Elektra KB

Arts & CultureFebruary 15, 2016
Elektra KB

We came across Elektra KB’s exhibition “The accidental Pursuit of the Stateless II” at Gaia Gallery (open between January 21st and March 5th), and without even knowing the context, got intrigued by the title. Looking into her background, Elektra reveals bits of her life story within details of her art, although her work is not technically autobiographical. We couldn’t resist meeting this powerful creative character who took us on a journey from Colombia, to New York, to Berlin, and finally, home to Istanbul.

Having to leave your hometown at a certain age, how has issues of belonging, politics and economy have an effect on your work?

I left by choice. Migration is a difficult thing; you can feel like a stranger everywhere you go, I feel often with no sense of place. You feel like a foreigner everywhere, it leaves you with a sense of statelessness. I believe in coming together with what unites us as human beings, not by arbitrary or involuntary situations that put people in a state of accidental privilege or disadvantage, such as place of birth. Being trans cultural gives you an important wealth of knowledge and life experience that informs your work.

What was it like growing up for you in terms of job prospects and what was expected of you?

I always wanted to be an artist. I didn’t think it was something realistic growing up, or as a means to survive in the world, but it took over me and became as we say in Spanish ‘proyecto de vida,’ my life project while pursuing university in New York. It was an unavoidable and undeniable reality. I was really expecting nothing, I just worked as hard as I could and was very self-motivated because that was the only way I could survive and stay afloat and be able to have the privilege of studying fine art in New York. It wasn’t a given, every opportunity was gained through hard work and constancy. Then I found out that that was really going to be my life through a combination of what I had constructed and from the way people responded to my work. My creative impulse molded my life.

It could be said that some of your works are autobiographic. Do you ever come to a point where you say, “I won’t share this, this is too much.”?

My work functions on the platform of the mythology “The Theocratic Republic of Gaia”; it is a safe space of resistance free of censorship. It is a way not to be autobiographic, but it is certainly a space where I reveal myself. I would say, I reveal myself in a coded way, however I have been developing new autobiographic works that I haven’t been shown yet, a series of audio, video and performance called: ‘Strange Body’, which address the feeling of not belonging to your own body. One is always fearful of revealing intimate pain, but it is liberating once you do it. So I would say, I feel happy when I think ‘this is too much’ and then I release it in to the world and that helps you to deal with it, a real catharsis.

Can you tell us a little bit about the “Theocratic Republic of Gaia?”

The title ‘The Accidental Pursuit of the Stateless’ comes from the realization that nationalities are arbitrary, since we do not choose were we are born and circumstances of either privilege or struggle are forced upon us. We of- ten identify with what unites us, instead of something ‘accidental’ such as a place of birth.

When I was doing most of the works for this show I was doing a fellowship in Berlin and I was addressing the is- sue of migration and sense of place. I made a video with the narrative of the Theocratic Republic of Gaia, where I used my research of a friend and exi- led Colombian woman to create a video and performance piece on the experience of displacement. The thought of how we are forced to displacement and how we look for a safe locale, city or country, feeling stateless were issues that inspired the title.

For The Accidental Pursuit of The Stateless II (number I was a solo show in New York this past September 2015) I developed a body of work – focused on transculturality and mobility- across multiple mediums. There are textile works inspired by the 2013 National Strike that took place in Colombia, each piece draws from events that happened in different cities across the country.
“The Accidental Pursuit of the Stateless’ adını ulusallığın keyfi olduğunu farketmekten alıyor, sonuçta nerede doğduğumuzu ve bize verilen ayrıcalık veya mücadele koşullarını kendimiz seçmiyoruz.”
“The title ‘The Accidental Pursuit of the Stateless’ comes from the realization that nationalities are arbitrary, since we do not choose were we are born and circumstances of either privilege or struggle are forced upon us.”

Video, photography, sculpture, collage work, essays… Would you say it’s harder or easier to create in many outlets?

I would say the hardest thing is being an effective communicator and breaking through the language of Neo-Liberalism. Being a transmedia artist allows conceptual art to take multiple forms and the difficulty lies on transmitting your discourse as clearly as possible, not in the techniques or medium you use. That is what I like about conceptual art and the post-Duchampian era we live in. It is the end of working for monarchs, rulers and churches, in our work we function more as thinkers, creatives and revolutionaries- than as crafts people.

How do you define yourself through your work? Which pieces reflect the person you are right now?

My work is not autobiographical, although it has off course biographical ties. I would say the GIFS, being my latest works, reflect more closely my current concerns and interests. However, growing up in Colombia informs my work, I am interested in the post-colonial and decolonial struggles and ideas. All my work has a marked sense of humor that definitely reflects the person I am. There are serious critical ideas among humor.

Do you find your creative process changing between Berlin and New York?

Certainly. New York is a bilingual city where you can easily live in between Latin American and Anglo culture (among others.). The struggles feel very much physical and imme- diate. The power structures are well delineated. Life is fast paced, you are on survival mode, you create with urgency and there are a myriad of outlets to present your work. It is a hungry city, however, there is a cultural focus on individualism, which can often replace solidarity with that sense of isolation among a multitude.

Berlin has a friendlier, slower –if you may– pace, you find more time for introspection and for developing more comp- lex and long-term projects, the calmness allows for explora- tion. Berlin focuses a lot on technology and politics through that lens and that of critical theory. There is a real sense of community and autonomy amongst people creating alternatives to the status quo. It also has the beauty of a heavy immigrant population if you find yourself in the right places. There is a sense of the individual in relation to the world, and not just their locale.

Let’s talk about Istanbul a little bit; what were your expectations of the city, and have they changed?

I expected to be in a city with a very rich cultural legacy and it certainly is. The warmth of the people is very similar to that of Latin America. I feel very comfortable here, and not culture shocked at all. It is immensely interesting and it lends itself to the desire of discovery.

How do you get over artistic blocks during days when you don’t feel creative?

Artistic blocks for me are induced by periods of illness, emotional hardship, stress or anxiety. I get over them by taking care of my health and with a good support system from loved ones. Removing myself from triggers is good, I clear my mind and don’t force my practice, I try to find myself again, to quite my mind, focus on resting and restructuring my mind, getting better and if possible I travel. I strive to find my center again, where I can here my creative voice.

What is a song that will instantly put you in the mood?

Well, it depends in what mood you are referring to, I would say any of these would influence my mood: Chaconne in F minor by Pachelbel, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark by Enola Gay, Spokój bySuper Girl and Romantic Boys, and many more!

Photography: Fora Norman

Author: Alara Kap