all these years later. She agreed, and, now in her late 80s, her voice has an incredible texture and feeling which we felt gave special depth to her narration of the machinist’s log. In the NS-12 book, poet Kristín Ómarsdóttir dives more deeply into the discussion with Vigdís

You have a strong relationship with several Nordic countries, can you please tell us how this began and developed.

The experience of the north has greatly impacted my perceptions and emotions, and as a result, has been the main theme in my work since 2011.

I arrived in Iceland in the winter of 2011 and knew immediately that I wanted to move there, even as I drove into the town of Seyðisfjörður the first time. Previously I had travelled in northern Sweden and Finland, Finish Sameland, and the land there made a strong impression on me.  I felt a strong pull to move north, and so looked for opportunities to come to Iceland. I moved there after 15 years in Copenhagen simply because my intuition was so strong.

I am still a part of Danish culture, I moved to Denmark when I was young with my family, and Danish language and culture shaped me from my adolescence. Even though I’m now based in Iceland, I still follow Danish politics closely and speak Danish as my primary language. But I left the city life of Copenhagen behind to live further north in a tiny village in east Iceland because I was longing for the wilderness. Iceland is like another planet, where people are not always the focus, and where the extremes of light and dark cycle over the course of a year which gives a strong emotional as well as the physical experience of time. 

You deal with various genres and media in your art. But you also have a strong site-specific element in NS-12. Is this site-specific element common for your works?

Yes, in the last years my projects have been almost exclusively generated from fieldwork or place-specific experiences. I begin from a perspective of observation and feeling in a place, using artistic intuition so to speak, usually over a longer period of time. Sometimes that place might be where I live (temporarily or permanently), or it might be a place that I return to over and over again. With the NS-12 project, Kristján and I took 3 journeys on the sea with the fishing trawler in different seasons and weather conditions, so that we could build our experience of the trawler and its routines more fully. Together with Kristján the two audiovisual mediums explore the complete body of the trawler through our experience with the elements. 

NS-12

NS-12 (2014) is an audiovisual collaboration between the filmmaker Kristjan Loðmfjorð and the composer Konrad Korabiewski. Using the means of sound and image, NS-12 poetically portrays the fishing trawler Gullver based in Seyðisfjorður, East Iceland.

The trawler is a self-contained world; space which functions both as workplace and as collective living arrangement, which is also personally and physically effective.

For the people working on board, the ship might be seen as a tool, but artistically it is perceived as a living organism, as a musical instrument triggering the senses, and as a visual landscape impressing with textures and colours. The constant sensation of motion from the heaviness and roughness of the rolling trawler conveys.

Thus NS-12 captures the moment of an everyday situation applying an expressionistic approach for an experimental outcome. It communicates the human spirit, essential for the experience of the trawler at sea with the ceaseless sound and vibrations of the engine.

The original soundscape for the work is realized as a contemporary composition where all the sonic material is sourced from reality, whereas the imagery is mainly based on still-life recordings where visual perception shines above realism. Together the two mediums explore the complete body of the trawler as a visually intriguing labyrinth, where each room has its own way of carrying the sound from the engine.

The complete work including sound and image is purely field recorded, accompanied with voiceover recordings performed by the Seyðisfjorður Church Choir and the fourth (and Europe’s first female) president of Iceland, Mrs Vigdís Finnbogadóttir. Recordings onboard Gullver NS-12 took place during the period of September 2012 – December 2013.

Supported by The Icelandic Visual Arts Fund | The Cultural Council of East Iceland | The Danish Arts Foundation | The Danish Composers Society | ZKM – Center for Art and Media Karlsruhe, Hatje Cantz Verlag, Berlin.

Photos by Rhombie Sandoval, Takeshi Moro and Kristjan Loðmfjorð.

NS-12 cover design by John and Evelyn Grzinich. page1image5123520