Aleksandra Mir

Artist in Focus: Aleksandra Mir

By Luke Healey
studentnewspaper.org, Edinburgh, October 2009

Aleksandra Mir was born in Lubin, Poland, and has lived and worked in Gothenburg, New York and Sicily. Her playful, diverse practice encompasses every imaginable medium: from drawing, sculpture and video to performance, installation and happening. She has published biographies of ‘ordinary’ people, established a “Church” based around Sharpie markers, set up a cinema showing disaster films to the unemployed, and in an elaborate and much-publicised perfomance on a Dutch beach, declared herself First Woman on the Moon. This year she features in the 53rd Venice Biennale, representing Russia as well as distributing 1,000,000 postcards, all depicting waterscapes from around the world and bearing the legend Venezia. Her most recent project saw her working with Edinburgh’s Collective gallery, who together published The How Not to Cook Book, an extensive compendium of culinary advice drawn from all over the world, for the Edinburgh Art Festival this summer. As the publication prepares to leave Collective’s gallery space, destined for bookshops across Edinburgh, I asked Aleksandra about the project and her work in general.

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Luke Healey: I was impressed by the sheer number of contributions to your latest project, The How Not to Cook Book. Where did the idea for the project come from and how was it realised?

Aleksandra Mir: From my own failures in the kitchen. I thought this must be a universal experience that has not been properly acknowledged as creative and subversive work, but is always swept under the carpet as something deeply embarrassing. I asked 1000 people to contribute their stories, and the result is very rewarding.

Are you a particularly accident prone artist? What meaning do accidents hold for you?

I only manage to complete about 50% of what I initiate. Since I am not an isolated studio artist where I can control every aspect of my work, external factors influence my work a lot.

Much of your art is created collaboratively - from works like 'Newsroom 1986-2000', where yourself and a team of assistants took up a two-month residence in a New York gallery and recreated 200 New York Post and New York Daily News front pages; to works like 'Yo No Hablo Español', in which you succeeded in overcoming language barriers to work with a range of Mexican craftsmen. The same collaborative impulse brought The How Not to Cook Book to life. Surely this influenced your decision to exhibit at Edinburgh’s Collective Gallery?

Working with The Collective gallery seems to imply doing something collaborative, so, yes.

Your work has taken you from Scandinavia to the South Pole; from an intervention in Naples where you temporarily ‘fixed’ a number of ancient sculptures using 50kg of marzipan, to the Russian pavillion of the 2009 Venice Biennale, which you filled with discarded trophies. How does Edinburgh compare to anywhere else that you have produced work?

I never compare places to each other, each location has its own unique qualities worth looking for. It is only a matter of how deep one can manage to reach in any given relationship with a place.

So where will you be working next?

I am currently working on two public commissions, one in London, one in the jungle of Brazil.