Bendik Giske

Benedik Giske. Foto: Luis Alberto Rodriguez

Artist Bendik Giske answers our questionnaire: »Wetting the reed never ceases to ground me.«

What are you working on at the moment?
This moment feels a little like crawling out of my shell, being able to share work that has been brewing during a time that is hard to describe with adjectives. ›Cracks‹, my second studio album for solo tenor saxophone is coming out on Smalltown Supersound in late August, directly followed by ›Perspicus‹, a commission for The New Infinity, a series by Berliner Festspiele at the Zeiss-Großplanetarium in Berlin. The latter is a collaborative effort with Florence To and Bridget Ferrill, two artists I’ve worked with for quite some time, where we explore and construct spaces with projections in the dome and resonances in the spatial sound system.

Who or what has influenced you in your work?
Choreographer and dancer Jefta van Dinther’s ›Grind‹ and Choreographer Frédéric Gies’ ›Tribute‹ come to mind. The former is a performance for a single dancer with an interplay between light, sound, and movement which through repetitive chapters reveals a vulnerability and presence. Gies’ work with Fiedel’s music draws from somatic practices and dance that deeply resonate with my experiences of communal dancing and self-expression. Both pieces have elements of labor and ongoing practice to them that in some way have illuminated a path for me, one that blurs the boundaries between movement, sound, and space.

What artwork do you return to again and again?
Evan Parker’s ›Monoceros 1‹ is an absolutely shattering 20-minute improvisation performed on soprano saxophone that just picks apart my understanding of structure and performance—again and again. Parker is one of many saxophone players whose work keeps inspiring me to make discoveries on and with the instrument.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
If I had known that I might have deviated a long time ago. I find myself engaged with craftsmanship, and I like staying with minute details and observe growth over time. Perhaps I could have been a gardener.

What are you reading at the moment?
My friend, the composer Laure M. Heindl was so kind as to give me ›The Oxford Handbook of Critical Improvisation Studies‹, edited by George E. Lewis and Benjamin Piekut. I received the gift as an extension of our conversations on improvisation and composition. Coming from a practical approach I’ve engaged with both practices for as long as I can remember and find any separation between the two oddly artificial. Digging into thought on improvisation in its many forms is very inspiring at the moment of creating that I find myself in now.

What should art today be able to do, in your opinion?
Big question—narrowing it down doesn’t necessarily exclude anything else. Art can be at once a discovery, and something communicated. It can awaken the mind to the existence of other perspectives and by extension contribute to a constructive world-building that includes and embraces diversity. The awareness of the existence of other perspectives, and the consequences it can have on thought and development is something I believe holds great importance in the times we find ourselves in.

What aspect of the pre-pandemic world do you grieveand what things do you not miss at all?
The existence of subcultures without leadership, the inter-connectedness that can occur where space and opportunity are provided. Our time is an opportunity to re-shape those spaces and bring forth the positive elements of such community building. Also, I really miss not talking about the pandemic.

If you had to sum up your work in one word, what would it be?
Laborious.

Do you have a daily ritual?
My reality revolves around daily practices. Even if project work tends to break up daily routines, I keep daily rituals in mind and return to them as soon as I can. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t pick up my tenor saxophone. The saxophone is to some degree modular in the sense that the choice of reed, mouthpiece, and ligature is personal to every performer on every level. Wetting the reed never ceases to ground me.

What art or culture-related events do you look forward to in the near future?
I can’t wait to get lost in techno again, in the dark among strangers and friends. To me, it’s just one of those things that put everything else in perspective. Theatre and live music are experiences which I treasure, but those who make these experiences happen are facing great uncertainty at the moment. I believe there are lots of good ideas that are just waiting to take shape and be created with confidence as soon as there’s some degree of predictability again.

BERLINER FESTSPIELE/THE NEW INFINITY
Perspicus Florence To & Bendik Giske & Bridget Ferrill
Performance 17 SEP, 8pm and 19 SEP, 9.45pm

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