Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen Films

Lord of the Rings

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Viggo Mortensen talks about his new works

"To take photos" is remembering, recording for later, (hopefully) understanding, communication, evidence of life

Photo of Viggo Mortensen by Miho Kato

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Synopsis: Interview with Viggo Mortensen about his art and music touches on 45301, The Other Parade, and upcoming works. He also talks about the purpose and future of Perceval Press. When asked how his photography and music differ for him, he answers: "There is no difference between these art forms, as long as one follows one's own path. The results are often surprising and usually fulfilling. It is a process that justifies itself by virtue of its exploratory nature. If communication with others is also achieved, it is an extra, unexpected gift."

Source: MovieStar #104, October 2003

Note: Reprinted from the translation at The House of Telcontar (HoT). The introduction to the Q&A is a translation by Misa from the MovieStar article. The Q&A, however, is not a translation but rather is the origin English version which was kindly provided to HoT by Viggo.

To check the availability of Moviestar #104 and to order it, visit the backnumber's page on the publisher's site.

You can't expect the same response from Viggo as from an ordinary person. Although The Lord of the Rings made him popular, enough to call it a boom, he is devoting himself solely to underground creative activities as his feelings dictate. When we made this mail interview at the end of July, he was recording his 4th CD together with his son Henry and Buckethead. MovieStar will have a preview of this CD, which will be a bit different avant-garde sound, either in October or November. (For the pre-order of the CD, please check MovieStar Magazine's November issue which will be published on the 4th of October.)

Incidentally, Buckethead, who Viggo chose as his partner this time, is the guitarist of Guns N' Roses and was in Japan last year for 'Summersonic 2002'. He had many fans before he joined Gun N' Roses and he is the artist people knows. This next CD which will be made by Buckethead, Viggo and Henry must be a work which will get attention not only from Viggo fans.

MOVIESTAR: You will publish 2 more new books after 45301, what is the reason for releasing 3? Does 3 have any meaning? What is the concept for each of them? Also what inspired you to make each of them?

VIGGO MORTENSEN: I do not know how many books we will publish at Perceval Press, by others or myself. The books we have made are selling well, and as long as there is interest in such books we will try to continue. The next book that I am working on takes off where 45301 began, but will be longer. It will contain images taken in Morocco, South Dakota, California, Cuba, Denmark, New York, and places unknown to me.

MS: What is the difference in yourself when you make albums and when you make photography books. Albums affect human listening ability, and photography books affect human vision. How does each art form differ in you?

VIGGO: There is no difference between these art forms, as long as one follows one's own path. The results are often surprising and usually fulfilling. It is a process that justifies itself by virtue of its exploratory nature. If communication with others is also achieved, it is an extra, unexpected gift.

MS: What attracts you to take pictures? What do you usually choose as an object for pictures? What makes you to feel like taking pictures?

VIGGO: The subject chooses me, probably, as much as I choose it. Lately, owing to the fact that I've not had the time to be in one place long enough and without outside distractions to be able to paint or complete paintings, photography has taken the place of painting. Am trying, perhaps, to use the camera a I would brushes and paint - painting with light. This has not been conscious at first, but I can see that the most recent photographic images that I am working on are like oil paintings, watercolours, scratchings, imitations of what water and wind do, confrontations with the sun.

MS: What is "taking pictures" for you? What does it mean to you?

VIGGO: Remembering, recording for later (hopefully) understanding, communication, evidence of life.

MS: On being active on art, is America inspiring place for you? Is it an appropriate place for your art? You are in Northern Europe right now, and do you get any different inspiration from there? If you do, what kind of inspiration is it?

VIGGO: Any place can inspire. It is not so important where you are but, rather, how you are.

MS: Regarding your albums, where does that sound come from? When do you let your voice and sound come out and make albums? Who is your musician friends?

VIGGO: Am working now on a new record with my son Henry and with Buckethead. It is enjoyable and satisfying. They are two of the most gifted and remarkable people I have ever met or heard about.

MS: What are your upcoming projects? You finished shooting Hidalgo, but you will have premieres and junkets, won't you? After that, Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King will be released, and what would be the next movie for you? Also how long will you be doing your art activity?

VIGGO: No movies are planned. There is enough to do at the moment just finishing with our extensive responsibilities to those two movies. Have a photo show in Los Angeles called MIYELO at the Stephen Cohen Gallery, opening on 11th Sept., 2003 and another at Massey University in Wellington (in a beautiful Art Deco -style building) and at Wellington's City Gallery.

MS: You are doing movies and art, do you have any movie project you would like to do right now? As an actor, what kind of story are you interested in?

VIGGO: Nothing right now.

MS: Actors who like photography have tendency to direct movies.For example, a French actor Vincent Perez graduated from photography school in Switzerland and became an actor in France. He has been active as a photographer, and finally he made his first directrial debut recently. Do you have any plans of making a movie as a director? Would you like to?

VIGGO: It would have to be a story I was crazy about. Being a director is a difficult and time-consuming job. Being fond of images, words, stories, music, etc. as most people are, directing a movie would certainly be an interesting challenge. Maybe someday, if I can get financing, I may try and film one of the stories I've written.

MS: Do you feel you need to put your art into contest?

VIGGO: No. Having exhibitions and doing poetry readings, opportunities that I am grateful for, allow me to test material and receive impressions that help me re-work and hopefully refine what I do. They are, in the end, forms of communication that I am comfortable with.

MS: When you came to Japan, did you get inspired by something? If you did, what did you do with that inspiration?

VIGGO: I'll find out, eventually. Maybe. I look forward to going back. There is so much to consider that it is a bit overwhelming.

MS: Jewel's latest album is called "0304", and it seems like these days titles with numbers are in style. Your album is called "45301", which is also numbers. What do you feel about it?

VIGGO: I had not heard of her album title until you mentioned it. 45301 is the number of a filmstrip that was used as a book cover for a book that couldn't find a better title.

MS: You are close to Japanese artists like Yoshitomo Nara. What do you think of Japanese art scene?

VIGGO: I don't know if I'm closely related to him. We are co-publishing a book of his work, which is an honour. He is very talented and thought-provoking. I do not know a lot about Japanese artists, certainly not about modern ones. I have seen a lot of photography and many movies from Japan that seem to me unique and beautiful.

MS: What do you think of art scene in Santa Monica, where you live? Are there any new authors or poets you would like to push from Perceval Press?

VIGGO: We are proud of the book by photographer Anne Fishbein (ON THE WAY HOME) that Perceval Press has just released. There are many other local artists and poets, young and old, who continue to create outstanding work. California and other West Coast artists have long been underestimated in other parts of the United States, but I am sure that, as with other regions of the art world, Southern California artists also probably get more credit than they deserve from time to time!

MS: What is your motivation for making 45301? What is your favorite shot in it? What is the reason for choosing it? Is there any connection between each shot? Is each shot connected to each other?

VIGGO: Don't have a favourite. No reason for making the book. It just happened.

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MS: Regarding 2 more books coming out from Perceval Press, what is the concept for each book? What are the titles? Where did those titles come from? What are those books about? We would like to know as many details as possible about those books.

VIGGO: I think this has been answered, more or less.

MS: Regarding your new CD which is coming out soon. What kind of music is that? Who is playing instruments? Where was it recorded? What is the difference between the new one and Another Parade? Is there any chance you will sing in it? We would like to know as many details as possible about the CD.

VIGGO: It has been made, so far, in the same spirit of exploration and improvisation as THE OTHER PARADE. There are less players, only Henry, Buckethead, and myself so far, and we have an easier time of communicating and mixing sounds now because of our familiarity with each other and with our recording/mixing engineer and ally, Travis Dickerson.

MS: We would like to know about books coming out from Perceval Press which are not by Viggo. How were they discovered? What is the relationship with Viggo?

VIGGO: We stumble across most book ideas. They come to us or we meet them somehow through good luck. Pilar Perez is a spy from another galaxy, and that gives us special advantages. Future books we can now confirm are by the Icelandic painter, Georg Gudni; Mike Davis' adventure story set in Greenland; a book of critical essays and images about Cuban art over the last 20 years; the book of Yoshitomo Nara's work; and a book of black and white photographs by Cuban artist Pupo Alvarez.

MS: What kind of publishing company is Perceval Press?

VIGGO: Its own kind.