LSD presents: Auto.Diktat exhibition + Mary Ocher Interview

autodidakt main pi
Berlin based collective Auto.Diktat will be showcasing a selection of their video work on Thursday October 30th at Kottbusser Tor venue West Germany. The work of the collective revolves around the very real idea of being self-taught artists while “challenging the viewer’s perception of reality, non-reality and conceptualism and mildly touching themes of the social sphere“.

We caught up with Berlin-based Russian/Israeli musician and multi-faceted artist Mary Ocher to talk about the exhibition, music videos and her current work.

Hi Mary, you’ve got a group exhibition coming up with your collective Auto.Diktat. What is it all about and who are the artists involved in the project?

Auto.diktat is an art collective that I was the last member to join. It is Shermin Voshmgir (aka Kamikatse)’s brainchild, she’s a cutting edge Irani artist based in Berlin, who met Peter Baecker and Kris Kind in Vienna – all of them are self-taught. Peter Baecker is a performance artist/DJ who’s doing a 6 month long residency in Sydney, Australia at the moment and recently did a big project there at the Adelaide fringe festival and did the last Dokumenta as well. Kris Kind is based in Vienna and deals with extremely provocative social themes – with religious-economical-nihilist puns and his work is received quite well. He ‘s been part of the Miami art fair as well as its equivelent in Moscow.

The notion of being a self taught artist is sometimes deemed laughable or degrading by certain people who chose different paths, but we made it part of our manifesto, which can be found in its entirity here.

Being an autodidact is very much central to your life and your work. You left school when you were young, taught yourself music and a variety of artistic skills. Why did you go down that path?

Learning by doing is the only way I enjoy doing anything. I absolutely can’t bare being told how to do things and can’t stand teachers, bosses or anyone that puts themselves above you (nor do I feel comfortable puting myself above anyone, I’m quite radically against hierarchies of all sorts) perhaps it’s not the right way to figure how to get things done for everyone, but it certainly is for me and I cant imagine doing it any other way.

How much do you believe in the power of self-teaching in a world which traditionally tells you that you need to be qualified or have gone through the right educational channels in order to be able to perform most tasks?

It’s our little rebellion against these social orders, I believe in it entirely, otherwise I wouldn’t have dropped out, avoided the draft and left to Europe to become an artist. I think I can safely say that all of us went with their amibitions all the way and are completely dedicated to our goals outside of the realms of mainstream society.

You also say that “you believe that art cannot be taught”. Why is that?

Who makes these decisions anyway, ”what is art?”. We are disgusted by the institutional art, by curators with their noses in the air, they have nothing to do with the organic processes of creating something, they cater to the people with the money and not the people – neither the artists nor the audience.

Auto Diktat is a video exhibition and video is an important part of your work as a musician too. You’ve got videos out for plenty of singles (you even had a retrospective dedicated to your videos two months ago at Gallerie Nord) and they are all very different in style. What inspires you and what is your artistic process when approaching making videos for music?

Well, there’s the videos that try to get the music out there and there’s plenty of film projects from the past years that have nothing to do with music, or at least not made as promotional tools. I’m constantly trying out ideas and never quite know what to expect. Music and video go hand in hand, they either work well together or not at all. I fantasize about making a feature one day with the ultimate soundtrack and started hand picking songs for it, though the idea of having to have a budget just to pay for the rights for these songs sounds like a nightmare, because i have never had a budget to work with so far. I suppose working with other people is very interesting in itself, it’s always different and so many little factors have an effect on the results. I’m currently planning on making a couple of videos for others in the next weeks and I’m very very curious to see what will come out.

Do you have any favorite music videos?

Goodness! As a teenager I was a music video geek, i used to follow new music video releases and wait every year for the MTV video music awards – when the medium of the music video still seem to matter. I’ve always been a fan of Michel Gondry and his magical DIY methods. I saw his film studio exhibition/workshop at Moscow’s Garage art space a couple of years ago, it travelled a bit afterwards.

You’ve also recently finished your SOS project…

The Sounds of Softness was an ongoing project for about 5 years – with different people joining in and dropping out. eventually we co-directed it with Julien Binet, a French filmmaker. It features quite a few music personalities such as Bettina Koster (of Malaria! and Mania D), Dieter Moebius (of Cluster), Jochen Arbeit (of Einstruzende Neubauten), Hanin Elias (of Atari Teenage Riot) and others… It was an experiment in writing-while-shooting with the participants, we’d ask them certain questions and they’d improvise on that. The result is quite charming. We’re waiting to see if any festivals know how to handle it, if not we’ll just take it on tour across Europe and try to pitch it to experimental music venues/multidisciplinary spaces.

You’ve had a very busy year with two US/Canada tours (one of which was 50 dates long), you’ve toured in Russia, Austria, Poland, Germany, France and the UK and you also crowd-funded and recorded the new album of your Your Government project. What’s on the cards for you for the next few months?

It’s been a bit hectic indeed, we’ll hopefully take some time off after the exhibition to shop the album around to labels and play around with two new musical instruments i’ve acquired recently which is very exciting. Hopefully, come up with a new stage act. It’s about time. As well, plan shows with Your Government, we’re much much bigger than just my solo performance.

The vernissage of the exhibition will be on Thursday October 30th at West Germany and will run until 2nd of November. All info on the event can be found hereOn a finishing note, here is a brief selection of Mary Ocher’s best videos.