ANGELICA FALKELING and ANNA ŁUCZAK discuss EMOTIONAL CHANNEL and latest joint exhibition at Rib (Rotterdam) with MAGDALENA ADAMECZEK
Emotional Channel came out of your residency at Skaftfell Art Center in Seyðisfjörður, East Iceland. You refer to the uncertain and mundane life of educated artists sustaining life via precarious side jobs, as well as questioning the historic depictions and roles artists have played and aspired to, in order to discuss your standing in the field at the current moment. How did you get interested in these subjects?
Emotional Channel came from our interest in what you are being paid for and what not. Generally speaking, it circulates around the economy of our lives as visual artists, to work with these conditions but still aspire for stability. How do you sustain an art practice along with two or three other jobs? We are living quite a mundane life, making our money in a much less glamorous ways than we thought we would when we were in art school. We both finished the same educational program in Rotterdam at the Piet Zwart Institute in 2017 and 2013. There is a strong community of artists living and working locally in Rotterdam and we have a large spectrum of postgraduate work experience ourselves and among colleagues. But the practical matters of an art practice are not so widely discussed in school; self-financing shows, travel costs and materials used to build up new works. Sometimes even the PR for the venue. Rich parents and investment in bitcoin are not options in our case. Occasional grants, jobs in hospitality and retail are the most common incomes among our friends. Native English speakers can go for competitive editing jobs, some of us try translating from or to our mother tongues.
“Precarious life is conditioned by not being certain and not in power of one’s own agency. In long term, it affects mental and physical health, access to housing, jobs, economies and larger scale of living and dying together. When we go back to our second first job (as a waitress or a cleaner) next to our art practice, some of us still manage to attend an opening or two” — this is a quote from our grant application which we never got, but we still decided to commit to Emotional Channel, fund it ourselves by working extra hours before and after our stay in Iceland.
Can we say that Eileen Myles's book The Importance of Being Iceland was the starting point of your journey to Iceland? Why did you choose Seyðisfjörður?
Seyðisfjörður is completely random, to be honest. And on the other hand, Iceland is very progressive in terms of female and feminist governmental politics, its progressive history of salary strikes, regulations on sex work, the world's first gay president, but at the same time being one of the most expensive countries to visit and live in!
The point of departure for Emotional Channel came from an interest in working together. In 2017, we both took part in a group show that explored poetry and post-industrial labor conditions in a small town. It took us some time and friendship to realize our practices’ common ground. And it really also came from the name. Over whisky, we had started to speak about different circumstances our lives; loves, salaries, insurances, broken stairs, and a wisdom tooth, and Angelica called us Emotional Channel.
Eileen Myles did some travels there in the early 2000s and wrote an essay on class division, comparing the way the society developed in the US and in Iceland. It only made both of us more curious to go there. The Importance of Being Iceland
by Myles also offers an incredibly inspiring way to write about art and how its social qualities can be experienced.
What is evident in your work is the return or even mockery of certain craft techniques and materials such as wool, string, newspaper collages, porcelain, quotes, or scribbles on paper. These pieces were an essential part of your show at Rib. They were also presented in a local bistro on Iceland. Can you speak a bit more about techniques you derived from?
What scale of production do you want to work at? How would you like to spend your day?
— these are questions we are exploring through Emotional Channel. Working as artists comes with these assumptions and historical baggage around autonomy and so-called freedom. So we are asking, what aspects of this would we like to keep and work along with?
There is still a preconception today that the institutional mode of production is the most desirable one, and honestly we are not so sure about this. Of course, we would like to be paid and have budgets, but it often comes with an undesirable load of admin work.
Works on Paper
are collages made of paper and plastic packages from our recycling bin. In both of our practices, there is an interest in understanding the movements of material traces, geographically and through histories close to domesticity. We desire a practice-based rather than a project-based approach to art, which means it is happening on a daily basis. That way, you do not need to outsource labor or keep everything in a digital cloud instead of your laptop memory. What is your daily routine? We prefer not to spend our time writing emails and applications for funds, and if you don’t commit to that rhythm, what work comes with it? What if you don’t want to apply for film funds for another two years, but still want to make a film? It will surely change the form, its aesthetics, social and working conditions. And this is what we explore.
In terms of craft techniques, it is not a return. Angelica has worked with textiles for 12 years now, and she is educated as a dressmaker. Anna has been working with ceramics since 2011. Angelica works with the term “kitchen economies” and most of her practice is rooted in these ethics. How do you make your art practice ethical for yourself? How much can I fit into my luggage bag? Traveling to Iceland we did not take many materials. Yet everything there was way too expensive for us. Because of the cost of materials, in Iceland you become very aware of what you consume and the amount of waste you collect and throw away as trash. Coming back to our residency, we found ourselves in between two fjords, in a small town with two of our whisky bottles bought at the airport. It made a lot of sense to spend our days doing walks and coming back home to draw or crochet, which by the way is very popular in Iceland and is considered a cheap version of this craft due to the relatively quick way one can accomplish it. Since food in Iceland is quite costly, we thought of using the food packaging in our drawings and collages. This became an economy in the realm of the domestic.
The patchwork pants, which appear on your videos, are recurring in the show and become a sort of signature of Emotional Channel. They are also available in your online shop.
A part of our research came from looking at how video vloggers and media influencers depict their home environments while at the same time co-opting linear storytelling in order to sell products. So yes, we have two items so far, pants and cups. In the near future we will also have Emotional Channel socks. You can purchase them via emotionalchannel.hotglue.me
The fabrics we use to make the pants come from Angelica’s former job. She used to work in a textile store as a salesperson and collected scraps no one wanted to buy, discarded for being too small to make something of, and saved them. This served as a methodology for sewing. The scraps are fabulous and are also great to work with. We wanted it to use the material to create sportswear with resilient seams that would allow you to move your body freely, merging leisure and fashion and their relationship to physical exercise. It connects to the way neoliberalism corrupted self-care. That is partly the realm that we want to speak about (see How Neoliberalism Corrupted Self-Care
It’s striking how you approach these notions of precarity and show it in an almost tragicomic but also extremely realistic manner at the same time, which was embodied in your performance in Rib.
To answer this, we would like to bring up a fragment from the performance consisting of the Albert Heijn poetry reading which we staged as a happening at the main grocery store chain in the Netherlands. Albert Heijn is more than just a grocery store. It is a lifestyle. It is a middle-class religion of constant accessibility. It is a dream come true, a quiet life, a family, a golden retriever in the comfy safe, a clean and well-functioning house in a quiet neighbourhood, close to the central station. The idea for AH poetry came from the book we found on Iceland. It is a quotation and re-transplantation from Bonus Poetry, a poetry book written by an Icelandic author Andri Magnason in 1996. It was published by the Bónus discount food chain, the main grocery store in Iceland. The book looks exactly like the cheap food products of this shop. It is sold there near the cash register with other small products. This was highly inspiring to us and we felt the urge to try and bring this idea to a Dutch context.
How would you explain your reference to everyday life aspects or side jobs in the context of your work?
It is a different mode of attention and focus. Intellectual work happens everywhere; it is not an armchair activity. You work because you have to pay rent, eat, and have health insurance, so you go and do tasks for money. For the next six to ten hours your body belongs to this realm where certain productivity is needed, be it baking cakes, translating 2000 words, or filling 100 bottles with silicone. And a residency like the one in Skaftfell provides time and infrastructural support for art to happen.
You’ve said you were planning to develop recordings with reviews of books, movies, cosmetic products and clothes. What will be the next steps for Emotional Channel?
Media influencers adopt ‘character building’ on multiple channels, like podcasts, vlogs, Instagram and blogs to sell what they call content. We already work in a variety of mediums like video, text, performance, textiles, sculpture, and installations. The conversations we have during our working process are part of Emotional Channel, so we thought podcasts could be one of the ways for us to explore different themes together. We had our premiere podcast in the framework of RAAR (Rotterdam Art And Radio). We continue recording them and publish them online via Soundcloud. The upcoming one will take place in London together with Connie Butler, and we would love people listen to them ●
Text ANGELICA FALKELING, ANNA ŁUCZAK, MAGDALENA ADAMECZEK
Photos NICK THOMAS, PHILIPP VALENTA & EMOTIONAL CHANNEL
© 2018, GUEST ROOMS
EMOTIONAL CHANNEL is a project by ANGELICA FALKELING and ANNA ŁUCZAK in which they explore the subjects of lifestyle and precariousness while dealing with contemporary images of labour, speaking, talking and making with and through the female body.
ANGELICA FALKELING (1988, SE) lives and works in Rotterdam as a visual artist and sometimes a costume designer. They graduated with a BFA from Malmö Art Academy and International Academy of Art Palestine in 2014 and an MFA from the Piet Zwart Institute in 2017. They work with performance, textile, installation, video, and writing. They are concerned about the economic and ecological aspect of artistic production from an intersectional point of view. In the scale of the domestic, their persona often appears as a queer instigator, tailor, and storyteller who experiment with different textile craft techniques passed on through cross-generational dialogues, humor and geological time. In their collaborative practice, they think through emotional adaptation in relation to the social. Their work has recently been part of Emotional Channel at Rib in Rotterdam, Kitchen Economy at Cripta 747 in Torino, Teaser, Tormentors and the Infinite Dog in collaboration with Madison Bycroft at CAC Brétigny in Paris, and History will be kind to me, for I intend to perform it at PALS & Fylkingen in Stockholm. Since 2018 they are also one of the facilitator and organizers of the feminist queer art and community space Tender Center Rotterdam.
ANNA ŁUCZAK (1984, PL) lives and works in Rotterdam. Graduated from Piet Zwart Institute. Participant at Jan van Eyck Academy (2017-18). She works with video in combination with spatial elements. Since September 2018, together with Angelica Falkeling, she’s running Emotional Channel - a platform for fashion and lifestyle. Together with Marta Hryniuk, Nick Thomas, Sophie Bates and Erika Roux she works on WET - a production and distribution platform for artists moving the image. She has shown her works during group and solo exhibitions at U-jazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, TENT (Rotterdam); Lokal_30 (Warsaw); W139 (Amsterdam), GHOST (Rotterdam); Roll on Roll On Phenomena (until you are no more) Jan van Eyck Academy (Maastricht); Guest Rooms (Amsterdam).
MAGDALENA ADAMECZEK (1993, PL) graduated from art history at the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań and Curatorial and Art Theory Studies at the University of the Arts in Poznań. This year, together with Ola Polerowicz and Tomek Pawłowski she co-curates the „Sandra” gallery. She collaborated on Sharon Lockhart's presentation at the Polish Pavilion at the 57th Venice Art Biennale (2018) and in the framework of other programmes, such as A-I-R Re-Directing: East Curatorial Residency in U-jazdowski Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews Warsaw. She obtained a scholarship in Stacion – Center for Contemporary Art Prishtina, Kosovo.