Sinziana Ravini 2012

Interview with Annika Ström

Singling out emotions

SR: It seems to me as if your in your artworks always have worked with the difference between art and life.

AS: That’s a very interesting question. Why do you think I’m doing that?

SR: I don’t know. Have you thought about this?

AS: No, but other people have. I see that a lot of people are asking this question. Everything I do has a relation to my life. But who doesn’t do that? Who doesn’t work with life material? Can you give me an example of someone doing the opposite of what I’m doing?

SR: I’m thinking of the work where you invited your mother in the exhibition space. That was a work that abolished the difference between art and life I would say.

AS: Yes, that work is from 95. That was my first exhibition. The question that I was working with was “Who’s the artist?” I invited her to make drawings of me for 3 days. And we transformed the exhibition space into a camping space, with a bed, sweets and wine so she could relax. She was very important in the work and she tried to please me. But she also took over the situation.

SR: In which way?

AS: She took over as the performance artist. She was the one making the work. I was only an object.

SR: What did you think about her drawings?

AS: The drawings developed during the days. She had not made a drawing for 43 years, so it looked a little bit like Shirley temple drawings…I also dressed as she wanted me to dress, because she was always picking on me.

SR: Tell me a little bit about this dress.

AS: I had a blue dress, white necklace and I was very well combed. She also started to speak to the audience. The visitors could not talk to me, since I had to be still. We sold the drawings. Every time she finished one, we hanged them up, and they became more and more expensive…The audience talked to her.

SR: Did you discover something you didn’t know about her during these days?

AS: Yes, that she spoke French and German. She was a very educated woman.

SR: You have made a lot of works about her…

AS: Yes, when I came to visit her and my father, I always stayed with them. Since I left Sweden when I was 17 years old. When I started doing films, the camera became a sort of defence, a way of keeping her to distance. And that helped, since she was a very complicated woman, very charming, but a very, very complicated and dominant woman.

SR: Does one see that in the film you think?

AS: No, since I never wanted to expose her. She always wanted to be in my films, because she wanted to please me. She also loves attention.

SR: Can you tell me a little bit about the film we’re showing in The Hidden Mother?

AS: The video All my dreams (2004) is based on a typical situation. I walked with the camera in the house…and I came up with the phrase that we actually don’t have in Swedish…”All my dreams have come true”. It’s a very American phrase. It’s a phrase that Swedish people that use to be quite melancholic, don’t have or don’t try to relate to.

SR: Why do you think this is the case?

AS: Because we’re not that self-confident perhaps…we’re not so optimistic (laughs).

SR: So what happened after you came up with this phrase?

AS: I wanted to see my mother’s reaction. She used to be an English teacher. But what she did, was to call out her brother, my uncle, who was in a very bad condition at that time, and who was still able to answer…she misunderstood him…at the same time, they were both determined to get it right.

SR: Did you think that one should adopt a feministic gaze on this situation? That one can see him as the man who arrives with the answer?

AS: My uncle was a linguist. He mastered 15 languages or so. But they were both interested in languages. For me it’s more about my uncle’s illness and his and hers determination to get it right. If that has to be the last thing he ever does It’s also about this everyday situation. She is ironing while they are discussing a very important phrase. This has nothing to do with gender to me. He was very anti-macho…It’s more about an everyday situation and how you relate to huge questions …You know this mindfulness stuff. We, live in a society where we’re constantly surrounded by phrases like this one. If this wouldn’t be the case, we might be happier.

SR: What about the cultural aspect of this work? How has this work been received in different countries?

AS: I don’t know, since I have never been asked this questions before. (laughs) I just know that it has been showed a lot, in different parts of the world…
but I don’t know actually know…

SR: You also did a work called Sunshine head?

AS: Yes, my mother has now got a very sever Alzheimer’s disease. She’s now in a home. So I filmed her with sun coming in from a window…She’s standing in front of the sun, the light…and it’s like her brain is x-rayed by the sun…It’s not much left of her life in that brain anymore…But she’s happy…

SR: She is?

AS: Yes…Since, she’s not aware of anything…she is standing and smiling…

SR: She’s not aware of your camera either?

AS: No…I also made a film another called crystal brain…I’m just filming a crystal lamp (krystallkrona) and it’s very beautiful, and she’s reaching out with her had…and it’s no sound in the film…we’re just imagining the sound…and she’s touching it…and she’s not aware of the beauty…but she feels it…

SR: …I’m so touched…I don’t know what to say…I’ll ask a more general question, but at the same time quite personal question…What’s your relationship to psychoanalysis?

AS: I would love to do a psychoanalysis, but it’s very time consuming and expensive…If someone wants to have a free session for me, I’m open… (Laughs)

SR: Do you think there is a relation between art and psychoanalysis?

AS: Yes, definitely. What interests me in art is how people relate to their own emotions and how difficult it is to be a human being…

SR: Your art…is like a tranquillity pill…it makes me happy.

AS: That’s good…For me to do art, is a way of consoling myself…and if I can console others that’s great….

SR: Tell me a little bit about your sources of inspiration..

AS: My sources of inspiration are other people. I tried to single out one single emotion and let it be acted out by many people…like the work Ten Embarrassed men 2010, I had a commission at frieze, I asked 10 men to act embarrassed for five days, eight hours a day. They were walking in a group in identical clothes. Embarrassment is something one usually has to overcome, there is a process of overcoming your embarrassment, but this guys had to be embarrassed non stop. It’s also an unattractive attribute…for a man…

SR: So this work, at least dealt a little bit with gender.

AS: Yes, absolutely, but it was also about how you can single out one single emotion…and persist in its prolongation.

SR: Can you tell me about a work you’re planning to do in the future?

AS: Yes, why not? (laughs) I’m trying to finish a work right now. I just finished shooting my first directed short film with Gunnel Lindblom, you know, who used to play in Ingmar Bergman’s films.

SR: Oh, yes of course…What is the film about?

AS: It’s about a very angry Swedish woman…she’s just crazy…I just realised that I wanted to create an extremely angry woman. I did one performance about a very upset man once.

SR: And what is she angry about?

AS: England…

SR: Why?

AS: He he, ok that’s a big issue.

SR: Is there some autobiographical material in this film, regarding the fact that you’re living in England?

AS: Yes…I can get angry with the weirdest things….

SR: Like what?

AS: The class system…The question is too big. It would need another interview.

SR: Ok. Let’s go to my final question then: Is there something in your work that you don’t understand?

AS: I don’t understand anything…This is a very funny question… I don’t understand what I’m doing or why I’m doing it. That’s why I’m keeping doing this I guess…I mean that boring works are works that you understand what they are all about…I actually don’t actually know why I’m doing art… I would have had a better life as a dentist perhaps (laughs)…but I don’t want to have a good life, I want to have an interesting life… You can actually write my telephone number for those that would like to analyse me. You can write ”Please help me” and add my mobile phone: ….