I recently interviewed artist Aleksandra Mir. Aleksandra is an artist who after living in New York for 15 years recently moved to Palermo, Sicily. She was born in Poland in 1967 and grew up in Sweden. She holds a dual Swedish / American citizenship. This is an artist who has shown extensively internationally. She has held solo exhibitions at major galleries and museums around the world. Mir's art is focused on faith in possibility, and those coincidences that make an expanding world a little smaller. She is known for challenging the boundaries of traditional artistic practice while conveying her vision. Aleksandra's studio is society at large. In a sense, the world is her canvas. She is inspired by what she observes in society and dispatches those thoughts in a variety of creative ways. From publishing biographies of 'average' people to transforming a Dutch beach into a lunar surface and declaring herself the First Woman on the Moon, Aleksandra confronts ‘what if?’ with great enthusiasm and direction. Mir advocates new ideas of community by forming strong collaborative relationships and encouraging public interaction with her art. She approaches her artistic practice as a form of visionary experimentation in order to give critical analysis of, and positive alternatives to, authoritative superstructures.
Brian Sherwin: You have been featured in ARTnews and Art Forum. Is it stressful being covered by large publications or do you simply throw caution to the wind? Care to share any experiences you had?
Aleksandra Mir: No it is not stressful. I like publishing and participate in what I can.
You were featured in the USA Today exhibit at the Saatchi Gallery. Can you tell our readers about that experience?
The art collector Charles Saatchi bought my work from my London gallery greengrassi and put in a group show at the Royal Academy of Arts together with the work of other American artists of my generation.
You have a background in mass media and communications, media arts, and social anthropology... how do they all tie together with the art you create? Do you find inspiration from those sources?
They all help me to stay awake and not sink in too deeply with either one.
Out of all of the exhibits you have been in which one do you think was the most important for you as an artist?
Update, Copenhagen 96, an artist run month long event organized by Jes Brinch, Henrik Plenge Jakobsen, Jens Haaning, Christian Schmidt-Rasmussen, Michael Elmgreen, Ingar Dragset and other at the time Copenhagen based artists who were the first to produce my work in a public context. They had invited over 100 participants through their own informal network to come to Denmark, co-exist and create work together. The formal artworks spilled over in live and direct negotiations about the validity of art, which spilled over into the forming of actual relationships which spilled over into more work being created. I have since taken part in over 100 other shows, but no prestigious biennial or institutional exhibit has offered me anything close to the dynamic, freedom, risk or energy as that first one. More importantly, it set the moral tone for me and myself-initiated projects so it is in effect always present and continuosly affects the way I work.
When did you first discover that art would be an important part of your adult life?
When I was 11, I rewrote and directed a live version of The Muppet show for and with my class in fifth grade, casting myself as Kermit. It was really hard to find green stockings for it, but when that part worked out, I had a sense of artistic fulfillment. Possibly for my first time, although I cannot fully remember.
How has society influenced your art? Are there any social implications in your art?
My friend Lisa Anne Auerbach and I have just deemed 2007 to be the year of the Death of Social Art Practice, so hopefully, the answer is: NO!
Do you have any 'studio rituals'? As in, do you listen to certain types of music while working?
Not being hungry helps a lot. If I have assistants in the studio, the breaks and meals in between work hours become the highlights of the day. Music is always resolved democratically. I have had to learn to listen to and eat everything.
Why did you choose the medium(s) that you use?
I use whatever is inherent to the subject matter I am working with that day.
What trends do you see in the 'art world'?
In the next episode of the sitcom 'Art World' a group of Columbia grad students will go berserk in Manhattans Chelsea gallery district wrecking artworks, burning galleries, assaulting gallerinas and keeping art dealers hostage against huge amounts of ransom money. In the episode after that, their arrests, court sentences and jail time will be dealt with. In the following episode again, we will start seeing glimmers of redemption as the by now 30 year old former art students would have spent over a decade in various correction facilities, developing strange new strands of really interesting outsider art. In the fourth episode the most talented of these born again artists will be offered to be in a big spectacular group exhibition at the new New Museum in New York called "Full Circle". It will be the most influential show of the decade setting the tone for the next generation.
Any tips for emerging artists?
Don't even think of getting involved with drugs. Limit your drinking. Only social smoke. Eat basic nutritious foods. Dress warm. Be honest. Be on time. Be generous. And with all this, stay angry.
Has your work ever been censored? If so, how did you deal with it?
Yes. I wrote angry emails in response.
What was the toughest point in your career as an artist? Have you ever hit rock-bottom?
True misery knows no bottom. You can always fall deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and deeper and....
In one sentence... why do you create art?
To keep myself out of actual trouble.
What can you tell our readers about the art scene in your area?
My artists friends are spread out all over the world so there is no particular or fixed geographic location for the dialogues that I am involved with. Some of us meet regularly on the road for an event somewhere, or we travel and visit each others homes. I live in Palermo, Sicily now and I don't participate in any "scene" there at all, unless you count regular visits to the church, the beach and the market.
How has politics entered your art?
Facing the dilemma of paying tuition for an art education or not was my first political point of awareness connected to art. It felt like a very serious decision at the time that then would have life long political implications.
The question of a financial investment in relation to the factual outcome of an artwork is still a highly charged subject for me.
Does religion, faith, or the lack thereof play a part in your art?
The closest I get to religion is in that I try to seriously engage with and maintain certain originally religious traditions and rituals that I like. A lot of my work also has a celebratory aspect to it that perhaps can be seen as verging on ceremonial worship. I also need to have a lot of faith in good weather when dealing with big public and ephemeral events. But that's pretty much it.
Is there anything else you would like to say about your art or the 'art world'?
In the Fifth episode of the sitcom 'art world' we will see a whole generation of new Columbia grad students copying the 'Full Circle' masters again, and the story starts over.
Care to tell us about any other upcoming exhibits that you are involved with?
This year I am taking it easy. No exhibitions are planned. I am trying to learn how to cook traditional food, overcome my fear of driving and get to know people I already know even better. I am also studying the history of typography so I can involve a deeper level of awareness of type when incorporating it in my drawings. Maybe next year there will be some more concrete results in all these departments.