By Teresa Serra
Embedded deep onto the Portuguese scene, Odete is a part of the Lisbon based experimental group Circa After Death. When watching an Odete live set, one must keep in mind that it will not solely be a cluster of well transitioned experimental club techno. Rather, one should expect a use of the body and visual elements that almost amount to a performance art piece. When having a chat with the artist herself, we got some insight on how this quality came to be.
I have seen you live, and let me say that I was very impressed at the performance quality you brought onto a lifeless grey garage. Could you tell us about your experiences with performance arts?
“Before music, I was doing performance work. I was studying at a theatre school and at one point I became disconnected with the work we were doing at school. So I started having problems with my body and my identity in the same way an actor or an actress would build a character and in the way theatre has “economics of visibility”. I really felt that those values of bodyhood and visibility were things we did at theatre school I was having a problem with.
Performance helped me create a world for myself, outside any convention of art genre. Not the theatre school, not the dance kids, not the fine arts people. I was experimenting with what a body can do. Then music came and it made sense to use music and performance in order to create a better world for myself. I started by DJing.
A lot of people say my DJ sets have this performance aspect to it - I never felt this. A lot of people see my sets as acts because they see my body as performance. LGBT bodies mainly trans women are often seen as performative, sculptures almost. It is like I am always a performance. I was just playing music and having fun, dancing, screaming at the microphone. It was never a matter of performing something. I thought of how people saw me as a performance, as my body generates artistic practices without me wanting it to.”
How did you come to start making music & how has that developed until now?
“I hate the expression coming out, but I started making music when I came out as a trans woman. It was a way of expressing myself without my body having to be visible. My body and my presence was always a demand in my previous artistic work, and I felt exoticized and fetishized by the way people looked at me and perceived me. It allowed me to create an abstract space, very immaterial, almost spiritual, that would embody my ideas and my feelings without creating an object. Music having that immaterial quality, it made sense it being the medium when I came out.
At one point I felt disconnected from my music, as it was in this realm of the ethereal and the digital, and when I started working with my voice I understood that my sound and music can be consequences of an organic mechanism that is voice. Not only melodies, but textures and my saliva producing sound. Working with vocals is new for me, but I started doing it because I wanted to reconnect with my body through music. So me with my microphone and my computer doing vocal experimentations was a portal to access my body in more immediate ways.”
Could you tell us a little bit about Circa AD and its role in the Portuguese scene?
“Circa began from discontent towards politics in the electronic music scene of Portugal. Rather than a collective, it is a way of thinking together through music. Circa is also a means of taking political action and debating what can be done for the country and the music scene.
Things here keep changing. The feedback Circa receives is always in flux, sometimes people want it sometimes they don’t. That is why I don’t feel the urge to do things all the time. Right now we are living through the apocalypse, and it’s important for us to realize that for certain people the world is always ending. For trans women, for black people. We are used to the apocalypse. We have to find strategies to think about the world. To me Circa was that, to think through music, about how we can sustain our community and engage in what is happening around us.”
Odete’s newest release, Lamento, can be found on Bandcamp. All proceeds will go to Casa T, a project that aims to aid immigrant and POC trans people in Portugal, giving them a house.