ADRIANA BLIDARU Your exhibition “If Only You Could See What I’ve Seen With Your Eyes,” created for the Estonian Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennial in 2017, traveled to the Art Museum of Estonia, KUMU (“If Only You Could See What I’ve Seen with Your Eyes. Stage 2”) in 2018, and then to London’s Whitechapel Gallery (“Invasion Curves”) later that same year. How did the exhibition and its subject evolve through these iterations? Did any other interests or directions develop out of this body of work?
KATJA NOVITSKOVA Every time I have an opening where I present new works, I feel they are not ready or not quite where I want them to be. This opportunity, to have one show travel between very different venues and countries, allowed me to develop the work towards what I imagined it to be in the first place. With each exhibition that you mentioned, I focused the work more and added new elements. One of the main works, the baby swing installation titled Mamaroo (dawn chorus), will actually be shown again this year.
For me, the whole project was about creating an environment, an intense installation where works act as central or ambient elements of that environment, all pointing to certain topics or moods, all simulating some sort of pre-existing tropes of places: a horror movie set, a lab, a traditional art exhibition, a theatre stage. But I still don’t think I’ve gone far enough. I’d love to make it more intense, sort of an “amusement park” type of intensity, but I don’t really have the resources to do that, and I’ve also gotten pretty tired making these massive shows. Some part of me wants more, and the other just wants to make more wall pieces for the next few months.
AB You are collecting a lot of visual and numerical data that you overlap in order to create these “landscapes of information.” Because you are using a lot of scientific facts, your work speaks to and of our current reality, but there are also some elements that push your work into a more speculative or even science-fiction realm. Can you address the relationship and tension between nonfiction and fiction in your practice?
KN I like to use existing things, be it images, words or objects, and re-assemble them in ways that perhaps open them up to a new purpose or meaning, which is what a lot of art that deals with appropriation does to a certain degree. What I find interesting, though, is also generating a speculative projection: how do these things outline the possible futures, or render the past in a new light? For example, I’ve been using these mechanical contemporary baby swings as bases of sculptures. What I find fascinating about them is that they hold something from the “past” (a simulation of a motherly pouch, an animal body), something from now (a consumer product that substitutes human behaviour with tech), and something from the “future” (a speculation on robotic agency). So for me, this somehow feels right, to work with things that are able to collapse time like that. When there is a whole group of these baby swings dressed up in weird resin membranes and plastic feathers, it all of a sudden becomes haunting, and it signals “science-fiction.”