In May 2024, Rokolectiv invited SHAPE+ platform musician Petra Hermanova to collaborate with Apparatus 22, a Romanian collective of visual artists, for a new performance at The National Dance Centre, in Bucharest. The team of Rokolectiv sat down with the artists for a quick plunge into their creative process.


Petra, what was the emotional skeleton you worked on for the “In Death’s Eyes” album, and how was the creative process of shaping such a consistent body of work about difficult subjects like death and loss?


A skeleton is an interesting way of looking at it. Mine wasn’t made of emotions, that would be an unstable foundation to build on, but of compulsive research for the most part. Sometimes it was a structure for working on the album, sometimes it existed purely to distract me. But processing the loss of a loved one is an unpredictable situation. Years later you may find that a new version of yourself has emerged from it, without you even knowing. 

I recently made music for Lapilli, a feature-length debut film directed by Paula Ďurinová, which is about to premiere at the Karlovy Vary film festival. She lost both of her grandparents during the pandemic, and this film captures her going through various stages of grief in what ended up being a truly beautiful requiem. We lost, grieved and worked in parallel, and, looking back, it is interesting to see how our experiences mirrored each other. At the end of October in 2022, Paula and I were texting furiously, exhilarated from a sort of culmination of our individual processes: I was just done recording the pipe organ in Merseburg, and she was just done filming inside of caves in Slovakia. There was a lot of joy in that moment. Working with these topics is difficult but they have a real capacity for giving you something incredible in return—if you immerse and surrender entirely. It might sound a bit scary, but for me, and Paula as well, this was the closest to the truth.

Petra Hermanova, music producer. Credits: Evelyn Bencicova


On the nine songs included on the album you envisioned contemporary ways of working with peculiar centuries-old instruments like autoharps and organs, or with vocal references to sacred music. Yet, the sound, the imagery and the video work you did around are conjuring realms from the future. How did these futuristic elements come about?


Before I made the album, I listened almost exclusively to the musical works of Hildegard von Bingen for about four years. Not as a technique for preparing the album, as I had no plans to make one, but more as a therapeutic way of distancing myself from our times. 

Quite aware of my disconnect, I knew that the artists I wanted to work with, Enes Güç and Evelyn Bencicova, were very contemporary, but this wasn’t what drew me to them. I wanted someone who researches their works deeply and understands working with symbols. For months we talked about life and death in religion, art history and science, while simultaneously conceptualising nine different visuals, one for each piece on the album, in a variety of media including analogue photography, 3D scanning or even embroidery. 

The one that made the cover is a visual for I Am the Lung because we felt it had distilled the essence of the whole record.


Most of the Apparatus 22 work is known for a peculiar blend of socially engaged, criticality infused, with drops of utopian hope. How are themes like loss, longing, healing, and the autobiographical making appearances into your practice?


For each of us in the collective, death and loss are difficult subjects to tackle. We know people that have a healthier relationship with the certainty of death, but it is not us. The hopelessness, the heartbreak of a personal loss transforms you as someone dear is forever lost, same with the horrors of wars and violence—these can be truly overwhelming. Putting those emotions into work without being melodramatic proved difficult, and therefore for years we have avoided such topics.

Most of the works we did as a reflection about death came about like little pearls out of long procession through pain and healing. An intuitive survival strategy.

With the puzzling lenticular installation like “IS THERE FAKE IN AFTER LIFE?” (2012), we wanted to expand the thinking on fake into a territory of intense debate for believers and atheists alike, by unwrapping unexpected bonds between the profane universe of fake—understood as an extended metaphor of the real—and the spiritual.

“DISCO PUNCH” (2014) is a series dedicated to the loss of our dear friend / colleague / partner and brilliant artist Ioana Nemeș. In it, we tried to convey our inner turmoil in installations that are clearly about both optimism and deep pain, movement and stillness, exuberance and severity, vying for attention and hiding. Air blown in rhythmic ritual by rotating fans sculpts the works endlessly.

Only recently have we felt able to reflect again on Ioana’s bewildering departure and, following the sweet invitation of curator Diana Marincu, we did a work titled “Clouds on the ceiling. A conversation piece with Ioana Nemeș” (2023) that takes the form of a performative chant ~ imaginary interview ~ daydream exploration of modern love, memory, loss, and longing.

Apparatus 22, Clouds on the ceiling


Apparatus 22, who is Atletica Ideal and what was the rationale to propose, amongst other interventions, a sound narrative with this character in the joint performance with Petra?


Atletica Ideal is a hybrid AI character that inhabits the utopian construct of SUPRAINFINIT, an imagined universe we have nourished step by step for the past 9 years. It’s a world-making attempt populated by various characters—M-Unknown, who is running the Department of Art Investments, Atletica Ideal—a machine with the mission to understand and experience love, desire, pleasure, or Crystal—an artist, runner, poet and dreamer, by birds and other creatures.

When we discovered Petra’s album “In Death’s Eyes” during the preparation for our joint work, we were in awe of the courage and the surgical precision she had approaching this subject so frontally. The result is such a touching soundscape ignited by personal experiences, yet elevated to a set of songs that are universally beautiful with eerie undertones. Otherworldly, and human.

In one of our contributions for the joint work, we tackled the topic of death from a lateral, non-human perspective. That of Atletica Ideal, a machine who has a sudden realisation of its own potential (and rapid) obsolescence.

Enclosed within a portal of video tape, ”All Times At Once” piece—a continuation and unexpected embodiment of a drawing made by Ioana in early 2011—took to the stage like a collision of old-style clocks frantically squeezed, taped, roped into each other.

It became the anchor for Atletica Ideal’s musings on the passage of time, death of technology, melancholia over the obsolescence, hope in the power of sheer art to win over the surge of time. Through the medium of voice memos, the machine sweetly asks Petra to create a piece of music so beautiful and so piercing that it might save Atletica Ideal from the cruelty of extinction.


During the performance hosted by The National Dance Center (CNDB) we thought a lot of animism and the otherworldly. Do you believe in such things?


I am perpetually drawn to the edges between things, the area where believing something meets rejection of its very existence. This energy is an endless source of fascination, and I align with it also spiritually. But I often fantasise that I'd be more at peace if I chose a side.


 We hope and daydream of things bigger than the everyday, of spiritual energies beyond this life even if they are difficult to convey in words or images. Hopefully other worlds exist too. And animism is manifest in everything, in our Suprainfinit utopia.

Talking about animism, we loved hearing from Petra about her process of harnessing an enormous instrument - the organ from Merseburg Cathedral—that she treated and recorded like a living organism.

Aware of the otherworldly quality of Petra’s music, we proposed adding an element that is a perfect visual metaphor for our searches for utopia, for the effort of transcending to other worlds, real or fictional. Such ideas were echoed in a site-specific version of ”The Owls Are Not What They Seem” (2017 - ongoing), a black VHS-tape complex curtain system surrounding Petra and her autoharps, a strange and shimmering pulsating time portal. A mysterious backdrop and a prosthetic for imagination, with infinite points of entry and exit. 

CNDB, Bucharest, stage intervention by Apparatus 22

Cover image: CNDB, Bucharest, performance Petra Hermanova and Apparatus 22. Credits: Vlad Dudu