In my thirties, I questioned the essence of kindness.

What does the word “kindness” really mean? And how can art, in its various forms, promote kindness in life? These questions have often occupied my thoughts since childhood. 

Throughout my upbringing, my mum always emphasized the importance of kindness as the key to everything. The concept of kindness, as she taught me, extends beyond simple interactions with people and is woven into the fabric of everyday actions. While studying art, I was often criticized for the gentle and delicate nature of my aesthetic, characterized by soft, pastel colors and strokes intentionally devoid of harsh shadows. This aesthetic was a reflection of the emphasis on kindness instilled in me.

Now, as I approach my 30th birthday, I have decided to embark on a research and cataloging project on kindness. To seek answers to these questions, I enlisted the support of different artists. Through their lenses, they captured moments of kindness, illustrating them in various contexts—whether with people, objects, places, or memories. Together, their stories form a cohesive visual narrative of navigating life with kindness at its core.

Toby Coulson

When reflecting on the concept of kindness, I often recall a project I undertook some time ago. It involved documenting the efforts of a man who organised a weekly tea dance for elderly individuals in the community. What struck me most was the profound impact it had on those who attended, many of whom had experienced the loss of their partners and were grappling with feelings of isolation. 

Through this simple yet heartfelt initiative, people were brought together in a space of warmth and companionship, offering solace and connection to those who may have otherwise felt alone.”

Jaime Martínez-Cabrera Huidobro

Kindness is like a dance between two people, where we share moments and understand each other. It grows when people interact and understand each other. It’s like when we get goosebumps, a natural reaction to our surroundings. Kindness works the same way, responding to how we feel together. It shows how we’re all connected.”

Annika Kafcaloudis

Kindness manifests in the simplest of gestures, like rising to prepare a steaming cup of coffee for someone still nestled in bed. It’s the gentle inquiry, “Would you like a cup?” as soon as someone enters your space.

Kindness is sliding a warm mug across your coffee table, offering comfort in its aromatic embrace. It’s the invitation to stroll together, hand in hand, to the local cafe for a shared moment of caffeine-infused camaraderie. Indeed, coffee serves as a conduit for these acts of benevolence and consideration, weaving a tapestry of warmth and connection in our daily lives.

Adam Friedlander

The focal point of the image is a strikingly pristine fork, adorned with a delicate red thread gently looping through its tines. This juxtaposition presents the fork as both an object of allure and anticipation, poised for use yet untouched. The imagery evokes the act of sharing a meal, a timeless gesture of generosity and kindness, while the thread symbolises the myriad reasons that may prompt our hypothetical guests to gather around the metaphorical table.

The scale of the fork and the absence of human touch imbue the scene with a sense of longing, prompting viewers to envision themselves reaching for the utensil and leaving their mark upon it. This image is the result of a collaborative effort between myself and Selena Liu, an artist, designer, and prop stylist. Despite forging a friendship early in our respective careers, it wasn’t until years later that we embarked on our first joint project together.”

Kurt Bauer

Kindness is not just an act but the sincerity that lies behind this, the authenticity of the intention that speaks to my own authenticity, there’s something expansive about being and receiving kindness. A smile, a genuine “How are you?”, sharing something of yourself – there’s a generosity that expresses itself in big and small ways. 

For me, nature is ultimately kind as it provides enough space to live our lives and be touched by its beauty; there’s connection in kindness, a feeling of not being alone, and that we belong to something bigger.

I may not remember all the ways I’ve received kindness, but I know each one has an affect that is both known and unknown.

Nicolò Panzeri

In early 2023, I made a deliberate choice to capture the essence of this church—a remarkable creation by Alvar Aalto—as my own visual representation of kindness and ethereal elegance.”

Garrett Naccarato

“Kindness in my photography goes beyond capturing a beautiful image; it’s about the empathy, consent and respect I show towards my subjects and their space. Respecting the autonomy of my subject means seeking their permission before
taking their photograph, especially in intimate or vulnerable moments. It’s about acknowledging their space and allowing them to be comfortable in how they are represented. Kindness also involves empathy towards the people we photograph.
Whether it’s a portrait of a stranger on the street or in a studio, taking the time to understand the context and emotions behind the image can result in more meaningful and respectful portrayals. extends to the physical space in which the image is captured.

Isaac Calpe

“For a person to be kind, they must first know themselves very well, know their good and bad things, what they can do well and what they cannot, and improve in their daily lives.
That person who surpasses himself every day is the one who will treat others equally and show the most kindness.

Menno Aden

In order of appearance

  1. Menno Aden, Untitled (Classroom), 2010
  2. Menno Aden, Untitled (Car), 2008
  3. Menno Aden, Untitled (Car III), 2018
  4. Menno Aden, Untitled, 2008
  5. Menno Aden, Untitled, 2010
  6. Menno Aden, Untitled (Box I), 2011
  7. Menno Aden, Untitled (Box VI), 2011
  8. Menno Aden, Untitled (Basement III), 2011
  9. Menno Aden, Untitled (Basement V), 2011
  10. Menno Aden, Untitled (Lift-III), 2011
  11. Menno Aden, Untitled (Lift V), 2017


All artworks courtesy of Menno Aden

Menno Aden (b. 1972) studied Art and Composition at Bremen University and University of the Arts Bremen in 2000. Aden lives and works in Berlin. 

Exhibitions include Museu Serralves, Deutsches Architektur Museum, Landesmuseum Emden, Kunsthaus Potsdam, The Wandsworth Museum, London, CMU Museum, Chiang Mai, Thailand, Dezer Schauhalle, Miami, Ratchadamnoen Contemporary Art Center, Bangkok, Institut Francais, Yangon, Myanmar, among others. 

Aden was awarded the German Prize for Science Photography, The International Photography Awards, The Accademia Apulia UK Photography Award, The European Award of Architectural Photography, among others. 

His work has been featured in The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, Philosophie Magazine France, Der Tagesspiegel, Washington Post, Financial Times Internazionale, Dezeen, Nowness, Ignant, Deutsche Welle TV, among others. 

His work has been published in several books e.g. Berlin Raum Radar – New Architekture Photography (Hatje Cantz, 2016), European Month of Photography (Catalogue, 2016), Khao Ta Looh (KMITL Fine Art, Bangkok 2018), among others. 

Aden is represented in private collections in USA, Europe, and Asia, including Novartis Collection Basel, KPMG Collection London, Sanovis Collection Munich, Lisser Art Museum, among other national and international private collections. 

Jalal Sepehr


All images courtesy of Jalal Sepehr from the Knot (2011) and Water & Persian Rugs (2004) series.

Jalal Sepehr (b. 1968) is a Tehran based self-taught  photographer who has been doing photography since 1994. He is known as a fine art photographer locally and internationally. His photos has been featured in many prestigious publications. He has been founding member of  the Fanoos website whose aim was promoting contemporary Iranian photography (2003-2007). He is an active member of Virtual Arts of Iran Association and Advertising & Industrial Photography Association of Iran.

Luna Lopez

Through staged photography, Luna Lopez works with the emotional, the psychological and the erotic. Lopez infuses her photographs with contradictory elements, which makes her work both unsettling and arousing at the same time. She explores the dynamics of intimacy and violence, the calm and aggressive, as well as the strength that exists within the vulnerable and uncomfortable. Lopez stages and constructs photographs that don’t provide any fixed reading, but only hints about what’s beneath the seemingly obvious.

The underlying erotism that recurs in her pictures, manifests itself in what is not shown. Lopez interest in human connection is not only apparent in how she presents her work to the viewer, but also in how she identifies the nuances in a face expression or the gesture of the body when photographing.

Whether it’s a feeling of emptiness or a spirit of connection, Lopez captures these moments for her viewer to play part in. With the artisanal skill of darkroom printing and an acute eye for shape, texture and color, she has managed to create her own visual atmosphere, one imbued with a highly-attuned sense of tension and composition.

In order of appearance

  1. Untitled (Arched Woman)
  2. The Practitioner
  3. Attachment and Separation
  4. Brush of Censorship
  5. Metallic Object I
  6. The Spot (Eternity)

All images courtesy of Luna Lopez

Luna Lopez (b. 1996) is a Danish-born artist, currently living in Gothenburg, Sweden. Lopez completed her BFA in photography at the University of Gothenburg in 2021 and graduated from Fatamorgana, the Danish School of Art Photography in 2015.
Her work has been shown at Oblong, Copenhagen (2023), Oslo Negativ with MELK gallery, Oslo (2023), Göteborgs Konsthall, Gothenburg (2023), Galleri Thomassen, Gothenburg (2023), Galleri Cora Hillebrand, Gothenburg (2022), MELK gallery, Oslo (2022), Gallery Steinsland Berliner, Stockholm (2022), Röda Sten Konsthall, Gothenburg (2021), The Print Space, London (2019) and Copenhagen Photo Festival, (2018).

ML Casteel

American Interiors

Patrick Bienert

East End of Europe


Photographs · Courtesy of Patrick Bienert

Yis Kid


Photography · YIS KID
Photography Assistant · LARA METCALF
Fashion Assistant · ELIA RUIZ
Location · GAS STUDIO

Aytekin Yalcin

Sweet Dreams


Photography · AYTEKIN YALCIN
Make up · Assistant LORENZO RUSSO
Hair stylist · Assistant FLAVIO CHIVILÒ
Studio assistant · FEDERICO PAGANI

Alexandra Von Fuerst

“whenever there is a human, I approach them as if they were a sculpture. And whenever there is an object, I approach it as if it was living.”

For Alexandra Von Fuerst, photography is a way to explore the relationships between the human body and nature, and how the two are more inextricably bound than we may think. As she explains to NR, her work celebrates the ways in which nature communicates with us. And as the title of her series, Dialogue with Nature (2021) suggests, Von Fuerst uses her practice to share these conversations with her audience. But how does she define this voice that the natural world uses? It is fundamentally feminine, in the sense that it simultaneously conveys empathy and strength. The idea of femininity is another recurring theme in Von Fuerst’s work, but the ‘feminine’, it should be stated, does not necessarily imply gender. In Godification of Intimacy (2021) – Von Fuerst’s first foray into shooting male nudity – the photographer investigates how the body can be elevated beyond what we see anatomically. Von Fuerst explores this idea through the form of a triptych, where the same image is reproduced in different colours – the ‘real’ image positioned alongside two inverted interpretations. In this way, Von Fuerst shows the viewer the ethereal, otherworldly side of her subjects – literally, the ‘Godification’ of the body. 

In her work, the photographer’s vivid use of colour is not just an artistic device; it is a crucial element in her investigation into the human form and nature. Explaining below how she came to develop her practice, Von Fuerst speaks of the emotional qualities that colour can have. The photographer is interested in how colours can make her feel, and how the colours themselves feel; and this is a question that she extends to the viewer. Just as Von Fuerst’s work is a conversation with nature, colour, and form, it’s also about creating a dialogue with her audience.

Across her art series, personal and commissioned editorial work, Von Fuerst is not afraid to shy away from subjects and images that some might find difficult. The ‘taboo’, as she calls it, is another of Von Fuerst’s interests; crucially, how can we make the taboo beautiful, and will that allow us to confront and overcome unspoken fears? The photographer handles this with extreme delicacy (even if, as she says, she can be full-on), creating work that is gorgeously rich, without exploiting the difficult conversations that she hopes we can have. 

NR: First of all, how does the idea of ‘celebration’ tie into your work?

AVF: Honestly, all my work is about celebration because it’s about elevating everything that I shoot, that I see, and that I’m trying to empower. In particular, I want to celebrate the things that we don’t want to look at, like imperfections. Not only skin imperfections, but things that are much more deeply hidden that we don’t really want to look at because it’s a little bit uncomfortable. For example, this could be blood, or waste, or death. And I think, for me, this is very important, because celebrating and elevating something that feels taboo, or that you don’t feel comfortable about, is giving more meaning to live itself. At least, that’s how I see it. I think that, for me, this is my celebration: a celebration of the imperfections, of everything that is a little bit hidden, and it’s also a celebration of life.

“I think that’s what I care about, making the uncomfortable beautiful, so that it really elevates it to the same as everything else.”

NR: What really strikes me about your work is your distinctive use of colour, and the way you compose your work. How did you go about honing that style? 

AVF: I think in terms of the visual style, I knew I couldn’t do it any different. It’s funny, because when I started, I felt differently – I was trying to emulate the photographers I really liked. For example, I always had big respect for Mapplethorpe and his study of the body, or Guy Bourdin’s use of colour.  And the photographer duo, Hart Lëshkina, were working a lot while I was at university, so I was looking at them too. And I was trying to [recreate that] but it didn’t happen, and I was like, “goddammit, it doesn’t come out that way – it always comes out bright, pop, a lot of shapes.” So, I was like, “why isn’t it working out? Why isn’t it working that way? Why does it come out completely different from what I want?” And so, at that point, I wanted something else, but I decided to go with the things that actually came out which was very colourful and very bright. So, I learned how to convey that and dived more into shape and colour and tried to dig deeper into how to make it more honest to myself. From something that was initially very pop at the beginning, it became more grounded. Instead of being just colours, it became more about what colour could represent. If you use colour in a certain way, you can really feel it. And I like the idea that people can feel the colour and feel the image. Rather than just the form, I was really trying to feel that emotion, you know; colour for me is this emotional response about how I see reality, in a sense. So, it became a very instinctual, finding the emotional side of myself, which I would also say is a more feminine side.

“Instead of trying to give it a shape, I allowed the shape to show itself.”

NR: That’s really fascinating to hear. Actually, one of the series that I wanted to ask you about is Godification of Intimacy and the striking use of colour there. When you talk about how colour can capture emotion, is that what you’re talking about when you look at this series?

AVF: Yes. I think in general, I don’t say “this is going to be pink.” I really go with if it feels pink, or it feels another way. Godification of Intimacy was my first time shooting male nudity. It was just me and two models in an empty space, and I really wanted them to just interact and to move and to have that sensation of dancing and comfort. And it was something very new for me because it wasn’t how I would usually work, and so it was really about allowing it to grow and to move and it was such a beautiful experience; it was such an intense experience as well. There was a connection between the three of us and there was nothing else – it was just that moment and that sharing. So, I think the colours somehow are very elevated because that moment was also very elevating, which is what I wanted, in the sense that ‘Godification’ is about the higher state of ourselves, rather than just seeing the body. I’m not talking about the body, I’m talking what is behind the body, what is beyond the body. So, the colours are almost as if I’m diving into a spiritual expression of the body, depicting the energy around it, rather than just what I see. And the triptych, for example, is an evolution from how seeing it plainly to an expanded point of view where it’s not about the body anymore. It’s not about the nudity, it’s really about whatever comes beyond that.

NR: That’s really interesting, especially your point about moving beyond the body. Again, something I’d like to ask is that, as well as the body, objects with an anthropomorphic quality often feature in your work. Do you approach the body and objects differently as your subjects? 

AVF: Not really. I mean, whenever there is a human, I approach them as if they were a sculpture. And whenever there is an object, I approach it as if it was living. So, for me it’s kind of the same. It’s different in that you enter differently because you’re trying to give more movement to one and less to the other, right? And you want to bring them to being on the same level; I don’t want to give more, or less, life to one of them, I’m just trying to make them equal.

NR: Your work explores the notion of femininity in different ways. How does your use of the natural world allow you to convey a sense of femininity?

AVF: I’ve always felt that there was such a feminine voice within every aspect of reality; it’s the organic, nature, and the body. Even shooting male nudity, for more it’s about this female voice, or softer side. It’s not necessarily soft because being a woman can mean very strong and empowering. But it’s much more fluid, more empathic and understanding – but it’s also direct, too. A big part of what I’m trying to get into is really giving a voice to the organic because I feel like there is so much depth there. It’s just a different sort of communication in a way – that’s why A Dialogue with Nature (2021) was born. Because for me, it’s the natural, organic aspects of the everyday. Nature talks to us – it is trying to communicate something to us. It’s just that the way they do it is very different – but I find it very feminine. You can stand in front of a tree, a plant, a rock or a mineral and see how complex it is. When you look at how many shapes it has – you could stay there for a day just looking at it. And I think all of these aspects of this organic material, they are actually talking even though they’re not speaking; they don’t have a voice as we would perceive it. 

NR: In our correspondence, you mentioned that you prefer doing interviews over Zoom rather than email because it feels more personal. I read that during the [2020] lockdown you made yourself available for people, strangers, to call you. Why was that important for you? 

AVF: When lockdown came – I’m a person who is happy being alone, but I realised how even for me at that point, it was stressful. All of a sudden, nobody wanted to communicate with anybody else because there was so much fear. I think it became so important to just try to go the other way like, let’s keep it open, let’s keep a dialogue. I thought to do the best with what we have and stay in a more positive space. I said to myself, I have time I don’t have like any rush, and I can consecrate some time to someone who was having a bad day or is having a good day.

“I think communication enables you to let go of fear because all of a sudden, [you realise that] I’m not alone or, it wasn’t that hard to talk or, it wasn’t that scary. And it also brings a human perspective.”

NR: You mention there about how communication can allow you to let go of fear, and I wanted to tie that back in with what you said earlier about celebrating the taboo. Do you see your work as shining a light on things that people might fear in a beautiful way, so that we can breakdown the fear of the taboo?

AVF: I really hope so – that’s the sense of it, which is that I’d like people to try to look at fear and not reject it. To actually look at it with more love and more joy. I know that, sometimes, it’s very direct; as my mother would say, you need to be a little bit more delicate in the way you’re dealing with things. Sometimes, I’m being direct, but my intentions are to make [the taboo] more accessible and more discussed. I mean, my work is not just about the picture; it’s about being able to start a discussion or create dialogue, to create accessibility. I think, for now, I’m really just at the beginning of this process, but I’d really like it to become a window for people to really have a discussion to start seeing things with more acceptance. And I think the moment that discussions are open, the moment communication is open, ignorance [towards the taboo and fear] disappear because all of a sudden, you’re facing it. You’re talking about it, you’re solving it. So, I think communication is very, very important.


Images · Alexandra Von Fuerst

Georgina Starr

“I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players.”

It’s difficult to summarise the art of Georgina Starr. Since the early 1990s, the artist has made use of the array of tools (video, sound, written word and live performance) at her disposal to create a rich and varied body of work. In early works, Starr engaged a cast of miniature paper figures as stand-ins for real life conversations the artist would covertly record in public spaces. Later, Starr appears in her work – though the extent to which she was performing as herself is itself part of her practice. In The Party (1995), a 25-minute video installation, Starr takes on the role of Liz (a character whose advances are rejected by another character in a previous film). As Starr tells NR below, though the role was fictional, the process of making the film instils it with autobiographic elements. Characters, motifs and themes recur throughout Starr’s work, which enable the artist to rework and reimagine earlier ideas. But it isn’t just Starr’s own oeuvre that she recreates, with much of her work taking inspiration from existing film and literature. The breadth of reference points throughout Starr’s work are demonstrative of the extent to which the artist employs a process of meticulous researching to inform her practice. 

Aspects of Starr’s work recall a childhood spent watching tv; the object in the corner of the living room which, she explains in The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), became her “gateway to another world”. Indeed, the blurring of reality and imagination, autobiography and fiction are common features of her work. Starr’s film, Quarantaine (2020), is not, as you might think, a response to the pandemic. Rather, the artist began working on Quarantaine before COVID; the film’s title referring to the French word for forty, historically also the term for a period of enforced isolation over forty days. The film tells the story of strangers who are transported to an alternative universe which the two women must navigate their way through. Across the breadth of Starr’s work, the body – the female body and feminine identity in particular – are (re)investigated. In her later works, including Quarantaine, Starr is no longer in front of the camera, with a cast of performers enabling the artist to realise her practice on a larger scale. Most recently, the artist orchestrated a live performance in collaboration with French fashion house, Hermès, which in true Starr style, is a dazzling display of colour – flawlessly synchronised and splendidly surreal. 

NR: What have you been working on recently?

GS: I have been working on a new performance artwork in collaboration with Hermès to showcase their SS22 collection designed by the brilliant Nadège Vanhée-Cybulski. We performed it on 3rd February at a one-off special event titled ‘Gelato!’ at Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell. It incorporates a large set—a huge pastel coloured mountain sculpture, a new musical score for percussion which I developed together with composer, Thomas Haines, and is performed by four female percussionists, nine dancers and eight models all wearing Nadège’s designs. It was quite epic—a cross between a theatre play, a sculptural installation, opera, dance and fashion show. The collection is really joyful and screams summer, so I began by thinking about what ‘gelato’ would sound like. I imagined metallic sounds and warmer sounds of fabric on wood—glockenspiels, triangles, drums, wooden percussion, vibraphones, and I had a vision of a magic mountain which the performers, wearing these amazing clothes, would emerge from moving in synchronization with the sounds—this was my starting point.

NR: What does the process of rehearsing or being in workshops involve? 

GS: With live performance works, the rehearsal period is more intense. I always script and storyboard, and it was the same for Gelato! There are spoken word poems in this piece as well as the music and choreography. By the time we went into workshopping in mid-December we were at a really good stage with the musical composition, and I had choreography ready to show to the dancers. We were working with four incredible percussionists who were able to immediately play the working score so that the dancers could start to interpret the live instrumentation and we could adjust the score as went, which was a brilliant way to work. The music starts out very minimally and gradually builds up as the percussive mallets are handed to the musicians. Some instructional elements were built into the score, so everyone’s movement was highly choreographed, and I had constructed my own mallets using coloured threads from the collection – so these were woven into the piece. The workshopping days were crucial to figure out if the movement and vocals I had imagined alone in my studio could even work on a grander scale! I had props too, as I wanted the performers to all begin from inside a ‘mountain’ and emerge with large circles like musical notes transforming the whole picture into a giant score. There were twenty performers to direct, so it was pretty intense. We went into full-on rehearsals for six days at the end of January and had the first dress rehearsals at the venue the day before the show. I loved this collaboration with Hermès, it was wild.

NR: How does working with performers compare to playing the role of other performers (alongside) yourself? 

GS: The casting process is always really complex as I have a very clear idea of how I want the performers to look and what voices they bring. For both the Hermès piece and my last film Quarantaine (2020), it took a long time to find the right people, months of searching and meeting people. When I perform inside my work it’s a very insular and personal process, often just me and the camera. For my film THEDA (2007), I built all the sets in my studio and worked for a year filming myself in the various Theda Bara inspired roles, so became totally absorbed into the character. The way I work with a bigger cast definitely has some connection to this, I feel the need to demonstrate rather than just describe, it’s quite mediumistic, transferring my movement and voice into them. I like to work with a mix of professional and non-professional performers as the non-pros bring something magical and otherworldly. It often feels like the less experienced person is a stand-in for me in some way—I relate to them more strongly as they are working things out on their feet and negotiating this strange environment they find themselves in. 

NR: There are characters, themes and motifs – the brain, the bubble – that reoccur in your work; did you always attend to develop your practice in this way? Or did it just occur over time? 

GS: All the pieces I’ve made from the very beginning are completely interlinked. It happens naturally that one work leads to the next, so the themes and motifs overlap and merge. Sometimes an element in a work I made twenty-five years ago might suddenly appear in something new. A performance work I made at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam in 1995 called The Hungry Brain suddenly started to inform a work I was developing in 2013 which eventually became Before Le Cerveau Affamé a new performance and installation piece. In this work I created an illustrated set of predictive cards (Le Cerveau Affamé), the suits were the bubble, the hand, the brain and the cat. These cards found their way into my film Quarantaine. The cards appear in a critical scene in ‘The Grey Room’ where a group of waiting women are chosen for a card reading—the cards selected guide them to the next level of the journey in the film’s narrative. Sometimes it seems like one big Gesamtkunstwerk!

NR: As an extension of that, in The Voices of Quarantaine you make reference to De Quincey’s The Palimpsest of the Human Brain which seemed to be an apt description of your work. Would you say that your work is palimpsestic?

GS: I think my last answer definitely describes a very palimpsestic way of working. I enjoyed making the performance lecture, The Voices of Quarantaine (2021), as I got to reveal some hidden details at the heart of my film Quarantaine. There are so many layers of meaning in my work it can baffle some people, so it’s useful to be able to unpeel these for the viewer. Although the lecture itself was something of a palimpsest too. While I was reading De Quincey, I realised that his essays had directly inspired Dario Argento’s 1977 masterwork Suspiria which in turn had inspired the forest wall-mural I had painted in a scene in Quarantaine. At the very beginning of Quarantaine we follow two women through an arboreal portal in a city park which leads them into a school of instruction—the first room they encounter has the eerie wall painting. The mural in Suspiria had always haunted me so it became an ominous character within my film—it holds another portal to take the initiates onto the next stage of the voyage.

NR: How much of your work is grounded in the idea of autobiography, and to what extent does the notion of autobiography become a way to introduce (fictional) narrative?

GS: There is quite an even mix of the fictional and factual, but it’s so integrated that I often lose track of which is which. I made fictional works in the past which I performed in and people presumed they were autobiographical. An early video The Party (1995), for example, was a piece about a lonely female character who throws the perfect party for one. It began as a fictional narrative, but I did spend two days alone having a party in my studio—constructing a bar, making food, dancing, drinking elaborate cocktails. When I look back at this work it’s part of my history and feels almost autobiographical, it’s a perfect merging of the two. There are personal stories within Quarantaine, which I discuss in the lecture, these stories begin from a ‘real’ place or at least a memory of something real and gradually become so entwinned within the world I’m creating that they drift away from reality and become something totally new. 

NR: How do different mediums lend themselves to a particular work? What informs whether you use audio, film or a live performance?

GS: The idea usually informs what the piece will be.

“A memory I had about my parents burning all my records when I left home for example ended up transforming into a live sound performance piece called Top 40 on Fire (2010).”

I rebought forty of my favourite destroyed singles and had them played simultaneously on forty record players. It created a cacophonous sound at first that sounded like fire, but as each track petered out you started to hear the voices of the singers coming through and the final vocal lyric was quite profound. If I’m commissioned to make a work then it’s slightly different, although sound always plays a huge part of every work. Live works are the most difficult for me as it’s impossible to control exactly what will happen on the night. I’m pretty controlling about all the details so this can drive me insane; the uncertainty—at some point you have to let a performance live without you. When I made Androgynous Egg (2017), a live piece for Frieze a few years ago, it took me ages to let the performers just own the piece. It was performed four times a day for the whole of Frieze and it was only on day two when I realized that I didn’t need to sit in all the performances—they had it, it belonged to them now and I had to set it free, like releasing a child into the world. Quarantaine was really borne out of Androgynous Egg. I knew that I wasn’t finished with some of the subjects—the eggs, the Pink Ursula Material, the instructional poetry, even the choreography, and that I needed to make a film. Writing and making the film was my way of taking back the control I had relinquished with the performance. It meant I could close-in on the action and focus on the important details. Filmmaking is more my natural medium. I love editing with image and sound, it’s where the magic happens.

NR: In relationship to the magazine’s theme – celebration – how does your work celebrate, and explore, womanhood?

GS: I would say that it does this in every sense. I began in the early ‘90s by working with my own body and voice to create video and sound works. These works gave me an actual voice. I was suddenly able to articulate something within the work in a way that I felt I couldn’t in real life. It was a celebration of my inner world. Over the years I’ve gained the experience and confidence to transfer this and to share the ideas with performers, musicians, singers and composers so that the world becomes bigger, more complex and intense. THEDA was the last work I performed in front of the camera. It was a very physical work where I was on screen the whole time for forty minutes. Each time I screened the work at a cinema I invited different musicians to accompany it and perform a live soundtrack. I had done it a few times in London and New York when I realised that it was predominantly men that were playing the music; by some strange fluke it had worked out this way. I was invited to screen it in Berlin at an old silent movie theatre and decided that this time it should be a woman accompanying it. I tracked down this amazing soprano Sigune von Osten—diva der neuen musik, who had worked with John Cage and Luigi Nono, and she agreed to compose a new soundtrack and perform live to the film. There was something incredible about the combination of a woman (me) attempting to dissect and enact the lost films of another woman (silent movie star Theda Bara) while being interpreted and accompanied by the extraordinary vocals of a third woman (Sigune von Osten), it was a metaphysical experience—a total celebration and exploration of the female body and voice.


Images · Georgina Starr

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