Interview of Susan Sherman by Bonny Finberg


BF: Why do you think so many activists become less directly involved in political activism as they get older? Some, like Tom Hayden have entered mainstream politics, others have maintained a revolutionary stance in response to politics and the world at large, but many have retreated from the front lines. Where are they? What are they doing?

SS: I don’t think it’s true many have become less directly involved. Maybe a handful of the more famous activists, and that might not even be true. We just don’t hear about them. I was at a memorial recently for Grace Paley that was held by the War Resister’s League and the Women’s Pentagon Action and it was full of people who were active in the Sixties, many even before, and are still struggling for social justice in many areas from mainstream politics to the anti-war movement to local struggles for fair housing. Much of the really important struggle takes place on a local level and that is just not “sexy” enough for the media to report. Also there has obviously been a concerted effort after the Sixties not to cover progressive politics or activity.

BF: How do you see your own activism manifested in your life now?

SS: In a number of ways. Through my writing, teaching, working with our union—we are affiliated with the UAW—at Parsons School of Design and Eugene Lang College, both part of The New School, and through social justice work both community and nation based at Middle Church, a wonderfully diverse socially progressive community. And of course any demonstration that comes up, although that is harder for me now because of an injury which makes it difficult for me to walk.

BF: What issues are pivotal for you at this time? What about China and Tibet, for example? What do you see as the most important things relentless and passionate young activists should be putting their energy into? Do you see any indications that there is a youth movement? Is it a healthy one? Considering the state of things in the world at present, what do you think is necessary to create an atmosphere that will encourage more radical activism today—How much worse does it have to get? Or is it a case of depleted energies and catastrophe/issue fatigue?

SS: We hardly have to create an atmosphere that will encourage more radical activism given the situation in Iraq and the economic, environmental and social problems surrounding us today. I think that activism is all around us. Yes, it’s important to support Tibet, of course, but we have issues here at home that are vital—hurricane Katrina, survivors of which are still suffering and are scattered all over the US, the devastation in the Midwest, and the ever present issues of HIV/AIDS, sexism, racism, homophobia, economic injustice. As well as the myriad issues around immigration. Globalism is an overriding concern if these other issues are to be adequately addressed. There are all kinds of indications that a healthy youth movement is alive and well—and a healthy older movement too. The Obama campaign regardless of the nuances was built to a large extent on the need young people feel for greater social equity, for a life that has more meaning than just the number of objects you can acquire. We were lucky in a way in the Fifties and Sixties because products were not so slick and compelling and advertising was not so insidious and widespread. On the other hand while it is still in our hands we can use technology like the internet—just look at the influence of blogs, Youtube, organizations like Move On. I think people should put their energy into whatever issues move, excite, touch them most. I would recommend magazines like Colorlines, which focus on young people of color and the struggles they are engaged in at the present if you want to know what is happening now.
BF: What direction does Cuba seem to be headed in from your point of view and how do you assess the “success” of the revolution?

SS: Again another very complex issue that would take a lot more than a simple answer to even begin to do justice to. When I was in Cuba in the Sixties—my last trip was in 1992—the Cubans liked to say that the rebellion succeeded in 1959 but that the revolution was an on-going process. I think we have a tendency here to think of things still in terms of beginning, middle, end instead of accepting the fact that all struggle is a process and a hugely complex one at that and ongoing. For specific information, analysis of the situation in Cuba I highly recommend a book by Margaret Randall, who figures prominently in my memoir, which will be published by Rutgers University Fall 2008 titled To Change the World: My Years in Cuba. Margaret lived in Cuba for ten years during the revolution’s formative period and has much more information and analysis about the situation then and now.

BF: Can you talk about Marcuse and Hegel’s ideas on individual choice and self-determination based on reason and rational thought— what kind of forces they were for you and those around you, in trying to build a world based on these principles rather than accepting the forces and facts of life as “the way things are,” etc?

SS: I’m not sure how much Marcuse and Hegel were on people’s minds that were struggling to fight against the many threads of repression and violence in the Sixties, particularly in the United States—which I think is the period you were referring to in this question. The catalyst would be found more in the energy and idealism of the Civil Rights Movement. The recognition that underneath the surface there were layers and layers of injustice that had to be addressed. Young people joined others already engaged in struggle who felt that two cars in every garage was not the motivation that moved them, the future they looked forward to. Marcuse’s book, The One Dimensional Man, was important because it laid out the vacuousness and emptiness of the period. Marx, particularly early Marx and Marx’s analysis of capitalism and his incorporation of Hegel (turned on his head) into his theory of historical determinism were more widely read and discussed, particularly in respect to the resolution of contradiction—the old thesis, antithesis, synthesis, negation of negation! A more pertinent question today I think—not putting down the gentlemen you name—would be the growth of media and advertising and its subliminal appeal to emotional needs that extend from the smallest parts of our lives—the toothpaste we buy—to electing our most important officials.
BF: Can you talk about the sources of memory for this book? You mention the destroyed correspondence and pictures necessitated by the need to protect people from government surveillance?

SS: We actually never took many photos in the Sixties because we never knew how they would be used and I did destroy a great deal of my correspondence in the middle Seventies when women from the women’s movement were being targeted by the grand juries. That is a whole other story. Fortunately I kept letters from Margaret Randall who I had an extensive correspondence with during the Sixties. I actually had to go to the NYU library to get my corresponding letters to her—my letters are archived there with in El Corno Emplumado collection. I had some essays and articles, which were published at the time, from which I could get valuable specifics about my trips to England and Cuba. I did some research. But for the most part relying on my memory wasn’t really a problem since the incidents in the book for the most part were highlights of those years I wasn’t likely to forget!

BF: What do you feel was left out of this book that in, retrospect, you wish you’d included?
SS: I would have liked to have taken the book to at least 1975 to include the women’s and gay liberation movements, a trip to Chile, the end of the Vietnam War and in 1975 a very important summer session at Sagaris, a feminist institute where I served on the faculty. But I felt that, as it was, there was a lot of information packed into one book. Who knows maybe some day I’ll write America’s Child Part Two! To repeat what I wrote in the last chapter of the book I feel what we call the Sixties really extended from the late Fifties until 1975 and that in actuality that period, even if extended, has to be viewed within a continuum of struggle in the United States. It cannot be compartmentalized.
BF: Yes, I completely agree. I think books such as yours can serve as inspiration and hope for each generation of activists that come along to continue the struggle. I hope America’s Child Part Two is on your front burner.



Francis Powell comes from England (he always says jokingly “he’s neither Scottish nor Irish, but simply plain English”)- however, for the last ten years or so he’s been residing in Paris on a permanent basis. He has made a name for himself as a brilliant musician and a composer of electronic music, known as ‘DJ WISE’ and meanwhile he has been painting beautiful, sort of ‘Art Nouveau- Klimt meets Aboriginal Art’ paintings, all coupled with printed samples of his own creative writing and steady journalism. He often says that he belongs to a certain eclectic British tradition of visual artists who often turned musicians and then turned something else.
The first legitimate question that one can ask at meeting this interesting, Renaissance figure, is – how does he find time and energy to attend to his respective and multifaceted talents.The fact is that he does not attend to any of them superficially or half-heartedly which means that he has a tendency to be equally good in all of his fields of interest. However, this time we will focus on his painterly talent as he has just showed his visual art at the Collective-Coop Gallery simply called L’Usine (the Factory).

Question: What made you attend an Art school? What was it like, what kind of Art College?
Did it do you a lot of good in terms of developing your inner calling and, if yes- in what ways? Did the school do any diservice to yr original talent (stifling it, for instance, and so on?)

Powell: I went to an oppressive English boarding school, where my only retreat was in the art room. The biggest encouragement I received was from my art teacher in this hard institution, so when I was of the age when I needed to choose a career, art school seemed the only natural progression. It is hard to say what I gained from art school. When I was doing my degree in painting, the tutors tried to curtail my ardour for painting. They were restrictive, maybe with some reason, I was trying to let out all this energy I had bottled up, from going to this oppressive school from the age of 13-17 and I wanted to translate this into paintings, while they wanted me to paint basic still lives, in monochrome colours, so we were far apart in this respect. It was not until towards the third year of my degree, I was allowed to let rip. Art school gives you a state of mind, in the way you perceive the world, it teaches you to notice things, others might pass by and feel things others might not feel. It drew up lots of emotions, including frustration, rebelliousness. I learnt things not only about art, but also society, as we had some art-related studies to learn, because the course also had to be part academic to justify it’s status. It was also the period when Mrs Thatcher was vehemently against any course that she perceived as being non-profit making for the country (as opposed to science and business courses). There was a dismantling of the art school, which was an insane move on her part, as English art schools have been very productive and have a fine tradition.

Question: At that time, in England- if I’m not mistaken, and you confirmed that I was not,- interdisciplinary approach was big in art colleges (John Lenon, Eno etc). Who in particular influenced your thinking in an interdisciplinary sort of way- meaning, you’ve been doing music, painting and writing, all at the same time, right?

Powell: I don’t think the tutors at Art colleges, or at least at my one, encouraged students to do any other activities other than painting and drawing and taking photographs. The only piece of valuable advice I ever received from the tutor at my first art school, was to go and a see a film, at least once a week, because films have so much visual information you can feed off. At my degree course, quite a few students had a strong desire to form bands or be part of bands. I discovered a band via friends called “Pigbag” who played this fusion of jazz and punk. One of the members Chris Hamlyn had been a student of fashion at my art college and when I went to see one of their early concerts it just blew me away and I was introduced to a new style of music. I was given one of the first copies of their single “papa’s got a brand new pigbag” and wasn’t just a disciple of their music, I wanted to make similar music to them ,which involved buying a saxophone and learning how to play it. They went on to do world tours and their music received acclaim and their first single can still be heard today and people who love the eighties are still nostalgic about them.
I was part of a band for much of my degree course, and then much to my surprise the band was selected to be part of week of concerts featuring bands connected (supposedly) to Art colleges, which went under the witty banner “Pop goes the easel” On our night we supported The Mekons and Strawberry Switchblade, but on one of the other nights the Smiths played. As to writing, when I was at my first Art school, I was fortunate to meet through a friend a writer called Rupert Thompson, who was in the process of writing his first book “dreams of leaving” having been signed to the well known publisher Bloomsbury. His writing style just really grabbed me. I have not seen him in years, but whenever I see he has a new book published I buy it immediately. His style is so dark and often disturbing but full of imagination and invention. I liked his personality and humour.
He has lived in many countries, which means he has a strong and diverse backgrounds to his stories. I think it is more the like-minded people you meet inadvertently via Art school, than the art school itself that encourages a different range of disciplines.

Question: Tell us the truth- which one of the three is your favorite activity, and why so? How did you construct your DJ Wise personality?

Powell: It is hard to say. All I can say….painting drives me crazy, it is such an intense activity, I get paint everywhere, not only the target canvas or object, I can be in a wild frenzy…. Writing is calming and needs reflex ion. Writing and composing music is calming, but doing concerts/Djing can be tense and you are conscious of the audiences reaction to what you playing. But if the concert goes well, there is no comparable buzz or feeling. You put your head on the block, when you play music live, but if you get it right it is brilliant. Dj Wise personality just grew by chance. I had not Dj-ed for a long time, some people thought I was a Dj in Paris, and asked me to do an event, so I thought, why not and- things evolved from there.
Question: How do these different arts intercept one another and where do they merge?

Powell: I am not sure how they intercept, other than the way time is devoted to each activity.
I think my art and music merges on the account the fact that I love different ethnic cultures. There is a strong African element in my art and I have also used African rhythms/vocal chants in my music. Maybe in terms of my short stories, they are very visual and descriptive and surreal with a dark edge like some of my paintings.

Question: When it comes to visual arts, how come that you choose painting over sculpture or any other genre? What attracts you to painting, color? Drawing? what’s your “kick” or primary attraction to it?

Powell: I would not dismiss any other Art medium or say one is better than an other. At Art college we were given the chance to do sculpture and in a way there are elements of sculpture in work, I love finding discarded objects in Paris and using them in my paintings. My paintings are not flat and two dimensional and I have also used a lot of pieces of broken mirrors. I love the spontaneity of painting. I did an MA at Wimbledon School of Art in printmaking and I sometimes see a printerly quality in my work, despite the fact I have not used any printing process in years.

Question: You live in a foreign country and you’ve traveled a lot- how did your living in Austria enoble yr artistic expression? And what did France did for you? Can you name some of major influences in both places?I can see some great predecessors in your paintings, Matisse in terms of color etc..but I am sure there are some others..Can you elaborate?

Powell: I found Austria, a beautiful country, and Vienna a remarkable city, but the people very restricted and with a small country living in the shadow of German mentality. I did try to get some music out and distributed but there was not the same passion and music industry as in the UK, where there are many record labels. France, on the contrary, after just a few years of living there, has creatively proved to give me almost a second life I could never have imagined. In the UK in the early nineties, I was lucky enough to work with some well known Djs, to get records released and to do some big “raves” as was the fashion in those heady days.
However, I had some terrible managers who gave me terrible advice. In France I have been lucky enough to realise different activities. To have a one man show in Paris, means a lot.
Paris has re-ignited me, it is such a visually stimulating place, there are so many minute details you can see as you walk down the street, such carvings and gargoyles. I have met a lot of interesting people and done some interesting events. The city, rather than invidual painter, is the strongest influence.

Question: What attracts you toward original, aboriginal or so called “primary, primitive forms” in your art , that is, painting? And where does that use of gold leaves come from? Byzantine influences?

Powell:Who knows ? Maybe it was one of my previous lives? There is so much mystery, but at the same time wisdom in so called primitive art. I want there to be spirituality in work and for the element of a painting being a precious object hence the gold leaves.

Question: What are your projects for future, any projects in particular? Meaning, this is the inverse way of asking : how do you see your art developing, in what direction?

Powell: Sometimes with my projects, they seem to come to fruition a long time after my original conception. The idea of making soundscape installations appeals to me a great deal. I hope to work with another artist to create a “bande designe” (cartoons) for a short I have written. Last year I started to get involved with making short videos and this is something I hope to develop, but this is something very time consuming and not as immediate as painting and music.

Question: You are also a writer and a critic, journalist, correspondent… How does it feel to live a language without reference, meaning to listen to foreign language all the time? Nourishing or a reductive experience for you?

Powell: It is strange but sometimes I walk out of my apartment (if my mind is immersed in some creative pursuit) and it takes me a bit of time to take in the fact that I am in foreign country. Sometimes I am tuned into the foreign language, sometimes I am so immersed in m my own world that I don’t even hear it!

Question: Is there any other form of visual art that interest you, that you’d like to explore in future (such as film, video, etc…) Or, have you already worked on it and I am not aware of it?

Powell: Yes, principally video, as it offers another dimension combing the visual information of something I have filmed with my music and also poetry/video combinations.

Question: What is it in the French art world that you like, and what is it that you’d like to change? How different is it from the British “art market”?

Powell: I have a friend in the UK, who is a talented artist/printmaker Andrew Tyler whose work I really have admired, and he was in year above me at Art College. I feel he should have received a lot more attention, because his work is so special. Maybe if he had lived in a different place he might have been in a different situation. It is very hard in the UK, to gain gallery recognition and to make a progress as an artist. I was left in limbo for many years after leaving art college, frustrated at the lack of opportunities. I am not a great networker.
Of course in Paris, you have to be persistent, but if you can find a galley where you find a niche, it is a good place for Artists. I have also heard that Berlin is the place to be, as it offers cheap studio space for artists and a lot going on.





Interview With Shirin Neshat in Paris by Nina Zivancevic

Shirin Neshat is one of the leading contemporary artists in the world. She was born in 1957 in Iran. In 1974 she moved to the United States where studied art at the University of Berkeley. The Islamic revolution led by the Ayatollah Khomeiny had introduced many changes into the Persian society which fell under the yoke of the Fundamentalists. All the liberties were restricted, the moral rigour was imposed and the condition of women worsened. It was only in 1990 that Shirin Neshat was able to return to her native ground- what really shocked there was the dramatic evolution of the situation of women. A recipient of many international awards, she began a series of photos called Unveiling in 1993. For these self-portraits, she wore the chador and exposed only body parts (eyes, hands, feet) which women are allowed to reveal in public according to the Islamic Law. Neshat wrote on the surfaces of the photographs, covering the exposed parts of the female bodies with Farsi script. Soonafter, in 1997 she began her video creations while continuing with her photography. Primarily inspired by the great Persian tradition and culture, Neshat shows the foresmost interest for the universal approach to concepts of society, identity, asylum, refuge and utopia.
In her recent work which we were lucky to see at “Jerome Denoirmont” gallery in Paris this past spring, Neshat took a more cinematographic approach to her work – the bold metaphorical imagery of her early films and videos has given way to a more narrative approach bringing in the current dialectics of the binary oppositions such as man/woman, east/west, and oppressor/oppressed. Her recent work has drawn its inspiration from Women Without Men, a novel by the Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur which describes the lives of 5 Iranian women who lived through the history of the CIA’s regime in Iran, supported by the Pahlavi royal family. Through the exploit of the themes which she had already explored in photography and video, Neshat gave us her reinterpretation of the Parsipur’s novel in a double-sided project which encompases cinema and art. There is a feature film, shot in Morocco, due to be released in 2008 along with 5 videos depicting the lives of these five women during the summer of 1953. As her name in Persian means “sweet” and cultured, we were not surprised to find her answers open and responsive to the media while interviewing her at Gallery Denoirmont in Paris last spring.

Question: Shirin, are you a feminist, in the largest sense of that word?

Yes and No. Yes, because I’ve devoted my entire body of work to the subjects relating to women. I believe in the female power in emotional, intellectual and biological terms. No, because I’ve always fallen shy of claiming to be ‘feminist’ because at least in my culture, it has a very concrete meaning, seemingly someone who is involved in an organized movement, something that I don’t belong to and have no interest in.

QUESTION: What idea made you create 5 videos dealing with Persian women such as Mahdokht, Zarin, Munis and Faezeh?
When I began to re-adapt the novel of “Women Without Men” written by Iranian author Shahrnush Parsipur, into a feature length film, which essentially evolved around 5 female characters; I knew that I would develop an art component of this project. I quickly became interested in making a series of short videos that related to each one of the five female characters. I was very interested in how in a museum or gallery setting the audience could walk from room to room, visiting each women and at the end, they could put the story together. The audience in a way becomes the editor of the film, in the way that they could put the puzzle together. This approach indeed was very different than a film made for a theatre setting where the audience is quite passive seated and the narrative is linear. So at the end I managed to make the five installations and have just finished the feature too.

Question: You left your original country a long time ago. How do you relate to the images of these women now, when the Persian reality is so far away from you. How do you connect?
This film of course takes place in 1953 before I was born, so it does not directly reflect the life that I experienced in Iran. But of course each woman in one way or another symbolically embodies obsessions, issues and problems that has continued to this date to haunt Iranian women, whether stemming from religion, political reality, sexual taboos.

Question: What made you draw, make photography, create art in your life to begin with? Do you remember your earliest stages of interest?
Art has been a wonderful escape from the banality of everyday life and more so a way to find a meaningful engagement with life and people around me. My life since active as an artist has been an exciting one, not always easy but wonderfully full and adventurous. Also, for me making art is a way to face my own emotions and anxieties. I consider my first serious attempt in art began in 1993 with the “Women of Allah” series, a group of work that brought me back to my home country, if not geographically, spiritually and emotionally.

Question: I almost called you “female Jean Luc Godard”…What draws you towards film and video as medium, and – do you prefer that medium to painting, sculpture ? And if yes, why so?
I’m very touched by what you say! Of course I don’t believe I deserve it! I developed a love affair with the moving image back in 1993, with my first video attempt for a small gallery show at Franklin Furnace. There is strong potential of poetics in this medium that I don’t believe is as tangible through mediums of painting and sculpture. At least I found myself right at home with video and film.

Question: What are its advantages and what are the limitations of these media (such as video, film) for you?
For one thing with film and video, an artist can incorporate elements of photography, painting and sculpture by the way she or he visually constructs the picture. More so, with film one can be a story teller, and can experiment with music, sound, choreography, performance, and more. As for myself, making videos and films have become an incredibly challenging and ambitious creative experiences. The limitations are that the process is often tedious and complex as it takes a lot of preparation and organization, so it’s not as spontaneous as medium like painting, where you can simply pick up your brush and paint. Furthermore, once you begin to experiment with the language of cinema, one has no choice but to gain the tools, by studying its tools, and history.

Question: How do you chose your subject and themes in your work? Do you search for them or they come to you?
It changes from time to time, but most often my ideas are inspired by literature that I read by various authors. Otherwise, there are times that I become obsessed with certain themes, often existential ones which eventually find their way into my art.

Question: Given the fact that your subject is often political (social commentary etc), Would you call yourself an “engagé”?
I am not sure exactly how you use this term, but if I understand it right, the question is how engaged I feel in relation to the socio- political subjects of my work. The answer would be that, I feel extremely connected to all the topics that I depict, as they are all topics that have and continue to effect my personal life. Sometimes I see myself as an activist, not the type who marches into the streets but one that is constantly preoccupied by political issues and is quietly confronting them by engaging in the community.

Question: A committed artist or just a human being who observes injustice? How do you see your work?
I see my art as a vehicle for dialogue and this is something I take very seriously. The subversive nature of my art is often my form of objection against any social and political injustice, in particular in relation to my own country. Of course, I can’t help but express myself not in the form of propaganda but in the form of poetry and aesthetic.

Question: What’s the situation like in the American contemporary art scene? Closed, open? How do you see your own place in it?
America is usually qualified as ‘melting pot’ so it’s the best place for a ‘nomadic’ artist like myself. I do however feel that I live in my own bubble in the way that I don’t follow any particular models, groups or trends. Also my subject matters (in a healthy matter) tend to pull me away from the what I consider the ‘glossy’ art world and closer to reality of everyday life.

Question: What’s your experience with the Iranian contemporary art scene? Are you familiar with it and are there any outstanding artists, in you view?

I’m very happy to say that I’m extremely active with the Iranian community particularly with the artists and filmmakers. I regularly try to educate myself in what’s going on culturally inside and outside of Iran and there are always fascinating talents around. Next week, a show will open at the Asia Society in New York that I’ve curated with another Iranian artist Nicky Nodjoumi. This is a very powerful show of an older Iranian artist, political satirist, Ardeshir Mohassess who was once a legend in Iran, but sadly neglected for decades due to illness. I take great pride in being involved with such magnificent event.

Question: You covered your recent photographs of men and women with letters, writing. What role does literature and writing in general have for you and your work?
Literature and words are suggestive of emotional and intellectual minds of the writers that deeply inspire me. Having been obsessed with Iranian female writers, in a way, I feel my visual work are embodiments of these ladies’ strong expressions. In earlier work for example I often used poetry by Forough Farokhzad, a heroic figure in Iran, a writer of enormous talent and imagination. Later, for the past five years for example, I’ve been devoting my time to the novel of “Women Without Men” by Shahrnush Parsipour whose imagination is equally extraordinary and beautiful. So literature for me is food for thought and inspiration

Faezeh & Amir Khan
Ink on C-print mounted on aluminium
223.5 x 178 cm / 88 x 70 in.
© Shirin Neshat. Courtesy Galerie Jérôme de Noirmont, Paris
Shirin Neshat
Copyright Linda Bertucci, 2006
Courtesy Gladstone Gallery, New York

Interview of French artist Anne Van der Linden by Nina Zivancevic

Anne Van der Linden

Anne Van der Linden comes from a wealthy middle-class French family
who allowed her at an early age to launch into an artistic adventure
which he has never returned from afterwards. She was born in England, in 1959, but she was raised in France. She started drawing in the
stream of conscioussness manner age seventeen, only to trasfer
her interest to other genres while studying at the French Academy of
Beaux-Arts. Perhaps it was this negative experience of the art school
that prompted her to work all alone in her studio. She understood that
the joy of contemplation and a challenging emotion could also serve the language of figuration and that these could be equally expressed
through an expressionist drawing. Her drawings thus became at the
same time serious and reminiscent of those ancient echtings of Dürer
and Bosch and also critically charged and merciless somewhat like
those caricatures of Otto Dix and Max Beckmann.The artist’s drawings challenge those ‘dangerous’ or socially (un)acceptable topics– she often asks a question whether all our relationships, including the family, sexual and the ones at work – are just a simple exercise of power ? The artist always answers this question in a brave and humorous manner as she reaches for the heritage of her great predecessors, notably authors such as de Sade, Bataille and Frida Kahlo who, in their turn, refused any given socal norms that stood in their way of being creative. The drawings of Van der Linden’s are more than provocative- they are often ladden with the ‘erotic’ symbols as exemplified by the beautiful females resembling the top models placed on the torture table of the Great Inquisitor who, in splashing their sex with boiling oil represents, perhaps, common reason and consciousness. There are also in there the fallen angels who descend from Bosch’s inferno and who devour penises in the red houses of Amsterdam and Antwerp.The constant themes of the artist’s obsession are the following: the terror of racism, neocolonisation, consumerism and an overall industrialization of the society staggering both under the social regulations and family norms as well as under an influx of the pseudo-scientific and technological consciousness. And in an ancient expressionist manner her drawings also criticize the sanctum of motherhood, as they are critical of the Virgin and the Saint and of our new Holy father who hides a knife, an animal and a telephone in his pants instead of the penis. We could surely say that the girl who makes love to a phone receiver evokes more a naif symbolism of the neo-technocrat world than that she leads us to the erotic connotation of Van der Linden’s image.

The artist complains that despite the fact that “all that she has always wanted to do is to be a painter” she gets sollicited by the publishers only as an illustrator. This is mainly due to her painfully precise analyses of the contemporary society, that is her drawings which often decorate the texts that are serious textual analyses of such. She treasures that painterly approach to color and the painter’s material which often does not reveal itself to draughtsmen. Van der Linden had been visiting for some time psychiatric wards- an experience which left an impact on her; after such an experience she conceived the painting “Total peeling” on which a patient tries to peel off her own skin and flesh. In a certain way, the whole oeuvre of Van der Linden’s enters the category of “peeling off” of the conscious as the paintings evoke the reality peeled off and penetrated to the bone. Her palette is very heavy and sombre resemling a bit Diego Rivera’s, although her overall sensibility belongs to the European art history.

The artist has also got involved in theater (through 1990s), performance and film, earlier with her legendary partner Costes. Her short films such as the “Ironing” and the “Well”, 1999,treat cruel subjects: the problem of an alcoholic mother and life of a cleaning lady who gets literaly ironed by her boss. And although these films are both committed and heavy just like the artist’s very painting they are also capable of keeping our attention on them- the phenomenon which surpasses many a contemporary artist and his work these days. If we were to ask about the number of Van der Linden’s group or solo shows in the world we would learn that such number is big; and if we wanted to inquire about the importance or a scope of the places where she showed her work we would also learn that it has been very present in many prestigious places in the world. However, when we start thinking of the artist’s work, this particular thing is not something that we begin to think of. The important thing is that her art approves of thinking, so to speak, and at the moment when she flashes her art like a gun or a glove , to the face of the spectator, he takes a good look at it- and starts thinking about it.

Her work is to be seen most recently at Les Singuliers Gallery in Paris.

Amour by Anne Van der Lindencyclabominable

1. Question: What made you draw and paint in your life to begin with? Do you
remember your earliest stages of interest?

Anne Van der Linden: As a child I had access to art books and art pieces as my mother managed a small art gallery in Paris – she sold contemporary prints.
My first drawing experiments happened in the 70’s. At that time
everybody smoked pot and I did the same for a while, so in that sort of context I started drawing the improvisations, free association figures, objects and shapes, all of which were very distant from the academic type of artwork, meaning that they appeared very spontaneous. Then I went to art school and lost that manner, but in a way I kept the “free association” mood until now.

2. Question: I called you a sort of “female Durer”…What draws you towards drawing
and etching as medium, and do you prefer that medium to oil painting ?

Anne Van der Linden: In the beginning drawings and etchings were the skeleton on which I had built my painting skill (isn’t that a classic one?!), that was the place where the idea materialized, nothing
more or less than that. Then a friend suggested that I just show my drawings
as he thought them very good, and I followed his advice.
However, the truth is that I still prefer painting (mix of oil and acrylic) to any other tehnique. Painting is really the cult object for me…maybe because the painting material makes the object look like a corpse, as it smells, shines, and appearing sometimes repulsive and at some other times
attractive, it is more ambiguous, and interchanging according to lightning etc…

3. Question: What are its advantages and what are the limitations of that medium?

Anne Van der Linden: Drawing is easy to be reproduced, you hardly get bad surprises, also you can draw everywhere, you don’t need much room.
Drawing is the place of research, and by using the line you try to bring out
ideas, and you can throw away the sheet if you are not satisfied with the result, thing that you cannot do so easly with painting, because it is so sticky and wet it
becomes quickly fused and saturated with color. Plus, you don’t want to run through the canvas too quickly because of the high price of the material!
But drawing -the way I conceive it – is a very austere technique, I sit at my table
for hours and sometimes I get hand cramps. Also it can take me quite a long
time to fill the blank space and « kill » the paper sheet, unlike the medium of painting where you use a few brush strokes and that’s it, the space of the canvas is conquered in no time- it becomes my space!

4. Question: How do you chose your subject , your themes in painting? Do you search for them or do they come to you?

Anne Van der Linden: It comes from varied sources, some images come from what I saw and that particular experince then influenced and inspired me to paint it, or also, there are ideas which I am not fully aware of and which come to me from the ‘back room’ of my mind…
Most of the time things appear to my mind as set choreographies, and then the
action becomes more precise from one study to another. The idea
develops simultaneously with the shape, and after a few aborted attempts at legitimate existence it reaches the state of harmony, I mean I experience it as such when the image starts “talking” to me.
Sometimes I take over the subject from one image to another, developing the so called ‘small variations’ of the original version.

5. Question: Given the fact that your subject is often political (social commentary etc), Would you call yourself an « engage »? A committed artist of a sort? How do you see your work in a larger context?

Anne Van der Linden: My art talks about mankind and doesn’t avoid any aspect of humanity, I use obscenity, violence, sexuality and all our orifices as means of
expression, and automatically that makes a committed artist out of me, as I have to account for the choices I make.
A Feminist? It is a questionable tag for me to get- sometimes I can adopt a feminine point of view and explore some subjects that have been unexplored because they belong specifically to women’s domain of work. Sometimes these are themes which women have not dealt with much until now,
so it is interesting to use certain paths to explore them.
But in general my position as an artist is the one of “transgender”, meaning being beyond sexual determination, just like an animal is,so that I could feel more free in such an operating space.
Also I happened to be rejected by so-called feminists, who thought
that I was presenting a degrading image of women. I thought that their opinion was so unfair and boring! Such a mental sclerosis!

6. Question: What’s the situation like in French contemporary scene? Closed or
open? Likable, or rather dislikable?

Anne Van der Linden: Well, viewing things from my personal experience, the French scene is quite shy, at the same time full of the inferiority complex and conservative, always looking up to foreign countries art scene and deciding what is good in art or not, and the result of such a process is disastrous as we all know. Also the institutions have been adamant for decades that their rôle con sisted in promoting the old conceptual art, and all of us painters sculptors etc…could just go and die elsewhere.
However, on the other hand, here in France I can make and broadcast pieces of
art that could easily put me in trouble if I ‘d shown them in other parts of the
world. That lack of censorship here IS good!

7. Question: What’s your experience with film, video? Do you like working with
that media?

Anne Van der Linden: I have made 3 short films some years ago (2000-2001), and I used to develop and extend the themes of my paintings into film, in order to make them move into action, and this sort of experience was interesting. What I mean is that these films were close to performances, with a more material, everyday life aspect to them than my painterly images had before.
But the filming of these images hasn’t been an easy process- Ii had conflicts with the technicians I was working with and this problem has been blocking me and my filming process eversince.

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