header photo by Tim Cavadini
“‘Who Are You’ is a commentary on how digitalization is grabbing our attention and gradually absorbing our real lives. Costly side effects are often hiding positive benefits. This begs questioning. How does one balance this transition, exist in a duality, instead of trading a big amount of one’s In Real Life experiences for simulacra? To what extent is trading physical alienation for limitless online connectivity worth it?” questions the Polish musician and artist Vincent Littlehat with her new fascinating single and music video ‘Who Are You’. Questions that we have been asking ourselves for quiet a while now too and that surely is on everybody´s mind from time to time.
The intriguing music video, which was created alongside 3D animator Emil Karaś and Art Director Mehran Djojan, explores the notion of dreams being realized in real life (IRL) and finding fresh perspectives on circumstances.
In this truly inspiring interview with the profound artist we talk about how we compromise the needs of our bodies with digital experiences for the mind, the difference of watching the dancers in real life when creating the video versus the animation, and the experience of trying to take up roles in life chosen by ambition rather than understanding ones own predispositions.
I find your latest song and video release “Who Are You”, that you created together with composer / producer Robot Koch and that will be released tomorrow (09.12) via Littlehat Recordings, really spellbinding. It is very imaginative and I love the visuals as well as the question that is being asked through it.
The video is a postcard from a calm state of mind that I experience (although not continuously) when having to do with solving problems and taking difficult decisions.
When the mind recognition steps out for some time, there is a possibility for another kind of observation. That one doesn’t intensify the identification and a need to control the situation.
When ‘I’ doesn’t feel being separated by an egoistic point of view (that’s located in the body or somewhere between eyes) but notices the negative value of it. It is not fragmented anymore but distributed throughout the situation, there is no longer a need to fear it or fight with what’s in front, because there is no front. Then the fight has the potential of turning into a play, a dance. Locality always comes with a limitation.
The music video is a symbolic representation of this understanding.
After an accident on set most of the film footage for the music video was lost, therefore the 3D animator Emil Karaś worked for many months to accurately craft and incorporate an authentic dance performance. The video is supercool! You have seen both versions – the live, real dancing and of course now the final result of the video. What is the biggest difference related to how it makes you feel, when watching this real life experience ( watching the dancers in this case) or something animated and on screen?
The plan for this music video was to combine the real performance (footage) with the animation 50 : 50%, but because we lost a large proportion of the footage we had filmed, we had to shift to 20 : 80%, rebuilding what we lost with an animation. The physical performance of the dancers, observing them at the rehearsal space was a moving experience, my attention was in a movement with them.
The animation is exciting because it’s new and impressive, colourful and outwardly but the characters are more flat, less nuanced and perhaps because of it less relatable. That’s entertaining for the mind but could become a strain for a body and soul if overused. I’m glad we created the video in which we are able to observe and compare the transitions between the real and simulated.
“Using ones body holistically and exercising its full potential – is healthier than spending months in front of computers; staring in one point and moving hands.”
You talk about exploring the costly side effects of trading in real-life experiences with digitalization and simulacra. When did you concretely start giving thought to this question? Was there a specific moment when you realized that this was a topic you needed to deal with?
With the experience of creating ‘Who Are You’ and ‘Into the Stars’, I made a simple observation that dancing – using ones body holistically and exercising its full potential – is healthier than spending months (which we did with the animation team) in front of computers; staring in one point and moving hands.
Being on a film set and being in space with other people is also much more satisfying than working separately at our workstations. It’s often fun but it’s a lot of a physical frustration. I didn’t predict it at the time of production but that’s a lesson I took from it. Maybe not everybody will relate to it, but that’s a lesson I took from ‘behind the scenes’.
What would you say is the biggest side effect of digitalization on humans and our lives?
When you’re in front of a personal screen, you are most of the time alone, separated by the screen from whomever is sending you the signal (paradoxically the distance which the device is made to bridge, is also prolonging the distancing experience). Whatever happens digitally, in my understanding, impresses the mind but compromises on what could feed the need of the body. The physical presence, non verbal nuanced communication is eliminated.
I’ve accelerated that experience this year (not intentionally), by having 8h of screen time on average daily. It’s been painful but thanks to it I can recognize the effects on my state bluntly and make a conscious choice about what’s good for me and protect the balance. I think if I were to take a slower transition I could adapt and normalize the side effects, because many people will. Perhaps what’s normalized is a new normal. I know some people who have the awareness but don’t mind the layers of their physical realities being peeled and transmuted to their digital versions.
I have pretty critical thoughts on digitalization too and try to use it as well as in any way possible for work purposes only and f.e. try to escape it in other parts of my life as good as I can. F.e. on weekends or in my free time I try to switch off my mobile often so just to enjoy the moments without distraction. Nevertheless, I am not sure if we as a society can really backtrack this whole development at large as I feel humankind gets stuck and continues in a wrong direction also when things are not good for them, often also because the direction is being led by profit and not what´s best for everyone. Do you think we can find a way out of this and find a better balance?
Becoming aware and sharing one’s observations about it with your circles stops a negative momentum already. I really like artworks of a 3D animator called Rolzay, they are quite pointedly narrating the influence of abuse of social media. I recently became an ambassador of TOCA which makes small bags, a physical solution that block all signals from phones and other devices. You can more easily decide when to take time off from your device, not being tempted by vibrations. I like their educational engagement to create a better relationship with our devices. You can even contact me for a referral link and receive 15% discount.
As you’ve mentioned, creating and attending more activities which are short forms of a retreat, being fully engaged locally for the time being, is also a way to step out from digital forms. I guess for many it’s a strong psychological pull to share everything they do, maybe a fear of missing out if they don’t.
I’ve observed sometimes that there is shame in people, that prohibits allowing oneself to not be available for everyone, everything at once all the time. Being an example of having strong boundaries – having total headspace and being for yourself and the closest – ripples into the environment too and is the least invasive way to influence it. I wouldn’t like to take the role of a saviour, preferably just promote what I personally find more alligned with.
I know that the lessons I took came from my own experiences. By sharing my opinions I wouldn’t like anybody to miss theirs. You can only relate to what I am saying if you’ve felt that pain as well. I understand a value of any painful or desiociating experiance – they create frictions which have potential to destroy a certain way of seeing onself in reality (which usually is no longer useful). When you find yourself between a rock and a hard place, to escape you have to leave part of yourself behind. Maybe you’re emptier (negative perspective) but you can travel through life light (a positive one). I discovered the last days some points in Gilles Deleuze philosophy, it talkes about it in more detail.
“Whatever happens digitally, in my understanding, impresses the mind but compromises on what could feed the need of the body.”
You asked your Instagram community “How did the perception of ‘I am’ change through the years of your hanging out in the world? I would love to know your answer to that too.
It is a fascinating topic, how recognizing who you are is moulding and shifting throughout a lifespan. As a newborn we’re basically an elongation of our parents and only with time do we learn to exercise that separateness. In adolescence we have a drive to psychologically almost reject them to be able to develop an authority. There is potential and curiosity in a human, a chance to notice that nothing is really separated, but it has a different expression than the one of a baby (because of the intermediate states of separateness and acquired through this perception adaptations). Then another form of dissociation is available – a peaceful, less identified observation and interaction with reality.
“Being on a film set and being in space with other people is also much more satisfying than working separately at our workstations.”
The idea behind the song and the title is also to not just focus on oneself but when f.e. being in the room with someone else, to just feel the connection and moment that is created. Did I understand that right?
If I don’t strenghten the identification (by paying attention to the thoughts which continusly create and uphold the images and relation between myself and the other) then the attention if freed and can land on the space between these two subjects. That undefined space is a potential, it’s where we are connected. Separation aka boundaries are functional. It’s about finding a balance on a separation/connection spectrum. Noticing when I am too closed off or too open, remembering how to adjust.
To the video you explained the following: “Perhaps we shed obsolete identities as we become wiser or find the courage to adopt a new environment and shape it for us. Alternatively, we can slot into an actualized environment, which would benefit from our support and creative strength.” I am not sure if I understood what you mean by this. Can you explain further?
The experience of trying to take up roles in life which were chosen by my ambition combined with a lack of understanding of what my predispositions are brings up a frustration which burns out. The ash is fertalisig new understanding of who I am and where I could fit and thrive, for myself and the community.
You said it took many years to develop the song. Why was it such a long process with this song?
The song was mastered at first by Robot Koch. While the music video was being finalised my managment team was changing and the idea for different approach to the vocal came from Kris Steininger. He has produced it to match the artificial look of the music video. Vincent Littlehat and the ohter characters shift from real to digital, the vocal in the song mimics that. There were many cooks both at the audio and visual, everybody was pulling it elsewhere. It was hard at times, everybody compromised their preferences, but we managed to achieve the result the way it looks complete.
Can you reveal a bit more about your upcoming debut EP “Another Land Below”. What is the inspiration behind the title and what sort of tracks will be on there?
Another Land Below is a first song, lyric that I wrote for a composition of Robot Koch.
It’s one of the tracks of the EP. It’s literally about the inspiration coming from ‘behind’. It’s about discovering a new dimension of perceiving.
“The experience of trying to take up roles in life which were chosen by my ambition combined with a lack of understanding of what my predispositions are brings up a frustration which burns out.”
You studied psychology. Did you initially have another plan for what you wanted to do after your studies? Or do you work in that field besides being an artist?
Initially I wanted to become a therapist.
I took that subject at university believing that understanding human psychology was a way to resolve internal conflicts which were always disturbing me. They were a reflection of interpersonal ones, which run within my family. I hoped that understanding them would break the continuity of evolving and steer it towards resolving.
After studying for 2 years and learning from different schools of psychology, the subject grew in complexity but I started to doubt it would become complete. I discovered that studying at a big university with 150 students in the year – collecting information mostly from books and having a possibility of cheating at the exams – distanced me from being passionate about the subject. Feeling alienated and less structured than, for example, in high school, created even more conflict. I found a shelter at the art academy where I worked as a model. The groups were much smaller and connection with others became easier, which is important for me. By changing my environment to a more fitted one, most of the conflicts I wanted to resolve were not the subject of my attention. That was a hint for me and my interest steered from psychology to applied arts. This created a way of having a dialog with someone (as in psychology) that didn’t just involve a language made only of words, but also of feelings and things that come from silence. This way of connecting with people, experiencing inner and outer environments feels more correct for me.
Slaughterhouse-Five and Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
A perfect weekend for you…
involves a walk in a park or other spacious place. Visit in a cafe or a cinema that has a cozy, homelike vibe.
Thanks so much for your time!
Created together with composer / producer Robot Koch and released via Vincent’s eponymous imprint Littlehat Recordings, the record marks the second official single to be taken from her upcoming debut EP Another Land Below, which looks set to see its official release in early 2023. The official music video will be also distributed to Web3 as part of an exclusive NFT collection.
Video production by 3D animator Emil Karaś and Art Director Mehran Djojan
Choreography by Sebastian Abarbanell
Dancers Louis Seriot and Lukas Ziegele