Diamanda Galás: The Politics of Disquiet
EDWARD BATCHELDER: Do you have any visions of the next project?
DIAMANDA GALÁS: We’re almost finished with the recording of Insekta. I’d like to just get that released because we’re almost finished with that project.
EDWARD BATCHELDER: And Insekta is more or less about… ?
DIAMANDA GALÁS: It’s reflective of a person who is institutionalized. It had a lot to do with what I heard about many institutional experiences, but in specific, Willowbrook.
EDWARD BATCHELDER: Willowbrook?
DIAMANDA GALÁS: Willowbrook was in Staten Island. It was a place for the severely disabled: people born without arms and legs, people with cri du chat. People left them there and they did a lot of experiments on them. Experiments, let’s say, like infecting a thousand of them with hepatitis and just watching them die just to see what the progression of the disease was. It was shut down. But that piece was performed after very little rehearsal. It wasn’t ready at all to be performed but it was one of those situations where you got paid and you’ve got to perform it at this point. So we were able to go into the studio later and perfect it. But it was performed in a cage that went very high, up to the ceiling. There’s a lot of work we want to do on it.
In any case, after that another piece, Nekropolis …but I’ll discuss that when we get around to it. Of course in the meantime I’ll probably do another record with the Edith Piaf, Marlene Dietrich, and O.V. Wright or Hank Williams songs that I did recently under the title of Guilty, Guilty, Guilty which are homicidal love songs—yet more homicidal love songs. There is no end to my joy in doing those songs. I think it’s always going to be that way. It’s going to be both of these kinds of projects and why not?
EDWARD BATCHELDER: But presumably you don’t see Defixiones as being a project that has an ultimate conclusion date either. Isn’t that in a sense also on-going?
DIAMANDA GALÁS: Yes. You’re right. That leads to the discussion of Nekropolis, but I’m not quite ready for that discussion. [laughs]
EDWARD BATCHELDER: Alright, I guess we can get to that some other date. My last question here, and I don’t know if you’ve ever answered this before, is: do you think that we have any political or ethical responsibility to the dead? As I looked through interviews with you, and as you’ve talked today, you talk about your sense of not being able to forget the suffering. “Fine, the person has died and they’re not suffering any longer, but for those of us who were there, those of us who in someway took partook vicariously, perhaps, we had our own experiences of suffering. That experience goes on.” Yet, at other points you’ll say, “There’s nothing glorious in being dead” and that your work is all about the living. Those seem to me to be two very opposing statements.
DIAMANDA GALÁS: Actually, that’s a very interesting point. Whilst they do seem to be opposing, they’re actually the same because of a line that I could draw from “Blind Man’s Cry,” when the person is on the cross but he doesn’t believe in God and he’s saying, “I wished I believed in angels, I wished I believed in God. The only thing I can believe in is death as the escape from this pain.” That’s the thing that I’m talking about. Looking at that and saying that the worst thing is not to believe in God, not to believe in an afterlife, not to know that there is any justification for your suffering except that you suffered—that there was no reason for it—to have everything stolen, to be raped, to be tortured, and there be no reason for it. There is no good reason for it. There is not martyrdom. That’s the person in “Blind Man’s Cry” saying that. There is no martyrdom here. I’m not going to be kissed by the angels. I’m not going to go to heaven. I’m not even going to hell. This is hell. And that’s where it unites with my saying there’s nothing glorious about death, and where I say the living, the living dead, or the dying alive is my subject. In the last breaths a person would draw, I can only imagine he or she would be thinking about a legacy. What have I left? Will anyone remember me? Will anyone remember me? Will anybody shed a tear for me? And that’s what I’m talking about.
EDWARD BATCHELDER: And that’s the basis for the political content in your work, so far as it has a political content?
DIAMANDA GALÁS: Yes.