Interview with Ludo Mich

Dylan Nyoukis:  Hey there my beautiful big man, how’s it dangling?

Ludo Mich:  Hey man, you make me blush!

DN: Ack! You love it.  So let’s just cut to the guts of the matter.  How do you regard yourself artistically?  I mean  you have baked a lot of pies, but do you see yourself primarily as a visual artist, sound artist? Conceptual artists?  Or maybe something different altogether?

LM: I see myself as a Holo-man. From the greek: Holo, A multi-D artist. I travel in multiple dimensions, disturbing all 5 senses, up to the sixth and further.

From an early stage, I already occupied myself with incorporating all fields of art and life into my work. During the sixties I made for example talking coats and floors. And I had also a piece that consisted of a shadow producing music with photoelectric cells. I always was interested in and referred to science. But in a psychedelic, mythical, absurd way with a good dose of humor.

DN: But there have been periods where you have concentrated just on one medium, like your holography days or while making films.

LM: One theme is consistent throughout my work though: experimenting with sound, light waves and motion. The experimental is very important in my work, I always looked for new forms of expression. That’s how I came to holography for example. This medium was for me the perfect way to express this, I was able to paint with light itself. I also made holograms depicting the sound waves of dolphin communication. For me it was a natural step after film making, which is also in a sense painting with light and sound. Holo cinema was the next step. But it was a medium getting too expensive to work with, since at a certain point it was getting more and more difficult to get sponsoring/subsidies for the production process. It left me with quite a few financial debts. After this I went back to performances again and focusing more on painting with paint, my first love.

DN: How did something like the ‘Brickman’ come about?

LM: I always start from a theme. This theme allows me to have a steady base, from which I can experiment in various directions. The themes can differ. It can come from mythology (be it Greek, Satanic etc…), or science. Mostly a combination of the two. Quantum physics and string theory is now a theme that is running for a while. With Jennifer Walshe I did a performance about quarreling robots. Brickman came to be, when Dennis Tyfus and Vaast Colson did an exhibition called ‘break down the walls’ where they smashed a hole in the wall separating their galleries, exhibiting in both as one. They invited me to do a performance and I decided to do a piece around the theme of the Golem, a stone man, a brick wall making music with a mason’s tools.

DN: Who was getting your juices flowing throughout the 60s and 70s?

LM: As there was a lot of stuff going on in the sixties and seventies in Antwerp in art, a lot of international artists were passing through here, I remember getting drunk with Spoerri, Stephen Dwoskin amongst others. I organised a film festival in 1972, having Werner Herzog over to my (moisture, fungus) house, drinking six packs. It was kind of the same what’s happening now, a constant flow of people, except for that we didn’t have internet.

DN: Who were you contemporaries in Antwerp then?

LM: In Antwerp you had all kinds of crazy people doing great stuff.

DN: Spill it, mango.

LM: You had the Wide White Space, a gallery in Antwerp for example, which brought artists like Beuys and James Lee Byars over. I hung out with the Art Living theatre, who were around in Antwerp for a while, doing performances burning money for example, a lot of that stuff was linked to protest. There were happenings going on where artists did performances in the street linked to the Anarchic Provo movement, which came often to riots with the police, who were not used to free artistic expression.

DN: Ha! You don’t say.

LM: Happy Space Makers were involved in this, who were Wout vercammen, Panamarenko, Hugo Heyrman. Ercola was an important collective who did a lot of psychedelic posters and zines, which I often worked with (George Smits was also involved with – who Dennis also did a release of). Fugitive cinema was a place where we could edit and show our films.

I was always an individual though, I worked a lot together with people, but I never was in a commune or collective or something, I was not so much into this hippie shit that everybody was into. I liked more to go against the grain, not to let myself be categorized. When everybody was wearing long hair, I shaved all of my hair for a while except for an antenna (with which I could communicate to outer space).

In the seventies I did a lot of works at Ruimte Vacuum, where I shot ‘Arthur is Fantastic’. My first wife, Ann Salens was a fashion designer, and I wound up organising the shows, which went into wild performances that transcended the classic fashion show, where dance and movement were central.

You had folk artists like Deroll Adams, a good friend, who played with Donovan amongst others, who came from the states, and got stuck in Antwerp. Playing with Ferre Grignard. When Deroll was sick, Donovan jumped in immediately to pay the hospital bill.

All these things are difficult to describe in one text, too much to mention. But the funny thing was, that (geographically) in Antwerp everything was centered around a small place in the center, around Conscienceplein, which they called in slang ‘de kant’ (‘the side’), everybody knew each other and word of mouth was important. Antwerp is a town like this, small but artists & musicians, meet each other often in the nightlife to exchange…

When Elton John’s first album came out, he came to do a performance on national TV here. We were invited by a bunch of people from our scene to come and act like extras in the back. Actually this gave us the opportunity to use this, to do a live freak out performance LIVE on television. This was unannounced. The television crew, and Elton John too, completely flipped out, and they wanted to remove us from the scene, but they couldn’t do it because it was transmitted live, so they were forced to play along. We ended up dancing on the piano, hijacking the show as it where. At last they shortened the transmission by showing the last ten minutes of a popeye cartoon.

DN: Ha! So how did little Ludo end up dabbling in all these strange and subversive arts?

LM: As a little kid I always was fooling around in class, entertaining the kids in class, my first performances perhaps? Scaring the kids with horror stories. Always up to no good, being punished severely by the nuns. I became interested in drawing and art from a very early age. I also decided very early to become an artist. Music was also present, as a little boy I enjoyed very much to terrorise the next-door neighbors. I was so intensely obsessed with creative expression that I left my parents with no other choice than to send me to art school. In this school I had a blind music teacher who taught us to make our own musical instruments. At twelve years old I went to a lot of avant garde exhibitions, where I met people like Yves Klein, Manzoni, Spoerri…. This had a big impact on me. In my teens I was also very deeply involved with free jazz and free music, jamming with friends. With one of these guys, Kris Wanders, I did a performance again in a gallery a couple of years ago. After more than forty years!

DN: How did that go?

LM: I’ve known Kris Wanders since my teens, playing music with him. In those days we shared a passion for free music and art, meeting up to dig through records of guys like Roland Kirk, John Cage etc… In those days a lot of our information came through underground zines, mostly coming from the States. We got together to exchange our stuff, and to play or perform together. After, Kris Wanders went further to dig deeper into the free jazz scene and also moved to Australia and I went further into making films and performances, in art shows etc. Now, a couple of years ago I had a show at a gallery in Antwerp (Dagmar De Pooter) and I decided to do a performance called ‘Fluidium’, about energy fields. By coincidence, Kris was in Antwerp, while he was doing a european tour, and payed me a visit. I saw in this the perfect opportunity to get back together and asked him to play with we in the installation that I made. I also asked Erwin (W.Ravenveer) and Maarten Tibos to perform with us, adding electronic waves to the energetic violence of Kris and me. The show was a blast. The gallery was packed like sardines and the crowd was enthusiastic.

DN: The Fluidium performance came out as a tape on Bennifer Editions right? Were you surprised to start making connections and collaborations with this younger generation of artists and labels like Bennifer, Ultra Eczema, those bums Blood Stereo etc?

LM: I always was open to what younger people were up to. I experienced the sixties, but now I notice, meeting all these younger artists, there is an immense creative explosion going on, of people expressing themselves in various forms and media, mixing them all together. It’s also nice to see my kids being into the same things, meeting them at shows, expressing themselves in music and art. I got in touch again with the experimental music scene through Dennis Tyfus, he came often to performances and shows I’ve done and knew him quite a while, and one day he came over with my son, planning to do a release of my film work. He got really enthusiastic about the music I’ve made for the films and decided to do a vinyl release of this. Since then I got in touch with all those crazy and wonderful people and still friends. I was amazed at having the chance to again see fantastic performances, still seeing wonderful shows. After the release, one of the first shows I did, was in scheldapen with Blood stereo. I’ll never forget this day, after a radio show at radio centraal we went on a drinking spree to eventually performed in scheldapen together, we hit off immediately, soul mates!

DN: I have a joyous headache just thinking about it.

LM: The show was great fun! I’m having a great time at the moment in my life with the younger generation.

DN: So tell me about the new Voice Studies tape.

LM: Side A “Odysseus’ Insanity”: I was fascinated about how sound & noise can turn you into madness, like sirens, half woman, half bird. Once in Greece in the 70’s, I walk through a forest where there were thousands of crickets! It makes me mad but I was even hallucinated!

DN: What? You were tripping? 

LM: No, it was real!!! Between an hour through the forest, it makes me mad but meanwhile it makes me AAAArg-ullicinated!!!

On that way I try to express it in “Odysseus’ Insanity” in my solo performance for the Diverse Universe Performance Festival at Extra Pool in Nijmegen NL in 2012 with a soundscape of crickets & sea eagles & my own adaptation of Homerus.

DN: The start made me feel a bit sea sick.

LM: ROWING, ROWING, ROWING!!!

there’s not a breath of wind!
nor a ripple upon the water!

Now take the wax, that I kneaded
into my strong hands to become soft
and stop it in to your ears in the sun!

But first bind my hands and feet
to the mast!!!
ROWING, ROWING, ROWING!!!
EVEN, if I BEG and PRAY you
to set me FREE,
then bind me more tightly
Bind me
Bind me, as I stand upright,
with a bound so straight that
I cannot break away!

Take me and bind me!!

ROWING, ROWING, ROWING!!!

OOHH! LISTEN! LISTEN! LISTEN?

Hear the enchanting, sweetness of their songs!
LISTEN

LISTEN, it’ s Glossolalia!!!
Please!!! Unbound ME, SET ME FREE,
I BEG YOU!!!
iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE oooooooooooooooooooo uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu
eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

DN: Can I get you a glass of water?

LM: WE STAY, PLEASE LET US STAY!!!
They are going to tell us the MEANING
OF LIFE
The Song of Complexity!
They are going to tell you everything
what’s going happened over the whole world!!!

I WANT TO KNOW!!!
SET ME FREE!!!

LISTEN TO THE SOUND OF SUPERSTRINGS!!!

I command you!
UNBIND ME!!!
You gonna be wiser!!!
I know you can’t hear it
But feel the waves!!
WE STAY!!

DN: What’s going on on Side B?  It has a more organic jammed out sound, kinda reminded me of Ya Ho Wha 13.

LM: That’s  a live performance from the end of my exhibition ‘Mesmerized’ from 2011 at Locus Solus in Antwerp, the name inspired by Raymond Roussel.

DN: Who is the band?

LM: Myself on vocals, my daughter Djuna Keen on soprano sax,  Maarten Tibos on synth, Krist Torfs on drums and Barney De Krijger on Soundbeam.

DN: Soundbeam?

LM: Barney is an artist who mixes all the materials of old projectors & high speed cameras for installations. His soundbeam was simply a self-made beam with strings on it.

DN: Tell me about the exhibit?

LM: I discovered that Messmer was a great sponsor of Mozart. He was thrown out of the Academy of Science because of his experiences of hypnotism. He is even mentioned in a tale of Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Ragged Mountains’. My Zig-ZAG installation, artwork & film was based on him.  The film was shown on loop, the woman who runs the gallery was almost going mad.  So are you surprised I love that man?

DN: Not a bit.