Annika Rixen and Laura Piasta have been making work together as long as I have known them. I asked them a few questions about their recent collaborations.
Found items and handmade stool. Dimensions variable.
Photo: Laura Piasta & Annika Rixen
Can you tell us a little bit about how your partnership began?
LP+AR: Our partnership began around 2004 while we were studying together in Vancouver BC. After graduating, we worked independently in separate cites for two years. We are currently living in the same building in Berlin-Kreuzberg in neighboring apartments. We don’t share a studio, but we have studios in the same complex so we’re around each other a lot, but not necessarily in each other’s space. At Emily Carr, we started out curating exhibitions together, working with themes and subjects we had an affinity towards and exploring in our own work as well. People have asked us in the past if curating was something that we were interested in, but we always viewed those projects as part of our artistic practice – rather than a separate activity.
Our collaborative practice neither only consists of works we created together, nor is it a completely individual process. Projects usually grow out of conversations, and then we both go to our studios and make stuff for a while. We joke about our ‘telepathic’ relationship– but in fact, ever since we’ve known each other, there have been these strange connections between the things we do. It is unexplainable and definitely un-planned.
That’s one of the reasons why we like working together, and it’s something we are also exploring in the work itself. Our individual working processes are different at times, they sort of drift apart and come back together. In the end, there is definitely a non-verbal conversation going on between the things we both produce. It’s important to the both of us to allow for that kind of drifting. Usually interesting things happen when you stop trying to control the situation, or in this case, the way in which works make some sort of sense together.
The Invisible College: Three Chance Exposures, 2010
3 digital BW-prints
LP+AR: Apart from the fact that (literal) mirrors show up in our work on various occasions, that’s kind of a good way to describe our working relationship. It’s not necessarily that we do the same things, have the same ideas or think the same… but for some reason we reflect each others interests in unforeseen ways. There are also the occasional connections that are just plain weird– maybe the weirdest being the fact that we both love Sylvia Plath, and at some point figured out that our birthdays fall on her birth date and day she committed suicide. She was born on October 27th (Annika’s birthday) and died on Feb. 11th (Laura’s birthday).
Found hatbox, mirrors, handmade wooden stool.
45cm x 45cm x 80cm
Photo credit: Laura Piasta & Annika Rixen.
Are you reading any books right now that inform the way you work?
As for fiction I have been attempting to read Orlando by Virginia Woolf for months but keep putting it aside. I think I like the idea of the book (The transcendence of time and Gender) more than I like the book itself. I am currently trying to hunt down a copy of The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque by Gilles Deleuze. When I lived in Vancouve, I worked at the Vancouver Public Library in the circulation department and was handling and looking through hundreds of books a day. One book that I had discovered while working at the VPL was The Secret Life of Plants by Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird. I hadn’t thought about it for a while and recently Annika found a copy of it and thought it could be an interesting starting point for a new body of work.
AR: I usually cross-read a bunch of different books at once…can’t focus very well on a single book. I always have a stack of really varied reading on my desk at the studio and at home. Right now those would include W.G, Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, P. Tompkins & C. Bird’s The Secret Life of Plants (which I came across before finding out Laura had looked at this also!), Borges’ Collected Fictions, S. Ross’ What Gardens Mean (a book about the 18th century English landscape garden as art), Thomas Mann’s Der Zauberberg, (which is sort of the equivalent to what Laura said about Orlando for me– iIve been meaning to finish it for months!), an old issue of Texte zur Kunst on Romanticism and a few reference books for the project on Vancouver Island I am currently working on.
The Invisible College: Double Solar Eclipse, 2010 ca.
200 photocopies, tape, double floodlight
Can you tell us about any upcoming projects?
LP+AR: At the moment we are both interested in plants as a medium as well as subject in contemporary art. Of course that is such a broad statement, but it looks like that is where our next project is heading. It’s quite typical that we don’t know exactly what it will be until we’re actually putting all the pieces together. We have just started researching paranormal activity in plant communication, and as mentioned before, we have been looking into historic landscape designs– in the 18th Century gardening was regarded as equal to the Beaux-Arts such as painting and sculpture. There is a large outdoor area in our studio complex in Berlin that we are hoping to utilize this summer for an outdoor sculpture/garden project. The parameters are yet to be determined.
Wrapping it up…do tell what this new year holds for you both.
LP+AR: Annika is currently finishing her Master’s program at the University of the Arts in Berlin which will be done in July. Besides that, we’re in the process of applying for several residencies in various countries. We both really enjoy living in Berlin, it’s amazing in a lot of ways, but it can also be a hard place to focus your attention and work on new bodies of work because you are constantly overwhelmed by the amount of options of things to do and people to meet. So the plan for the next year is to take some breaks from the city to focus and work on new projects.