Reigning weird white women Lana Del Rey, Grimes, and Brit Marling sat down to have a conversation for Interview Magazine, and the result was as futuristic and multidimensional as you might expect.
Grimes, who's in the midst of promoting her forthcoming album Miss_Anthropocene, spoke to Del Rey about everything from ancient religions to artificial intelligence and beyond. Their conversation revolved around artmaking, womanhood, and fame in the Internet age; and like their art, it was characteristically inscrutable. When Del Rey asked if Grimes' work was inspired by personal experience or "the overculture," Grimes launched into a discussion of ancient Egyptian gods and anthropomorphization. "If you think about it, god-making or god-designing just seems so fun. The idea of making the Goddess of Plastic seems so fun to me," she said.
Lana Del Rey and Grimes: Variations on Femininity, Faith, and Critics
Though they're both creative spirits who play with religious symbols and cultural iconography, Grimes and Del Rey are known for representing femininity in different ways (and for dating problematic men). While Del Rey has been linked to classic archetypes of femininity, Grimes' early work seemed to present a futuristic, androgynous image. "On my last record, I was in this gender-neutral mindset," Grimes told Del Rey. "I was an asexual person. F*ck my sexuality. F*ck femininity. F*ck being a girl. I was having this weird reaction to society where I just hated my femaleness. It was like, to be a producer, I felt like I had to be a man."
But Grimes' next album seems like it will lean deeper into feminine and goddess archetypes, while Del Rey's latest, Norman F**king Rockwell, found her comparing herself to great male artists and challenging those who labeled her work as artificial.
Both were full of surprises and were critical of the press, which have always viciously criticized each of them in turn. "In terms of what I'm writing, in my personal life I have to be really, really happy," said Del Rey, contradicting thousands of critics in one fell swoop. They also lamented outrage culture, with its tendency to pluck headlines from interviews and its preference for catchy misinformation at the price of nuance.
Grimes and Brit Marling: On Politics, Artificial Intelligence's Impending World Domination, Capitalism, and Hyperobjects
In the second part of the interview, Grimes spoke to Brit Marling, another futurist whose recently-canceled show, The OA, presented an alternative mode of storytelling and connected technology to environmentalism to the multiverse theory. Together, the two lamented how their work and visions sometimes wind up being incompatible with reality.
Like their work, their conversations spiraled through various dimensions, though one could only imagine what they'd speak about off the record. "We're always negotiating the cost versus the craziness, which is why we always end up editing ourselves," said Marling, hinting at dimensions left unseen.
Both expressed appreciation for the mind-bending nature of each other's work, and Grimes quickly dove back into history and archetypes. "In the medieval times, when literacy was at its lowest, everything got really symbolic, like the cross. Nuance got lost," said Grimes. "I feel like we're going back to a time like that, where everything is symbolic. No one reads past a headline because our attention spans are so short. The same symbols are being fed to people, and they're gathering completely opposite meanings from them, and it's creating chaos."
Marling pulled things towards the politics of the present. "The American flag means one thing to one group of people, and one thing to another," she said. "To one, it's a metaphor for freedom. To another, it's an image of oppression. That duality of symbolism applies to so many things. But we live in an increasingly complex time where it's hard to grasp things in symbols. We're having to deal with all of these hyperobjects. Climate change is a hyperobject that people cannot wrap their minds around, because, among other things, it involves a contemplation of time that is off the scope of the human body. We're at a moment when we need nuanced, layered thinking more than ever, and somehow the moment is being met with a real shrinking away from context or depth."
They also discussed artificial intelligence and its impending world domination, a favorite topic of Grimes'. "There will eventually be a sentient technology that is smart enough and strong enough and has access to take everyone's sh*t, and then can make anyone do whatever it wants," said Grimes. "I might be wrong, and I might be aggrandizing here, but I feel like this might be one of the most important times in history. Especially in the last two years, it feels like we've walked right up to the edge between the old world and the new world. It's like before the pyramids and after the pyramids. We're at a 'pyramids got built' moment. We're going to be digitizing reality and colonizing space simultaneously, which may be two of the craziest things that will have occurred in the history of humanity. It's going to happen while we're alive and while we're young, which is nuts."
Marling has previously written about the need for a better story, one that unifies the scattered threads of our era and critiques hero worship, but the idea that artificial intelligence might write this story is definitely a threat to all of this. She replied, "If the objective of art has often been to be a lighthouse in the dark, to say, 'Hey, come this way,' or to expose fraudulent things for what they actually are, what does it mean if something other than human beings is authoring that force of rebellion?" A valid point—though on the other hand, what if artificial intelligence could improve upon some of the flaws that define the human condition, such as our general inability to understand what asexuality actually is?
Grimes returned to a topic she'd addressed with Del Rey. "We're always looking for our maker: 'Who is our god? Who created us?' What's interesting is, for AI, we are their god," she said. "That will be the first intelligent being that knows its creator, and knows everything about us."
Marling proposed that maybe AI isn't our worst fear—maybe something else is already controlling us. "Capitalism, even if there wasn't corruption, is a model that doesn't work for most people, because its only goal is the increase of profit, which means that there's somebody at the top of the pyramid and most people at the bottom who get paid less than their work is worth for profit to be extracted," she said. "I think part of the reason there's been so much climate change denial is that if you acknowledge that this economic system leads to ecological ruin, you have to acknowledge in the same breath that it's broken. Right now, we put value in growth, and everything is just endless, ridiculous growth, even though we're on a finite planet with dwindling resources and more people every day. Let's say, just for a moment, you put the value on caregiving."
"I was just thinking the other day how much I didn't appreciate my mom growing up," said Grimes. "I remember thinking, 'Why did you wake me up for school? This b*tch. F*ck.'"
There's only one conclusion to be drawn here. Lana Del Rey, Grimes, and Brit Marling should collaborate on a visual concept album with an interactive artificial intelligence component that crafts a new story outside the bounds of capitalism and neoliberalism and that motivates everyone to fight climate change, promote ethics in Silicon Valley, and call their mom.