BEATRICE RUF In Artforum’s “Best of 2016,” Keren Cytter wrote with regard to your work that “such brave and loving representation of murder, sex, death, and abuse is rare in the cloud of careful referential choices in contemporary art.” In her description, there is a striking contradiction, and an underlying question: What is your intention in confronting us with this very strong, explicit imagery you use? I understand that you collect it from the Internet and have been doing that for a very long time.
DARJA BAJAGIC Yeah, it would depend on the series, but I often try to present both extremes of any story in some way. What I aim for is to create a space where the viewers can be confronted with this resulting ambiguity, its complex realities, to engage with things as they are and not as they appear to us. I never supply any “answers”—it’s more about showing. I don’t believe that art should ask anything of us, other than to see and then to re-see.
The diptych that Karen wrote of, exhibited as a part of my solo show at Künstlerhaus Graz, was centered on two characters, Manuela Ruda and Sophie Lancaster. Manuela is a self-proclaimed Satanic murderess who together with her husband stabbed his mild-mannered workmate who loved The Beatles sixty-six times at the Dark Lord’s bidding in Witten, Germany (the couple would later say that they’d chosen him as their sacrificial victim because he was “so funny and would be the perfect court jester for Satan”); by contrast, Sophie was a twenty-year-old Lancashire, England native who was fatally beaten in 2007 by five teenage boys, inexplicably enraged by her and her boyfriend’s “goth” appearance. However, upon first glance, they’re more similar than they are different—they’re both of the goth subculture; the composition of the images is near identical. Your initial impression may be that they’re not unlike each other, but in reality, they have totally different stories and endings.
BR The subject of murdered girls is a common thread in your work, and you have mentioned several times that it is okay for a woman to feel okay with these images. In the wake of the political turmoil we are facing in the Trump era, suddenly you see a lot of activism coming up, including women’s activism. From this perspective, it would be great to hear your bit about activism in general and feminism.
DB This came up a lot when I was in graduate school: the question of female representation in my practice, where I stand on things. To be honest, that is not my interest, nor my starting position. There are other themes that I am more inspired by than the question of female representation and feminism; or more importantly, I find it to be indivisible from the question of my moral obligation, and it’s not my place to moralize.
BR So where does your work start from?