now that the democratic convention is finally over, we can get back to reality.
here's a recent Q&A with patti smith.
Patti Smith Interview by "El Pais" 17 July 2004
by Fietta Jarque
"The USA singer Patti Smith will perform next Thursday at Barcelona the songs from her new record "Trampin" an humanist statement against violence
and war. Smith tells how she recovered from her husband's and mother's deaths and makes a reflection about the politics of her country.
"The painting "El Guernica" reminds me of the power of the artist as activist." There is a photograph made by Robert Mapplethorpe of her close friend Patti Smith in which she is naked crouching holding to a radiator. Today she maintains still in some ways that ambiguous beauty she had 30 years ago.
Tall, slim, scruffy (her clothes unpicked and with spots) and with a spectacular facial down, while she contemplates "El Guernica" by Picasso at Reina Sofia Museum of Madrid, she has that kind of aura of someone who has survived to the batttle. She is one of the main female personalities of
rock, godmother of punk and a cult artist in the creative art world of New York, she will perform next Thursday at "Palau de la Música" of Barcelona,
the songs from her new record "Trampin", a work that mixes human feelings and political ideas.
In these horrible times, sometimes the searching for beauty seems something
frivolous. What do you think about it?
I think that the searching of the beauty is important in different moments of life, but it depends how everyone interprets beauty. To some it will be physical beauty, to others it will be inner beauty. I think that for
everybody it should be important to develop the inner beauty, at any age. In the hardest times is very important that people don't act due to fear , and if they search the beauty in the hard times they should follow this way.
Q. I have asked you this question thinking about finding it in art music, music, literature, poetry.
Those bright moments that sometimes they seem trivial when the world is showing its worst face.
A. Before we started working on this album, my mother got very ill. She was dying. We were sitting around her, and of course that we didn't want to let her go, but the end was near. She always was a strong and loving woman. She didn't want to leave us, but when the moment arrived she, because of us, arrange herself to have a beautiful death. I saw her in that beautiful and sad moment, and that made me thought that in life you cannot separate the beauty from the rest. You can see a terrible fire in the woods, the
destruction of the trees, and at the same time be fascinated by the magic of the fire.
Q. In some moments of your life you have had darker feelings, but this album is luminous.
A. Yes, this is what I think. We start the record with "Jubilee" a song whose music has been made by the senior member of our band, Lenny Kaye, a very positive man. But it's true that my past is marked by the loss of my husband, my brother and other people that I have loved. My husband's dead weakened me a lot as a human being, but although that I wanted to made a record in his memory and continue working, because I'm a working woman, a concerned
mother about her children , but I couldn't got all of my energy, and it was interesting to see how it has returned to me after my mother's death, because she always had a lot of energy and I feel that she had let me that
energy as a legacy, as a gift.
Q. On this visit to Madrid you went to see "El Guernica". Is there any special reason for that?
A. I used to go to see the "Guernica" very often when it was at the MOMA in New York. When I was young, I went there a lot of days. I sat in front of it and
thought about the images , about what Picasso could have been thinking when he painted it, and about the lesson that it was teaching us. It has always
been a very important painting to me. I was happy for Spain when the painting returned here in 1981, but at the same time I was sad seeing it to go so far away. So, when I come to Spain, I come to say hello to my old friend. And besides, this time it has a very special meaning, because this painting is a permanent reminder of what it is a war. I thought a lot about "Guernica" when we bombarded Iraq. I took the book that I have about the
painting and I thought that it was what my country was making now: cultural destruction, death of ordinary people, the death of our own soldiers, and I want to remember that this is what war makes. This is not an abstract
painting, this is not a tv program. They are human beings, children, mothers, grandparents. It is suffering. It is a painting that reminds me of the power of the artist as an activist.
Without being political, Willian
Blake wrote poems about those who swept chimneys, to protest against the exploitation of children at work; Bob Dylan sang about the civil rights movement .
All these things are important, because they motivate people.
Q. You are a photographer, composer and singer. Do you need a change of language to express different things?
A. When I was young I wanted to be a writer, then I wanted to be a painter, but at the same time I loved to sing. I would have like to be devoted to only one form of art , but it seems that I have diferent impulses that made me
react and I could not predict in which way I'm going to react. In this election year in my country, I have reacted with "Trampin" where it is reflected the death of my mother, the war in Iraq and the next election.
After September 11, I made some serigraphies and drawings. I didn't expect to react in that way, but that's what I made. Sometimes I take photos, but I
made it for me although sometimes I can make an exhibition, they are very intimate and quiet. When I make records or concerts is to communicate with people, I don't try to do up with the structure of a poem or the language, I
just try to find that something in common that made me reach people. What it makes me feel proud in "Trampin" is that, although rock and roll is a young
people matter, and I think that because it requires a lot of young energy, I feel happy of continue working, because, at least for me, this is my best
record in words and voice. Rock and roll is a very accurate way of expression to young people, because they can let them go their ideas and worries and explode. In the seventies you didn't need a gun, a guitar was
enough. If you want to fight you just have to pick up your guitar, an amplifier and push it at number nine to blast with your sound.
Q. Besides the president, which other changes would you like to see in your country?
A. The most important thing would be that people go to vote. The vote is the individual voice and at the same time the collective voice. That will show that people worry and have a higher civic concern. The other important issue is environment. I would like that people from the USA were more responsible with environmental caring and preservation and that they will follow spiritual values and I don't say religious values . Our society is every time much more materialistic, and the world is suffering because of that.
Q. You like opera and jazz, but you do rock and roll.
A. I have always liked jazz, it comes from my chilhood. I adore the emotion of the opera, Verdi, Puccini, the italian opera is my weakness. As well as the opera singers like Maria Callas, from whom I have learned some things, like her expressivity. From the jazz I have learnt from the improvisation of John
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