For almost 20 years now, Vicki Bennett has been working sound andimage in the most charming and surrealistic of ways, through thePeople Like Us (PLU) project. In the end, everything she approaches inher audio-visual collages is the world as seen in a creative andhumorous mirror. “Like a parrot”.
Chain D.L.K.: First of all, the context. What have you been working on lately?
People Like Us: Currently I’m working on a commission for The Great North Run 2009,making a film using their archives, and I also will be working on anew live set, which will be available for performance at the end of2009.Last year, I had my first retrospective at alt.gallery, which was agreat thing to prepare, plus I have released two CDs – the first waswith my colleague Ergo Phizmiz, and an online-only release entitled”Rhapsody In Glue”. It was made as a result of our podcast seriesentitled “Codpaste”, available from the Internet’s number one freeformradio station, WFMU. I also made a remix of Jean Jacques Perrey.
Chain D.L.K.: One of your last projects was developed based on thearchives of British electronic music pioneer Daphne Oram. Was her workan inspiration to you?
People Like Us: Yes, in a non-direct way. I wouldn’t say she inspired PLU, but Iadmire the BBC Radiophonic Workshop in a more passive way andappreciate what they have done for electronic music and Britishculture.
Chain D.L.K.: This was just one of the archive projects you’ve workedon. What, in your opinion, is the importance of the archiving process,at all levels? Do you have an interest in art history?
People Like Us: An archive is a library, a concentrated central point that people canrefer to in order to enrich and educate themselves in whatever way.Including creatively. I am not particularly knowledgeable about arthistory, no. Although I am an artist, I don’t really relate to the artworld, only to other artists. I fit in far more with the world ofmusic.
Chain D.L.K.: When thinking of your work, which would you say are themain conceptual purposes of your approach to popular culture?
People Like Us: I reflect what is around me, like a folk musician, also like a parrot.There is no message, more a mirroring of what I see and hear. But ofcourse the mirror is distorted by my own take on that. I am notcriticizing what I cover, I am more paying homage to it, since I onlyuse footage that amuses me in some way.
Chain D.L.K.: Being sound and image the two dimensions of your work,is one developed in function of the other? What’s your method,regarding that production?
People Like Us: I find it very difficult to combine music and image – at best it is abit like walking forward, where one leg is sound and the other isimage. They both battle for 100% of the limelight. Unlike your ownlegs :)So what I let lead the way depends on the context of the work. But itis a constant cause for confusion and bewilderment, trying to makeaudio-visually combined work.
Chain D.L.K.: Taking into account the projects you’ve also beenproducing for radio, do you like to work sound in real time?
People Like Us: Yes, I have done a lot of improvisation on radio, and some in a livecontext on stage. My favourite live work has always been for radio,because it is just about listening and also in the comfort of your ownenvironment. Also I like the idea of collaborating over a few hours,which you can do on radio. It can take an hour to even start to makesomething good. Then you can go home and edit that and keep the goodstuff!
Chain D.L.K.: You’ve worked several times with the images of the[Rick] Prelinger archives. When did you discover him, and whichaspects had an impact on you at the time?
People Like Us: I discovered Rick I think in 2000. I found the Internet Archive, sawthe lovely films that he made available for free download from hiscollection, and contacted him directly to say “thank you”. When Ibecame friends with Rick it was like going into the archive of afriend. He is very interested in people, and full of childlikeenthusiasm. He is an amazing and lovely person. It is Rick that makesthe context of that archive so appealing. The films are nice toothough!
Chain D.L.K.: PLU has always used a certain retro imagery in yourfilms. Do you find present images uninteresting?
People Like Us: No – they just stopped making films around 1980. Simple as that. Thecontext of the present that is in my work is me. I am in the present.
Chain D.L.K.: I presume it’s obvious that the visual dimension isincreasigly more present in contemporary societies. What’s your visionon the political and commercial propaganda we’re being served thesedays?
People Like Us: I tend not to watch a lot of it, so I’m not a good person to commenton it. I prefer to create my own world and try and live life in afolk-art kind of way. I am a commercial artist, and very much need tomake a living, but I am not driven by culture. I like to work belowthe radar and ahead of or parallel to mass culture a lot of the time.
Chain D.L.K.: PLU’s releases are available on the Internet fordownload. What lead you to make that decision? Are you abandoning the”physical” format with your releases?
People Like Us: The best way to reach people that may like you is through internetdistribution. If the best way was still through CDs then I would doCDs. Well, I still do CDs, but as a cottage industry, not on mass. Ithink the Internet is a big trash can, but trash cans can be veryuseful for recycling.
Chain D.L.K.: Do you think that the music industry as we know it isdisappearing?
People Like Us: Yes. Thankfully the music industry has never been very interested inme, so I will not miss it and they don’t even know me.
Visit People Like Us on the web at:
[interviewed by Nuno Loureiro] [proofreading by Marc Urselli]