Interview with evi nakou
evi nakou is a musician and sound artist based in Athens. She is artist in residence as part of the Transmission project amongst several other collaborators. For us it means an exchange of artists between Bergen and Athens in collaboration with Onassis AiR (Athens, Greece). Two have already been in Athens from Bergen. evi is the first artist-in-residence joining us from Athens at Bergen for the month of November.
Dear evi nakou!
You are a musician and a flute player, and you are a member of the Breakfast Club quartet. What do you play, and what do the flute have to say about how you came into the arts and what you have done?
I was trained as a classical musician and musicologist, with flute being the main musical instrument that I have been playing for most of my life. I resonate though with the phrasing of your question “a musician and a flute player”, cause the ways I apprehend, perform and create sound and music are often not related to flute playing. It remains an instrument that I have become fluent at when crafting sound and making music, but depending on the context and the purpose of the work I am making, I have allowed myself – unapologetically - to either engage with it or distance myself from it. So, in other words my practice is much rooted in making and listening to sound, whether electronic or analog, and it is often shared with people in places that are not the typical performing arts venues. A big chunk of my work is situated and/or emerges from communities I work with or I am part of, in various places that I have lived or travelled to. This is to say, that the work is often performed or exhibited in the very places that it is created, including the public space, libraries, community centres, detention facilities such as prisons and refugee camps, DIY music venues, as well as theatre and performing arts venues. Music and sound are one of various modalities/mediums that those collective processes might entail, but not the only.
Breakfast Club, with Detta Danford (flutes), Rhia Parker (voice, recorders) and Natasha Zielazinski (cello), is a quartet that came into existence through a long-standing friendship and “mileage” of working together in various places and with people with diverse positionalities. The combination of instruments is quite unusual, which has been an exciting point of entrance for us in relation to the repertoire we choose to either perform, commission, compose ourselves and arrange. This past June we released our album “As Our Hands Move”; an album that brings together pieces of our work as a quartet but also in collaboration with other artists and friends.
You are part of the artist in residence collaboration between BIT in Bergen and Onassis Stegi in Greece. Can you tell a little about this art centre called after Onassis, and how you came to work with them?
I came to collaborate with BIT as an artist-in-residence at USF Verftet in Bergen thanks to the invitation I got from Onassis AiR to participate, as a sound artist, at the Transmissions project. Transmissions is coordinated by Onassis Stegi (Greece) in partnership with Ultima Oslo Contemporary Music Festival (Norway) and is supported by the EEA Grants program and the Norwegian Financial Mechanisms 2014-2021. Having met Kristina Melbø Valvik, Curator at BIT Teatergarasjen this past summer in Greece, during her residency at Onassis AiR, we discussed upon the possibility of taking some of the findings of my current research on the practice and notion of gossip to the context of Bergen. This is how we arrived to the idea of me facilitating a workshop during the residency; an opportunity to meet and collaborate with local artists across different media and backgrounds.
Onassis AiR is an international artistic research residency program based in Athens, Greece, as part of the broader programming of Onassis Stegi. In September 2022, Onassis AiR initiated a fellowship scheme – Onassis AiR Fellows – through which artists are commissioned to implement their research and develop new work, via a process of an open call. As of February 2024, I will be working on my research “endless distances inside me, highways of quiet” - a line borrowed from the poem “Unlove” by Franny Choi - leading to the development of a new piece of work in the months to come.
You are hosting a five day workshop right now in transmedia poetry, and you will all perform on Prøverommet in Grieghallen next Sunday. Will it be good? Have you got a good crew to work with?
Hard to answer that myself; isn’t that what we will figure out from the reactions of the audience? But since we are in the middle of the workshop, I can share how grateful I am to be working with this group of artists. Their willingness to engage in every aspect of the workshop as well as their generosity to create and share work that feels really personal and yet allows space for the others to play with, interact and shape collectively, feels like a gift to me. As for the sharing of the workshop materials at Prøverommet in Grieghallen next Sunday, I do encourage you to come along and take a glimpse of our gossiping ; the unpredictable, non-linear and intuitive narratives and stories that were transformed into poems, composed and ‘woven’ together by the artist participants. Coming from a shared space where wishes, hopes, struggles, and dreams of the everyday played a big part of what the participants have created, I can only assume that it may look and sound as messy as gossip can be.
And the residency. Are you apreciating your stay in Bergen? And are managing to do what you came for?
This has been an amazing opportunity for me so far. Being offered the space, time and resources – material and immaterial – to conduct a practice-based research in a vibrant city such as Bergen has been brilliant. The scale of the city – you just walk places - alongside with the really interesting cultural scene is ideal for one to be inspired and challenged to create work. So, overall it has been great and I am looking forward to the next couple of weeks. Not to forget, that the weather has been amazing so far, regardless of how alerted I was by people who live or have lived in Bergen in the past. I guess sunny days are not to be expected in November, right?
And last, parhaps a little too much to ask, but anyway: What is art good for and how is your impression about the art and artist you have met here?
This is quite a big one to answer, so heads up, this answer is destined to fail! I guess art can be many things depending on what you want it to be and why one does it. I intentionally avoid making distinctions between good and bad, let alone good for and bad for. All I can share is how I wish to engage myself with the arts; going through life together with others, friends, partners, collaborators, communities, making work that is meaningful for those that it is shared with. The practice of music and sound is what fascinates me, cause it allows for imagining the worlds we live in – quite distressing and terrifying at this moment – otherwise. Maybe a practice that we tend to when we wish to resist inequality and oppression and celebrate togetherness and difference.