Pace Live

Duet: Lonneke Gordijn Talks To Lee Ranaldo

Conversation recorded on April 23, 2020

In this episode of our online conversation series, Lonneke Gordijn, co-founder of DRIFT, and Lee Ranaldo, co-founder of Sonic Youth, discuss visual art, music making, and creative collaboration in light of the contemporary moment, creative reflection, and unclear futures.

Scroll down to read the full transcript.
Learn more about Lonneke Gordijn and DRIFT.
(opens in a new window) Learn more about Lee Ranaldo.

Lonneke Gordijn (LG): Hello. This is a Pace Online and I'm waiting for Lee Ranaldo to join the conversation. Before the lockdown Lee and Drift were about to perform together. Basically, the date was the 12th of March. And on the same day that morning, we decided not to do it because everything went crazy in New York and we flew out the same day. So, this whole performance never happened. This is a great opportunity to connect in this way, although we already met and rehearsed in New York, we had dinner and it was really nice. We missed out on this great opportunity. Thanks to Pace for setting this up, at least to have a little bit of conversation and sharing with you guys. I'm in Amsterdam and Lee is in New York. I see a lot of people here in this chat. It's great!

Lee Ranaldo (LR): Hello!

LG: Hello! Hi.

LR: With all the rehearsal for the tech, of course something goes wrong trying to get in! Hi. Hello from New York. This is Lee Ranaldo in New York.

LG: Hi, this is Lonneke from Amsterdam.

LR: How are you today? We've been talking the last few days, and I heard you talking while I was trying to get in about the fact that our proposed performance at Pace Gallery here in New York was scheduled for the 12th of March. And the day before, pretty much, is when everything shut down and we decided to cancel. And we've been on lockdown ever since. It's five or six weeks in right now.

LG: Yeah, exactly. I think the date of our performance is also the moment that really marks, for both of us, the change that we all went through.

LR: In a way it's still unfolding. As we were saying before the chat went live, if we knew right now that we were going to be inside for the next six months, there'd be a certain structure and ability to sort of schedule. But I feel like every day I'm still wrapping my head around it and being a little improvisational or something with my daily actions.

LG: Yeah. Just to get an idea of where you are, how is the situation in New York? What is happening?

LR: Well, friends from all over the world are writing because New York is always in the news as this is an epicenter where it's really bad, mainly because there are so many people here. But it's really bad everywhere right now, as far as I can tell. It's either still coming on in some places, or it's slightly over the top of the curve in some places. But the streets are empty for the most part. It's very unusual to be in New York like this. Someone was saying they noticed that there are a lot of people out on the streets just photographing because it's such a strange time and there's no one on the streets. It's a rarity in New York. I'm in downtown Manhattan with my wife and my college freshman son, and we're mostly staying inside, going out a little bit. I was kind of taking all of this in stride for the first few weeks, and about ten days ago a good friend died from the virus—a music producer named Hal Willner, who was a good friend and has been given lots of online tributes in the last week or so, deservedly so. He's someone I've known for years, but that I had been running into a lot in the last six months for some reason. Everywhere I was, Hal was. We were hanging out and talking and he's almost exactly my age. Like a month or two apart. And when I heard that news, it just devastated me in a way. It made it feel much closer to me and to my life than I had thought before. This was about ten days ago. And I think after that I really sort of froze up for a little while. I didn't want to go out at all. I'd been going out for regular bike rides, which is kind of a passion of mine. And I stopped doing that and pretty much stopped almost everything and have just started opening up again a little bit. But it was a pretty heavy moment just to feel it coming that close. And since then, I know a few other people who have family members working their way through the virus. I don't know, it's been a very strange time trying to figure out how to how to deal with this.

LG: Yeah, absolutely. I'm sorry to hear that about your friend.

LR: Yeah. It was really sad. He was a titan in the music community, a long-time producer for Saturday Night Live, and a really eclectic, one-of-a-kind kind of guy. And the fact that someone like that could be taken by this was really shocking to me. I feel like I have good days and bad days. Some days I feel like I can start the morning with a good structure and get some things done and feel productive. And other days I just kind of ramble around wondering how long we're going to be like this, in a certain way.

LG: Yeah, that was something I was thinking about today.

LR: Let's talk about you for a second. Where are you? You're in Amsterdam.

LG: I'm in Amsterdam. I'm pretty much in the city, in the city center. Today I was on my bike—very Dutch!—going from A to B. Actually, I stay most of the time with a good friend in Amstelveen, which is very close to Amsterdam, but there's much more space. There is a huge park, which is almost a forest. I go there often and I feel like I have a little bit more space there. Today I came back to my own house and I biked to Vondelpark, which is a big famous park like Central Park.

LR: I’ve biked through it many times!

LG: I was surprised because it was so incredibly busy. It was like a busy summer Saturday and the park was full of people picnicking. Also, since mid-March, since the start of this, I don't know what happened, but the weather has been incredibly good. It has been summer six weeks already. I understand that people want to go outside. I also feel like I want to go outside, but I also got a little bit worried. You see that it’s starting to take long, it seems in our country to be getting better now. But people are still urged to stay home and to keep the distance. I think it's very dangerous if we start loosening up. But I understand it completely, because I also feel like, ‘OK, we have to find a way to live with this now for however long it takes,’ and the waiting and waiting for information and not knowing what to expect, I think it's starting to break up a little bit for everyone. So, the question that came to my mind today is ‘What is my purpose? If this is going to be our life?’ It's very heavy question. But the goal of what I do, and I think also what you do, is to create situations where you are together with people, where you interact, where people interact physically with what you are doing. This whole online world is not what I'm looking forward to, not what I want...I think nobody wants that...especially now we’re only watching on our screens the whole day. So, it's very hard to imagine that type of life. I don't know what it looks like. I don't know if you have those thoughts.

LR: Sure. I keep calling it the planetary pause. It's like the entire globe is stopped and staying at home to some degree. It is a moment for reflection and for answering those, or at least staring into the mirror of those big questions. What is my purpose here? If you're stuck at home and you can't interact, what are we supposed to be doing right now? And in a way, maybe just for everyone on earth to slow down for a minute, stop jetting around the globe. There are certainly some useful sides to it. I think we were talking the other day about artists friends saying, ‘Well, this is great. I'm home doing things that I never have time to do. Finishing projects, reading, contemplating the future.’ I think that's mainly what I'm trying to push myself to do, is figure out how going forward...In a way, I don't really hope things will just go back to normal at some point. I think that would be a big mistake and a tragedy in a way. I think big corporations are hoping that at some point they'll just rev everything back up and we'll go back to normal. But I don't see how anybody can go back to normal with this kind of thing happening.

LG: What do you want to do differently now that we are experiencing this?

LR: Well, I feel like this is an opportunity for everyone to refocus their attention about what’s important. What's trivial? What are the things we relish in life? Certainly, one of the things we miss right now is contact with friends and family. All those kinds of things become very important. I don't know, I guess it's a moment of maybe trying to clear away some of the distractions that everyone has in their life every single day and really figure out what's important going forward. I feel like I'm trying to do that. Get in touch with what I want to be working on. What do I want to be thinking about going forward? And, at some point things will open up and once that happens, do I want to jump right on a plane and go off somewhere in the world? Or not? Or when will it be safe to do those things? We both have work partners that we work with. I think you have a studio with many people working there. You want to get back to that on some level. But I hope we all go back with a little bit of a renewed sense of purpose to some degree, with what's important.

LG: Definitely. I'm wondering if because we are both part of the international community—and the art world is very much about going places, meeting people, it's very international—I feel like it's not one hundred percent right to travel so much. I still have to think about how we can find a way because we now know how we connect in this type of way. I think in many situations it works, but in many situations it doesn't work. I really want to minimize my travelling. I feel for my physical state and for my mind, it's so much better to not do that all the time and not constantly be forced to only react to everything that comes from the outside. That's something I'm thinking about. I realize now how much I'm constantly distracted by external inputs. While I have so many books in my house that I’ve been wanting to read for such long time, music that I want to listen to. I've been enjoying these things so much in the last weeks. And they're also very helpful because we all go through all states of mind. One day you feel great, you wake up, the other day you feel completely lost and you don’t know how to deal with it. You don't know how this is going to end, how to survive, and how to keep forty people working and paying them. It's quite a stress sometimes. And other days it's so calm and almost like religious or something. It feels so quiet and so beautiful, this world. It's so strange how that shifts constantly.

LR: I keep being reminded of earlier years, in my first years in New York when I didn't have so many demands on my time and there was time to just sit around all morning and read a book that you've been wanting to read. I've been making drawings again for the first time in a long time, just sitting for an hour and making a drawing. There's something useful about this moment. There are all these negative aspects of what's going on right now, but I think, especially as you say, the economic side of it is a really big stress forever. I heard someone on the radio this morning saying it's a moment they should stop all rents, all bills, just freeze finances until this is over, and in a way I know there are people out there that, you America right now it's quite a scary moment, because there are people protesting and clamoring to open up. I think tomorrow the state of Georgia will actually relax their lockdown and let people out again, and it seems crazy to me. A few days ago, there were images on the TV of protesting in Austin, Texas. Three or four hundred people standing next to each other without masks or anything on, and it seems absurd not to take this with the seriousness that it needs. Maybe if Georgia opens up, if Atlanta opens up and two or three weeks down the road thirty percent of those people get sick again, it might take some sort of a tragedy to push home the fact that this is not a short-term thing. I've experienced the same thing as you were saying before. If I go out on my normal routes, if I'm on my bicycle, there are way too many people on the path and it's kind of surprising. Summer's coming, people want to be out. As I've started to go back out again, I ride with a friend of mine often and we've been just getting lost on routes we never go down, like stray streets where there's nobody and finding places to go where we can be outside and pretty much alone and not bothering anyone and not in contact with anyone.

LG: Did you discover anything that you have never seen before and that you were like, ‘Wow, normally I'm not really looking at things or...?’

LR: Well, I think in general that's what's happening right now, whether it's outside the house or inside the house. One thing hanging over my head for the last few months is I had a bunch of different writing projects, essays that I was supposed to have completed months ago and just kept putting them off and putting the people waiting for them off for one reason or another. And this was a moment to have a little bit of clear space to tackle those things. And I don't know, just to shift gears a little bit, I'm not exactly even certain exactly what it's going to entail. Last night I actually spent a few hours recording music for the first time since we've been under lock down. I really didn't want to do any music. I have a new record that came out about a month ago, a few weeks before we met. And all of a sudden, to be in lockdown is kind of the last thing you want in that situation. Since that's happened, I haven't really picked up an instrument or done anything until the last day or two when I started to slowly, tentatively work on some things again. I think it's about trying to figure out some ways forward right now. I'm not really even sure exactly what it's what it's going to be. I don't even know what I want it to be yet.

LG: You can't anticipate anything. That's the difficult thing right now. Like, are you going to really change everything right now or...? We rely so much on our existing structures in that way. I think for artists it is a very interesting time to figure out how to deal with it. If you're not in the situation right now where you're just really surviving, because a lot of people are really under a lot of stress and there can be so many different situations at the moment, which is also very important to see and to know. There are also a lot of people besides older people that are in great stress and even financial danger or physical danger. I think there are also a lot of people who are not. And I hope everyone, not only the people that are not in danger, that everyone has this moment to also try to shift those things and has time to think about it because it's so important and it's so beautiful also somehow. I know this is very hard to say. And again, I don't want to say anything negative to other people who are not in this situation. But I think that this has never happened before, that the entire world is kind of in the same situation country by country. We all deal differently, but this has never happened before.

LR: No, it's the first time that it's a global, a planetary pause. It's the first time really that this has happened to the entire globe at once. It's like we're living in a science fiction moment, in a way. The scary thing, to me, is that I feel like these are the wars we're going to fight in the twenty-first century. This is just the tip of an iceberg. This is going to go away but, it's not going to be an isolated incident. I think this kind of thing is going to happen again. And in part it's about the fact that people are jetting all over the world all the time and transferring these different diseases and things. The thing that struck me the most at first was that it started, maybe, in China, if that's the case, and the Chinese government was in denial for as long as they could be before they decided to act on it. And then one by one, that exact same scenario happened in country after country. Our president said, ‘Well, it's just a couple people, it's going to go away by the summer,’ and everyone denied it as long as possible. And it seems like a moment to me, I was thinking really far out and hypothetically, it's a moment when nationalism is the enemy in a sense, because governments are trying to protect their economy and all this other stuff, when it's really a moment when there almost needs to be a global oversight over things like this. If there were people just looking at the globe in terms of global health, you would act one way and if you weren't thinking about economic constraints or things like that. And this is a case where certain things should have been done that just weren't done and it's still happening. I have a lot of friends in South America, in Brazil and in Chile, and their governments are denying it, and it's slowly building down there. That curve is just a few weeks behind us or whatever it is, and it seems like a moment when nationalism comes up against its failings in a way.

LG: I think that probably the most important thing we have to deal with and learn here is how can we deal with this globally? Because the next thing that's coming up is climate change. Well, it's not the next thing, it's already there, but this is now more urgent. But we have to learn, because that problem is so much bigger and if we're not going to solve that as a total globe and keep on trying to use these disasters for political gain or power play...I think it shouldn't be accepted. I've been thinking all the time, how can we create a situation that we can actually, with the technology we have nowadays, get what people really want. Not like polls that are taken by people where they measure it in a way that it's not real information. How do we get real information? That is the most important, I feel.

LR: Well, in a way all the climate measurements that have been going on during this time, noticing that the air quality is better, this is real information. Four weeks of a pause and the earth is happier. The climate is improving. It's a constant struggle between different sides who have different desires. I mean, it’s an endless fight in a way. It's frustrating to see it so clearly and to feel like some people don't see these things that clearly, you know.

LG: Yeah, it's very frustrating

LR: [Holds up his cat!] Here’s Teacup. Oh, she doesn't want to be on camera anymore.

LG: Oh! Haha, she wants to be private!

LR: Where do you do your work? I can't go to my studio right now. I have a painting studio and a recording studio across the river in Hoboken and there's no way for me to go there right now. So, I'm kind of reduced to what I can do in the apartment here. The funny thing for all of us in New York and in places where you're in a big city is...I talk to friends and they have yards to go out into and they can be outside. And it's much harder to do those things for people in New York and in big cities where you're locked in small apartments. This is one reason why people are out roaming around on the streets. I'm reduced to whatever practice I can get down here in my apartment. I don't know how it is for you, if you can work from home and continue with projects that are ongoing or if it really takes your studio situation to do that.

LG: We have a studio in Amsterdam North, on the other side of the water. Normally I am there every day if I'm not traveling. And now I haven't been there for quite a while, but I've been there a couple times because we had to have a few meetings that had to continue. Some projects are still going on, which is great, but you have to make sure they go on and you have to talk to some clients and show the progress. And yes, we are very physical makers. So still some people are working in our studio with the distance rules. That means that just a few people can be there at the same time, so everyone who can be at home is at home. I'm surprised how much we can do from home, actually. I don't really mind not being in studio. Of course, I miss the interaction and the team. I also see that things are sometimes going a bit more efficiently right now. I can still do a lot of work because I have to think a lot, and write, and decide, and we are working with a bigger team. Other people work out certain things and then we meet again and see it. But in the end, you always have to see it's physically. If you want to make decisions, that's the only thing that I can judge. I cannot feel through a screen. That is what's cutting out in this moment. You can detect emotion somehow, but half of the time when we speak, we are also looking at ourselves. We're not used to that. You know how it goes. You see yourself, which is very strange, but it’s also distracting sometimes in conversations. The things that I judge my work on and when I decide when it's good enough, it's based on what it physically does to me, how that makes me really feel. And that is impossible in this way. So, for that I need to have the physical interaction with it. But we try to reduce it to a minimum. A few people in our studio were sick and that is of course was quite worrying. Nobody was tested in the end.

LR: So, they don’t know if it was the virus or not?

LG: No, the doctors only said that it looks like it. You know, it had all the symptoms. But at the moment everyone is healthy. I just hope you like everyone, needless to say, that this just doesn't take on for another couple of months.

LR: You think it won't?

LG: I don't know.

LR: I have performances in Europe in October that I'm wondering or thinking are just never going to happen at this point. Some people are predicting six months to a year or two years. The predictions are crazy. Somehow, I cannot see it relaxing in the next month or something like that.

LG: No, no. But the strange thing is, today I got an invitation to present a project in mid-May in another city and I was really like, really? I felt a little bit invaded by it because now that I’m used to it, suddenly a meeting feels also a bit like, whoa! Really? Are we really going to meet? It feels completely strange to me, actually. And I wonder if that is a good idea. And if we can start doing this with keeping this distance, but I still think it's not a good idea to spread and to go to other cities.

LR: Yeah. I mean, everybody’s anxious right now and some people can’t work from home or don't have anything to do at home. I understand that everybody's anxious. I think we all have to chill out at the moment as best as we can. I know that's easy to say. That's not easy for everyone to do right now, but I think the longer we can hold off trying to go back to normal, the safer everyone will be when it happens in a way. But we'll see when these cities open up, what will happen.

LG: What do you think will happen if this will take a year?

LR: I don't know. I think it might really force some of these issues to be dealt with. There are people who won't have the funds to last a year without going back to work. So, are the government's going to step in? I mean, if ever there was a time for governments to spend their reserves on their population, this is the moment. I don't know.

LG: What do you think personally, for you? It's a very difficult question. Maybe it's too difficult. I also wouldn’t know what to answer, honestly.

LR: Yeah. Like I said earlier, I think if I knew this was going to go on for six months or a year, I would have a more structured regimen to my days. I'm starting to get there. But for the first weeks, there were days where I was sleeping at odd hours and staying up until 5:00 in the morning and getting up at noon. And all structure vanished in a way. I think I was also sleeping poorly from having all of this stuff on my mind so much. But I think if someone told me I was going be in for the next six months or a year, I could organize my structure and my life around that. But we are three people here in our apartment, so it's very hard to find privacy. This this is another thing that's been happening. There have been a lot more phone calls between friends, these Zooms and all this kind of stuff. So even if I'm on a talk, like I'm talking to you, whoever else is here now has to shut their doors or, you know, put up with a conversation going on in the main room. And if it's not me, it's someone else in the house. So, finding and carving out personal space has been a real issue, and trying to be respectful of each other's personal space as much as possible and just trying to figure out how to get things done.

LG: Yeah.

LR: Your practice has a lot to do with technology. Before we started today, I was reviewing your website and looking at some of the different projects and one thing I love about a lot of the work you guys do is that there's one sense where it's about a very pure idea. You know, the sparrows in the sky at Burning Man or the winged apparatus making the flight. And I'm curious how much of the time you and Ralph, as principals, spend on the idea portion of it, or do you have people doing all the code and helping you figure out all the technical stuff? I assume you have a great team doing stuff.

LG: Yeah, we have a really good team. Also, they're used to being in the dark, basically. I mean, very often we have an idea and it's quite fake and you can't really pinpoint or put your finger on it. It's a feeling that you just know when it's right, but you also know when it's not right. And finding that right is basically what we do together and it goes along with the development of the work. And sometimes during that we have already made prototypes because we do a lot with motors and moving stuff. Sometimes you have to come to the conclusion that it's just not there yet, and then everyone has already been working for months on it and things have to change. It’s sometimes quite difficult to play that role. But also, you have to, because you have to make sure that what you're making is relevant and that it’s being felt and that is the only judgment you have. It has to be real and it has to not just be a nice effect, which you can sometimes create with technology. But over and over again, it has to touch you, reach you and be valuable. And that is, I think, important. That is what Ralph and I protect with everything we have. For instance, with our project at Burning Man with the with the drones, the performance Franchise Freedom, we worked together with a developer. And he was working every day on the code and we reviewed every day the output of that. And I said ‘No, it has to be more like this. I don't feel it feels like a real swarm.’ So, we constantly go back and forth on things like that. But I'm not physically writing code. I understand the principles and it's basically a language. And if you know some of the principles...I guess I could learn, but I don't think at this moment that will be the best for me to do. You start sometimes to think in the limitations that technology has. And we basically want to think outside of those limitations and push that to get what we want out of it. I’m reading much more than normal. Normally, I only read on holidays, and I was reading a book that was talking about the swarming behavior of groups and in particular birds or bees. And it was a book by a professor in biology. And he said that in nature, when decisions have to be made, they're usually made by a super big group and especially when the situation is unknown. So, for animals, the situation is always unknown. What we are experiencing right now is what animals experience on a daily basis. The whole environment is scary. Nobody knows what to do. And somehow together they find their way and make a decision. And this is a part of their life, of who they are. And we feel like we should be in control and everything is set and we rely on all the structures that we built. And I also have a feeling that it would be helpful if we would learn to be more in touch with what life really is, these insecurities and dealing with those. I know it's a big thing to ask for, but I think that is what real life should be.

LR: Yeah, this is the perfect moment for that. This is a moment where no one's going to work or doing their normal daily routine and really wondering, what is the routine, you know? And in a way it's a time to wonder, what is the routine you want for your life—not what is the routine you have in your life, but when this all stops, do you want to go back? Do each of us want to go back to what we were doing before in that exact way? Or were there some things lacking there that could be worked on or changed at this moment?

LG: Yeah. Do you feel sometimes like you're under too much pressure, too much is requested from you and you want to have more time for yourself? Or do you feel your life was in balance before this crisis?

LR: I think probably everybody feels like they don't have enough time in their days. The pressure...I don't really feel that I operate under any sort of pressure, but it is good to have deadlines and things kind of looming in front of you to spur you to action and to work. At the same time, there are moments when you feel like, well, there's just too many things going on. Too many people, too many requests for people to talk to or whatever it is. This moment of pulling back like this has been really interesting because there's been more quiet time than normal, so there's been more time to think. I really think, like I said before, I feel similar feelings to when I first left school and moved to New York. And you had a lot of time on your hands. You weren't anybody. You were just kind of doing something. And the days could stretch forever in a way that they don't anymore, because there's so many things to do every day and people's needs and desires or whatever it is. So, I'm kind of relishing that moment and I've been kind of going back through it. One thing I've been doing during this period, I was set up just before everything shut down with a high-tech negative scanner, so I've been scanning all these old negatives from like thirty years ago and looking at all these pictures and remembering different periods that have kind of been swept along in the tide of the stream in a way. And then just kind of getting back in touch with an idea of who I was and what my desires were at these different points in life and seeing how they correspond and correlate to where I am now and what I have now. And I mean, I think it's just been a moment for contemplation more than anything.

LG: Do you want to share that? What you were thinking when you were eighteen?

LR: Well, I think it's more the fact that at that point there were moments where you had a really great freedom. You really felt like there was so much potential stretching out in front of you and so little was defined. And I think this is what happens as we go through our lives and age. More things are defined and there's more...I don't know how to call it, except to say that as we go on, we have more opportunities, but there are also a lot more demands on us. Whether it's the demand to pay for your apartment or whatever it is, there are just all these demands hanging over everyone's head that take your time and your attention. Whereas when you were younger, you really didn't have that many things to focus on. So, you could be more free-flowing in a way.

LG: Yeah. It's also the excitement that everything can still be. And now, the longer you're going on, the more defined your path is and you have to find it yourself and also you may be less free to sometimes try something completely different because you have greater demands in a certain direction.

LR: Sure, you've gone down a road far enough that to back up to the last fork would take way too much time and energy. It's partly about examining the choices one has made. I think this is maybe one of the interesting things about it, about just moving through life and aging, is that you get to see the choices you made. And right now, everybody stopped. So, we have a moment to examine the choices we've made and say, am I in the place I want to be right now? Given all the work we've done to this moment, are we where we want to be with what we want to see in front of us? It's interesting to contemplate at the very least.

LG: I have one last question. Could you see yourself in a completely different profession for the rest of your life, also being happy?

LR: Well, I guess it would depend on what the profession was, you know.

LG: Is there something you could picture?

LR: Well, there probably are. I feel like I took a very circuitous route to where I ended up. When you're a young person, you're never really educated by people, by your teachers and what not to think know, to be an artist is one of these things that's outside of society on some level. I was a good student, so I was kind of geared toward being a scientist or something like that, you know? I don't really feel like it's too easy to be offered, when you're a young person, the idea that you could spend your life trying to do creative things instead of getting a normal job and you could spend your life in a riskier way rather than in a way that's kind of programmed, in a sense. So, I could imagine doing some different things, but I don't know, I can't imagine at this moment not being someone who was dealing with creative aspects, to some degree or other. To feel like what you're doing has a fulfilling energy for your life seems most important at this point. I actually know and have been back in touch recently with a few people that I was friends with when I was in high school and when I was a teenager and they were very talented in creative ways, but they were too fearful of making the leap to try and allow that to happen. They plugged themselves into more standardized jobs, and they've always felt a bit of regret through their whole life about, ‘Well, I really wanted to do this.’ But without maybe admitting that it was a fearful thing, but just they were not able to let themselves take that risk, to jump off that cliff or whatever you want to call it. And they felt a regret through their whole life from that. I certainly would say that I'm not in that category. For better or worse, wherever I am, I feel like I took these opportunities without really worrying so much about, ‘how am I going to support my family,’ or whatever those concerns are. When you're in your twenties and you're looking at your future, like, ‘oh, I need a good job so I have money to go out to restaurants or whatever it is.’ When we started, the creative process was foremost and it was the uppermost thing that we were worried about and we were willing to live in shitty apartments or, you know, not have health insurance, do whatever it might have been, take crappy jobs in order to spend as much time as possible doing creative work. I don't know what else would have happened. Even moving to New York was kind of just happenstance. It wasn't a plan for me. I was playing with a couple of friends in a band and the idea was after college, ‘what are we going to do? Let's move to New York and try and play at CBGB’s or at Max’s.’ I didn't have a real plan of attack and action and in that way, opportunities came to me in a sense that might have been cut off if I had been more desirous of structure in my life in a really serious way. What about you? What would you be doing if not this?

LG: I think about that sometimes, because of course, I really love what I do, which is very great.

LR: You were you were talking about collecting dandelions. You said, oh, we go out every day and collect dandelions.

LG: Yeah, I was out also yesterday collecting dandelions because we make sculptures with dandelions, real dandelions.

LR: I was looking at them today and wondering if they were still available online. Those little ones with just the battery with the light would go up with the real dandelion.

LG: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. And this is the time right now, the Netherlands. This is the time to collect, we are collecting at the moment. And what I would love to also do if I had more time, besides what I'm doing right now, I would love to have a garden where I would grow all sorts of plants and try out natural medicines and things like that. That's something that just interests me a lot and I know a lot about plants. My mom taught me a lot in the past and I still have that knowledge. I know so many plants and what you can eat and stuff like that. And every year we're collecting dandelions in the fields and people are always wondering what you're doing because you're just standing next to the road and picking stuff and people just think it's strange. I love that strangeness. I love to go to those places where people don't go, that other people don't see and I look at those structures. I just I can get endless inspiration from that. I love seeing things growing and changing and adapting. And that is something I miss a bit in my house in Amsterdam. I don't have even a balcony. I don't have an outside. So that is something I have been thinking a lot lately. Well, already for a longer time. But now, especially, when you're more locked up in your house. I miss this outside and daily connection with nature and not with just going on a walk, you have a connection with what you see that you follow. One of the beautiful things I found in the last days or weeks, actually, was that I realized that every night at a certain time, a group of crows is flying the same circles as if they're all waiting for each other. Every day it is around 8:00, before sunset. This sort of connection with a place, where you start to get to know the animals, the plants, and the particularities, that is what I would love to explore more and the relationship that you can have with that.

LR: It's funny because when I was in college, the other real viable option for me was to be a botanist. And living in New York for as long as I have, not having a garden—which I always had growing up and I was really interested in that and growing plants and things. It's one of the biggest regrets, in a way, of not being able to grow things like that or to have a property to see things grow over many years. To see trees evolve or something like that. There was definitely a moment before I really threw my lot in with studying art as a serious endeavor, where I was going to be a botanist. I was very good at it and I was really interested in it. But I had already, at that point, decided to become an artist. But it's something that is really interesting to me. And growing things like that. One thing I love, and this is always something that I am really aware of when I'm in in Europe, is the word for it is pollarding, what they do to trees, where they cut off all the branches and then it becomes this gnarled nub and these little thin branches come out and it has that beautiful shape. You see it a lot in the lowlands in particular, but all through Europe, more so than here. And the idea of living somewhere where you could almost sculpt these trees over many years and see them grow and trim's definitely a big regret of living in New York, not having that kind of a situation. And that kind of connection with nature. And growing your own food is an amazing thing to be able to do.

LG: Especially when you have a little bit more time and being at home. Then these feel things feel so real and important.

LR: Yeah. It also can be tending your garden. It's kind of a centering thing. What do you do to relax from work? What you what are your hobbies or the things you do to just to just relax?

LG: Well, these sort of conversations.

LR: I’m a cyclist, so one of my main things is going out on the bike and just doing that hour- or two-hour meditation. Almost turning off a little bit and just being physical and moving through space in a way. And, maybe having some time to think about things or whatever. But I just wonder if people are finding themselves more in touch with those activities now or not.

LG: Do you?

LR: I guess so. You know, the one thing I've been feeling in the last week or two is less physically active. I feel like I'm sitting around in my apartment a lot more looking at a computer screen or a phone. And it really shook me a couple days ago. I felt like I need to have some physical activity. My body's just going to atrophy if I just sit in a chair and sit at the table and cook food or whatever it is. Side tangent. One of the great things about being home is we've been really cooking a lot and making beautiful dinners and things like that. And that's something we almost never invest as much time in as we have been of late, which is kind of nice.

LG: Hey, Lee, we’re already almost at an hour.

LR: Okay! Oh, we're going to get cut off by the app in five minutes. It's been great talking to you!

LG: Yeah, really nice. Really nice. I hope you and everyone is going to be fine. I wonder what this conversation would be in a couple of months from now. Maybe we should repeat it.

LR: Maybe we will revisit it and see where we've come to. I hope at some point...I had an amazing afternoon working with your Ego sculpture, if you call it a sculpture, in the gallery space. We did some tech rehearsals and then for a couple hours after everybody left, I just was in there playing and the sculpture was moving in the space and I was moving with the sculpture. It was really great and I just kept feeling like, ‘okay, this is just a practice. This is just the beginning of something.’ So, I hope somewhere down the line...I know that you guys use a lot of music in your presentations, and the music for the Burning Man drones piece with the guy playing the piano—a Dutch friend of mine said he's very well known. I love the way you use the music in the pieces and I hope we have a chance to do something together.

LG: Yeah, me too. I was so curious what our collaboration would end up with. So, hopefully we get a chance. It would be amazing. So, it's almost 12:00 in Amsterdam, so I'm going to cheers with you.

LR: Okay. Same here. Thanks everybody are tuning in and listening!

LG: Yeah. Thank you all.

LR: Great. Great to speak to you. We'll stay in touch.

LG: Okay. Stay in touch. Bye!

  • Pace Live — Duet: Lonneke Gordijn Talks to Lee Ranaldo, May 11, 2020