GAMMA GRRL: ELLO FUTURE MEETS ARIELLE HERMAN - AKA 'QUALIATIK'.
PART 2 OF OUR INTERVIEW WITH THE NEW MEDIA ARTIST ON THE NEXUS OF NEUROSCIENCE AND MUSIC.
"I turned down ten paid lab positions and left college with only one year left"
(Arielle Herman on making the transition from Neuroscience to a new direction in music)
Earlier in the week we introduced you to 'QUALIATIK': the multimedia project of producer, singer, songwriter, and new media artist Arielle Herman, whose progressive, beat-driven experimental pop-ethereal music video 'Physicality' just premiered on Paper Magazine; the product of a life-long interest in the human experience, via the Study of Neuroscience and peppered with projects; including the exploration the projection of participants brainwaves during an interactive performance, no less.
Our feature on Arielle concludes below, in part 2 of our two part feature; however, keep a look out for a series of Qualia infused posts over the weekend
ELLO FUTURE: Your visuals really remind us of the work of Kytten Janae, Vaporwave et al. Are there any artists in particular who you're inspired by?
QUALIATIK: I got my “internet creativity” start on Tumblr, New Hive, and the weird Facebook community of internet artists, so I have been really inspired by artists like:
Pussykrew, and platforms like Felt Zine and Synaptic Stimuli.
I entered the internet art world post-seapunk, kind of in the thrusts of the whole 'Health Goth' thing, so everyone was all about “aesthetics”, and I remember being really moved by the moods of specific shapes, compositions, colors, and textures as the internet opened the gates to these new visual territories. I think that’s kind of how my own “aesthetic” took shape. For me, it’s just what feels right to my eyes and what is poignant emotionally within this visual headspace my work has kind of come to exist within.
In February, I coded a game for my BitTorrent bundle that features about 40 visual artists—mostly painters—whose work has a strong stake in everything I do. Painting will probably always be the form of visual expression that has the strongest, most visceral effect on me. Hieronymous Bosch, progressive rock record sleeve artist Roger Dean, Salvador Dalí, and Zdzisław Beksiński, sci-fi artists like Angus McKie, Bruce Pennington, Richard Clifton-Dey, and David Hardy, as well as many pop surrealist artists have all been enormous influences.
ELLO FUTURE: Serious question! How did you manage / cope with couch surfing your way through NYC while making your music; practically speaking, what / who kept you going?
QUALIATIK: Oh man lol, it was honestly really, really intense. I think I kind of live for that though, so that’s definitely part of what kept me going. It was constant adrenaline, stimulation, exhiliration, panic, and confusion simultaneously for six months straight on an average of three hours of sleep each night and some combination of nature valley bars, cheesesticks, and pick-me-ups from friends. I think the novelty of it was what kept me going the most—leaving the structured, tame, creatively stagnant suburbs for the constant hysteria of NYC. There is inspiration everywhere you turn and its a great city for anyone who loves to people watch.
I think part of the drive was also a necessary commitment to the defiance and irrationality of my decision; I turned down ten paid lab positions and left college with only one year left, and understandably wasn’t really on speaking terms with my family. I think part of me knew how insane all of this was and just kept flinging my limbs forward in some direction, any direction, even when I was emotionally limp. I had to embrace the feeling of instability in every aspect of my life, and rip the ground out from underneath any physical attachments my sense of identity leaned on. I had also been an enormous recluse for the entirety of that year, having to muffle severe social anxiety to even to text a friend for dinner. So throwing myself into an environment where I literally needed to contact people in order to have a place to sleep was in some ways a very aggressive way of confronting my social anxiety, I suppose. It was all ultimately an extremely refreshing defiance against the uncomfortable structure I have consistently failed at maneuvering within throughout my life.
"Couch surfing was a really great lesson in trusting your interpersonal intuition"
Despite the chaos, I tried to keep some modicum of order within the nonstructure. I tried to eat nutritious foods as opposed to pizza and Crown Fried Chicken (despite the temptation), and I journaled a LOT. Every day I would find a café, get a 16oz drip coffee and buckle down to stare at Ableton and produce for about eight hours, after which I would go to whatever shows or events looked interesting that night and hope to happen upon a friend who would allow me to crash on their futon/couch/floor. Washing my face and brushing my teeth at night and in the morning were my only personal “zen” times and really essential to mainting a sense of distinction between each finite day. Couch surfing was a really great lesson in trusting your interpersonal intuition, because I could have ended up in a lot of really risky situations but I never stayed with anyone I didn’t get “pure” vibes from, and everyone was extremely respectful and kind. I am so grateful to have had such a huge support system to help me navigate the chaos, as it definitely takes a huge toll on your psyche to know that you are always an imposition in someone else’s space. But it is really amazing how much people want to support each other, and I hope to be in the position to give back to all of those friends one day.
ELLO FUTURE: You've talked previously about how you've had to scramble for a way to unite your interests. How difficult has it been to do that and how do you manage this on an ongoing basis?
"I think everything I do creatively or in life in general is kind of fueled by this sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction."
QUALIATIK: I think my brain naturally goes into an idea-synthesizing spasm when there’s a divergence between things I’m really stoked about, so “uniting my interests” has not really been a difficult challenge so much as an exciting endeavor, but I think I definitely need to draw a line between what it means, to me, to “combine” passions and what it means to “satisfy” them. I think everything I do creatively or in life in general is kind of fueled by this sense of restlessness and dissatisfaction. Even if I feel momentarily giddy after successfully discharging some nebulous emotional headspace in the form of a “work”, it always gives way to a painful awareness of all the holes in my expression or ability to express the emotions through media. There’s always a lack of some piercing gratification I need to be able to feel from my work, so the struggle to satisfy the passions is and probably always will be ongoing, peppered with fleeting moments of emotional grandiosity that eventually settle onto the glass surface of a depth of expression I still do not know how to reach. So I often ping-pong between outlets of expression because once I make, say, an aggressive song, I suddenly feel the need to make a vulnerable, sad song, but then I need to make a drawing or do some journaling, and so the cycle continues, and I think this is something most artists have to grapple with continuously.
ELLO FUTURE: In terms of subjective experience and creating music, what do you consider to be most important in your own work: expressing yourself personally or the effect you have on your audience?
QUALIATIK: The reason I make music in the first place is to deal with emotions and pain, and without that outlet I think I would burst, so my driving force is definitely personal expression. If it wasn’t, I really don’t think I would be able to make my best work, and because music is healing by nature, I think it is most powerful when coming from a place of honest, nuanced, intense emotion. I don’t think I could do justice in the expression of feelings I have not personally grappled with and felt in their fullness. However, with so many millions of people in the world experiencing so much emotional pain, I am starting to understand that artists have the power—and thus, in a way, the obligation—to create something therapeutic for a lot of people. So as my external perspective has been growing I’ve been moving toward a bridging of the two. It would be ideal to get to a point where I can express what I need to sonically, but give it to people in a way that leaves it open for the most important meaning it can take on for them personally. A really special song can feel like a best friend or a soulmate, and I would love to be able to give that voice of understanding to people in their pain, suffering, and confusion.
ELLO FUTURE: Now that Physicality is out, where do you see the QUALIATIK project headed next and how influenced are you by what's happening around you i.e. politically, socially, environmentally?
QUALIATIK: Releasing Physicality feels like the end of one era of QUALIATIK and the beginning of a new one, so right now I’m working on a lot of new music and just writing, thinking, and drawing a lot. I feel deeply affected by the current cultural landscape, socially, politically, and environmentally, but am not yet sure where and how those sentiments will surface in my work. I know a lot of other artists are in a similar headspace right now where all of these externally intense feelings are working their way into deeply personal and introspective projects, and a lot of people are leaning toward that delicate balance between internal and external. I also have a sense of duty, for the first time, of creating something that other people can find cathartic, so I think I just have to keep throwing everything at the wall and see what sticks, emotionally. For now, I’m just trying to reach a greater degree of vulnerability in my work, since I feel like what I really need to say is still shielded under many layers and I really want to rip the veil away and achieve that transparency.
ELLO FUTURE: You're given 5 minutes with Donald Trump. What would you say?
"Human behaviour is not something to play a masturbatory power game with to stroke your own ego.."
QUALIATIK: I would say that no matter his intentions or the authenticity behind the things he has said, he has to take responsibility for the selfishness and arrogance has has displayed throughout and before his campaign, and for normalizing hateful rhetoric and actions. Human behavior is not something to play a masturbatory power game with to stroke your own ego, and group mentality is dangerous, and can even be fatal, in addition to alienating the millions of people who fall into Trump’s either proclaimed or implied “out” groups. The President of the United States / President-Elect must understand that people’s lives are on the line and that everything they say, do, promote, condone, or remain silent about ripples profoundly out to the rest of America and the world. I’m praying, perhaps ignorantly, for things to turn over with the presidency, as there is still time, but if Trump is to hold this much power for the next four years, he must prioritize listening to the American people and step into the shoes of the role model for strength, integrity, and optimism that the world really needs right now.
Also, stop f***ing ignoring real, urgent facts and appointing climate change deniers!