'"TAR is a tremendous flight of fantasy for those who need to plan a way to escape from this planet or to save it."


Week 2014, June 30- July 6


Vanessa Daou,

The Ocean inside of the Mirror

by Luca Lisci


Trouble Comes' '  EP from Vanessa Daou's album ' Light Sweet Crude: Act One - Hybrid'

In one of New York city most known contemporary art fair we meet Vanessa Daou, artist, musician, singer.  Getting from one piece of art to another, we walk together talking about Mirrors, Sensuality, the Ocean and the Future ..some month later Vanessa gives TAR magazine's readers a special exclusive gift: 'Feather Waltz' , her new song, an hommage to music composer Kevin MacLeod.


Feather Waltz - Music by  Kevin MacLeod

Licensed under Creative Commons By Attribution 3.0

  Lyrics & melody written by Vanessa Daou






LL  While listening your sounds and lyrics we are surrounded by a charming, sensual energy.

How does your art relates to sexuality? How do you define ‘feminine’ ?


VANESSA DAOU Sensuality & sexuality are intricately connected for me. In many ways, it's like a game tug of war, when the rope is being pulled one way or the other. t's the same rope, but the two sides are distinctly different. And like the game, if one side pulls hard enough, the balance will tip, and the game ends, as does the fun. The idea is to find that balance.


My art revolves around these themes, and within the walls of that thematic space, I find infinite interest as all aspects of (my) experience & existence come into play.


I associate sensuality with grace, and sexuality with power. These are, again, two distinct attributes that reside in oneself, and, consciously or not, we're always choosing or taking sides. Culturally, we're living in a time where power is winning the game, and, given the choice, most

would probably choose power over grace.


The 'feminine' to me is a quality. I've always associated the 'feminine' first-and-foremost with grace, or more accurately, the feminine will always be associated  with grace: a woman will always be measured up and against it. She either has grace, or she lacks it. She is either 'feminine' or 'masculine'. As with many (dare I say, most?) ideas and concepts, there's no English word for being a little bit of both. For the most part, society isn't satisfied with 'in-between'.




LL You are the author of many of your recent music videos. As we follow your production in time we get more and more into a peculiar symbolic language,  where you ,the artist, are the person reflected in the screen as a mirror. How do you consider yourself in this role?


VANESSA DAOU  It all happens at a fundamentally subconscious as well as decisive level.


I suppose it has to do with the artists, writers and musicians I've been drawn to. I think what happens is that over time, the artists one admires take residence in the creative self. Artists like Duchamp, Klee, Kandinsky, Motherwell, Kahlo, Coltrane, Billie Holiday, Leonard Cohen, have all done just that.


In the early 2000's I was considering going to Graduate School, and took on a project at the Dedalus Foundation in New York City, Motherwell's Estate. I became the Head of Visual Research and Archives, and spent 2 years painstakingly studying & archiving 15,000+ of images for his Catalogue Raisonee, and made numerous significant  findings about his work which overturned previous research & scholarship.


The findings had a lot to do with the act of 'looking', of course, but 'seeing' is another thing entirely. I would say that Motherwell - quite literally - opened my eyes to that fact, and to that ACT. The act of seeing is separate but connected to the act of 'reflecting', and further, of thinking.


Robert Motherwell used the word 'languageing'. The artists I'm drawn to all do exactly that, over time, develop their own language, vocabulary and syntax.


I think we're living in a time when the idea of the 'mirror' is inextricable from the ubiquitous 'selfie', which, for the most part, reveals in a shallow reading of ones 'self'. But even there, rarely, one can find glimmers of a persons inner self or 'soul'.


There are many layers of meaning to the 'mirror'. Ones looking in the mirror is an act which - apart from self-reflection -  also involves ones search for clarity, a search self, and meaning.


Further, a woman looking in the mirror is and has always been an act which is separate and different from a man looking in the mirror. A woman looking in the mirror will always be associated with vanity, and a man in the mirror, with thought.


So the mirror is a screen, but it is also a 'space'. The metaphorical as well as literal 'mirror' has become a source of fascination to me as an artist who is drawn to complexity.




LL Have you a recurrent dream?


VANESSA DAOU The Ocean, in every permutation: crystal clear, calm, roiling, tidal waves, slowly rising as seen through my window, quickly rising at a distance, swimming with whales, swimming across the ocean...... You name it, I've dreamed it!


My most recurring dream is of breathing underwater. I've been told that I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk, and from an early age, I've had the recurring dream that I had found secret gills on the sides of my neck which allowed this.


I 'knew' - in the way one can only know in dreams - that they were primordial vestiges. Throughout my early youth, I used to try this while swimming or in the bathtub.




LL  We are talking these days of what is that define ‘Future’ in our mind.. Which is defining ‘Future’ in yours?


VANESSA DAOU For me, the future has to do with a change the way we think about things. The future has to do with synthesis. It's not (just) that the lines between things will get blurred, it's that in the future we'll realize that the differentiation between things do not exist.


Defining my future is merging my art into a unified whole: a book, a play, a dance, a film, a video, a long prose poem, an album, all as one..




LL Which are the territories of contemporary art that you are most attracted to?


VANESSA DAOU I'm very attracted to Art which explores the intersections of Art & Science. Although I find that a lot of what is being done lacks the aesthetic qualities that engage me & falls more in the realm of Biology or Physics.


Two visual artists who are provoking & inspiring me are Charles Lindsay and Janet Cardiff, both exploring neoteric visual & immersive realms which involve sound and Nature.


Dancer Jennifer Monson, artistic director of iLAND (Interdisciplinary Laboratory for Art, Nature and Dance), researches movement & systems & is groundbreaking in this field.


Poetry. Absolutely anything & all published by Sibling Rivalry Press, including the work of Collin Kelley, Jen Hadfield, Tom Chivers, Anne Carson & Tracy K. Smith, all share a love of the visual, of language & storytelling.




LL Can you describe your creation process?


VANESSA DaOU  My process has to do with being fully immersed & engaged in the everyday experience of life. From walking down the street to riding the subway to brushing my teeth, brewing coffee and drinking water.


I'm always listening, looking, hearing, seeing, thinking, writing, singing, moving, ruminating, 'reflecting'.


I consider my entire 'self' as my instrument, and like all instruments, I need to keep myself tuned & attuned to my environment & surroundings. As much as possible, I record my ideas & thoughts, into my voice record app, iPad and notebook.


I continuously immerse myself in the work of other writers, poets, music, video, art, dance & film. And while this involves technology to a large degree, staying connected to the physical & material world is a crucial part of the equation.



LL Which are your best inspirations? What gets your attention?


VANESSA DAOU I would say the unexpected. A turn of a phrase I had never considered or imagined, the slightest shift in the tone of an instrument or nuance of timbre of a singer. A way of saying or interpreting something I had never considered. A singer's guttural tone while singing softly about a fragile or beautiful moment, that gets me.



LL Which is your relationship with technology, while doing your music and art?


VANEssA DAOU   Since the internet was first coming up, in the mid 90s, I've had a love affair, of sorts, with Technology. My entire album 'Plutonium Glow' revolved around the separate-but-related concept of inner space & outer space. The internet was, and still is for me, the ultimate creative frontier: where

complexity & clarity exist in equal measure. One can get happily 'lost' in the panoply of choices, or find oneself mesmerized by the slow unfolding moments of a live ocean cam.


I also love the many & varied music & beat making apps on my iPad.


It's in the realm of Video that I'm finding the most potential to integrate & synthesize my ideas which are intimately connected with technology; it's a medium I'll continue to explore, as I do in my new video for 'Trouble Comes'.




LL There are many possibilities for musicians and creatives to spread their works, the internet makes every artist a publisher too. We are in the age of the  ‘internet superstar’ very related to the main industry but also in the age of the massive independent movement growing from the social media. How do you  relate to both? How do you consider alternative form of distribution of rights like Creative Commons?


VANESSA DAOU  Yes, absolutely. There's a strange & fascinating non-differentiation that's happening, where someone with extreme talent honed over many years gets the equivalent video hits as a 3 year old boy who dances like Elvis.


This conflagration of stardom and fame is not superficial, it goes to the core of our culture which places more value on stardom, which is achieved, and fame, which is earned. It's a kind of 'value vortex', where everyone who gets pulled in eventually gets sucked into the spiral. It's entertaining, but, in the end, limited & short-lived because there's no depth of spirit.


Being someone who likes to inhabit the "in-between", I am exploring various distribution modes as an artist. I've been both a major label artist & an independent one, which is rare. These 2 realms are, for now, mutually exclusive. Being an independent artist involves engaging directly in the social experiment that has come to be known as social media which necessitates a certain nimble-mindedness and generosity of spirit.


As radical as it seems, the irony is, we can look to the past for ways in which the Creative Commons model has worked. Before there were the huge publishing & distribution companies, songs were  sung & dispersed freely. The song 'Amazing Grace', for instance, has a long & complex history, and is a great example of how a "share-freely"  approach is an immensely powerful one.


The Creative Commons is a noble & grand idea, one which I'm only beginning to tap into with "Feather Waltz", the song I wrote to Kevin MacLeod's stunning piano composition.


I think the Creative Commons model it's where things are heading in the future, but the previous and current systems which are governed by profit & greed  will not go down without a fight.




LL Which are your next project? What can we expect from you in our next future?


VANESSA DAOU My next project is 'Light Sweet Crude | Act 2: Stripped', a continuation of  'Light Sweet Crude | Act 1: Hybrid', with a new set of songs.


Whereas Act 1 hinged on the idea of 'Hybridity', my new material revolves around the idea of being 'Stripped'.


I'm also working on 2 live shows which are each aligned with these themes: a 'Hybrid' show, which is geared toward my dance oriented remixes, involving a video projection and 2 dancers; a 'Stripped' acoustic oriented show, with 3 live musicians.


The future most definitely involves more & further explorations of sound & video in my music, including a collaboration with Charles Lindsay, and a personal scent collaboration with Perfumer Dana El Masri, inspired by, of course! the Ocean.


VANESSA DAOU is known internationally for her signature breathy vocal style. On each of her albums, she has explored her musical influences & mixed them into her own unique hybrid brew of Jazz, Blues, Rock, Folk & Electronica. As a Visual Arts and Art History major at Barnard College, Vanessa has approached her art as a synthesis of sight, sound, dance, written word and song. Vanessa Daou fans are legion and loyal. Some trace their fealty back to the early 90s, when as The Daou – with then-husband, producer Peter Daou – she plunged underground dancefloors worldwide into deep club anthems like “Surrender Yourself,” and “Give Myself to You” (remixed by Danny Tenaglia). Others discovered her on the release of her first solo album, ZIPLESS, a riveting, sexually-charged spoken word and music collaboration with feminist writer and poet Erica Jong. And still others were smitten by her subsequent, conceptually driven albums such as PLUTONIUM GLOW, DEAR JOHN COLTRANE and JOE SENT ME. LIGHT SWEET CRUDE | Act 1: Hybrid marks Vanessa Daou's 7th solo album released on her current imprint Daou Records. Daou has been featured in The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure, Billboard, TIME, VIBE, URB, Mixer, Wire, ELLE France, Vogue Homme, Il Quotidiano, Le Monde, The Toronto Star and many more, & has toured with JAZZMATAZZ/GURU, ZIGGY MARLEY, JAMIROQUAI and Parisian pop icon ETIENNE DAHO.


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