FURUSHO VON PUTTKAMMER INTERVIEW
By Marta de la Parra Prieto
Portuguese translation by Vanessa Murias
"It just kind of seen like...they didn't know what it felt to
"I love, I love you, I love you"
That's not only a wish/a verb/a tragedy copied and
pasted (ctrt+c, ctrl+v) a hundred times in a sheet of paper
(and the fact that we don't have to write it all those times
doesn't mean it doesn't hurt to feel so much, so many). I
like the word BITCH slapped onto a piece of paper,
slapped then on people's faces. We will make your insults
our hymns, we will make our wounds our weapons. We
are not scared to assume we are different, we embrace
and cherish that. We don't understand "difference" as a
mass of people with no form: we know each "different" is
different, and how's that's actually way more than a
tautology - it's a cosmology. We will force changes into
the past to dream of a new future. The urge to time travel,
to love, to suffer, to accept myself and others. That's
what whispers in my ear when I look at Furosho's work."
Introduction by Ingrata Bergman, former Galeria das Minas interviewee, October
GdM: When you set yourself within the art system, you identified as both a painter and a performer, in this sense, you state your work to “ present your anxieties and frustrations concerning art, history, sexuality, human connection, and the facets of identity through oil painting and mime-like movement”. You do so “ using your alter-ego, a bald and expressive cartoon-inspired character named Anchovy”. Who is Anchovy? Could you tell us more about those anxieties and frustrations that drive your artwork?
FvP: Anchovy is essentially me. The character embodies how I feel I look on the inside: a weird, comical, and anxious sexual being. The anxiety and frustrations I feel stem from my difficulty to connect with people. I’m human, I have the natural urge to socialize with others, to be accepted by my peers, but I’ve always felt this disconnect from others. I can’t read body language or temperaments, I have to take people at face-value when they tell me what they want or how theyfeel. It’s caused quite a few problems for me when forming relationships. It’s definitely improved within the last couple of years, but my work still floats in the time when interacting with others just seemed so difficult. I just wanted to feel close to someone, emotionally and physically, but my weirdness drove people away. I had very few friends growing up and most of my romantic relationships were with awful people. Anchovy is the embodiment of wanting to be close to someone but being kept away at an arm’s distance, always out of reach. The humor in my work is an attempt to trick people into bridging that distance. Anchovy’s frustrations are that of the weird girl, the art girl, the queer girl, the ugly girl, the girl.
GdM: All those issues seem to be present in your work since the beginning, for instance in your early work: Dear Gustave . We should not be deceived by your cartoon-inspired character, your work is extremely serious. If I may, I will venture to say that your art is strongly political and committed. Do you see your art as political? Do you believe art can be an effective tool to draw attention to important matters?
FvP: Yes, my work is political at its core. I think these days it’s next to impossible to work as a female artist and not be political, whatever your stance on politics is. The simple act of me making art as a woman is a political statement. Gender, sexual expression, the alienation of the Other and the myth of normalcy, these are the political themes of my work. I don’t want to preach to viewers of my work though, I want the political messages in my work to remain more as an undercurrent. Art can be a very effective tool to draw attention to important matters, but I think the effectiveness depends on the level of engagement the piece requires from viewers. The more involved the viewers are, the more the messages of the piece with stay with them. I use humor in my performances as a way to keep people’s attention. If I get them to laugh, maybe I can get them to keep thinking about the themes in my work.
GdM: While we are on the subject of Dear Gustave , I feel now drawn to bringing into the conversation your Letters to Courbet . Not only it was your 2017 Artist Statement, but also a different –amazing- approach the painting series. An outstanding exercise, half-way between text-based art and brilliant declarations of interest. Tell us more about them.
FvP: Thank you! Dear Gustave and Letters to Courbet was a big turning point for me in my practice, where I finally combined humor with angst. I’ve always been fascinated by the archetype of the “Scorned Woman,” probably because I’ve played that role so many times in my own personal life. I love exploring what drives a woman to obsession. How much of it is derived from her own toxic personality traits and how much of it is the result of the love-subject’s perceived manipulation of the woman? Is the object of affection even aware of the manipulation? Is the woman just projecting the manipulation? Who is to blame for the obsession? I made Dear Gustave and Letters to Courbet from the perspective of a scorned woman, someone I could easily see myself becoming if I had lived in the same time period as Courbet. I was in a weird place in my life, on the verge of graduating from Undergrad and in the process of breaking up with my first stable boyfriend. I was trying to understand
where I fit in art history and in society. So much of my life up until that point had been defined by what men thought of me -mainly on how fuckable I was- and at 22 I realized that I should be concerned with more pressing issues, like how to become a part of art history canon. I chose Courbet as my subject because he represents the characteristics of the men in my life: arrogant, narcissistic, and emotionally irresponsible. My real-life crush on Courbet also mirrored my attraction to these terrible men. Dear Gustave was my way of saying to these men, “Look at how inflated your head is with your ego, you look ridiculous.”
GdM: With Puppet or any other piece within your Sublime Connections in mind, it looks like your work as a painter has switched. While you maintain your cartoon-inspired characters and the seriousness of your narratives, you also seem to make those grounds more clear, more
radical. Perhaps it is simply a matter of harshness, while Courbet’s can easily be nuanced in the oil –not so much on those lines -, the points you bring into conversation with Sublime Connections are not so easy to tint. Nonetheless, I now wish to address them, to be more exact, we would very much like to hear more about them. What did drag you to this series, to its topics? Do you believe, as an artist, raising awareness is vital?
FvP: My Sublime Connections series feels like a more permanent installment in my practice. The Courbet series was limited to the amount of self portraits Courbet made of himself, whereas Sublime Connections is directly derived from my personal experiences. My role as artist has also transitioned from critic to criticized. Sublime Connections is about the life of someone deemed “other,” how they appear to others and how they interpret their interactions with other people. I am putting my own life under the microscope. I think it’s a natural aspect of the artist’s job to raise awareness to issues otherwise ignored, even if those issues seem as mundane as how light plays off of a tree throughout the day. My belief is that fine art is philosophy made visible. If your work is just a pretty face and doesn’t say anything deeper then it’s not art in my book, it’s decor.
GdM: Some of your key features as a painter are recurrent in your work, and we find them in your work as a performer too. What does define one? the other? Where do they converge? What does draw them apart? Since your work as a performer is harder to come by, please tell us everything there is to know about it.
FvP: My performance character, Anchovy, originally started out as just a painting subject. I quickly realized I could bring the character into the real world by wearing a mask. Performance Anchovy is slightly different from Painting Anchovy. For instance, I have yet to do a performance that is sexual. My paintings are extremely sexual, and though I am also an extremely sexual person, I’m careful about
bringing sex into my performance. Introducing sex into a performance is tricky, often times the sex overtakes the art. It’s a fine line and I’m still unsure how to balance it. Of course, Anchovy is still me. So Performance Anchovy still acts out scenes of frustration and anxiety, but in more comical ways: running into painted doors, attempting to press a button that says, “DONT PUSH,”trying to shove cake into her permanently closed mouth, etc. I consider Painting Anchovy to be a comedic tragedy, while Performance Anchovy is a tragic comedy.
GdM: Your Lover´s discourse is truly fascinated, could you tell us more about it?
FvP: Thanks for mentioning Lover’s Discourse . It’s older work, so I don’t get to talk about it much. The series was heavily inspired by the Roland Barthes book, A Lover’s Discourse, which discusses the semiotics -or nuanced languages- of a love affair. Like most of my work, the series is based on my real life, the emotions I felt and situations I experienced while dating and first exploring the NYC BDSM scene. I was trying to figure out why sex and falling in love were such masochistic acts for me. I yearned to find that middle-ground between stable and exciting. This series was my way of channeling those emotions into something productive. I don’t think I would have survived those years without art acting as an outlet.
GdM: Tell us about your influences.
FvP: Honestly, I take a lot of inspiration for performing from Rowan Atkinson, Charlie Chaplin, and Frank. Outside of comedic performers, my main source of inspiration would have to be film noir, German expressionist films, and vintage animation. I love the stark lighting in old black and white films. The drama and suspense really hook me in.
GdM: I will like to lay emphasis on your female (& nonbinary and queer folks) influences.
FvP: Robin F. Williams, Martha Wilson, Roland Barthes, Michelle McNamara, Linda Nochlin, Yayoi Kusama, Artemisia Gentileschi, Mona Hatoum, Sophie Calle, and Kate Gilmore.
GdM: A show.
FvP: The Deuce. It’s about New York City in the 1970s and 80s, and follows the lives of the pimps, prostitutes, and bar owners who prowled the streets during that time period. It has quite a few strong queer and female characters, and doesn’t shy away from the harsh realities these people had to face back then.
GdM: Something to read.
FvP: Rat Bohemia by Sarah Schulman. My one of my all-time favorite books. The story revolves around a lesbian rat exterminator in 1980s/90s New York City as the AIDs crisis unfolds around her.
GdM: Something to listen to.
FvP: Deceptacon by Le Tigre, Just Be Good to Me by the SOS Band, and anything by Malaria!, New Order, LCD Soundsystem, or Zachery Allan Starkey.
GdM: Something to watch.
FvP: If you’re looking for something to watch, go to the Kit Kat Club in Berlin on a Sunday night. I saw 24 separate sex acts for $10. You’re guaranteed to find something interesting to watch there ;)
GdM: Your attention to identity, queerness, and art has also transcended your work production taking you, recently, into curating (OUTlines: A Queer Art Show ). We will certainly love to know more about this experience.
FvP: Oh man, what an experience! That show was so much work. I’d never put together an open call before, and the team at One Art Space was amazing to work with. It was also my first time managing so many artists from a purely curatorial standpoint. It really gave me a great appreciation for curators across the board. There was a lot of stress involved, but ultimately the show achieved what I wanted it to, which was to shift focus back on to the “weird” in queer. Queerness today is mainly discussed in relation to sexuality, but Queer is a label belonging to anyone who falls outside the social norm. I’m happy that the show seemed to resonate with so many people.
GdM: Lastly, tell us a secret, upcoming projects.
FvP: In terms of painting, I have a new body of work coming out. The paintings follow the same vein of Sublime Connections , but I’m trying to amp up the level of discomfort the viewer experiences. I found this great book on Antione D’Agata’s work and it’s really spearheading this new direction for me. I recently wrapped up working on the annual NYC performance arts festival Art in Odd Places as the Assistant Curator and Volunteer Coordinator. Now that AiOP and OUTlines are done, I’m really looking forward to taking a few months just to paint. Performance-wise, I can’t really give away all the details, since nothing is finalized, but there is talk of a University in Europe flying me out to
perform at a conference some time next year.
Images courtesy of the artist.