An Interview with Annina Roescheisen
Annina Roescheisen is a German-Slovenian multi-media artist that resides in Paris and New York City. In 2015, her exhibition What Are You Fishing For was displayed at the Palazzo Bembo during the 2015 Venice Biennale and was nominated for the Aesthetica Art Prize.
Roescheisen’s multimedia works are held together by underlying concepts such as iconography, poetry, literature, Medieval art, German Romanticism, Gothic architecture, the fairytale, the inspection of dream and reality, and the visible and invisible world. But above all her work deals with the observation, reflection and investigation of humans and their emotions.
Throughout her artistic practice a constant interplay between dream and reality takes place. The medium of video is used to further explore this relationship where it is considered ‘painting in motion and emotion’. The videos are slow and deliberate, the music compositions shaped to form a new level of interpretation, encouraging the viewer to exist outside time constraints, constrictions and pressures. Her work shifts between childhood and adulthood, shedding light on human existence in all its forms.
Omer Soylemez: Can you please talk about your most recent installation/ videopiece “Bridging Grey”? What was your goal in undertaking this project?
Annina Roescheisen: "Bridging Grey" is based on the symbolic meaning of a rainbow, bridging our earthly life with the divine. It investigates the seven colors of the rainbow in a performative dialogue and depicts their extreme opposites: their so-called blacks and whites, or in other words: their virtues and vices. Based on the philosophy of colors by Schopenhauer, Wittgenstein and above all on the philosophy of colors by Goethe and Otto Philippe Runge, "Bridging Grey" pierces through our emotional body, developing a visually and aesthetically strong language that conveys the evolution of the colors of a rainbow and their emotional translation or expression. This work aims to transcend our purely physical understanding of colors and investigates the impacts of colors on our emotions and relates the colors to our emotions and emotional expressions. It focuses on the color Grey as symbolizing the most tame and emotionless color.
This piece underlines and challenges the belief installed by our educational institutions that everything can be judged as being either good or bad, and the way we see the world through a black and white scope. The artist questions this system of thought and proposes through the color Grey to find a balance in the dualities that exist in human life. Overall, “Bridging Grey” reflects and questions these dualities, and the beliefs and behaviors attached to them. By using the symbolic meaning of a rainbow and its color palette, the piece questions the impact of a dual behavior on our daily life, in a world where we constantly seek for unity, perfection and becoming divine-like. “Bridging Grey” will be presented for the first time in December in a major installation at the Ki Smith Gallery in NYC (December 14th 2019 – January 11th 2020).
Omer Soylemez: As a multimedia artist, for you what is the advantage/significance of using multiple mediums?
Annina Roescheisen: I always enjoyed ambitious projects, pushing my boundaries and challenging myself in my personal as well as artistic life in order to learn and to be able experiment as much as I can. Artistically, I don’t want to produce repetitive works and limit myself to only using one medium. I desire to create new things and new experiences every time, even though at the same time it is important for me that my works have a consistency in thematic and aesthetic approaches. So far, my work has always been linked to colors and emotions. I engage with new mediums in order to experiment. I want to treat topics through multiple channels and mediums. By using different mediums, I feel that I can widen my artistic language in order to better express my thoughts. I seek a 360° vision instead of just looking at what’s in front of me. Furthermore, Art for me is life, it’s not a job – it’s an expression of my personal growth and progression of thoughts. Therefore, what resonates the most to me, is to share my reflections through different mediums and methods, not by simply having a linear approach.
Omer Soylemez: You have a Masters in History of Art, Political Philosophy and Folklore. In what ways do you think this academic background benefits your work?
Annina Roescheisen: It definitely influences my work tremendously. I believe that old philosophical concepts, medieval iconography and fairytales are all very contemporary. We still contemplate on the same existential questions that philosophers and great thinkers already asked themselves hundreds of years ago. I do understand these concepts in a very contemporary context. For example, I am fond of deciphering old master paintings where even a hand position or a particular flower symbolizes a precise message. I use these old codes that got lost at the end of the Medieval Times and translate them into my own artistic language for the contemporary context. I make use of the symbolic meanings of colors, ancient symbols and their signification, as well as fairytale metaphors.
Omer Soylemez: Are there any other areas of study that you are particularly interested in or that you feel is central to your work?
Annina Roescheisen: Alchemy, as finding the so-called “philosophical stone” is not only about chemical experiments but also about wisdom. In my understanding, it is about personal spiritual growth in alignment with our observations and investigations of the outer world and our society.
Omer Soylemez: What are some of the recurring themes in your artwork?
Annina Roescheisen: It all comes back to emotions. Over the past years, I have observed a lot of conceptual work which in my eyes speaks for a large part of our society, has cut us off from emotions. I know see a come back of the figurative, of colors and of emotions. I am very much interested in human emotions, the visible and the invisible world, in questions and concepts about dreams and reality and the thin line between them - or in other words - everything that exists in-between dream and reality and everything that stands below, above and around it.
Omer Soylemez: Alongside many other themes, your work is inspired by medieval art, German Romanticism, Gothic Architecture. What are the challenges of incorporating these elements in art pieces created in the 21st century?
Annina Roescheisen: I cannot think of any, hence there are no real challenges. It’s my intuition, my fantasy that I tie down with literature in order to ground my artistic language in reality and to our current times. So, there is a fantastic side to it and a grounded side. This process reflects p my themes perfectly (see above – between dream and reality, between what we truly see and what are invisible but still present that can be seen or felt).
Omer Soylemez: You incorporate a lot of iconography and metaphors in you work. What is the appeal of these techniques for you?
Annina Roescheisen: The appeal to me is to create an artwork that has depth to it, and that can be understood, read, seen or felt in multiple ways. This is especially the case in all of my video works. In any of my artworks, there is more to it than what is visible to the eyes. Multiple interpretations of my work are possible and I have done this intentionally. Every icon used can be deciphered in order to get a deeper understanding of the art piece. I see it as a chase for a treasure in a sphere pivoting between being an adult and a child. An adult that understands with his rational thoughts and references knowledge, and a child that truly sees with his heart and emotions without the desire of wanting to understand. A child observes differently than an adult and vice versa.
Omer Soylemez: You have produced works in various different disciplines and mediums, including performance pieces. Can you talk about how you got into performance art? How is it different from your other work?
Annina Roescheisen: I got into performance art through two channels: First through the participation in the performance piece “Systema Occam” by French artist Xavier Veilhan. I am a part of this performance group since 2012 and we will soon play in Prague at the Kunsthalle (June 16th). Secondly, through my video-art pieces, in which I sometimes take a role in front of the camera. I use my body as a tool of expression that is often static or only uses slow movements to convey the artistic message(s) of the artwork. I don’t see it any different from the rest of my artwork; I see it as another way of expression. The only difference for me is internally, as using my own body in an art piece is more intense for me physically, emotionally and psychologically. I push myself far beyond my physical, emotional and psychological boundaries when I use my own body.
For example, for the video piece entitled “What are you Fishing for?” – for preparation I took ice baths for three months, as we shot this video in ice cold water in February. Your body becomes numb after 10minutes in the water but during the shot my focus was not on my body but on what I wanted to express and how. But my desire for authenticity was so strong that I crashed my boundaries and I managed not to shiver when the camera was rolling. I went far beyond my limits. In these extreme situations you go through an incredible life experience and thus learn about yourself and your true capacities that often goes beyond your imagination.
Omer Soylemez: Before becoming an artist, you worked in various different jobs. How did you transition from your earlier career path to become an artist? Can you walk us through your journey?
Annina Roescheisen: It definitely was a journey – not always easy, but with many teachings. My artistic career started in 2013. I truly owe it to a French gallerist: Renaud Bergonzo. He took me aside once and told me: “Annina you are an artist, you have to create”. Before that I was working in galleries and for other artists. During that time, I already started slowly to write a video piece for another artist in which I also performed in. Back at that time, I was participating and curating artistic charity projects as well. The final process in my transition to become an artist was a life changing experience and was kindled from my desire of truly finding who I was. I owe it to Renaud who gave me the final “authorization”/ “support” that I needed back then in order to start creating. I will eternally be grateful to him. From the moment I became an artist– I knew I never wanted to do anything else. I guess sometimes it’s easier to see in others who they truly are, before the individual figures it out for themselves.
Omer Soylemez: Do you see any major differences between the art scene in the United States and the art scene of Europe?
Annina Roescheisen: I do. I don’t want to talk about every difference as there would be a book to write about it, but I want to talk about the acceptance of artists in these two art spheres. Europe still feels very conservative to me with its pro’s and con’s. It’s more academic. An artist is often still measured by which school he comes from. On the other hand, in the US, I encountered freedom. Artists are not necessarily measured by their school or academic background, but by their artistic merit and skills. Nobody cares if you work at McDonald’s to finance your career, whereas in Europe they wouldn’t truly accept an artist who has a second or third job. I always found this stupid, to say it out directly, as we can’t all come from rich parents who finance our art career, an artist is someone who goes after his dreams and who gives everything in order to be able to produce. For me that is a true passionate artist who I have all my respect for. This is for sure a very subjective observation – but I experienced it this way. I financed my productions, often through modeling jobs and it was so frustrating for years. People thought I was a model and judged my art, based on my looks. This changed after spending some years in the business (you have to be resilient and patient), but the beginning was hard. The US has taught me not to care about this kind of stuff and gave me the freedom to voice my opinion about this topic. I didn’t feel judged in the US as people where truly engaging with my art.
Omer Soylemez: How do you manifest your quest for social change through art?
Annina Roescheisen: I would need to redefine the word “social” in it. It’s more about a personal quest, about making us reflect and therefore act as well, not only on a social but as well a human scale. So, it’s a human quest for me. I believe that Art evokes emotions in us, pushes us to redefine ourselves, to rethink concepts, in a broader sense it makes us change our social behavior and our outlook on social and human responsibilities. Art often has a subtle educational aspect that works on us unconsciously. That is why I find art that has an impact on me very appealing. Art has to make me feel, think, cry, laugh… I know that for me, as a critical thinker, art will impact my behavior and the way I think either in a direct or subtle way.
Omer Soylemez: Can you name an artwork or artist that stimulates your desire for social change?
Annina Roescheisen: Huang Rui for example, who is a true activist through his art and his persona.
Omer Soylemez: What directions do you imagine taking in your future work?
Annina Roescheisen: I am currently producing a lot of paintings – so I definitely want to continue painting. I have finished writing for a sculpture project and I hope I can produce that soon. I am also writing a new video piece. One of my dreams is to show the piece “Bridging Grey” institutionally and hopefully to one day display an installation fairytale piece that I wrote five years ago.
BY OMER SOYLEMEZ
OMER IS A CREATIVE STRATEGIST BASED IN NYC