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In the lead up to Somerset House Studios presents ASSEMBLY, a five day sound and performance event extolling the best in contemporary electronic and experimental music, LN-CC talk to super goths Agnes Gryczkowska and Alexander Johnston from NAKED, a duo engaging with noise industrial and extreme forms of electronic music. NAKED debut their new performance and installation The Cage – an intense and visceral experience, aiming to create an unflinching statement of self-empowerment. In this interview, Gryczkowska and Johnson talk about how sex, domination and BDSM are entwined within their work, characteristics of all humans and how they think style is one of the most powerful art forms today.
Somerset House Studios presents ASSEMBLY
Wednesday, Nov 14th
RAGE: PUCE MARY, NAKED + JOHN BENCE
Tell us about how NAKED came to be
The word NAKED itself summarises the beginnings. It makes you think of body, sex, beauty, disgust, openness and fragility. Human nature and all of its extremities is what we have been interested in since the start of the project and what we wanted to explore.
Your sound has progressively become more extreme and transgressive, talk us through that evolvement as a duo
Noise and distortion, by definition, are unwanted — sound that causes a disturbance. Think about Jimi Hendrix’s feedback; Merzbow’s harsh noise or Marilyn Manson; it has been made by and attracted those who in a way lived on the outskirts of society and accepted societal norms throughout history. We have always been attracted to it and used it in different ways.
On our last record we went to the furthest we have ever been using pure noise, rhythm and vocals that are either intense and brutal or, at points, submissive and fragile. We wanted to make a record which felt empowering, raw and visceral. A lot of our work is about the duality of human nature: about pains and pleasures and we gradually moved closer and closer towards making music that is more painful for some, and more transgressive than ‘easily pleasurable’.
The Cage is to be debuted next week at Somerset House Studio - how does this differ from your usual performances?
The Cage is a new performance which places us and the audience inside an industrial-sized cage. Imagine The Hunger if it was directed by Gaspar Noe. The performance will take place in The Deadhouse in Somerset House, an underground tunnel which houses the remnant of a former chapel. It will be visceral and claustrophobic and the performance will shift from the states of submissiveness to domination in a much more extreme way than our shows up to date.
The idea behind it is to question and explore freedom, control, abolishment of hierarchies and the refusal to dominate and be dominated. We all become both hostages and accomplices of the ‘system. The Cage in a way becomes a symbol of how we became like animals in a zoo - we are watched, exposed, we share our identities and want to be praised. There is this illusion that in a way we control it all…but do we?
Sex, domination and BDSM are entwined within your work, how do you feel that listeners react to this?
Our use of sex and BDSM is an iceberg. With our EP being called Total Power Exchange we wanted to refer to a sexual relationship where there is the submissive and the master. The control is obviously accepted and agreed upon, but this control is still in place - in a way it's also reflective of the current state of the society as well. To some extent we are accepting it.
Sex is as human as breathing and eating- but still, oddly remains taboo. We like playing with it a lot - we like the picture if evokes. We have also been inspired by Pasolini’s Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom - the idea of using the most perverted imagery to talk about demolishing hierarchies - its commentary on the bourgeoisie, political corruption and relentless sadism. This enters our work as part of our critique of the current socio-political situation.
It's clear you're both set on challenging the status quo through your art form - and systemic oppression being the at the root of that. Are you aiming to emancipate yourself or the listener or both?
To tell an audience what to take from our art would be boring. If someone feels emancipated after listening/watching us then that for us is a very positive thing!
What advice can you give to readers who are feeling like they aren't expressing themselves fully/honestly?
Trust your gut and never think about who you ‘should’ be.
Tell us about the brands you wear and the importance of style to you
Style can be a mask or a gateway. It can be a fantasy or a reality. It can be used to show who you are or who you want to be. It is one of the most powerful art forms today.
We are extremely lucky to call most of our favourite designers friends: Yang Li, HYDRA, Micol Ragni, Charlotte Knowles, Fecal Matter, HANGER, Fabian Kis-Juhasz, Dilara Findikoglu, Renata Trencanska.
what are you listening to at the moment?
Agnes: Naked City - Bonehead; Yikii; Godflesh; Deathprod - Treetop; Akira Rabelais - Spellewauerynsherde
Alex: Pan Sonic - Katodivaihe; Emptyset - Recur; Croww - Prosthetics
what else is happening with NAKED?
We are finishing off new music; planning a new music video and new live performances. I’m (Agnes) doing an in conversation about extreme romanticism with Gazelle Twin at Somerset House on the 17th of Nov. We are planning to go on another Asia tour next year. We have also recently signed a publishing deal with Mute so if you are Gaspar Noe, re-making ‘Salo or 120 Days of Sodom’ or making an advert for the Hennesey Venom get in touch with them and ask for us.
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