by Christian J Petersen
Posted on: 09.24.12
You were born in Odessa grew up in Bogotá and now live in New York. What aspects of these places have influenced your work?
Elektra KB: I am a certainly a mix of different cultures. I felt very out of place as a child of a “culture shock” family arriving from the Soviet Union to Colombia. I am a foreigner everywhere I go. Since I have lived in many countries, I don’t have a place were I feel truly at home. The constant feeling of displacement and alienation has been influential. Also other elements of my upbringing, such as the fact that I came from a very vocal atheist mother to a very hardcore Catholic society. As my parents were doctors working in a rural area in Colombia, I lived in the Hospital for a number of years, and then kept coming back to stay there every school holiday when I moved to the city. I really enjoyed it, I was friends with the nurses, the cooks and the secretaries. I was a little girl with only adult friends. Playing for me involved folding gauze, visiting patients and hanging out at the pharmacy, the kitchen or the chapel. Since it was on a rural area, it was full of green outside. I feel the fact that I was forced to be a very serious child has been influential and I find myself sometimes craving for a childhood. I felt I was influenced also by the political juncture were I grew up. In New York, I wouldn’t really use the word influenced, I would say I have felt motivated and encouraged.
The theme of your art is always based on your politics of resistance but i also see a very dark sense of humor. Do you agree?
There is some of that. My work also has autobiographical elements, they are often more disguised. I see the work as a sort of catalyst for pain. I think that to express oneself as a creative woman with issues that deal with the degradation of humankind one has to do it with Ludisme – hence that dark humor. When a painting reveals itself to you, it does so without judging. My professor Hullot-Kentor, an Adorno scholar, reminded me of that saying that art doesn’t pass judgment talking about how art can’t be political for that reason and I have really reflected upon that. However, it can engage you with playfulness. How you make it and why you make it take precedence over the subject matter. I created a parallel, a satire if you will, of a fake reality “The Theocratic Republic of Gaia” (I think we are already in a fake reality). It is my mythology that opens a creative space to critique the status quo and degradation of humanity to invite to transformation and awareness.
You have created your own complex world through your art, in a similar way to Henry Darger. Do you consider yourself an 'outsider' artistically and personally?
I would say I definitely feel like an outsider, however I am not an outsider artist, since I can’t fit in to the strict definition of the term, I mean being unschooled or untutored. My work is not naïve, it is how it is purposefully. I did create a world, inside this world, in that sense there is a common denominator with Darger. I thought, in my own world, I can have total freedom and not have to face any danger that could detract me from expressing myself freely.
When did you first have the idea of creating this world, or is it something that developed over time?
Growing up and as an only child, I spent most of my free time alone at home, without no one to talk to or kids to play with in the neighborhood. My mom at one point had three jobs and my father would be working in a village far from the city. I was forced to create my own world to survive, and I developed my own “world order manifesto” when I was in my teens, I called it “Manifiesto de Elektra”, it was a manuscript of my own cosmogony and world order. I was fascinated with Plato at that time and philosophy in general, so in my mind I “played” placing myself as an ancient philosopher writing about existence, the meaning of life, the world and things like that. It was a kind of self imposed maieutic. Later on, I wanted people to take me seriously and don’t give them the impression that I was crazy and It took shape as a personal mythology which I titled The Theocratic Republic of Gaia, it is a sort of a dictatorship of illusion.
What are you trying to achieve through your work?
I would say, one cannot place those type of goals on an art work.
I'm sure you are asked this all the time but what are your thoughts on Pussy Riot?
I think no one should be in prison for voicing their opinion. The situation of all political prisoners is truly devastating. I also wish other political prisoners could get this much visibility. The events also, mark a new found public relevance of D.I.Y political punk to the mainstream and its commitment as an international activist community.
There is a lot of symbolism in you work. Do you worry that the viewer might not understand your intended meaning?
No, I don’t. I have also found the viewer tends to reflect him or herself in the work.
Does it concern you if people appreciate your art on a purely aesthetic level and don't think about the message?
No, it doesn’t concern me if my art would appeal to formalists.
You sing in a band, Rosa Apatrida, how does this fit into the world you have created, or is it something separate?
I see Rosa Apatrida as a space where I can write and open a dialogue that is more politically concrete and use my voice and my body as a tool for expression. It is a world were three people, invite others to interact, so in that sense it is separate.
What are you working on at the moment?
Right now I am working on two artist’s books for an upcoming show. One will be a work on paper and the other will be a work on fabric. I enjoy having a narrative process and using the book format. There is a clear path to explore that has been traced by the artist for the viewer. I saw Louise Bourgeois Ode a L'oubli and felt motivated to using fabric as a medium for a book.
what is your favourite vegan dish?
Do you have any heroes?