10 Radical Ideas That Inspired Holly Herndon’s Platform
A network of extraordinary thinkers helped shape one of the most important records of 2015.
"We have to create new fantasies," declared L.A.-based laptop musician Holly Herndon in a roundtable with The FADER towards the end of last year. She was referring to our need for new role models in combating the gender gap in the electronic music world, but, as she noted, inequality "extends far beyond gender issues." As the gulf between the privileged and disenfranchised yawns wider than ever, the daily demands of the digital age make it hard to know where to begin in the fight to dismantle current power structures—we are overwhelmed, and that has a paralyzing effect. As L.A. artist Spencer Longo, one of Herndon's many collaborators on her new album, Platform, put it, “the hope of digital democratization via the internet has not ended up living up to its promises and arguably has solidified pre-existing power structures even further.”
For those of us living with this predicament, Platform, released this week via RVNG Intl. and 4AD, can provide both strength and solace: it’s the kind of record that scratches at the brain, swells the heart, and stirs the soul into an active state. Curious sonic artifacts—indeterminable clicks and bubbles culled from both domestic and digital sources—find a home inside pop-leaning structures. On “New Ways To Love,” Herndon intones the words, law is a man that you can’t see, as if to point to the fact that our lives are bound by systems that we can’t see or fully understand. Hers is just one voice in the album’s choir, though: from the monastic cries of "Unequal" to the android tics of "DAO," Platform is full of voices picking their way through a constantly shifting landscape, an aural metaphor for the struggle to be heard amidst the chaos of 21st century life.
It’s a record that feels dense with ideas, but it has a very simple premise at its heart: it’s a platform for conversations—and specifically, ones about challenging current power structures. "It became really clear that I wanted to highlight other thinkers and have a conversation that wasn't just about music itself," she explains of the record’s premise. The people she chose to start conversations with include direct collaborators like Dutch design agency Metahaven—who didn’t just create the visual language for Platform, but also helped shape its ideas—and Berlin-based ASMR expert Claire Tolan, as well as contemporary thinkers like NY-based theorist Suhail Malik and London strategist Benedict Singleton, who she says directly influenced the album’s content. What unites this network of disparate artists and intellectuals is that they are all interested in and engaged with building a better world. The FADER spoke to 10 of Herndon’s collaborators about the radical ideas that found a home on Platform.
1. Change starts with conversation
<i>Benedict Singleton, the UK strategist whose work inspired the album’s title.</i>
2. Next-level politics need next-level aesthetics
<i>Metahaven, the Dutch design agency who created the visual aesthetic for Platform</i>.
3. Your personal data is money—so withhold it (or sell it)
<i><a href="http://hannesgrassegger.twoday.net/">Hannes Grassegger</a>, the German economist whose book, <a href="http://hannesgrassegger.twoday.net/stories/i-am-capital/">I Am Capital</a>, fed into the album’s making.</i>
4. Art is most powerful when you’re having fun doing it
<i><a href="http://colin-self.com/">Colin Self</a>, the NYC composer and choreographer who co-wrote and performs on “Unequal.”</i>
5. It’s time to examine your own privilege
<i>Claire Tolan, the Berlin-based ASMR expert who collaborated with Herndon on “Lonely At The Top.”</i>
6. We need to build new tools if we want new ideas
<i><a href="http://okikata.org/">Akihiko Taniguchi</a>, the Tokyo artist who created the software that Herndon performs live with.</i>
7. Logic isn’t always your friend
<i>Matt Werth, the founder of NYC label <a href="http://igetrvng.com/">RVNG Intl.</a>, the label that is releasing Platform</i>.
8. Art needs to find an exit from the power structure, not an escape
<i>Suhail Malik, the UK theorist whose criticisms of contemporary art structures directly influenced “Exit.”</i>
9. Catering to the marketplace rarely yields interesting work
<i>Spencer Longo, the L.A. artist who collaborated with Herndon on “Locker Leak.”</i>
10. It’s better to fail than to not try at all
<i><a href="http://www.mathewdryhurst.com/">Mat Dryhurst</a>, the L.A.-based UK artist whose “net concrète” patch Herndon used in the making of "Chorus."</i>
All visual materials created and supplied by Metahaven.