Iris Johner is a musician, author and filmmaker. She performs music around the Algarve and has also recently finished writing a book. Iris has co-created a short film based in the Algarve and is currently working on a documentary project, Remember, which celebrates ancient wisdom from around the world.
Congratulations on the films, can you tell me about them?
In December 2021, I met Pehuen Grotti, a talented photographer and videographer. My life took an unexpected turn towards filmmaking, allowing me to expand wider as a writer, poet and visionary. Together, we co-directed a short film named Ascend, based on a poem I wrote. The project is an epic exploration into one’s individual journey from awakening to ascent, a raw expression of humanity. The verse is an ode to nature, a celebration of life – a reclamation of personal sovereignty.
The adventure continued in March last year when we traversed through the rainforest of South Chiapas, Mexico, to meet the Lacandon people – a native community, some of the last descendants of the Mayas. We spent two months immersed in their forest, learning about their culture. The film aims to honour their tradition and wisdom to crystallise or revive it and remind our modern societies how to lead more meaningful existences. This film is the pilot episode for a bigger project called Remember, which will disclose ancient traditions from all around the world.
Can you tell me a little about your book?
In the winter of 2020, I felt a calling to pen my personal story. I rented a room in the dunes of a small fishermen’s village on the west coast of Portugal, where I carefully gathered 75,126 words in an autobiographical novel. In the narrative, I retraced my journey to find my place in the world – both geographically, as it starts when I moved to Portugal in 2017, and symbolically. The result is an exploration of the gift of my voice through singing and writing to find my true self. This book is about my painful and wonderful journey back to my essence while getting rid of layers of conditioning like a snake shedding skin. I found inspiration by living a minimalist existence amidst nature, where richness and abundance come from within and joy is found in life’s simple things.
How did you begin to write and perform music?
I started singing and writing songs when I was very young. It came to me naturally, as did the desire to perform on stage. I got my first guitar at age 14 and played my first gig the same year. Since then, I have recorded two albums and played countless concerts. For the last five years, I have been fortunate to make a living as a musician in Portugal, performing my songs on the street and at events, and most notably at Boom Festival and Sofar Sounds. Beyond a means of expression, I use my voice as a way to touch people and enliven something in them.
Where did you grow up and how did you find the Algarve?
I was born and raised in the French Alps in a town called Annecy, surrounded by beautiful mountains. However, I am actually drawn more to the ocean! When I first visited the Algarve in 2014, I instantly fell in love with the colours and smells, its wilderness and way of life. Although I have embarked on various travels around the world, I kept returning, each year a little longer, until I decided to answer my heart’s calling and move here in 2017 together with my dear friend and fellow artist David Dixon. Little did I know that this decision would change my life.
How did you end up on an artistic path?
Life taught me at a young age that I am not supposed to do things like everybody else. I have a natural tendency to question frameworks and rebel – I am the exception to the rule. I own a sensitivity and an intuition that the mainstream world does not encourage. My path is one of self-acknowledgement, self-recognition and self-validation. When I don’t sing, I write and dance or birth a project – creativity overflows and expression must come out in one form or another.
What are your hopes for the next year and further ahead?
I am currently seeking a publisher for my book. I want my story to inspire as many people as possible. Also, the pilot episode of Remember will be out in April. It is a gift as you will not need to pay for it, but we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to enable us to continue the project and finance the second episode. The sequel will be filmed in the UK and will explore the ancestral Celtic druid tradition. Stay tuned!