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What do You Think of Me? interview with Kika Nicolela


“What do You Think of Me?” developed during the Sumu art residency, Finland .

Kika Nicolela’s “videos have thickness, are made as fabrics meant to be touched; have texture, density; they seem to be made of cross-stitch or embroidery. Not only the revealed content is rich in significance and layers to be unveiled, but also the aesthetic is like a brush at work. We can perceive a same fingerprint that embraces them all: the body, its verses, reverses and knots, its relation to the urban and organic surroundings.”

I WOULD BELIEVE ONLY IN A GOD WHO COULD DANCE, by Daniella Samad. This essay was conceived to introduce the exhibition KIKA NICOLELA | SELECTED VIDEOS AND PHOTOS, June 12 – July 08 2009, at the 16mm, London, UK.

· You are working in different directions, how would you describe yourself? Which are the ideas and the concepts underlying your work?

I have been described as filmmaker, videomaker, videoartist, new media artist, multi-media artist, electronic artist… Any of them would be ok, I guess, but I would describe myself as an artist, plain and simple. 
I’m concerned with examining the connections between the camera, subject, author and viewer. I’m interested in issues such as the construction of identity, communication and voyeurism. I also investigate how the relationship between our body and the surrounding world (ie. nature or urban settings and culture) shapes our identity.

· Can you describe the evolution in your work? What it is the process in the making of your film? How much do you plan in advance and how much do you improvise? For example, do you write scripts for your films?

Each of my films has its specificity, in its concept and also in the creative process. But one thing that they all have in common, is that I think it’s important to prepare for the shooting in detail – I almost always prepare a shot list, which is a kind of blueprint for me during shooting, and sometimes I do some tests with camera or rehearsals with the actors/dancers – but I am very interested in putting my “subjects” and myself in a situation that takes us out of our comfort zone. My videos are really about that: about creating a set up in which me and the subjects are obliged to face a strange or unique situation, and in this process we reveal a lot of ourselves. The “subjects” I am talking about can be actors, dancers, performers or “real” people, in the case of my videos that are closer to documentaries. In some more recent works, I have also been putting myself in front of the camera, as in the video “What do You Think of Me?” developed during my time in Finland at the Sumu art residency. 
Therefore, I do plan a lot in advance, but improvisation plays a major role in my creative process. I never write scripts for my films, not in the classical sense. But I do write a lot about I am going to do, I research about the theme or subject I am approaching, and I create this shooting list that is the base of the shooting. But it differs from a script a lot, because I know that I am going to be open to improvisation during shooting, and later again during editing. So the final result is related to this first shooting script, but not exactly correspondent to it at all.

· Is there a particular artist or artists that have influenced you or that you particularly appreciate the work of? What are the main other influences and sources of inspiration in your work?

Ingmar Bergman, Wong Kar-Wai, David Lynch, Jean Luc Godard, P.T. Anderson, David Cronemberg, Peter Greenaway, Bill Viola, Chris Cunningham, Vito Acconci, Eduardo Coutinho, Andy Wharhol, Tarkovsky and Kurosawa are some of the artists/filmmakers that influenced or inspired me. Travelling, people and art in general are infinite sources of inspiration for me as well.

Ecstasy poem_2006Ecstasy Poem (2006)

· Advertising and art have always been related, and furthermore, they share the same theoretical basis, which is communication, although with different intents. I know that you also work in advertising. How much and how does this influence your work?

I rarely do advertising, but I am presently making a series of videos for an ad campaign. I think it doesn’t influence my work at all. In reality, I consider it an extension of my artwork. I can’t work on advertising unless I approach it in the same way I approach my personal works. I believe that my artistic voice is what can potentially bring something new or interesting to an advertising job, so I try not to separate things. In any work, I put my heart and soul in it. I don’t think I am capable of doing it any other way.

· You are now showing work at Randall Scott Gallery, Brooklyn, NY. What is the piece about?

The piece is “Windmaker”, a 2007 video that was originally an interactive video-installation. It is a complex piece, but I can summarize like this (with a risk of being too simplistic): it’s about connecting to nature that contains both a life and a death force. It is ultimately about connecting with our inner nature, which can be very dangerous and scary, or it can lead us to a sublime state. Or maybe it’s just about searching for this inner peace. 
It was a pleasure working in this piece, because I had wonderful collaborators: the actress Luciana Canton, who really threw herself in this strange character, and totally got out of her comfort zone, mentally and physically; the French-Canadian musician Thierry Gauthier, who was sensitive enough to truly understand my images and directions and came up with this wonderful original soundtrack; and my cinematographer (and husband) Ching C. Wang, who pursued the image I had in my mind and was able to bring it to life.

WINDMAKER series04_1s

Still from WINDMAKER, awarded Best Video Art at the A Corto di Donne short film festival, which was held in Italy, 19-21 June 2009.

· Can you tell me a bit about the project you are going to be showing in Artists’ Television Access, San Francisco, California? What is the idea behind it?

We are showing the first volume of the Exquisite Corpse Video Project. It’s a series of videos made in collaboration with another 36 international artists. I coordinate this project since April 2008, and we are premiering the ECVP Vol.2 in Sweden this week as well.
 The first volume consists of 9 videos, with a total of 82 minutes. The creative process is inspired by the Surrealists’ exquisite corpse (or “cadaver exquis” in French) method of creation, but translated to video. So each artist makes a 1-minute video and sends the last 10 seconds to the next one in a previously arranged line; this next artist in turn makes his own 1-minute piece, starting with the 10 seconds he received. So the result is this blend of different artistic voices and approaches, which are all pieced together to become one exquisite corpse. This project celebrates the possibilities of bringing together artists from all over the word to work in collaboration. It is a very exciting project to work with, and it has greatly influenced me in many ways. More importantly, it is uniting this group of artists; so new projects and partnerships (and friendships) are being born thanks to it.

· Any upcoming project you would like to share with us?
I will have an exhibition in Sao Paulo in November called ACTUS, for which I will make 3 new videos. They examine the ambiguity of acting.

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