Maja Osojnik

An Architecture of Composition

In MADEIRADiG, an intense voice and soft delicate hands manipulate the instruments as if we were watching a contemporary dance piece. The concert of Maja Osojnik is one of those that remain in our thoughts for days after the performance. Let Them Grow, her latest album, continues to sound in intense lightning bolts on the turntable platter. It arises from failure, from trial and error, from taking advantage of works that have never been shown or from those which have been refused and are now gaining a quite intimate new life.

Maja was born in Slovenia, lives in Vienna, Austria and her work is not kept in a “drawer” attached to a genre or style, but it is part of the sound art realm. Poetry and literature are osmosed with a shaping voice, combining instrument sounds with lo-fi devices, such as magnetic tapes or toys.

As a composer, Maja has created music and written for various projects in theater, dance, animated and silent films and has recently started a new label entitled Mamka Records. Mamka means grandmother in Slovenian and the idea is not to cook homemade cakes but small author and hand-printed editions. The goal is to work with music and experimental literature and, in my hands, I have one of the 100 first edition copies: Chicken (MAM01) with two tracks * and a work on linoleum by the artist Toño Camuñas.

© Rania Moslam

At Mudas, we attended a very unique and intense concert, in which the spoken words, combined with the music, were very strong and powerful. How do you build this poetical strength?

It is life, real life, the observation of inner processes. It is how I perceive the world, how I observe what takes place around me, and how I sense what affects me. It always has to do with inner relationships, whether these are partnerships, friendships or family bonds, as the circle gets bigger to the point of reaching society and politics. So, I cannot really separate these things. I like to play with these metaphors.

We sense many contradictions in your lyrics; does everything have to do with inconsistencies in life or people? Do you see the world as a big contradiction? And, by the end of your last song, you say “by the point of no return”. A profound sentence.

Yes, everything we do produces a consequence and I don’t want to be negative about it. It can be a beautiful consequence, of course. But, like everything, we reach a point and then we go back. Whatever we do, the experience takes us to a different place. So, the sentence can be seen as something quite harsh and negative, but it can also be interpreted as putting stuff behind your back and moving on, whatever you do. That’s what I mean by it. I play with that metaphor: is it positive or negative? It is always a matter of perspective and I enjoy that.

I’ve also noticed that you are very delicate on the stage, wisely manipulating every instrument. How do you plan your performances? It feels like you can manage everything at the same time.

Yes, I like when things get hectic, I enjoy working with my hands, as if I could enjoy a moment of reflection. Fifteen years ago, I wanted to do something with a laptop and I actually tried it in one, two shows. And, then, I realized that it’s not my outlet, because I simply stared at it as if I were watching TV, not really making music. I was drifting away from my own sound.

© Andreas Kral

Your inspiration comes from books, music, life…

Yes, I think inspiration comes from everywhere. From everyday life, from what you see on the streets, any interaction you have with people, a nice chat with a friend or an amazing play, where a sentence lingers on. Particularly those that enter our system and we keep thinking about them. Last time I saw a play, there was this sentence about how we owe time and time owes us. We try to organize and keep order in life, but it is true nonetheless. Time does owe us, we do not owe time, and then I ask myself why I am thinking about this question. Just to end up realizing that this is my favorite topic at that moment and, so, I must take advantage of it.

You approach several genres like jazz, electronic improvisation, even medieval sounds. How do you mix everything?

Throughout my whole life, I never wanted to think about genres. I struggled whenever people asked me what kind of music I play. It was always difficult to describe. I have some projects where we joke around and try to find our own genres, not in an attempt to get it into the industry but just to have fun. Recently, we did a radio play where we called it something like neon western audio diverse sound comic, etc. We always want to throw some long titles that people cannot repeat anymore. And this has to do with the way I see music. I think I was always extremely curious about different types of music. And I believe that the different aesthetics I come up with in the end share that essence. So, you can listen to some early music, contemporary music or just noise, and all that stuff has the same essence in the end. It is the power of working with material and the power of narration, I would say. So, what I do now is a result of my path to the point of no return, it’s what I like to listen and what touched my soul and the beauty of it. If you look at things from an analytical standpoint, and the way the compositions are structured or built, there are a lot of similarities. The way some stuff in early music was composed, like an architecture of composition. People ask me sometimes “how do you end up playing in jazz festivals?” And I always say that, most of the times, I’m invited to the weirdo stage. But, for me, jazz is actually just a matter of form. This is my number one answer, because the genre has been changing since the 1930s. What is the essence of all its history, in the end?

Jazz is all about improvisation.

Yes, and questioning the form, exactly.

* Chicken on side A (lyrics by Maja Osojnik & Natascha Gangl and music by Rdeča Raketa, the musical duo of Maja with Matija Schellander) and on the B side Die Toten with lyrics by Natascha Gangl and music by Rdeča Raketa.

Elsa studied journalism and over the years has taken several contemporary art courses, including Themes in the History of 20th Century Art (Fundação Serralves), a Curatorial workshop at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Lisbon, Aesthetics (Ar.Co) and History of Photography at the same Institution and a Postgraduate Degree in Curating at the Faculty of Social and Human Sciences at Universidade Nova de Lisboa. She is a founding member and director of Umbigo magazine, created in 2002, with which she developed several curatorial projects, including the exhibition "Entre Limite e a Audácia" by Miguel Palma at the Fábulas gallery, "The Difference" by Andrea Splisgar at the Palácio de Santa Catarina, the exhibition "Pieces and Parts" at Plataforma Revólver, Lisbon, "Pierre Barbrel – Dissociation" at Espaço Camões da Sá da Costa, "Robe de contact (lys)" by artist Jean François-Krebs at Galeria Sá da Costa. In 2023 she curated the exhibitions "Unwinding" by Theodore Ereira-Guyer and Sam Llewellyn-Jones at Galeria Sá da Costa and "A Face is a Mask..." by Pedro Valdez Cardoso at Brotéria. She was jury and curator of the Contemporary Jewelry Exhibition "On the Other Hand", commemorating the 5th anniversary of PIN (Portuguese Association of Contemporary Jewelry), at Galeria Reverso (Lisbon), Galeria Adorna Corações (Porto) and at the Gray Area Symposium at Galeria Medellein ( Mexico City). In 2018 she was a jury for the ENSA Arte award in Luanda. Also for Umbigo magazine, she coordinated the edition of the book "Coordenadas do Corpo na Arte Contemporânea", a collection that brings together an essay by Bárbara Coutinho and several artistic works, many of them developed specifically for the book, in a set of works that represent a small sample of the concerns philosophical and aesthetic ideas of a group of artists. In 2018, together with António Néu (art director of Umbigo magazine), she created the UmbigoLAB Platform, a networking network for artists that promotes synergy between them and agents in the field (curators, museum directors, gallerists, collectors and institutions).

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