Holly Herndon Flips the Dynamic Between Audience and Performer with 'Platform'

Holly Herndon Flips the Dynamic Between Audience and Performer with 'Platform'
Photo: Stan Musilek
On the eve of the release of her album Platform, Holly Herndon talked to Exclaim! about her previous experimental performances, the process of translating her complex music into a live setting, and what to expect from her upcoming tour.
 
Herndon's music is known for its blurred boundaries, and Platform is no different. Having worked with several vocal collaborators and incorporated complex processing and custom software into her vision of music that transgresses the boundaries between people and computers, her planned live performance is no less ambitious. For Herndon, the creative process doesn't finish with the recording.

"I see Platform as this ongoing project," she explains. "I want to integrate some of the concepts and ideas from the album into the live setting, including people who aren't necessarily musicians into the shows."
 
This wouldn't be the first time Herndon has worked with other artists. Her Collusion project in 2011, a collaboration with Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani and her partner Mat Dryhurst, integrated the audience by calling attendees on their cellphones from the stage, as well as sampling the audience's applause, playing it back to them at the end.
 
For Herndon, this mischievous side to her performance is important.
 
"I think one of the roles of the artist is to be a trickster... that's something I definitely enjoy. We did a show in San Francisco a couple of months ago where we installed surveillance cameras around the audience, controlled by artist Michael Guidetti. Whenever anyone would go on their phone in the concert, we would zoom in on the screen and project it on the wall."
 
This disruptive side looks set to continue on her upcoming tour through collaboration with Akihiko Taniguchi, a Tokyo-based digital artist and developer behind the video for "Chorus." Herndon tells us that "he has this program that we're using right now, where I can create a virtual audience, add members of the audience into the video, and switch them around."
 
Herndon has been integrating the audience into her performances for some time, but these hyper-technological innovations are also about commenting on issues of privacy in the digital world. For Herndon, technology is clearly an intimate and personal space, and this permeates the very basis of her music. These performance techniques go beyond a deconstruction of the boundaries between audience and performer, acting as a sometimes uncomfortable lens, laying bare to the audience how personal our engagement with technology has become.

"We like to flip the dynamic a bit," she adds.
 
Beyond the more abstract conversation around intimacy and the internet, Herndon is very aware of the localized contexts her music is performed in.

"I'm really interested in trying to make performances in specific places unique to those places. I don't like the idea of plugging and playing the same thing everywhere," she says.

Platform is out now on RVNG Intl./4AD. Though Herndon doesn't currently have any live dates scheduled for Canada, you can see her live itinerary here.