Liz Wendelbo is an artist and a musician based in Brookyn, NY. She’s constantly moving, creating, exploring… all with a radiant laser focus. Just look into her eyes. Her work is shown in Elizabeth Dee Gallery, White Columns, Andrew Kreps Gallery, The New Museum and agnes b. galerie du jour in Paris. She’s in the minimal synth band Xeno & Oaklander with Sean McBride – a new album ‘Sets & Lights’ is out now on Wierd Records . Read this Hummingbird’s prose… she made an escape in a red convertible across dunes in Russia…
What’s in your bag? When you pack for a trip, in your handbag, in the pockets of your jeans…?
I’m in a band and I am an artist so when I travel, it’s typically for a tour or an art show. I play analogue synthesizers and make films, and electronics play an important part in my life. In my handbag I have a small analogue stills camera, a Leica II that a dear friend gave to me, loaded with a roll of film, ready to shoot. I’m often inspired by glimpses of minimal architecture I see on tour, barren landscapes or magical places seemingly forgotten in time. Because this is analogue photography, you don’t necessarily know precisely what you’ve shot, there’s no preview screen. There’s a thrilling element of chance and surprise, and it is great to see the photos come back from the lab a month or so after the moment you snapped the picture has passed. Also, the technical geek in me dictates that I always have a few small audio adapters, plugs and jacks in my pockets – they’re black and silver or gold, the size of a perfume sample. Quite indispensable. These little jacks have saved the day many a time.
You have 5 minutes to pack up – for a trip of which the duration you’re not sure. What do you take?
I think that scent is very important on a trip – I make sure I pack my favorite perfume: “Portrait of a Lady” by master perfumer Dominique Ropion for Frederic Malle perfumes, for its romantic and dark ode to the Rose; “Do Son” by Dyptique for its powerful and sustained note of Tuberose white flower; or Chanel No. 5 for its timeless modernism. One spray or drop of perfume in my hair or on my clothes is both comforting and inspiring. It is reassuring because perfume brings about familiar memories of treasured moments in the past and it is a great source of inspiration because it triggers your senses and makes you feel new experiences while you are in motion – looking out the window of a car and seeing a new exciting landscape, or walking down the street and hearing new sounds, noticing a new kind of light.
What is your most essential article of clothing?
My Russian ‘platok’ scarf. I have just played in Moscow, where I picked a beautiful traditional folk scarf, the kind little round painted Russian ‘matryoshka’ dolls have on their head – it is purple with pink and orange roses and I have infused it with my favorite perfume at the moment, Guerlain’s ‘Rose Barbare’, which you can only find at the Champs-Elysees Guerlain store in Paris.
What are the top 5 songs you need to have access to hearing at all times?
I love obscure and strange minimal synth tracks from the ’80s, most of which have been released on cassettes only. Some have been re-released recently by great boutique record labels in the US and Europe, so there are some available digitally now.
1 Pink and Black – ‘Sometimes I Wish’
2 Glenn Winter – ‘Herrens Svar’
3 Boytronic – ‘You’
4 Kino – End Theme from the Russian film ‘Acca’ 1987
5 Ocean – ‘Padaji kone’
What is your preferred hummingbird beat/cities you like to frequent?
Moscow – a young dandy punk Russian I met in Prague on tour told me that Moscow is constantly surprising and it is true: Moscow is both grand and bombastic in its soviet architecture, larger than life and yet it has a hidden and secluded sense of savoir vivre. Moscow is famous for its ‘kitchen parties’ still today, where people gather at home and have convivial parties in their small kitchen over vodka, Ukrainian beer and ‘cucumbers’ (pickles). I am happy to have experienced these kitchen parties, sitting on a kid’s chair and leaning against a heating pipe that warmed my back while it was minus twelve degrees outside on the icy streets.
What’s something crazy that you did to follow your passion? (Like, did you live out of your car for a month? Drive 10 hours to pick up a certain, weird material you needed?)
I once attempted to cross the dunes between Lithuania and Russia without a Visa, to go to Kaliningrad, all because of a film I once saw and obsessed over: an indie film called Trys Dienos by Sharunas Bartas. I wanted to visit the location where it was shot: Kaliningrad by the sea, off-season. The film was hauntingly sparse with very little dialogue and minimal composition. It felt like heaven to me, because of its minimalism and its certain quiet quality. I took a bus from Vilnius and after a whole day of winding roads the bus stopped at the Russian border in the middle of the dunes. The road was wind swept and there was sand as far as the eye could see. I was turned away and had to step off the bus into an oblivion of sand. To my great luck I saw a red convertible car approaching and got a ride through the dunes, all the way back to Vilnius at thrilling great speed.
What is one tip you have for traveling – a beauty tip, a survival tip, a culinary tip… ?
Russian Mineral water called ‘Yessentuki’. Its mineral content is so healthy and high that it feels like you are drinking the ocean.
What’s a recent or favorite meal you had while bouncing around the globe?
My friend Anton’s fried potatoes. He’s in a minimal synth band from Moscow called ‘Ruble Gang’ and the first night I arrived there he cooked me his mother’s recipe: fried potatoes with onions. We sat at the kitchen counter, and listened to some minimal synth records on vinyl while we ate – old gems from the ’80s. At the end of this fabulously simple meal, my friend smiled and said, “not as good as my mother’s – mothers have secrets.”
Where have you had your best night’s sleep?
I pitched a tent in the middle of the city of Kaunas in Lithuania. I woke up and peeked my head out of the tent as locals walked by on their way to work waving hello to me.
Who would you like to travel with – three people (you guys can caravan together or on separate trips)?
There is this inspiring photo I’ve seen of film-director Wim Wenders playing pool with fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto. They’re in mid-conversation and laughing. I guess the photo was taken around the time when Wenders directed the film The American Friend. The light is interesting, with a green hue from an overhead neon light. Wender’s films often have travel and bonding as a theme and seeing this photo of Wim and Yohji made me want to travel with them back in time: a surreal idea, like a dream sequence. We would travel back in time to the early ’80s and meet a mysterious European film star, a muse who would inspire us all: someone like the captivating and unfathomable German actress Hanna Schygulla. This would be a heart warming time travel experience.
photography © Alex Gaidouk