Interview by Milda Urban, Summersalt Yoga retreat founder
Dimitra, who we have met at our retreat in Portugal, is a gentle, beautiful soul, a true and genuine artist, who just by her presence makes everyone somehow at ease or sometimes puts in a contemplative state.
She has started as a painter, installation artist, a film maker, but time and her path has brought Dimitra to sound which she uses to keep experimenting with and growing as and artist.
Dimitra has held a soundscaping workshop at the retreat, which got everyone extremely excited about the medium, she has also made a composition from the retreat that you can listen to at the end of the interview!
Dimitra, you are a Greek artist working in Amsterdam. What’s your background?
Ι am coming from Thessaloniki, a beautiful city in the north of Greece. Currently I work and live in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, constantly exploring the city and involving in multidisciplinary art projects. Having recently graduated from a visual Fine Arts department, I am more interested in investigating the sound art field. The core of my works at the moment is a continuing reflection and research on how sound and performance art, can act as open, dynamic process.
When did you realize that you wanted to become an artist and what were your first steps? How did your path look like?
We have all been little artists and still are! If one is really interested and passionate about a subject in their lives, it is still a form of art. Since I remember myself, I was drawn into visual arts, music and literature, while painting a lot as well. My first studies were in Graphic design, and having worked as a graphic designer in my city, I was missing the economic stability. Since I am coming from an environment than doing other things than dealing with art is more important, I tried it out for some time, starting studying as a pharmacist and work as one as well. While having learned a lot from a more conventional profession and environment, I never stopped painting and having this need to travel and explore. And so I did, quitted a standard life to go travel and study Fine Arts in the Netherlands. For me, choosing to deal with the arts more professionally, in terms of learning more about the field, was dealing with myself and reality. It has to do with the means that one feels and interacts with the world. I truly enjoy learning and applying new skills all the time, and being in the arts, can potentially incorporate everything that one could be interested in.
Can you tell more about the your art?
I have always been painting, but while in the academy, I had the feeling that painting, as a framed object and product, couldn’t answer all my questions. After experimenting with non-narrative film and performance painting, I began thinking of compositional possibilities of sound, time, space and the body. Visual arts and my interest in noise art started to compound, and begin to wonder about how sound might function differently depending the social situation. For now, I am focusing more in an interdisciplinary format with live performance, instant compositions and happenings with sound as a central element. I am into situations that engage with ideas from both ‘visual art’ and ‘sound art’, and require exploration between the aural and the visual experience. Where there is a synthesis between the aesthetics and narratives of both. I prefer sound as a medium, because of how we process and use it to read the world both physically and culturally, of how this can be activated. For me, it is sounds and their arrangements that mode our societies.
We did a workshop about soundscaping at our retreat in Portugal retreat –what drew you into this interesting artistic expression and what does it bring to the person experimenting with it?
We did a workshop about soundscaping and aural perception, made me really happy sharing it with you! We literally zoomed in our aural environment, and with the help of audio recorders, we worked on our active listening and documenting our immediate surroundings. We concentrated on walking, movement, and the relationship between the listening and the moving body through time, space, and place. At the end everyone described the acoustic conditions and the sonic events that each experienced, discussed about space and how differently we tend to engage with it. A soundscape is an auditory landscape that is simultaneously a physical environment and a way of perceiving it. Our culture doesn’t appreciate the emotional importance of hearing since we are mainly oriented toward visual communications, and this is why I am interested in investigating the field and share it with others. Active listening helps to focus and calm the mind; it purifies the consciousness through a developing awareness of sound. Sometimes, a different reality is being revealed when a sound is being amplified, we understand something that we would otherwise miss and instantly making stronger connections between our listening bodies, our memories ad surroundings. Maybe it really brings to a person a space for discovery and questioning the self in space and time.
What are the art project or projects you are most proud of and what are you looking forward to in the future?
Projects that I am proud of are projects that emerged from collaborations. Some of them are based on my ongoing project, “Multirealities”. It presents a live sound composition of the mixing of multiple soundscapes, situations, people and places as well as with the amplified sound of my heartbeat, through a heart detector device. All the performances can be heard and progress, as ‘real –time-heartbeat sound’ is being amplified and gradually mixed and synchronized with the other soundscapes, slowly creating a real time track. You can imagine for example a violin player performing in Amsterdam, a person singing situated in Greece and my actual heartbeat performance happening in an exhibition space in another city, all coming together through Skype, internet connections and being mixed on the spot. It feels like a synchronized instant live composition.
Through this practice I became increasingly interested in the dimensions of aesthetic listening, as well as on the aspects of immateriality, physicality and disappearance of the present, the body. No matter how the electronic media had involved in the field, a performer’s primal instrument remains his physical, emotional, and mental tools. It comes also as an attempt to research how the listener can adopt a different form of attention as the work is removed from the objective physical dialogue between remote places and the mixing space where a combination of audio situations of elements being presented. I am definitely looking forward in developing more this concept in the future, as well as participating in different collaborations and organize more workshops. At the moment, I am applying for artist residencies mainly in Europe, it is a creative way to travel, meet people and build new connections.
You are Greek girl living in Amsterdam. How do these places differ, do you miss home?
The main difference between Greece and the Netherlands for me is the weather! The two places have lots of cultural differences as well. Amsterdam is a European city that has a lot to offer, especially if one is interested in the cultural sector. What I really like is the openness of people and the multicultural vibe in the city, you can meet people from all over the world working and living together. In addition, I found it easier to travel to other countries when based in Amsterdam. I do miss home, the landscape, the sun, the nature, the people, mainly the people; since people are making the places at the end. Frequently, I am using the sounds of Greece in my performances and installations. It is different for an artist as to the choices one has. The art scene in Greece, although interesting and growing at the moment, misses the international influence and funding opportunities for artists. Even so, the field that I work in, sound art, it’s not that developed in my country whilst in Amsterdam there are already festivals and venues that support it. I feel content thinking of both places as home.
Listen do Dimitra’s soundscape composition from our Girls yoga&surf retreat in Portugal