Dutch visual and sound artist Raymond Dijkstra has honed a direction with his work that is as complex as it is singular – following patterns both sonically and visually which create a sense of isolation as well as a powerful vision. During the time I ran the label Crouton, I had the opportunity to release one of Dijkstra’s recordings. It was a rather large project even though only 100 pieces were created. During this process, I began to see more of Dijkstra’s process of how he creates his work, and I began a series of discussions with him about turning ideas into physical pieces. In some ways, this act seemed absurd, but moreso, a whole additional range of experience could be gained from the process – both on the producer side, and on those receiving the material. The latter is the position I previously experienced. I became slightly obsessed with his work years ago, and marveled at its singularity, yet critical approach to detail, again, both visually and aurally. For me, it was an honor and real pleasure to work with him.
Since Crouton has closed, I wanted to share some insight based on some of the discussions we had over time about publishing, creativity, and the personal reasons behind it all. Below are some words from Dijkstra based on those discussions.
On Creative Development
Raymond Dijkstra: “I started Le souffleur in 2003 after a long period of self reflection and musical silence. The previous years I had been working on several sculptures as a way to clean up my creative ideas which had somewhat been clogged during the years. Around I believe 1996 I had suffered a severe mental breakdown which initially paralysed me creatively and psychically. Between 1997 and 1999 I worked for 70 hours a week and did a study in the remaining hours as a form of self initialised working therapy, the aim was to work under great pressure and abandon (too much) thinking, which was very hard, but in the end a very fruitful venture. After that, I started working on sculptures which was totally new ground for me. I’d originally started as a juvenile comic-artist at the age of 12. After my comics had started to become more experimental I completely transmigrated to making paintings and drawings. Later I’d started making music in 1987.
My first musical steps were pretty noisy and experimental; deliberately recorded in the red and with unexpected twists. The unexpectedness was also for me unexpected, while I always went into unintentional directions making it a form of emotional, psychic experimentalism. The music was terrible to listen to, even for myself! The days I filled completely with artistic activity and a lot of drugs.
Around 1991 I experimented with electronics; mainly experiments with feedback through cables and a closed circuit including a mixing board, effects and an equalizer. A small fragment of these recordings was released on cassette and LP under the name of Ki sync pulse. Somewhat later I worked with the group Indra Karmuka with whom I also did some records.
The problem I had felt for a long time was, the lack of continuity, while in the end I had to depend on the willingness of possible labels to publish my music. When it came to it I simply didn’t contact anybody because I never have liked it to ask people for a favour. This was one of the main reasons I’d started Le souffleur, to be independent creatively, and make sure there could be a constant flow of energy. When you create a lot of artistic work there lies a big danger in getting buried under your own work; I need to release my work to the public in order to keep my creative pathways open, so there’s room for new ideas in my head. Besides, I always had felt the need for freedom when it came to making all the artistic decisions, in every step of the process. It is simply intolerable for me that there is someone at the end of the line who could say yes or no. Le souffleur gives me the freedom to just release everything I want, simply because I have my own values of art. I don’t need anybody to tell me whether my work is good or not. When it comes to music and art there is only one thing important for me; it has to live up to my own level of creative values. Besides, when I see all the crap around me…
Around 2002 I made a very important decision, to no longer work in every possible direction I wanted, but simply only in that direction which was The direction for me. The next project I worked on was the piece Dadaphon, which was the first release on Le souffleur.
The years after have shown a constant narrowing of direction. What was for me a very surprising thing is, the narrower things get, the deeper it gets. It’s like meditating on a fixed point, wherein the surrounding blurs and becomes psychedelic. But the connection also takes place on an emotional level. This can only really occur when focussing on one point. The psychic connection can never take place when staying on the surface, and without concentration of the artist. It’s hard to explain, I guess only people who have meditated or artists who have limited themselves to one area can really understand this. My music in these days is a very rewarding thing, which is my perfect tool to connect with myself, and in that way spiritual, although not aimed to be as such. The latest months however there also has been an opening in a new artistic direction (although this direction has the same foundation, namely the music I did round 2002); a direction which is more directly aiming at a very important part of my life, the influence of dream. This has always been present in the work of latest years, but maybe in a harder and more confronting, and at the same time more hidden form. “
On the Aim of Creativity
Raymond Dijkstra: “Until now I haven’t spoken about the importance of dream and surrealistic estrangement in my work. The latest work “L’opus ch” gives a very good sight at my personal dreamworld, wherein reality and dream mingle, and timelessness is apparent. Dream and estrangement have always been of such great importance in my life and therefore in my work. Estrangement and dissociation makes I can associate with myself. It’s THE energy which feeds me the most in my work, this goes for all my work I’ve done till now. In the works of latest years, almost everything between 2005 and now, the goal was to confront and break down the image of reality and open the sight to a hidden reality, between the cracks. The works in end 2008 and 2009 (such as “De schroef” have shown a very direct approach in this, without the use of any effects (equipment). The new released record “L’opus ch” sees just the reappearance of the use of effects, although in a minimal form. “L’opus ch” is the opposite of pieces like “Affen-theater” & “De schroef” in the way that the latest mentioned pieces are focussed on physical action, more then musicality; as where “L’opus ch” is much more introvert, musical and spacious. However, these are two sides of the same coin.
Another aim of creating has always been to survive as a person. There have been times I was simply alone with my work. The only thing which kept me going was my creative work, whether painting, sculpting or music making.
In these days the link to life is much stronger then before, but -creating- still makes my connection with life stronger. It forms me as a person, because I am made out of the same material as my music. I simply don’t care about social career; art and music have always been far more important. I hate the situation in the contemporary art-world and music-world (also much of the so called experimental and avant-garde music) as it is now; A world dominated by money and career. I am very happy I am independent as an artist and will always remain working even when nobody would be interested. The urge to create comes from very deep inside, and has no roots in social life. Although I find it important to publish my work for several reasons; first because I feel an artist should share his gift with others. Secondly because of my personal metabolism: It’s all energy- where the creation comes from, and where it goes to. I always felt blocked or clogged when not being able to publish regularly. Although I do not publish everything by far, I try to publish as much as possible. Through the public, the energy returns where it originally came from: endless cosmic universe. It seems creative energy needs it to go back to its own source, making the circle round.
Raw energy is, through the artist, being filtered through layers of personal experiences and personal characteristics. Through this the universal energy is being transformed into personal art, which can only be made by this specific artist. I always have felt every artist can speak with his own original voice, as long he is able to open himself up, to listen instead of yelling so loud he doesn’t hear anything. An artist is a portal of energy. In the same way that a soldier is a portal of the same raw energy, but the energy is filtered in another way. “
I feel an artist should always take full control over all the separate artistic steps involved in the process. This is why I can never accept another person doing visuals for my music-work (unless I collaborate with this person in the music of the project). It’s simple: The visuals influence the musical-perception. Further, I feel since the music comes from out of one musical universe (the artist) the visuals should come from out of this same universe. Above I already spoke about how energy is filtered in different ways through different people. This makes art personal. Also on a whole other level there are universes inside universes. The universe of the individual in the universe of us all. As an artist I do not tolerate another person to involve into my personal energy, unless I want to work with this person.
Again on a whole other level, it’s clear graphic designers are working on a whole other level- it’s applied art, which flattens the deeper experience of music. I have very precise ideas how my music should sound, I know how it is made, and what I would like to achieve with it- the internal effect on the listener should within certain levels coincide with my own experience.
This all I can further shape by the visual presentation of the music. When I could choose I would choose for no visuals at all, because the music should speak for itself. But since I’m bound to the presentation of the music in a physical material form, and the visuals influence the musical perception, I choose to make the visuals myself, which by the way I do with great pleasure since I’m a visual artist.
By having my own publishing house Le souffleur I am freed from certain dogma’s of how music should be published. In general music is being published as a multiple, and almost never as a single autonomous piece of art. The reason for this is of course first of all the domination of commerce in the area of music. Because musicians have always been dependent on music-labels for publication of their work it has evolved in a one dimensional commercial music-world. Therefore I’m very happy with relatively new mediums as internet which can -in principal- finally free the musicians from the influence of commerce.
I regularly release music in limited editions which gives me the opportunity to take care of detail, and to release my music in a personal way which I feel is appropriate. Editions of 6 copies or in an edition of 1 sole ‘copy’ I feel very comfortable with, and this is in a way a very clean way to present my work. I take care of every detail, and it actually cost me effort to let go of my own creations. Which is in fact a very good sign. On the other hand, I’ll continue with relatively bigger editions.
More info on the work of Raymond Dijkstra can be found at www.le-souffleur.nl