Paul Virilio, the French urban planner and essayist, and his work Polar Inertia serve as literal inspiration for the band’s name. At the time he was a point of convergence for all our inspirations. His work broaches on the contradiction of a world subjected to a speed that facilitates exchanges, and the tendency found in human nature to retreat into a certain form of inertia. I see it as an illustration of a deep solitude that is faced with modernity… However, it’s the title of his essay The Aesthetics of Disappearance — always very poetic — that would be more representative of the idea behind Polar Inertia: a vaporous and shapeless mass…
A story behind Polar Inertia?
The adventure begins with my colleague and I who are responsible for the audio. I represent the spontaneous entity, which today is the soldier at the front line, while my partner chose to leave the club scene. He still happens to play in other contexts (galleries, museums…). He is nevertheless the creator behind 70% of Polar Inertia’s productions. We very quickly called on the anonymous writer that we call the narrator. This science fiction writer is the off-voice that we hear for three minutes and fourteen seconds at the beginning of each record, from one album to another, during which he talks about some of his story. And, naturally, we’ve managed to grow a collective aesthetic — visual, auditory and conceptual — with the people we join with, always anonymously. There’s our old philosophy professor, once a raver, a photographer friend who lives in Berlin, another sculptor friend who completed a piece during a Polar Inertia exhibition in Brussels… Bit by bit we’re building ourselves through projects, an idea I really like.
We don’t really like that word either (smiles). We have a tendency to define ourselves as going in the same direction as an abstract and thinking entity in which the erasure of each member’s individuality has the ultimate goal of making the work come to life at a certain point. Metaphorically speaking, we find this idea in the collective experience that is techno: coming together with the music in order to forget yourself as a person.
A bit. Or an attempt. Maybe it’s a philosophy made from fragments of individuals, individuals who were forced to think and justify their ideas in a very precise and documented way. This brings about different directions, ultimately making it purposefully very difficult to define. Which is why we refer to ourselves as “the aesthetics of disappearance”, which is at the heart of the techno party: forgetting or losing oneself in order to live together.
These repetitive rhythms, are they trance or hypnosis?
Hypnosis seems more authoritarian to me, since it refers to the idea that someone’s controlling you to bring you somewhere. Putting people in a trance would be truer of our being thanks to the rhythmic repetition that is techno. I like to take myself out in order to give back, but I start with the idea that if I can be satisfied with this thing, by vaguely entering this trance, I imagine that those around must feel it. As such, the first person to satisfy is myself. I would therefore be my own observer even if, generally, I work with emotions that I assume some others share. It could be paradoxical, since it could be understood that I’m trying to satisfy the public by giving it what it wants, but I think that it’s more sincere to try and satisfy yourself.
The speed, in contrast, wouldn’t it be proof of a society that’s slowing down?
Techno and speed make me think in a way that we’re looking to lose ourselves in order to forget. But the speed in a techno set, whether it be fast or slow, can be appreciated as long as it fits with the context. Take DJ Stingray, 150BPM devotee: it’s a fact that the body cannot follow the rhythm for too long. It would also be interesting to look into the question as to why people want to dance longer.
Do you believe in the power of frustration?
Frustration brings a lot to creativity — big industrial cities like Detroit, where the first experimentations with techno happened, are an example. There was also Krafwerk in Düsseldorf. All this makes me think that artists seem to live in a deep state of boredom. Isn’t that melancholia? In my creative process, in situations that seem frustrating, I instead find a way to create unexpected things. For example, on the airplane, with only my laptop and the total absence of any material, I can compose complexes melodies that I would never have been able to write in my studio, surrounded by my sequencers. And if you pay little attention to the world in general, you can see the good in everything that happens to you, right? I think everything happens for a reason and it’s in this way that I try to live — in a perfect balance.
And what about energy transmission?
Yes, I really do think that something happens: the artist’s state of mind can be felt. As an artist this could be intimidating but, when I play, I don’t focus on what’s happening. It’s only at the end that I realise and observe the result. As a dancer, I’ve often felt that something is being done and I find that pretty intriguing.
Techno: music of the future?
Raster Noton would be my idea of the music of the future: a label that works with glitches and sounds that make me think of computer errors. In fact, I can imagine myself on the dancefloor in 2050 surrounded by people who don’t know how to dance since the rhythmic seems confusing to our bodies. I don’t claim to create the music of the future but if I had to consider it, I would say I have a nostalgia for the future of the past. Polar Inertia is a vaporous mix between techno and ambience, ultimately things that had once existed… A recycling of yesterday’s music.
I think it’s a kind of music that is truly spiritual, so I don’t think it needs to be intelectualized to be understood. It happens at a level that has a degree of separation between the physical and the emotional: it’s a direct kind of music, instinctive I would say.
A word on your artistic process?
I’m talking mainly about my colleague’s work. It’s actually very difficult for me to explain it because I don’t function in the same manner, I even find it difficult to sometimes understand the way the magic that makes a piece so special operates. He’s very perfectionistic in his approach to producing: first, he looks for sounds in a spontaneous way, plays and works on them over weeks, even months, so that these elements resemble his still-occult idea as closely as possible. He unveils it, lets it mature and intellectualizes it. In other words, I feel he enriches the projects we start together, brings them to levels I have absolutely not mastered (smiles). All this to say that production at Polar Inertia is something that takes a lot of time and behind which I am not the main force. What is interesting in a musical sense is trying to work with the “aesthetic of disappearance” and not make our egos talk too much. The Polar Intertia musical aesthetic does not resemble either’s, we put ourselves in a “Polar Inertia” mindset… It also has to call on the imaginary, which allows for a very luminous aesthetic, almost cinematographic — even if some label us dark techno.
Our new project Kinematic Optics has hit the presses. It’s a double-disc vinyl signed to Dement3d and composed on two vinyls, one of which is the recording and the other the recording of the Polar Inertia exhibition in Brussels. We were invited by a new gallery where they gave us carte blanche: we proposed a series of photographs which reflect Polar Inertia’s aesthetic, among which were snowy landscapes that were printed on an old 90’s printer. There was a sculpture and a recording of a text that was done on dubplate (a promotional tool used in Jamaica) that was put on repeat over a month, at every 10 minutes, that ends by slowly effacing itself. The exhibition offered vague content, but in its whole I could observe a spirit of aesthetic that was plastic, visual and sensitive in an authentic and very poetic ambience. In two weeks we’re putting forward a 360 degree video installation and a live show at Gaité Lyrique in Paris, of which two of our friends are in charge.
Copyright image: Polar Inertia
Translated from French by Ania Szneps