Evelin Stermitz
Since 2005
Works in Austria

Evelin Stermitz is working on media and new media art projects by using different media like photography, video and net, including installations and conceptual works.
The focus of art work is on gender based female and socio-cultural topics. The issues of projects are about gender, role models and the gap between man and woman referring to the theory of Jacques Lacan in terms of "the Other" and the performativity of the body by Judith Butler. An important task is the female body and the outgoing connection to created symbolic meanings of gender in history and nowadays. A main emphasis is on performative works.
In media theory the main interest is on the representation and approach of the female body in everyday media and media art encouraged by Barbara Kruger's work "Your body is a battleground."
Completed the study of Media Communication at the University Klagenfurt, Austria, with a master's degree in Philosophy on the thesis "Imagoes of Dancing Women in Film" in the year 1999.
Received a scholarship for the postgraduate study of Visual Communication at the Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia, (Prof. Milan Pajk - photography, Prof. Srečo Dragan - video and new media) in the year 2004 and graduated with a Master of Arts degree on the thesis "The Female Body in Context of Media Art" in the year 2007.

2004 - 2007 Academy of Fine Arts and Design, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia. Postgraduate study of Visual Communication (Photography, Video and New Media).
2006 International Summer Art School of the University of Arts in Belgrade, Serbia. New Media Workshop 2D Mutant Zombies (Low-Key Low-Tech Identity Mapping) by Dejan Grba.
2006 International Summer Academy of Fine Arts in Salzburg, Austria. Media works: Dream, dreams / things imagined, Sigmund Freud's 150th birthday, Media class by VALIE EXPORT.

Selected Exhibitions:
2010 FORCE: on the Culture of Rape, Current Gallery, Baltimore, USA / Mediations Biennale, Erased Walls, ConcentArt, Berlin, Germany / All My Independent Women, Casa da Esquina, Coimbra, Portugal / Indomitable Women, CCDFB Centre Cultura de Dones Francesca Bonnemaison, Barcelona, Spain / RED: The Gendered Color in Frames, Photon Gallery, Ljubljana, Slovenia / NapoliDanza, 17th International Festival of Videodance, Il Coreografo Elettronico, PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy / IX Festival Internacional de la Imagen, VI Muestra Monográfica de Media Art, CCC Centro Cultural y de Convenciones Teatro los Fundadores, Manizales, Colombia / Magmart | Video under Volcano, CAM Casoria Contemporary Art Museum and PAN Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, Naples, Italy / 2009 Videomedeja, Museum of Contemporary Art of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, Serbia / BAC! 10.0, Pandora’s B., Festival International de Arte Contemporáneo en Barcelona and Indomitable Women, Fundació Joan Miró and CCCB Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain / 2008 "Femmes, femmes, femmes", MAC/VAL Musée d'Art Contemporain du Val-de-Marne, Vitry-sur-Seine, France / Plus 3 Ferris Wheels, Museum of Fine Arts, Florida State University / Center for the Arts, University at Buffalo, New York / Richmond Center for Visual Arts, Western Michigan University / Alfred University, New York, USA / 2007 chico.art.net v.4, The Electronic Arts Program, California State University, USA / 1.3 Festival of Video and New Media Art, Mestna Galerija, Ljubljana, Slovenia / IMAGINING OURSELVES, International Museum of Women, San Francisco, USA / Video Art in the Age of the Internet, Chelsea Art Museum, New York, USA / cyber feminism past forward, Austrian Association of Women Artists, Vienna, Austria / FILE Rio / 2006 FILE São Paulo, Brazil / 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 FSPACE, Paris International Lesbian and Feminist Film Festival, Trianon, Paris, France / 2006 Cyberfem. Feminisms on the electronic landscape., EACC Espai d'Art Contemporani de Castelló, Castelló, Spain / Stop Violence Against Women, C2C Gallery, Prague, Czech Republic / 2006 and 2008 Rdeče Zore - Red Dawns, International Feminist and Queer festival, Galerija Alkatraz, Metelkova mesto, Ljubljana, Slovenia

More about her works can be seen at her personal website http://evelinstermitz.net
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This Delicate Monster Becomes Irma Vep: An Interview with Michelle Handelman

This Delicate Monster Becomes Irma Vep: An Interview with Michelle Handelman
By Evelin Stermitz, December 2013.

In a far-reaching practice that encompasses video, performance, photography and public art, Michelle Handelman creates provocative works that are both confrontational and visually stunning. She deftly plumbs the depths of human morality by exploring the extremes of attraction and repulsion, compulsive desire and narcissism, beauty and the grotesque, through a queer lens. Handelman’s work reveals the artifice of contemporary culture while simultaneously co-opting many of its deceptions to her own advantage. She is a Guggenheim Fellow and has received grants from New York State Council on the Arts, NYFA, The MAP Fund of Creative Capital among many others. Her work has shown at the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Institute of Contemporary Art, London; PARTICIPANT INC, New York; American Film Institute, Los Angeles; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, and MIT List Visual Arts Center. She is an associate professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology, New York City, and is currently developing their new Film & Media program. Her latest project Irma Vep, The Last Breath is now on exhibit at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, USA.

Michelle Handelman’s works on Vimeo https://vimeo.com/user1383999

Evelin Stermitz: Your last few projects have been based in historic texts. Dorian a Cinematic Perfume (2009/12) was based on Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray” (1890); This Delicate Monster (2004/07) was based on Charles Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal” (1857) and now Irma Vep, The Last Breath (2013) is working from Louis Feuillade’s film “Les Vampires” (1915). What is it that draws you to these texts and how do you approach turning them into contemporary art works?

Michelle Handelman: Ultimately I think that people really don’t change that much, and all of these works are about the human condition…human fallibility. There’s something about the cliché, the eternal quality of clichés that I’m attracted to…the fact that so much can change around us…technology, political systems, cultural norms, and yet being human remains an exercise in redundancy. For instance Wilde’s “Dorian” is a tale about narcissism and decadent self-destruction. It’s a story as old as the Egyptians, as old as recorded history…the young and beautiful selling their soul for eternal youth. It’s happening right now in plastic surgeon’s offices around the world…more than ever. Baudelaire wrote about the sweet escape from ennui through substances and the malevolent forces of nature…all eternal states of being and nothingness. I don’t really need to do anything to turn them into contemporary tales because they already are…that’s what makes them classic. But I’m not interested in making period pieces or staying true through an adaptation…I take the source material and find parallels with my own life, and the lives of my friends, then reimagine our life through this existing framework. In the words of Alan Watts, “There’s no need to rule the universe because you’re doing it already.”

E. St.: How does your recent project Irma Vep, the Last Breath parallel with your own life? You’ve spoken about how “Irma Vep, the Last Breath” examines lives lived “undercover”. Could you elaborate more on this? What do you mean by “undercover”?

M. H.: We all live undercover to some degree, but some of us are doing it more consciously. Irma Vep is a criminal in the film “Les Vampires” …it’s actually a tale of the working class vs. the ruling class and Irma Vep is part of a gang of jewel thieves. She’s leading the charge of self-actualization through disguise. At first I originally became obsessed with her character because I’ve always loved a woman in a black cat suit. Irma spends much of the film scaling rooftops and generally slinking around while cloaked in this black catsuit. She’s really the prototype catwoman. But as I started to work on the project and dig deeper…I really tried to figure out why I was so attracted to her….I realized it was because in a way, I was Irma Vep. I had learned how to live life undercover and be a criminal at a very young age. During the 70s when I was about ten years old my parents split up and my father moved to Los Angeles and ran a massage parlor while also dealing all sorts of drugs. From the age of ten I was lying to my friends, mother, brothers…I learned how to “secret” and how to pretend to be something other than the truth. I cast Los Angles-based artist Zackary Drucker as Irma Vep and Jack Doroshow aka Flawless Sabrina as Musidora, the real-life actress who portrayed Irma Vep. As a trans woman Zackary has lived half her life undercover as the wrong gender, and now is living her life undercover as the right gender. Jack grew up a gay drag queen during the 1940s/50s and knows a thing or two about living undercover, both as protection and as a way of life. The outlaw seeks absolute freedom, which goes against our normative training.

E. St.: Irma Vep, The Last Breath is currently on view at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. How did this come about and how have you worked with the site in this piece?

M. H.: The executive director of the Broad, Michael Rush, has been a huge supporter of my work over the years and when he invited me to premiere this piece I was blown away. First, it’s just incredible to have a person believe in your work so strongly that they will give you a show sight unseen, and second – the museum is gorgeous! It’s designed by Zaha Hadid and the entire building is like a German expressionist spaceship. All of the walls and doorways are slanted, the galleries are built with acute angles, the whole space is working against gravity. It’s full of possibility. And it was perfect for this piece because the look of Irma Vep, The Last Breath is inspired by Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) – totally simpatico with the design of the museum. There’s two architectural spaces in Irma Vep, The Last Breath, one is a the psychiatrist’s office with a white leather, illuminated couch and the other is an illuminated ticket booth, pure white on the outside and a messy viscous red and black on the inside. When shot from above the ticket booth looks just like a coffin, and if you look at a blueprint for the Hadid gallery my piece is in it’s the same shape! Synchronicity. All of the projections are angled in some way to add to the impending doom of the piece. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity to premiere at such an incredible museum.

Images from the installation can be seen at this link http://michellehandelmanirmavep.tumblr.com/

E. St.: When going back in time, how do you view your early artistic experiences, what has drawn you into the arts, what has changed for you?

M. H.: Growing up in Chicago I remember going to the Art Institute as a kid in the late 60s and seeing an exhibition on Pop art which totally blew open my imagination. Experiencing the work of the Chicago Imagists and their sub-group The Hairy Who totally inspired me. Then in 1967 my parents took the whole family to Expo 67 in Montreal and it was the first time I saw a geodesic dome and I vividly remember this pop art Volkswagen beetle complete with false eyelashes on the headlights! So glam! Color, irreverence, sex and fun drew me into the arts, and as I became older tragedy set in…and a heavy, dark exploration of physical and psychic pain became necessary, meaningful.

E. St.: When did you decide to go to art school, and how did you experience this time? When did you decide to pursue teaching?

M. H.: I ended up at art school more by accident than anything. Originally when I went to college I thought I would be a civil rights attorney, but I learned very quickly that if I were to become a lawyer I would be living a life of anger and frustration – anger at the corruption that pervades our legal system and frustrated by most people’s inability to learn from their mistakes. So after dropping out of Hampshire College, and traveling around Europe I went back home to Chicago. I thought about studying architecture at the University of Chicago but it was too late for that so I ended up at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago because I didn’t know what else to do. I studied photography there but dropped out after two years. Quite honestly I just didn’t buy into institutional learning. I was anti. It’s totally ironic that I’ve ended up a college professor because I spent a great amount of energy raging against the institution and it’s rote models of information processing. My first teaching position fell into my lap after the success of my documentary BloodSisters when Tony Labat, a great artist and chair of the New Genres department, offered me a class at the San Francisco Art Institute. It’s been a part of my life ever since. I’ve taught at the San Francisco Art Institute, CCA, Massachusetts College of Art, and now I’m starting a new film program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I try to change what I can from the inside now.

E. St.: How has your own work evolved over time?

M. H.: When I first started to think of myself as a serious artist I was working in photography, creating these theatrical self-portraits inspired by German expressionism, 70s feminist art and camp icons like Jack Smith and Steven Arnold. Soon I was finding the need to express myself through live performance and 16mm film loops became a part of those performances. I’ve always found it difficult to say no, whether to pleasure or materials. With every project I keep challenging myself to do or use something new, and over time I’ve discovered a way to incorporate video, photography and performance into each project.

E. St.: How do you view your work conceptually?

M. H.: Conceptually it’s always been about sex and death. From the beginning I’ve made work that’s highly personal, a pouring out of my own existential questioning. Working from a place of pain and pleasure. I don’t feel I’ve resolved anything, I just keep getting deeper and unlocking, revealing that which resides under the surface. My work vacillates between the psychological and the intellectual, the physical and the intangible, the raw and the formal. Over time my work has gone from narrative to gestural and now it’s veering back to more narrative. There are things that cannot be expressed through words, and there are things that can only be expressed through words. It all depends on what part of the brain I want to access.

E. St.: Since you also created single-channel film works as well as multichannel installations, how would you define the differences between these ways of exhibiting? Also, is the process of creation different in each case?

M. H.: I find single-channel work is often limiting in its ability to stimulate me, yet it’s the easiest way to directly communicate something to a viewer. Multichannel work gets me much more excited…the endless possibility of image combinations, treating the walls as a tabula rasa, but it’s much more difficult to convey a single idea as it can be very distracting for the viewer. This is something I struggle with more and more, as I love the experience of being enveloped by moving images and sound, yet as I get further invested in narrative I see the limitations of split focus to direct receivership. Confusion works against storytelling.
For me it takes the same amount of time to develop, shoot and edit basically any kind of project of the same length. I tend to be very slow, letting ideas percolate for years, once production starts I usually shoot of a couple of years and then it takes another year to edit. Editing is like torture for me, and especially with the multichannel works as so much of the structure is created right there in the edit. So there’s lots of experimenting, lots of versions--the blessing and the curse of digital editing. But the worst part is making a decision of what to use. I hate making that final decision. I want to use them ALL!

E. St.: You created the documentary film BloodSisters in 1995 with a running time of 75 minutes, what purpose lead you to create this intense project?

M. H.: I made BloodSisters in in the mid-90s when I was living in San Francisco. I never thought of myself as a documentary filmmaker, I had no idea of how to make a documentary, so I just dove right in. It all started because my best friend at the time Scott Shatsky, now a producer for reality television, was living with two women who were a big part of the leatherdyke scene. Scott was into the scene too, he worked at the renowned piercing salon The Gauntlet. At that time San Francisco was the nexus for all things sex and art and I was involved in a lot of different literary, art, performance scenes that were all deeply committed to mining the sex industry as material for life and art. Skeeter and Jaime, the women who lived with Scott, invited me to come to the International Ms. Leather Contest that they were performing at, and so I went and I was totally blown away. Not only was this a wild, sexy, well-produced event but it was used as a radical consciousness raising event and a fundraising platform for AIDS and women’s health issues. I thought “how smart! To raise all this money AND get your sexual needs met at the same time!”. That night I know I had to make a documentary on this scene. The leather community has always been the dirty little secret of the gay community, banned from marching in parades, outcasts even within a community of outcasts, the freaks of the freaks. I wanted to let the world know how fiercely intelligent these women were, and how much we owed to their bravery. As these women stood up against systems of sexual oppression they broke new territory for how one could be in this world. This was the start of the gender radical movement. I spent three years making the film and toured around the world with it for another three years. It changed my life and my approach to art-making. http://www.amazon.com/Bloodsisters-Skeeter/dp/B001VH7A5Y

E. St.: How did this experience change your approach to art-making?

M. H.: Well the film got a lot of attention and soon people were inviting me to speak on panels and write articles. It was the beginning of my teaching career. But most importantly it taught me about professionalism and the payoff when one commits oneself fully. And I mean the internal payoff, the feeling of achievement that gives meaning to one’s life and work. Previous to this I was serious about being an artist, but this made me more serious. There was no turning back. This piece went more places than any other thing I had created and I experienced first-hand how one tiny film could communicate with so many people around the world. I fully understood the power of art and being engaged with a community of artists and critical thinkers. It also made me see how following one’s passion is the only way to be an artist. Not that I was ever shy about following my dreams, but with my art I always had some resistance underneath, a questioning of whether things were good enough, whether or not they were worthwhile, and this showed me that there was no longer any room to doubt. After BloodSisters had it’s run I packed up and moved to New York.

E. St.: What did you start working on when you moved to New York?

M. H.: I started to go back in the studio and work in the same way I had been working before moving San Francisco – just me and the camera alone in the studio creating these phantasmagoric scenarios. Between 1998-2004 I performed in front of my camera, sometimes in the studio, sometimes live, inhabiting costumes and gestures inspired by myths, fairy tables and anime.

My favorite projects from this time was the Cannibal Garden series (1998-2000) which included large scale photographs of feathers in the guise of sex toys and a series of video loops

and the public installation I did for the DUMBO Arts Festival.

Somewhere around 2004 I started developing ideas that were more involved and envisioning roles for many performers. It’s also when I started to think about my subject matter in a more specific way and address very directly the historic works that have been my bedrock of inspiration.

E. St.: That’s around the time you created the This Delicate Monster project, right?

M. H.: Yes. I’ve always created work that was very open-ended, but I was realizing there were so many references that were important to me, and many of the viewers were missing it. So I thought about ways I could directly deal with one or two of these works that meant so much to me, things that taught me about ways to exist in this world, that I knew others had been influenced by as well. I wanted more of a connection with my viewer. So the first piece I did was This Delicate Monster, based on Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal

and then followed that with Dorian, A Cinematic Perfume based on Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Both of these pieces marked a huge shift for me in terms of content and process. I was no longer in front of the camera, and I was working with a cast and crew of incredibly talented people. Meeting my cinematographer Ed David completely changed my work. I owe him so much.

E. St.: Since the art world is highly gendered, have you had any experiences in particular with regards to being a female artist?

M. H.: There have certainly been times when men in positions of power have overtly hit on me and when I refused to submit, opportunities quickly disappeared. But the deeper stuff that is more intrinsic to my position in the art world, comes from the early days in San Francisco when I was coming out as a serious artist. During the late 80s while I was in San Francisco I became part of the small avant-garde film world that was, and still is, run by and for white, heterosexual males. At that time within that world Carolee Schneemann was the only woman whose work was allowed to assume a position of importance while dealing with explicit sexuality. Abigail Child’s work was as well, but since she was a lesbian it didn’t upset that hetero power structure. I found great resistance to my work and in fact, resistance to my entire being as a pansexual creature who didn’t identify as either gay or straight. Luckily for me, on the other side of the country MIX, The New York Experimental Gay Film Festival was being formed by Jim Hubbard and Sarah Schulman. Through them and Jurgen Bruning (now Bruce LaBruce’s producer) I started showing my work there. The queer community was not afraid of sexuality, in fact celebrated it, so I knew I found my home. MIX was ahead of their time, and it was the start of queerness being something greater than a binary gay or lesbian identity.

E. St.: What is ultimately your aspiration for your intense and broad work?

M. H.: I want to make work that blows people away. Work that gets inside a person and resides there forever. I remember being in art school and seeing Kenneth Anger’s work for the first time and I was utterly transported. It was like I met my maker, I found the source...I want my work to be that for others…to be the source…an initiation.



MiShinnah THe HearTH Ishtar Performance – Sound – Media: An Interview with Elise Kermani

MiShinnah THe HearTH Ishtar Performance – Sound – Media: An Interview with Elise Kermani

By Evelin Stermitz, July 2013.

Elise Kermani is a sound and intermedia artist based in New York City. She is Artistic Director of MiShinnah Productions, a company dedicated to promoting collaborative cross-genre artwork. She holds a PhD in Media Philosophy from the European Graduate School and a Master’s degree in Interdisciplinary Arts from Columbia College Chicago. In the 1990s, she performed as an extended vocalist in her interactive multimedia performances, and with the new music ensemble TROUSERS. Currently, she works with musicians, actors, dancers, visual artists, and puppeteers to realize her work. Over the past ten years, she has composed music for the choreographer Vicky Shick and visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick. In May 2012, she traveled to Athens, Greece with her film JOCASTA, a modern post-Freudian retelling of the Oedipus myth. She teaches Media Arts and The History and Theory of New Media at SUNY Empire State College.

Evelin Stermitz: Could you introduce your background? How did you evolve as an artist, and what are your fields of artistic practice?

Elise Kermani: I actually started out as a pianist and a painter. I was pursing a double major in visual art and music at DePauw University. In my junior year, I switched from Piano Performance to Music Composition. After college, I entered a master’s program in Interdisciplinary Arts at Columbia College Chicago and began exploring performance art and electronic music.

Now both of these fields are quite common, but at the time in the early 1980s, there weren't too many people doing electronic performance art, and definitely not a lot of women! When I moved to Los Angeles after getting my Master’s in 1985, I began writing sound poetry and performing it over electronic music scores. This poem was written on the day I got married in 1985: elisekermani.com/Spiral.pdf, and I have been performing it in various manifestations throughout the years. Recently, I used the poem as a score for dance (2013): soundcloud.com/elisekermani/spiraltromping.

Then I moved to Houston, continuing this work and eventually adding video to my performances. I moved to Brooklyn in 1992 and experimented with interactive motion sensors where my movement and words would control the video and audio processing: elisekermani.com/Dreaming.pdf and elisekermani.com/ANNE_peph.pdf.

Around the mid-1990s, I started composing scores for theater and dance. I moved upstate in 1996 and worked as a curator for the Electronic Arts Performance Series at Rensselaer: www.arts.rpi.edu. In 2003, I started teaching Digital Media at Hunter College, and began creating art pieces based on the theme of the origins of language. I earned my PhD in Media Philosophy in 2007 from The European Graduate School: www.egs.edu. My dissertation was "Sonic Soma: Sound, Body and the Origins of the Alphabet": www.egs.edu/pdfs/elise-kermani-sonic-soma.pdf. A companion to my dissertation was JOCASTA: www.elisekermani.com/jocasta.html, a film based on a modern retelling of Euripides' Oedipus. My dissertation book and film was the philosophical culmination of 20+ years of working with sound, body, and language in performance art.

E. St.: You currently teach at a SUNY distance learning campus. How does your experience feed into academia?

E. K.: Last year, I developed two undergraduate advanced level courses for SUNY Empire State College: The History and Theory of New Media and Media Arts.

I love teaching these online courses because it keeps me up to date on what is going on with new technologies. The courses are open enough that the student can develop their own plan of study depending on their interests. I think students always learn better and create better art if they are self-motivated. The way to get them motivated is to find out who they are and what their interests are, and to let them educate themselves by following their passions.

We have a media arts festival in the Second Life virtual world for the students to present their final projects. Since most of the students are long distance (artists anywhere in the world can take my courses), the festival is the only time we meet each other. We gather there via our digital avatars in a private hall designed specifically for University virtual events.

E. St.: You are a performer and composer while also teaching media art. How do you balance teaching with performing?

E. K.: Currently my performances consist of “mixing” sound scores live to theater and dance, and I am not the main focus on stage. I prefer to stay objective, to be able to watch the actors or dancers, and support the performances by providing a solid sonic structure. I’ve been working with the choreographer Vicky Shick and visual artist Barbara Kilpatrick in New York City for the last ten years, and we have done five collaborations together.

I teach media art, which is very different than teaching “media”. For instance, I do not teach film or television production. But if the student is creating a film, I guide them conceptually through the pitch, storyboarding, production schedule, and into postproduction and beyond. We ask questions like, “Who is your audience? How are you going to reach your audience? What is your message?” We study Marshall McLuhan and Alan Turing, and we read the philosophy of Lev Manovich. I require all my students to visit websites such as artfem.tv and rhizome.org, and if possible attend events at NYC venues like Eyebeam and Harvestworks.

E. St.: What is your current artistic approach to performance and digital media?

E. K.: I am not interested in cutting edge technologies at the moment. The younger generations have surpassed me on that subject! I guess I was on the cutting edge in the 1980s and 1990s, and now those technologies are the standard in performance. It became too difficult for me to keep learning new programs; all of the software and hardware I once worked with went out of business or was no longer available! Now I am interested in creating larger canvases – performances with themes of political, literary, or historical significance.

I think it is more efficient for me to take a step back from actually doing the work. For instance, I like to hire the dancer or the puppeteer or the singer to see my vision through. I like to collaborate with people who are masters at their own craft. I feel that my craft is sound design, and often I become a facilitator for someone else's vision. Sometimes I am at the helm of directing that vision, and other times I follow someone else's direction. I am equally happy in both positions.

E. St.: Could you talk more about your philosophy of the arts?

E.K.: I am becoming more interested in the classics, and in classical forms. I did all my experimentation back in the 1980s and 1990s. Perhaps I am coming full circle back to my roots in classical piano performance. In my opinion, contemporary art is no improvement upon the classics – and in the arts, we desperately need a stability of form. My challenge is to make contemporary art with classical content, form, and substance.

The current state of the arts and American culture is stooping to the lowest common denominator. I think artists should be ahead of the curve, not behind it, and certainly not commentators on a “present” state. Journalists do that. Our world is confused; it is in transition and changing rapidly. Artists need to be shamans to see through the confusion and offer an alternative positive substantive and orderly universe.

Beauty, form, universal themes, and classical constructs will outlast the current trends of trash as art.

Recently I've started working with puppeteers and dancers. I like the world of puppets and dance because you can tell a story but it does not need to be literal or linear. The most extreme emotional states can be expressed in an aesthetic way without being over the top. I'm also interested in mythology and ritual, and these stories are better told through a form that does not need words.

E. St.: What are the challenges to creating performance pieces?

E. K.: The biggest challenges to artists in America are financial ones. I recently realized that I have backed myself into a corner: I am no longer creating solo pieces that I can write in my studio and then go into a small performance space and perform them myself for practically a few hundred dollars' budget. I have grown into the habit of making pieces that require 30 or more artists/collaborators, and that is extremely expensive. So it usually takes me 4-5 years between new pieces. It wasn't a conscious choice but rather an intellectual, psychic, and creative need. I’d rather make less art, but make each artwork more meaningful.

I have to communicate my inner vision to my collaborators, and that translation is not always easy. Many times along the way I have to compromise, but sometimes by working with other people the project turns out surprisingly more powerful than I had ever imagined!

E. St.: Did you face any obstacles as a woman in the art world?

E. K.: In 1993 when I started this compact disc compilation of women composers called dice on Ishtar, my recording label: www.elisekermani.com/diceessay.html and
www.amazon.com/Dice-2-Elise-Kermani/dp/B00003ETR1/ref=sr_1_2?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1373117143&sr=1-2, some people said that I was putting women in a ghetto and that separating women from the mainstream was not interesting. But I was interested in seeing what women would produce if they were separated from the male culture.

I put out an international call for work for the third edition in 2003 and women composers from all over the world responded. They said they still felt ostracized as women in electronic music. It was still an “old boys’ club” in 2003. I believe now in 2013 the numbers are much better, but for a while electronic music educational systems were 99% male. For a woman to come into academia and be successful, she would have to act just like one of the guys to get work. Or she would be incredibly alone; a lone wolf, so to speak.

E. St.: You also produced a series of performance films on mythology and philosophy. Could you give an overview of them and your approach?

E. K.: Well, I will start with the most recent project and work backwards in time: elisekermani.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-work-in-progress-performance-film.html. We are currently working on a project based on the Iphigenia mythology inspired by the films of Michael Cacoyannis and the play from Euripides. The work in progress, currently called Iphigenia 2.0, is a short film and includes texts (voiceover) from various Iphigenia stories throughout the ages: Ovid, Euripides, Goethe, and modern playwright Ellen McLaughlin. I’ve asked visual artist Luis Tentindo to make two puppets for me: a small girl (Iphigenia) and a wolf puppet (her companion named Lupo, an imaginary dog of Artemis). These two puppets are the main characters. There are also the puppeteers who are visible, and it is wonderful to see the interaction between the puppets and the puppeteers. It is still very much in progress, but we eventually want this to be a full-length play that would include video and ultimately be filmed as a feature film.

Going back three years, in August 2010, we premiered and filmed a performance at 3LD Art and Technology Center in NYC (www.3ldnyc.org) called POE […and the Museum of Lost Arts]: www.elisekermani.com/poe.html. It is loosely based on the “virtual” friendship between Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. Baudelaire admired Poe’s work and felt a brotherly love toward him even though he never met Poe in real life. Many established artists from the New York scene were involved in creating the piece, and the result was an interdisciplinary theater piece with music, video, puppetry, and dance. We also have a French version of the play ready for Francophiles who love Baudelaire.

E. St.: How do you see Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe in a feminist context?

E.K.: It is well known that both these 19th century writers had difficult relationships with women. Poe is famously quoted as saying the “most perfect image was a young beautiful dead woman”, and Baudelaire was in a long, abusive relationship with his mistress. In our play, it is Techne, The Goddess of Invention (played by Pamela Z) who guides both of these authors into reconciliation with the female aspect of their identities, their “animas”.

Four years before, in 2006, we filmed JOCASTA, a modern version of Euripides’ play The Phoenician Women (written 410 BCE) that we performed in a large 5-story burned out stone barn in upstate New York. As I mentioned above, the film JOCASTA was part of my PhD dissertation, and it is a creative expression of my theory of the origin of the alphabet. Last year in May 2012, I presented JOCASTA in Athens, Greece, and the film was translated back from English into modern Greek. It was probably the highlight of my whole career to see the work come full circle and come home to Greece to an audience that understood who Jocasta is, mythologically and symbolically. We talked with members of the audience for hours after the performance about the deeper meaning of language and the identity of Iocasta (a.k.a. Jocasta) and Oedipus and how the alphabet was brought to the Greeks. It’s all in my dissertation if you want to read more.

I am very much interested in the art of language and how a piece metamorphoses when translated into another tongue. Our new project Iphigenia 2.0 will probably be translated into Persian, because part of it will take place in the Evin prison of Tehran, Iran.

I'm interested in history, mythology, and the meaning of symbolic archetypes: the balance of male/female, yin/yang element in human relationships and in human identities. This is what ties all of my performances and films together. My particular feminist philosophy includes an effort to balance the Jungian archetypes of the male/female, anima/animus forces within the individual.

E. St.: Could you tell more about the art group MiShinnah Productions that you founded?

E. K.: MiShinnah Productions was formed in 2009 as a place for artists to create challenging large-scale collaborative work: www.mishinnah.org.

I've always been interested in collage, and I come from a large family. So perhaps what I'm trying to do is create a community of artists with an alternative value system, a system that is not based on commercial or popular tastes. Our values revolve around an aesthetic of history, discovery, and artistic collaboration.

I say “collage” because that's what it was like for me growing up in a big family; so much was going on, daily activities were like patchwork. The big picture was some sort of large organized chaos, held together by “community”. What I was doing individually had to fit into the bigger picture of the whole family. What was good for the individual was good for the whole.

E. St.: What kind of future can you imagine for 21st century media performance art?

E. K.: I think that the artists and audiences of the future will be looking for truth and beauty in art.

When I speak about beauty, I am referring to the type of beauty that Charles Baudelaire speaks of. Baudelaire says that strangeness is a necessary ingredient to beauty. You can't construct beauty, and art cannot be created merely from symmetry and order. There has to be an element of the “odd” or the uncanny, the magical, the mysterious, or the strange to make something beautiful.

When I say truth, I do not mean that we get a factual report of what's going on in the world, but rather that the artwork shows an awareness of history and current events. It then rises above the facts, and goes deeper under the surface to create symbols and rituals that express a more comprehensive understanding of the world. Art should make the audience think and feel more. Art should be what remains after the material world disappears.

I think contemporary society is psychically sick and detached from reality. We have lost our ethical sense of what is important and what is right and wrong. Instead of really thinking (Heidegger) as individuals, we get spoon-fed pre-proscribed, already digested opinions. Instead of deciding ourselves whether we like art or not, we assume that we have to like it because it is already famous, and therefore has already been validated. It is in MoMA or the Whitney or the Met, so we have to admire it.

It is a “no-no” to talk about morality in art, but when I see the same trash get recognition over and over, it seems like the artists are playing an obvious joke on us. We have to be brave and honest, and support the work that psychically feeds us. We cannot keep giving recognition and awards to the trash of the already famous just because they are already well known. I don't care who you are and where you are from – if you make a great piece of art, it is much better and much more needed in this universe than the trash of someone already famous.

E. St.: I would like to ask you to conclude the interview with a poem from one of your early sound pieces.

E. K.: I’ll include “THe HearTH” vocal score, here’s a link to my vocal performance of the same piece recorded in 1991: www.elisekermani.com/mp3/HearTH.mp3. This composition used my voice to trigger midi patches on the Digitech DSP128 and Digitech FaderMaster, processing it into delays, reverbs, and loops. At the time this was recorded in 1991, this sort of live vocal processing was new; now it is pretty commonplace.



Secret Heart - Short story competition / Deadline prolonged: December 3, 2010

Fri Dec 03, 2010 00:00


Please forward to anyone who might be interested.


In the year of Chopin Slovenian art group KOLEKTIVA and FPSW Foundation for
Promotion Contemporary Art is inviting you to write a short story about
Chopin’s heart whereabouts during the WWII.

*Deadline: December 3, 2010*
*The best story will be awarded with 100 EUR!*

Before the funeral, pursuant to Chopin’s dying wish (which stemmed from a
fear of being buried alive), his heart was removed and preserved in alcohol,
perhaps brandy. His sister later took it in an urn to Warsaw, where it was
sealed within a pillar of the Holy Cross Church on Krakowskie Przedmieście,
beneath an inscription from Matthew VI:21: “For where your treasure is,
there will your heart be also.” Chopin’s heart has remained there—except for
a period during World War II, when it was removed for safekeeping—within the
church that was rebuilt after its virtual destruction during the 1944 Warsaw

After Chopin died in Paris, his sister brought his heart back here, as he
wished. It was interred in the church. A music-loving German general - a
notorious war criminal, as it happened - help save it when the Nazis leveled
the church after uprising.
(Searching for Chopin, Finding Poland’s Past by Michael Kikmmelman
Published in New York Times on October 3, 2009)

*We are looking for a fiction short story about the hiding of the heart. Who
and how many people were involved, how and where it was hidden? What
happened during the hiding? How it was found out again and restored in the
new church?*

The story about the course of events during the hiding of the heart might be
or might be not intertwined with real facts.


Length: Up to 1.500 words
Language: Polish or English
Eligibility: Everyone can apply
Author must also include following data: Name, Surname, Address, Phone
Number or E-mail

*Stories must be submitted to the e-mail: kolektiva@gmail.com no later than
December 3, 2010*

*The best story will be awarded with 100 EUR!*

With the sending of the story you give KOLEKTIVA and Program Gallery the
permission to:
- use your story in the art project Secret Heart (installation in the
- translate in English
- publish it on the internet (on the website: www.special-place.net)
- publish it in a small booklet (accompanying publication to the exhibition)

If you do not clearly specify in your submission, that you don’t give the
permission for any of the above mentioned, we will consider that you agree
with all paragraphs.

More information:

KOLEKTIVA will present the best stories at the exhibition Secret Heart in
Program Gallery in Warsaw in December 2010. KOLEKTIVA will respect the
copyrights of the authors and will clearly state the authorship of each

We are looking forward to receive your stories!



Call for the Visual Artists

Fri Dec 31, 2010 00:00

DETAILS AT : http://www.femlink.org/lovesong-accueil.html

This call is for every professional visual artist. Thanks to circulate
it to the artists you know.

DETAILS AT : http://www.femlink.org/lovesong-accueil.html


CIMUAT International Congress on Woman, Art and Technology in the New Public Sphere

Wed Nov 03, 2010 00:00 - Wed Nov 03, 2010


International Congress on Woman, Art and Technology in the New Public Sphere

Congreso Internacional Mujer, Arte y Tecnologia en la Nueva Esfera Publica

at the University of Valencia, Spain, November 3 - 4, 2010