ANDREA ACKER INTERVIEW
Atualizado: 25 de Ago de 2019
By Marta de la Parra
Translate from English into portuguese by Vanessa Murias.
“Andrea Acker creates work that speaks to the primal nature of humanity. With her use of bold lines, aggressive colors, and a fixation on the human form, Acker’s pieces guide the viewer to an understanding of the female body, male body, and the meanings society enforces on all bodies.”
GdM: When you set yourself within the art system, you identify as visual artivist, in this sense, you set your work to “act as a political, historical, socioeconomic and ecological commentaries, with the intention of calling the viewers attention to issues ignored by the status quo”. What does being an artivist entail for you? Why do you believe art to be an effective tool to shed light upon issues ignored by the status quo? and moreover, why do you believe art to be an effective tool to draw the viewers attention to those issues? Is art inherently political?
A.A.: Art and activism possess a strong link in common: both position themselves in the world dreaming about another world. My artivism consists in raising awareness to causes that I judge important to transform the world into a better world.
An image has a deeper and faster impact than words, besides being universal and democratic; even illiterate people can grasp the message. To inform and transform the collective consciousness you need to be able to reach the masses (the power lays with them) in a simple and strong way. I don’t believe all art is inherently political, but it can be a vital tool for spreading messages. I started working with Lambe-lambes for that reason, cause the message is spread in the streets. Strong image with a clear short message. I follow this super cool artist on Instagram, @ex_miss_febem3, and she mostly curates socially engaged memes and her messages get through all types of people, from all social classes. My art is not always as easy to relate to, but I work with very primal symbols, so it's an intuitive message, something innate, a knowledge we are all born with. Plus the titles of my pieces make my messages pretty obvious, so if you are not in touch with your intuitive side, you can always read the title.
GdM: You also talk about your art in terms of “spiritual practice” phrasing that your goal is to “first the spiritualization of the piece, and second, the purification of Self through meditative labor”. We would very much like to learn more about it.
A.A.: I have battled depression/bipolar disorder or whatever you wanna call it for half of my life now. It wasn’t until I found Transcendental Meditation that I was able to start to learn how to manage my ups and downs. Not coincidently it was also when I had the courage to start identifying myself as an artist. I ended up going to art school in a college where meditation was part of the curriculum; we would all meditate together before and after classes. My art is very graphic, probably because I studied design before going to art school, and these lines you see in most my pieces turned into a second form of meditation to me. Very different from Transcendental Meditation, which requires no concentration at all, but still aligns me with my Self. Making those repetitive perfect lines is probably the only moment where I embody patience (I’m an Aries, I have absolutely no patience): the world outside stops and I feel complete. Every piece I make is imbued with the best qualities I posses, so every creation goes through a spiritualization process and has some of my own magic in it.
GdM: Undoubtedly, you are a feminist. As a women artist, as an artivist, your practice draws from and upon various feminist issues. On one hand, it feels like you reclaim ancient values that seamed to be forgotten while all at the same you mix-match them with challenges faced by today’s feminists. On the other hand, you revisit handout heritage (i.e. Greek mythology) and expose its patriarchal core. How do art and feminist work together? As a woman artist and as an activist do you feel bound to feminism? Does the matriarchal strength of the past help empower women today? Does deconstructing our patriarchal capitalist mythology help women break free from it today?
A.A.: I always say that I have basically 2 themes: I’m either honoring the Goddesses or I’m protesting against the patriarchy. In college I took this class called “The Divine Feminine in Art History” taught by Matthew Beaufort, the closest thing I ever had to a mentor. During this class I learned about Marija Gimbutas, a Lithuanian archeologist that used Archeo-Mythology to prove the existence of Matriarchal societies during the Neolithic era. Reading her books I fell in love with the symbolism involved in her research, it felt like it was something I always knew as a deep truth inside my heart. The art that came after that theoric class had some sexual content but it was quite cartoonish, nothing like the more explicit stuff I’ve been doing recently, but it was still censored by the art department and that’s when my angry feminist side came to play. It was a very traumatic experience but now that I look back, I’m glad it happened, it made me the artist I am today. So yeah, sometimes I’m mad, sometimes I’m thankful, and that reflects in my art.
The Greek mythology influence is another chapter in itself in my life. My aunt, my favorite person in my family, is a Doctor in Greek philosophy and I grew up with her telling my all about it. Once when I was really young she went to Crete and brought me back a ceramic with the image of the Snake Goddess figurine that was found in the Knossos Palace, the birthplace of the Minoan civilization, considered by many one of the most important Matriarchal/egalitarian societies. I hanged the ceramic right in front of my bed and that was the first image I saw every morning (thank the Goddesses for growing up without cellphones). You know when you see something everyday and you don’t even notice it anymore? Years passed and I could hear Crete calling my name, I even wrote a paper in college comparing the Minoan Snake Goddess to one of Niki de Saint Phalle Tarot Garden's (also a very special place that I had the privilege to visit) sculptures (you can find this comparative essay on my website actually). Last year I finally made it to Crete and spent 2 months there in my very own Goddess Pilgrimage visiting archeological sites, traveling back in time and being inspired by the values of the high Minoan culture of ancient Crete as a living presence, and of course finally saw the infamous Snake Goddess figurine in the flash, or rather in the clay. But once in Greece the myths are everywhere and it was impossible to ignore the rape culture that permeates them: 99% of the female characters were raped, “abduct” or something against their will by the Gods. I was supposed to finish my Minoan culture research with an art residency and solo exhibit in Rhodes, another island in Greece, but ended up being censored again. This time due to a picture where I showed my middle finger to the Acropolis (as a sign of protest to what it represents) a la Ai Weiwei. Because let’s face it, it might have been the birthplace of democracy, but that democracy excluded women and the lower classes, so fuck that!
I was again crushed by the ghost of censorship but ended up bouncing back, each time more eager to denounce e deconstruct the patriarchy, with the intention of helping women feel stronger and more confident about themselves and their rights.
My art is not always as easy to relate to, but I work with very primal symbols, so it's an intuitive message, something innate, a knowledge we are all born with.
GdM: Brazil is going thought dark times: Lula´s imprisonment, Bolsonaro ruling the country, art censorship, etc. Not only as an artivist but also as a Brazilian your fears, concerns, disquiet, and criticism are present in your work. Even if your work becomes harder, I would say it also becomes more vital, urgent. Am I right? How do you face this crossroads?
A.A.: LULA LIVRE PORRAAAAA! Every day I wake up in the hopes that today is going to be the day Lula is getting out of his political prison. I even made a promise that in the day that that happens I will paint my whole body red and run naked in the streets of Santa Teresa (my beloved neighbourhood where I was born and raised and also where I have my studio) as a performance art. Since the begging of my political life I always voted for PT and we always won, it’s the first time I’m part of the opposition. I have a communist pedigree, my grandpa was very politically active during the military dictatorship working side by side with Prestes and my grandma, a judge at the time, had a very difficult career as being from the left and a female. Still she managed to support many feminist causes; the day I was born she arrived late to the hospital cause she was speaking in a women's right’s seminary.
Trying to see the good side of it, a lot of good art happened as a byproduct of the dictatorship, and it is happening again. The Brazilian artistic class is putting an united front and really being vocal to raise awareness about this fascist revival. Last year, right after Bozonaro election I was exhibiting my “Goddess Pilgrimage” series as part of “Ocupação Ovárias” and I went to glue some lambe lambes in the facade of the building, and I won’t lie, I was “com o cu na mao"; I’ve always been more afraid of the police than of the bandits. But no revolution will come from fear, we gotta keep doing our part and showing up for all the protests: the people have the power!
GdM: You have been vocal about indigenous rights too. We would love to hear more about how your artwork addresses such fundamental ground as decolonization.
A.A.: There is a quote by my once guru Maharishi Maheshi Yogi that says something like “No country will be prosperous until the original inhabitants of the land are respected”. Not sure if he is still my guru anymore, the Transcendental Meditation movement is extremely patriarchal with all their crowns and “boys in one side, girls in the other", but this message stuck with me. Brazil's indigenous people have been disrespected, abused and wronged for more than 500 years now and some people still don’t get it. I’m actually in Portugal right now, working a decolonization series, and the other day I was talking to this Portuguese Uber driver that was telling my boyfriend he doesn’t like the English cause "they went to America and stole from the Native Americans, while the Portuguese are amazing cause they went to Brazil and traded instead of stealing." I was like WTF, people are still completely delusional, awareness raising never sleeps!
Bolsanaro degorvernment has been brutal to the indigenous people, but they have “raça” and keep on fighting. I stand with them, as I stand with any oppressed group and I represent them in my art as a form of showing them respect and recognition, and also cause their graphic art fascinates me. Last year I joined them in one of their protests in front of ALERJ and I brought a mask I made inspired by them and two indigenous women loved it, they even asked to take a picture with it. It was nice to see that they appreciated my “singela” homage and to be able to tell them that they are not alone.
GdM: Art references, books, Carnaval, censorship, colors, garments, Lula, Movements like “Quem matou Marielle”, “Me too”, “Ele não” or “Free the nipple”, Museums, Nature, Patterns, the sea. Taking a quick scroll through your Instagram one will straight away notice your art permeates every other aspect of your life, in both the aesthetics but also the political sphere. Firstly, we would like to know how you relate to art in day-by-day basics. Also we would love to know what does inspire you, and what you making art processes are.
A.A.: I live art, inspiration really does come from everywhere. My creative urgency has cycles, I can’t say I work everyday. Sometimes I don’t make art for weeks and sometimes I will break total contact with the outside world, just disappear and work for months. First I get inspired from living a lot; travelling, seeing art… Sketch some ideas along the way, then I sort of “stop” life and produce in the studio. It’s almost like the outside world is a messy sketch and when in the studio it all connects. I like to create by myself and in silence, alone with my essence and mostly on the floor.
GdM: Goddesses, indigenous and tribal arts, Marija Gimbutas, the Minoan Culture, Miró, Mythology, the Neolithic period, Niki de Saint Phalle, Symbolism, the Surrealist Movement. Tell us more about influences.
A.A.: Funny, I spoke about more than half of these elements already in my answers above, so yes all those are part of my universe for sure. Some theoretically, others visually, others like the Surrealist movement and the Symbolism, are imbued in my soul. My past life I lived in Europe during the 1920’s and I think my first life was during the Neolithic period, the primal essence of the symbolism is strong in me.
GdM: I will like to lay emphasis on your female influences.
A.A.: This list could go on forever. Let me just name some of my favorite modern/contemporary female artists? Niki de Saint Phalle, Louise Bourgeois, Penny Slinger, Judy Chicago, Sarah Lucas, Dorothea Tanning, Hanna Hoch, Marie-Louise Ekman, Annegret Soltau, Dora Maar, Leonora Carrington, Guerrilla Girls…
GdM: A show.
A.A.: Antiques Roadshow! My dream is to bring some of my treasure hunt finds to have them evaluate it and be on the show! I just love the drill of finding vintage treasures for almost nothing, going through a bunch of junk and then in the middle of it: tcharannnn, a treasure! My heart beats really fast when that happens, I get high on it. I go to flea markets everywhere I go. Just went to one in Tanger, mystical experience. In Rio I buy a lot at “Shopping Chão da Glória” and at church bazars; one day I’m still going to make a small book with all the best addresses and useful tips, illustrated with some unique looks put together only with the pieces I found while treasure hunting. That’s actually my second job, I have a bachelors in fashion design. Unfortunately every “emerging” artist has to have a second job nowadays... Living exclusively from art is a luxury I can’t afford yet. I mostly only wear vintage clothes and sell some carefully curated pieces online at enjoei.com and also at my atelier. I love finding new lovers for special pieces.
GdM: Something to read.
A.A: Any of Marija Gimbutas' books, The Militant Muse by Whitney Chadwick, Delta of Venus by Anais Nin and Goddesses, Whores, Wives & Slaves by Sarah B. Pomeroy.
GdM: Something to listen to.
GdM: Something to watch.
A.A.: Art documentaries.
GdM: Recently both your Histeria and Venus before Adam series were exhibited at Feminista Presente, Hoje e Siempre at EARLYMADE part of Festival Feminista do Porto. Tell us a bit about it.