Please be introduced to the world of Seth Eisen. In it you might find outrageous creativity that expresses itself through the connections between arts, food, storytelling and many other possibilities. Seth Eisen is a San Francisco based artist and an instructor in the Department of Arts & Consciousness (John F. Kennedy University) .
On 2011, Seth invited me to perform at his successful project series Buffet Flats, an edible cooking show that merges local food with visual and musical queer arts, and keynote speakers. After having the pleasure to meet Seth, I gradually discovered deeper layers of his connection with arts and Brazilian music. In this interview we talked about his attraction to sounds and words in Brazilian Music, and the transformative potential of arts.
A man of many arts, we started our conversation by focusing on sounds: the first sounds in his life, the sound of language, the sound of music. Early in his life he felt enchanted with the sounds of Brazilian Portuguese language. They felt familiar to him. These sounds, meaningless at first, triggered his curiosity and paved the way for a journey into another musical world and culture: “Before I knew what the words were there was something about the nasal, guttural sounds that resonated with me. I think probably they are close to my ancestral tongues, like Hebrew, Russian, and Yiddish.”
Years later his first boyfriend introduced him to Brazilian music which led him to learn the language. He used to spend hundreds of hours listening to his favorite Brazilian singers Caetano Veloso & Elis Regina writing down the lyrics and checking their meaning in the dictionary. Music became an educational tool and a source of experiences associated with the heart chakra: “I did some research about music and tone and realized that some of the early languages had seed syllables which always had resonant tones which were meant to open certain chakras and bring you into the different centers of the body. I think Brazilian Music has this really multicultural sound. It just comes in here (pointing to the heart). There is a resonance around the heart chakra that I feel very connected to. There would be certain notes that I would hear Caetano Veloso sing or Elis Regina sing and I just go “That’s just amazing!” because it’s just that one word that triggers this experience. With a lot of the [Brazilian] music, it tends to be focused on the heart chakra, specially chorinhos or certain love songs.”
The depth with which Eisen looks at lyrics and sounds expanded to his approach with arts. As an artist and as an instructor of classes that include an exploration of the world of performances, and rituals & arts, Seth cultivates an awareness that the creative process can offer a transformative experience to the artist:
“If you just look from the perspective of the artist, every artist who is a creator is always going through a creative process. You start with an idea, or with some inspiration, and you make something out of it. Generally you go through a kind of birthing process, or you are making a kind of a witch’s brew, and you put all these ingredients, and you really don’t know what’s gonna come out. You throw all the ingredients in the pot and you taste the soup. And it is like “This tastes disgusting”. Then you go into this really dark period of the shadow. If you are really gonna work with something, with the meat of it, you have to really understand both sides of it, the light and the shadow, and what it brings up and what it conjures.
I think that being an artist is all about looking at things really deeply, and out of that, if you allow the art to take you to where it is going to take you… The transformative process really comes from allowing yourself to back away a little bit and see it from a distance and to really be able to have more of a bird’s eyes view of the process, and allow the art to lead you to somewhere you did not know you were going to go, and then you make all these incredible discoveries. Because I think that there is a kind of Universal Mind that taps into once we allow the ego to go for a moment, because art has always some message to give, a message, or a learning, or a questioning about some of these deeper issues that are universal.”
His latest artistic journey, Buffet Flats, took him to embody Jean Malin (1908-1933) who initiated the 1930’s movement which brought queer performers to the stage in transgressive gender identities despite laws prohibiting them. Seth, as Jean Malin, is the host of Buffet Flats. In one of these delicious shows I had the pleasure to perform O Vira, recorded by Brazilian singer Ney Matogrosso, with Seth’s Jean Malin. Please check https://vimeo.com/41051233 to see what has happened at previous editions of Buffet Flats and take a peak at http://www.buffetflats.org/ to know when the next artistic feast is scheduled.
Seth is furiously working on a new project Homo File for a residency at Counter PULSE.