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PONR (at DE)
Friday, 05 Mar 2021
PONR is the collaboration between Graz-based musician Nico Mohammadi and musician and actor Manuel Thielen, combining live electronics, analogue instruments, algorithms, voice and online audio content sampled in real time into a very personal exploration to create an empathetic space. They themselves describe their collaborative project as a "homage to loneliness and the internet".
How is the overall vibe in your city?
Nico: I recently moved back to Graz. I spent the last semester in Brussels as a study abroad. The atmosphere there was rather oppressive. Masks are mandatory everywhere (even outside) and there is a very strict curfew from 10 pm. Especially for me as a newcomer, that was rather unpleasant. Being back in Graz now feels good. Familiar people and such stunning weather. The testing is going well and people seem much more relaxed than in Brussels. Without wanting to judge this.
Manu: I have the feeling that everyone is constantly switching back and forth between two phases. The one serious one, in which solidarity-based withdrawal and social abstinence are carried through in a very disciplined manner and one is worn down by the repetitive waiting and the social distance, in which the longing for warmth, hugs, to be part of a group becomes so great that one feels this urge to give more space again. All in all it got common to feel lonely every now and then.
Can you elaborate a bit on the mood you’ve been in, while recording your set?
N: The last few weeks such optimism and self-confidence has been spreading through me. But I think that's something very personal and has nothing to do with the vaccine or anything like that. I feel like I'm going through a good vibe right now after a very mixed winter. But of course the last year has also put me in this mood. I had a lot of time to be alone with myself, to reflect. Of course also because I have the privilege of not being threatened in my (financial) existence at the moment. I am very grateful for that.
M: The loss of my midtwenties, the disconnection to strangers, the lack of first impressions and getting to know each other, touching, talking, arguing and letting myself go in a crowd of strangers. I really miss strangers. I like to overwhelm myself with these emotions, exaggerate them and sometime imagine a figure going through a situation like mine, but in a fantastic much more intense way, than my boring feeling not so good. Showing the emotions of someone else is easier to me, so that i can relate to the music and don’t have to identify with it.
How do you feel about the overwhelming presence of digital / social media in comparison to the lack of social time IRL?
N: In the last month the main source of inspiration for me has been my computer including internet connection. In endless videoconferences I kept in touch with friends, family, but also university colleagues, professors and artists in general. Among other things, I was also given access to events that I would otherwise not have been able to reach and which were now accessible online. The web - a curse and a blessing at the same time: For so many people its the only way of staying in touch with each other or being connected with the world somehow. But spending your whole (social) life in front of the computer always feels a bit weird, right? There were times when I almost went mad and was disgusted with myself. As someone who considers himself very critical, enlightened and political, I was increasingly frightened by how much I surrendered to this glittering world of never-sleeping internet content. Consumerism was eating me up a bit in parts. I had so much time after all. Finally I could tackle all the projects I had dreamed of. But I literally threw my time down the throat of the laptop. There's a lot of fun to be found in the depths of the web - but it still feels like a continuous short-term-gratification-post-depression-ping-pong.
M: Honestly - i hate it. As an actor mainly playing on stage, i need my body to be part of my social life. I need the presence of movement, bodylanguage, beeing together doing nothing, standing in line not knowing each other. Of course the internet makes it easier to share information, stay updated and so on, but it does not keep the promise of connecting people the way i like to think of connection to others. Yes, i couldn't do without social media and yet i would love to.
Does this at some point influence your musical production? The lack of the crowd? How?
N: At times it was very difficult for me to listen to club music, let alone create it. When I make music, I am very visual and try to imagine what I would like to hear in the club, how the crowd might react. I need these images to create moods in my work processes. This has been very difficult for me for almost a year now. When I was on my train journey from Brussels to Graz and it smelled like summer, I was able to let it happen again.
M: Sure, it gives me a feeling of togetherness, when i hear everybody missing parties and clubs and festivals and dancing and hanging out. Disconnection gets another layer of meaning once everybody is in on it. On the other hand, all the things i thought over the last year, i mostly dealt with alone, at least physically alone, so i started joyfully wallowing in them, i put on my headphones, turned up the volume and drank something and tried to make the music i miss. I definitely got more confidence in my music.
The Elevate Festival 2021 theme is Momentum. Which social or political cause would deserve more Momentum?
N: The biggest issue for me is still social inequality. Somehow it's buzzing around everywhere, but it's not really on the agenda anywhere. This is mainly because the political and media discourse is led by people who have made a good living. A large part of the local population (and especially the global population) simply has no organ to speak through. Our parliamentary democracies live on lobbyism. I have no problem with that in principle, but there are just so many people and issues that have no lobby - the thing can't work like that. I would like to see progressive and self-confident talk about systemic change again. People vote against their own needs, very few deal with campaign programmes. Political participation should be much more widespread. We need people in charge from all sectors and strata who can do their own lobbying.
M: To me the toxic masculinity and the lack of sensibility in my parents generations has let many people dealing alone with their own education of emotions. I often meet friends having struggle going through pain, hiding it, trying to be strong and feeling worthless being small and sensitive, as i do too, of course. I'd love these topics to be more visible, embracing the own taught emotional education and sensibility. Growing strong doesn't work without growing sensitive.
Lockdown Grooves is part of Re-Imagine Europe, co-funded by the Creative Europe programme of the European Union.
In Cooperation with Ö1.
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