Art in Fact Magazine
SHOTS FIRED: KATJA LOHER GOES BANG BANG
By Semmi W
Shooting video is difficult enough. Imagine then, what it would take to turn video into a piece of sculpture. At “Bang Bang,” artist Katja Loher’s first solo show in New York, one can journey through elaborate video installations, and find themselves in a universe where pills suffice as food supplies, bees buzz on hanging balloons, and an androgynous, dancing alphabet poses challenging questions on hope and humanity. Housed inside Chelsea’s C24 Gallery, each video sculpture functions as its own planet, projecting a birds-eye view of choreographed performance art, insects, and ecology. Created in her Brooklyn studio, Loher’s video scenes are contained within delicate, hand-blown glass bubbles. Arts editor Semmi W. caught up with the Swiss artist at C24 Gallery to break down her inventive process and learn exactly what triggered her to take shots for Bang Bang in the first place.
Semmi: Your work has been showcased around the world. What does it mean to have your first solo exhibit in New York?
Katja: I am very excited. I was very lucky with my career… since I graduated I always had a next show somehow. I just let it float, and serendipity brought me to a new place. I am glad that I was so patient with New York to wait until the right place opened [its] doors to welcome the artwork.
S: When I first heard of your show, I thought it was a film. Why did you call it “Bang Bang”?
K: It’s sort of something that slowly came into my life. I started working on this last year actually… the people around me, the galleries, my friends… they all started adapting [the term] when we had a meeting for the show, I remember thinking, I want to call it “Bang Bang” but I can’t because that’s too silly. But then she (the director of the gallery) turned to me and said, I think we should call it “Bang Bang (laughs).” My work is very organic, it’s sort of it’s own planet that keeps growing. There will be much more coming out of [Bang Bang]. It is the beginning of something exciting.
S: Why did you select imagery of bees and honeycomb?
K: The bees, I approached because of their communication by dancing. And my communication in the video is dancing. When the bee flies back into the hive it communicates to other bees to find the flower by dancing. We are the only creatures who have a spoken language. The other reason is because of the colony collapse disorder–The disappearance of bees. We only have 50% of bees left in the United States, and this strongly affects the food chain. If things keep going like this we will have serious issues; no more crops, vegetables or fruits. And this is something that is not far away in the future… if we don’t change, this will actually happen and we’ll end up eating sci-fi pills.
S: Your sculptures are often shaped as spheres or bubbles. Why do you prefer round shapes?
K: I wanted to make a video planet… and I like the combination of glass and video; it reveals many different perspectives, depending on how you see it. It’s like freezing a moment, something that is here for a miniscule amount of time; kind of like a soap bubble. Something that is here and just vanishes in the exact same moment.
S: Is it also because you think we live in our own bubbles?
K: Yes, your own world. But it’s also this closed object. Bubbles [share] the idea to preserve something, to [keep] the DNA of something for a time when what’s here [now] isn’t here anymore. Lots of my work is about the imbalance that we humans are making on Earth… not following the rules Mother Earth has given us. My creatures try to bring the balance back… I am constantly fighting against the culture of waste. Even If we live in a city, we can still live in balance.
S: How long did it take to create the hand-blown glass bubbles?
K: It’s very difficult to measure a piece with time because first of all, I am working on various things at once… everything is based on collaboration… it’s very inspiring to work with so many different kinds of people. It takes about a month of preparation, and then the shooting is actually quick, I can do it about in a weekend or two days when it’s all planned out, per item. And then there is post-production… so about 3 months per work.
S: Did the initial purpose of “video alphabet” change at all while you were directing characters?
K: Originally, a book called Questionnaire by Max Frisch, a Swiss author, inspired me. I am fascinated by questions… somehow I started making my own questions [for the sculptures]. Every planet has it’s own story.
S: Like ‘Can Hate Create Hope?’
K: Yes, I always try to ask questions you can’t answer with yes or no. Questions that make you think or wonder… that is one thing I believe art should do. “What if you look at things this way?” It’s just about wandering around and being attracted to these little things [sculptures], and then getting a question out of it, and you can bump into the next one… I love seeing people’s reactions… sometimes you get to stand beside someone and overhear them explaining, and they don’t know you are the artist. What I am trying to do is communicate messages through beauty… you are standing in front of a beautiful piece and the more you dive into it, you absorb the message.
Bang Bang is currently running until at C24 Gallery June 21st.
Images courtesy of Katja Loher, C24 Gallery and Semmi W.