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    Edward Quist Embryoroom Interview

    Interview with NYC filmmaker, sound designer + artist Edward Quist (embryoroom) about upcoming exhibitions, working with Pan Sonic, and being attacked on the Subway.

    Edward Quist Embryoroom with Black Eye
    Edward Quist embryoroom

    Hi Edward, thank you for speaking to Discipline Mag. Your work crosses a number of mediums – from sound to installation, video to visual art and possibly more. For those who are new to your work, and to the best of your abilities, can you provide us a little more context to the different components of your work and how it all fits together?

    The approach to working is usually multi-layered through different mediums, essentially becoming their own entities, outside of the traditional definition of narrative film, or music. It can develop into different forms, at any length, perhaps leading to stand alone works, or installations. 

    Some of the films to date have been feature length. The audio can stand on its own as soundtracks, records with tracks, sides A and B, etc.. There are occasional live shows, which are more about playing different versions of the audio, synchronized to the projections. 

    The other areas explored are physical media, photo prints, objects, etc., and occasional documentaries that have been produced over the years. What all of this has in common is that all of these modes fit together in the same universe. That’s an important part of what embryoroom is.

    I get the impression you’re an artist who is always busy working on something. What do you currently have in the pipeline?

    For the past three years, I have been working on feature length films and records, and opened “embryogallery” in NYC, with two shows. “The Future is Dead” features a number of great audiovisual artists: Ilpo Väisänen, Alex Rutterford, Paul Kendall, and John Duncan to name a few. The second show is Ghost Hand: The Drawings of Alan Vega, and an experimental film on the drawings to accompany them. The Future is Dead show is moving beyond NYC. There have been presentations in Poland and Shanghai, with more to come. T.F.I.D. should mutate from place to place. It will also continue to do so in NYC at embryogallery.

    I recently had a show in Helsinki called Typhonic. It was a new film and photo print retrospective at the Tischenko Gallery from 20 March – 2 April, 2024.

    The next show at embryogallery in New York is titled “Beast Inside” set for the Spring 2024.

    Ghost Hand: The Drawings of Alan Vega at embryogallery
    Ghost Hand: The Drawings of Alan Vega at embryogallery

    My impression of your work is an intersection of dense synthetic sounds with dark & contrasting visuals under a New York City backdrop. It all feels distinctly urban, and this question relates back to your being a NYC native. How much, and in what way, do you feel this city has influenced your work?

    Being in NYC has completely influenced me. The city is a giant organism. Every type of person is here. All kinds of art and media exist, but the city itself can be a haunting place, especially in certain areas, and even more so in terms of the wider atmosphere if you are sensitive enough and wish to tune into it. Not everything, of course, is about the city.

    Edward Quist Typhonic show in Helsinki, Finland.

    As someone who has not experienced your work first hand, could you give me a sense of your installations. How do the overlapping mediums of film and sound work in conjunction with each other in a gallery setting, and what is the intended, or often experienced, sensation for your audience?

    The installations have been extensions of the films and their ideas and atmospheres, usually an environment with some individual work. It might have sculptural elements, with light incorporated, or projections cast onto them. There are several that have been rooms representing states of mind individuals are confronted with. It can be an endurance test, senses overloaded, or hypnotized, experiencing forms of fear; I like to think of it as the unconscious reaching out and taking physicality.

    The Future is Dead is partly about signals, energies captured on a bootleg video sent from the future, traveling backward in time to infect the minds of the present, a weapon of retro-causality. Whoever experiences the bootleg will help kill the future in some way. T.F.I.D. links to the previous films, American Cannibalism, and Escape from Coney Island, which were shown in a bootleg form, as glimpses of something larger to come.

    Projection and Installation from The Future is Dead Installation Exit Gallery Poland
    Projection and Installation from The Future is Dead Exhibition at Exit Gallery, Poland

    Recently, you were attacked on the Subway. What happened here? Have you found the culprits?

    It’s a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time and forgetting to duck. We have their faces. The ambulance crew were great. My face is a reminder that anything can occur and probably will if your instincts falter.

    As a New York native do you think the city has gotten more dangerous over the years? Or is this more akin to an isolated incident? 

    Certainly, after the pandemic, there’s a kind of mass amnesia about how to behave in basic social interactions. There is a huge mental health crisis pervading New York City. With the decaying economic situation, it’s a very bad combination, with no end in sight.

    There is no expectation that the powers that be will do much to remedy the traumazone that is this city.

    Beast Inside exhibition flyer at embryogallery
    Flyer for Beast Inside Exhibition at embryogallery

    Your work is quite evocative, in both sensory and thematic contexts. Has this ever led to an added layer of scrutiny of your work? Any interesting, or even comical anecdotes to share?

    There have been a few screenings that have had slightly hostile reactions, One in South America left me with marks on my neck. Luckily, I got out of that situation fairly unscathed. It didn’t seem funny at the time, but looking back, it’s humorous. It was a bit absurd; I never knew why the reaction to a screening led to that.

    You’ve previously worked with Mika Vainio and Ilpo Väisänen of pivotal Finnish electronic duo, Pan Sonic. How did this come to be, and could you speak of the resulting work that came of your collaboration? 

    I met them in 1997, when they originally called themselves Panasonic, but there was an earlier run in with them in 1995. I had been wanting to make a documentary, and when I saw their performance at the Westbeth Art Center in NYC, I realized they should be the subject of a film. Little did I know what it would lead to. Mika had seen a film I made in 1994 called “I.L.,” he liked the atmosphere and texture of it. He thought that might be what the Pan Sonic “Kuvaputki” documentary could look like. Along the way, it became an “A/V” film. There were long periods of shooting and traveling. A significant amount of footage, sound recordings and non-documetric work, developed. Maybe one day it will see the light of day.

    Pan Sonic Kuvaputki Documentary Edited by Edward Quist

    What was it like working on the Pan Sonic documentary Kuvaputki? This film earned lots of accolades from some very reputable critics which you must be proud of…

    It was a process that had several iterations over the years. For example, the original version, which premiered at the Sonar Festival in 2000, was intended to be released as a VHS. Then Daniel Miller at Mute found a way to produce DVDs more cost-effectively. I was asked to change direction and make a film for that format. The issue always remained that there was so much material that it could never really be seen on one or two DVDs. In the end, I developed a multi-angle DVD to help express the vastness of the material. Now, with streaming, it’s completely possible to show all of the many hours of documentation and experiments that went on for years. There weren’t many references when we started out with the project, but at its premier, it received what I was told was the only standing ovation ever at Sonar Cinema. We knew that it was a special film at that point. Mika turned and said, “This is going to be quite an important film.” The audience contained a who’s who of that world, and several artists tried very hard to copy Kuvaputki’s formula after that. There were many haters of the project as well. It wasn’t an easy time to make, but well worth the pain. There’s a great deal that is still waiting to be seen. 

    Given you’re involved with so many mediums, I’d love to know some of the different artists or works that have inspired you. Music & key albums, visual artists, directors & films etc.

    1970s to mid-80s horror movies, and the quality of their soundtracks. I know much more about what I don’t like than what I can point to as an influence. I’m unconsciously influenced by everything, so maybe too many to identify.

    As you’re a New York native, I’m curious as to what your impression is of the art world, music scene & creative community there. For outsiders, many likely assume it to be a glamorous experience from one of the foremost cultural centres of the Western world. Perhaps this experience exists in some instances, but how would you describe it from the inside – unfiltered and without rose-tinted glasses?

    The art is a double-edged sword. I’ve been lucky, starting very young and being allowed to develop through different mediums, combining them. I’ve had support and been left to my own devices, probably because not many were doing, let’s call it “multi-media,” at the non-abstract level I was. A relative freak in any particular scene.

    Today everyone and their grandmother, especially DJs, have A/V made for them. That world is driven by things in which I am not interested. Every so often, a gallery emerges with a great stable of artists, or just that one singular artist, and changes things in a real way.

    What is the best way to keep up with your work? 


    Robot by embryoroom
    Through Chicken Wire Fence The Future is Dead Installation Exit Gallery Poland
    Face wth light across by embryoroom
    Distorted face by embryoroom
    Distorted figure by embryoroom
    Deformed face by Edward Quist embryoroom
    Art installation by embryoroom
    Blood on walls of stairway by Edward Quist
    Installation by Edward Quist at Exit Gallery Poland
    Projection at Edward Quist Exhibition Exit Gallery in Poland
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