Artist Justyna Koeke on Her Art and Living in Ljubljana

Justyna Koeke (1976) graduated from the Academy of Visual Art in Krakow in 2002. Between 2000 and 2005, she studied at the Art Academy in Stuttgart. She is a versatile artist mainly interested in the field of sculpturing and live performance. She works with a broad variety of materials, most often with textiles, which she uses to dress objects or monuments that she afterwards uses in performances and actions in gallery venues or public spaces. She had was a resident artist at the City of Women in 2011 and as such lived in Ljubljana for a while. Three of her performances, Mermaids, Abracadabra Fashion Show & Sodoma and Gomorrah were presented at the festival City of Women. She gave an exclusive interview for Lublana.

Barbara: How did you become interested in sculpturing, clothes making and art in general?

Justyna: I am very impressed by painter Hieronymus Bosch, Monty Python, and the artists who made the Sesame Street. I am often inspired by fairy tales, mythology, religion and so on. And I like a lot funny stuff, so I admire artists, who are funny and can make great jokes.

Barbara: What kind of memories do you have from your childhood about the clothes, fabrics, and women?

Justyna: My mom made us fabric puppets, very beautiful ones!! I liked these so much, that I started to make my own toys from fabric very early, I was maybe 7. And of course, we were a lot of girls and we liked to play like every children, to disguise ourselves.

Barbara: What kind of icons did you have as a child, teenager?

Justyna: As teenager I didn’t have icons for a reason, which I did not understand until now. We were 6 girls in the family. My dad didn’t like pop culture, so we had only classic music to make children party’s and there was no Television also. So I didn’t have a lot of contact with pop culture icons in whom my friends fell in love and so on. I didn’t understand this. I was in some strange Catholic Church group for young people, so I pretended to have Jesus for an idol and stuff… I was closer to this religious shit at that time.

Barbara: Which are the projects that you think make your work stand out?

Justyna: I think, I was it was the work for my first big exhibition which was part of the graduate work of a group called “freaks”  at our academy. So I prepared my first collection – sculptures which you could wear. It was 2006. I started to involve people into performances. The people had this sculpture-like costume on and performed. For me it was very exiting, because the performance was surprising. Like a jam session improvisation-performance. Since this times, I use this strategy quit often.

Barbara: Can you describe your workday?

Justyna: It is depends on the project itself. Sometimes I have a lot of organizational work. So I spend a lot of time on a phone and computer searching for materials and so on. Sometimes I “really” have to work on something with hands, so I am going to my studio, put on some nice music and work.

Barbara: Do you have some special rituals when you design? Do you like listening to the music when you work? And what kind of music do you like?

Justyna: I am smoking before I start to work, but now I try to quit this habit again! Yes, I am listening to music if I am working. But sometimes I work with helpers, assistants. This I like a lot, I don’t like to work alone. It is quit boring if you are alone for long time.

Barbara: Could you briefly describe the projects you are working on at present?

Justyna: Just now I try to finish a performance in public space with a lot of dead people that accompany me. The 60 dead people are made of fabric and clothes, are my company and I try to move them, so that they are not dead anymore. But I am still working on it.

Barbara: If you had no limits and no laws what kind of a project / world would you like to build?

Justyna: It would be very great, an especially gravitation would cause me trouble. I don’t know, what I would do, but I would really enjoy having a space without gravitation for some short time.

Barbara: Which book do you have on your nightstand?

Justyna: I don’t have nightstand… but now I am reading a book on how to quit smoking…

Barbara: What are the places that inspire you? Which are the towns and cities that you like?

Justyna: Mountains and Nature inspire me, give me energy to work, but also people! The gods company is  very important for me. People who support me and like my art give me energy. You asked of cities… well I like my home city Krakow a lot.

Barbara: Do you live from your Art?

Justyna: No, not directly. I am half-employed at the Academy of fine arts as an assistant professor in the new media department of fine arts, so there I get money for living, but of course I earn a little bit also from my art projects.

Barbara: Did you change when you had a child, did your Art changed?

Justyna: I got my son very early, at 23. So I simply cannot remember Times without my son. But I have to tell, that the fact that I have a child made me a different person. Also I learned completely new time management very early. Even during my study times, my son was there.

Barbara: How can you describe Ljubljana, City of women festival, and the atmospheres that you’ve experienced?

Justyna: I like Ljubljana very much. It was not the first time, I was in this city. Although Ljubljana is such a small city, it has a lot of different possibilities for a lot of cultural activities. I enjoyed very much the festival. It was very interesting in my opinion. Because I met the artists, whom it would be impossible to meet from my place in Germany. Very special artist. Absolutely not mainstream! It got me a lot of inspiration and power to continue my own work. It is very inspiring to communicate with such great artists.

Barbara: What did you like and what you dislike?

Justyna: I liked the great mix between visual art, theater, dance and cinema. We were also very lucky, because this year there was really great weather! The whole September and even later was summertime! Wonderful!

Barbara: How do the people respond to your Art in different cultures, how did you feel the people of Ljubljana responded?

Justyna: As far as I can say, the people liked both performances.

Barbara: Do you have in Stuttgart good opportunities to develop your Art?

Justyna: Yes, I mean in general, to develop in art, your condition of mind and imagination, or passion to do something. So I can tell yes, I have possibilities to develop my art… I have a big studio! But I think, it is always very exciting and necessary to see different things and meet new people!

[foto_Nada Žgank]