Photography by Victoria Stevens
Words by Luke Koz
Bands often brand themselves as “collectives,” though rarely expand beyond the production and performance of music. The Brooklyn-based experimental dance and music group Skint is an exception, however. The group renders definition irrelevant, blurring the traditional roles such as “dancer” and “musician” into an amalgam that transcends traditional definition. Working Class reached out to the permanent members of Skint, Elizabeth Hart, Busy Ganges, Emily Powers and Jessie Gold, to discuss dance, music and the 2012 election.
WC: What are you guys working on now, personally and as Skint (shows, installations, etc.)?
EH: We had a show recently at the Pyramid Club and for that performance we were vaguely referencing (David) Cronenberg’s ‘Videodrome.’ We always have a concept for each show, although how it turns out usually goes way beyond the original idea.
BG: We are working on opening a bar/cafe/performance space. We are the house band! The collaborative spirit within Skint is fueling this endeavor.
EP: We’ve also been talking about making more videos.
JG: We have a long list of projects we would like to explore. Expanding the nature of Skint into video is one. Our performance modalities are constantly changing, because our very nature is improvisatory. (We’re) translating that into video, making more albums and staging dances.
WC: Who from the original Skint set is still involved with the project?
EH: We are all original members, although we initially started out as seven. Over the years, we have had various other friends and collaborators join us at times.
WC: Do you discuss the vibe you’re going for before a set or does it just happen?
EP: Generally, it just happens. Although as Liz mentioned there usually is a loose theme and we take it from there.
BG: Our performances always just happen. We typically prepare some kind of structure or concept ahead of time, but the moods and energies expressed in our performances reflect how we feel about ourselves and each other in that moment. So the same concept could come across as peaceful in one performance and violent in another depending on how we are feeling and reacting to the space and ourselves.
JG: We initially lay down some thematic parameters for a performance and the spectrum of moods just happens. We allow the theme to shift the mood and shift us: our movement qualities and sounds, relationships between each other and between the audience. Typically, something new occurs that we didn’t foresee thematically and we allow that moment to happen. Our medium is live, because sometimes we don’t know what will happen next and the audience is a part of that moment.
WC: How much influence does the music have on the dance and vice versa?
EH: The music and dance are equally important in Skint.
JG: We are also all interested in and open to how dance and music can play off each other. My favorite moments in Skint are when, say, Busy is doing a repetitive arm swinging movement, I pick up that movement and do it too, we both accidentally strum the guitar that Emily is playing, a new sound starts happening on the guitar, Elizabeth sings over it and we all simultaneously move into a back bend singing what Elizabeth is singing. The possibilities of how the two (dance and music) call and respond, influence and inform each other, are endless.
WC: You’ve each been involved in other projects (Psychic Ills, Telepathe, Excepter, etc.) that are experimental, but ordered. Is Skint moving in that direction?
BG: Skint has worked with strict structure at times and very little structure at other times. We recently finished recording an album. Half of the songs are recorded improvisations and the other half are songs with verses and choruses. We like to change it up, but never really move in a specific direction.
EP: In certain moments, Skint is extremely structured and in others, it’s very loose. We have a few songs that are totally structured. I don’t know what direction we are moving, except I think it can’t be anything but forward.
JG: Having songs in our forthcoming album is a new territory for us. These songs came out of our improvisations. Where our improvisations take us next decides for us.
WC: Is there a theme that Skint is playing with? What feelings is Skint trying to provoke?
EP: Freedom. Trust.
BG: It’s hard to define or pinpoint, but Skint ultimately is about our relationship to ourselves and each other, and how we use dance and music to express individual and collective emotions or ideas. I’m sure we would all have something slightly different to say about what we are as a group, which is another thing I value about us. There’s no right or wrong way to make something or present what we do.
JG: The present moment is a universe. You can make a sound or a movement to reflect that moment.
WC: What would you say to someone younger who who wants to make art, but doesn’t think (s)he has access to the resources needed to do it?
EP: Do it anyway and over time everything will work out more beautifully than you can even imagine now.
BG: Everyone has resources for making stuff, some have more limited resources than others. What I like about dance is that no outside materials are needed.
JG: Paint isn’t just in a tube. Dancing isn’t only in a theater. Music isn’t only at the joint. Sometimes, making art, music, dance, etc. without access to resources will lead to choices that would not be sought after otherwise. There are always means to access art. Go for it!
WC: Who is Skint voting for?
EH: The lesser of two evils?
EP: You mean, for President of the United States? I guess we have to see who all of the candidates will be first.
JG: Our community!
Click here to see more Skint.