Daniela Weinmann is a Swiss climate activist, concept artist, and musical polymath. Her music as Odd Beholder harnesses the art pop modality to look at the human condition against the backdrop of the mechanics of modern-day society.
On Accept Nature, her latest single, she addresses the conflict and tension between being a productive member of the workforce and pursuing one’s happiness.
Whereas productivity favors the mechanical, happiness is grounded in the realm of emotion – the two worlds are at odds by design.
The single was taken from the forthcoming record titled Sunny Bay, due to drop on Sinnbus Records.
We sat down with Daniela to discuss her forthcoming record, as well as what it would take to create a sustainable music industry.
What do you think would drive somebody to have a love affair with an inanimate object?
I find it important to state that the exercise machine in the video is just a metaphor. My video is by no means an accurate description of “object sexuality.” The topic of “object sexuality” is interesting its own right.
I read about the famous archer Erika Eiffel and her relationship with the Eiffel Tower and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a shame how much hate and confusion her passion stirs in a lot of people! What’s so shocking about that? Her experience of the world is just different than for most of us. She doesn’t harm anyone. It’s sad that she became a target for hate crimes.
There have been some studies on “object sexuality” that suggest that it is a genuine sexual orientation and NOT a trauma response (…that needs to be cured). So I don’t intend to imply that with my video, either.
In Accept Nature, I write about a different topic altogether. The song is actually about feeling deficient at work. The main character in the story is falling in love with the exercise machine because she is exhausted and feels isolated. She is constantly obsessed with her performance, she is insanely stressed out. I don’t think she is genuinely attracted to machines on a personal level.
Our society is obsessed with machines, so it’s more of a structural thing. The woman is tired of being weaker and softer than machines and she wants to stop personifying this feeling and these shortcomings.
But by falling in love with her exercise machine and, if you will, experiencing the love of machines which is so prevalent in our society, on a literal level, she manages to reconnect with her feelings. And, this ultimately cures her, not necessarily from her object love, but from being loveless.
It’s not far-fetched to say that our times are defined by our disassociation from our corporality body. What’s your take on this?
The idea of such a thing like “our times” sometimes sounds like a stretch to me. Globally, there are so many different realities transpiring simultaneously at this very moment. But, yes, I am under the impression that the technocratic, secular – but heavily Christian-influenced Western – don’t do a good job at celebrating living bodies.
They worship the abstract. And the abstract can be a great trip and a great tool, but it’s not a place that breathing sentient beings can inhabit. Depression is often described as an absence of feelings, and that’s a very abstract state.
The physical world, especially everything that is alive, is bliss, pain, chaos, but it manifests in vivid colors. We should all spend more time there. We should allow our egos to dissolve and become Nature more often.
Your forthcoming record deals with some pretty heavy themes, the climate emergency being one of the key ones. Is your music a way for you to process reality or an extension of your activist work?
It’s not an extension of my activist work. Actually, since I have separated my activism from my music, I feel very relieved. I had to become involved in real political awareness work (I made campaigns for Music Declares Emergency in Switzerland) to finally free my mind again to be able to make art.
My album deals with my feelings, not with my thoughts. It’s not a pamphlet; it is something more like my personal mythology. Sunny Bay is earthy and chaotic, decaying, and revitalizing. It’s a liminal space where my friendly monsters live; where my dreams stare back at me.
Can we still afford to make escapist art? Or, in other words, do you think that artists have a responsibility to use their art to affect change?
That’s a tough one. I guess you can consume art excessively, and that’s probably not helping. Art is a good place for dreams and feelings. I believe that even though art isn’t strictly theoretically or practically useful, art isn’t luxury. It is like therapy. We need places in which we are allowed to grow our nonsense in a safe way, especially if we are to tackle such disturbing things like climate change, mass extinctions, inequality, pandemics – you name it.
It’s tiring to make sense of the world all the time, especially if you care a lot. I am very much influenced by the Frankfurter Schule and I believe that irrational politics are a result of a “rational culture” or the suppression of emotions.
I want to enjoy irrationality and value crazy artists, but I want to be governed by reasonable people. Sometimes I feel like it’s exactly the other way around these days. Artists make too much sense and cling to morality while politicians act as if they are clowns.
As an industry, what should the music sector do to implement positive change?
There is a lot that can be done and, deep down, I think a lot of us know that. We do so little for a greener industry, because we are under tremendous economic pressure. A lot of us are constantly fighting for survival, so our only chance is to unionize.
We need to meet at a ‘round table’ and agree on our strategies. Nobody can single-handedly change the world; that’s why we need to tackle individualism. We need to prioritize our common goal: creating a sustainable future.
That’s what Music Declares Emergency is already achieving: it creates a sense of community amongst people that agree on a shared reality.
We acknowledge that Climate Change and the Mass Extinction of species are an enormous threat and that we need to act on them. We aim to build an alliance of people that want to do something about these problems, by creating a platform for discussions and exchange of ideas and knowhow.
Dear audience: Support your local festivals and venues and believe in them! Build interesting communities in your own towns! Don’t fly to a huge commercial festival just to talk during the shows and get shit-faced.
Dear booking agencies: Do your best to create reasonable tour routes and encourage your artists to travel by land instead of by plane. But let’s also remember that it is far better to fly a great artist to Switzerland if the alternative is that the whole Swiss fan crowd flies to a huge festival in the Netherlands.
Dear festivals and venues: A diverse line-up is more fun. Also: Please re-evaluate your exclusive contracts. These contracts sometimes contribute to the death of a lot of small venues and make artists travel longer distances between shows.
Dear promotion / sales industry: We need to stop embracing everything that Silicon Valley superimposes onto us without discussing the effects of their inventions on the wellbeing of humans, on the functioning of democracy, on the environment.
Let’s avoid entering a world where everything is traded like stocks, everything is a form of speculation – a world of digital abstraction full of disembodied virtual communities. Let’s not just send bits of meaning afloat without context in order sell them to the highest bidder.
Developers and innovators: Curb your megalomaniac solutionism, if you happen to suffer from that. Question yourself. I.e. before you hype blockchain technology as a tool to bypass institutional capitalism, consider what it can do to the political stability of states / economies around the world.
Ask yourself if you are about to create an anarchic type of capitalism that is even harder to regulate. Listen to political science, seek advice, be humble, be considerate, make sure that you are not a bunch of white geeks that get to dictate the new rules, yet again. “Move fast, break things” – Zuckerberg is not who you want to be.
But having said all that: You know best what you can do better. Join Music Declares Emergency or some green think tank and suggest your solutions.
In closing, to end on a more optimistic David Byrne-type note, what are some of the things that make you hopeful?
I think hope is overrated. You don’t need hope to be able to love, laugh, meet your friends, and behold the beauty of it all. I have no hope that I will survive. Survive what? Life? I will live 90 years at best, but that doesn’t mean it’s all in vain; that it’s all pointless.
You can enjoy your ride and still be an ethical person. Hope is born out of anxiety, but love is born out of the awareness of how precious it is for us to be alive, how wonderful it is.
When I make art I enter a state of peace and joy. Art means so much to me because it doesn’t mean anything, and it’s still beautiful and deep.
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