as an art student, your obligation to yourself is essentially to be interested in the world at large and to get information from everywhere you can possibly find it. If you study in one department it doesn’t mean that you can’t go to lectures in another department. If you study art at a university it doesn’t mean you can’t go to lectures in biology, anthropology or physics. It doesn’t mean you can’t travel or read your own books or see opera even if you dress like a punk. I think being a student is simply a way of saying, “I am making time in my life to learn from everything around me, and nobody can tell me, that I am not allowed to just experiment until I find my own way.” It doesn’t mean that if you study sculpture you are going to be a sculptor. Because eventually, if your are serious, you will develop something that you are passionate about and you will find your own personal way on that journey. If you study sculpture, your passion for form and structure might lead you into the world of food or fast cars, and maybe you will become a pastry chef and make fantastic cakes or a car designer in the end. So you will have some support from your education in sculpture, but I think the idea of a straight linear track is an illusion that stems from administrative constrictions. These processes, the Bologna Process, these are European regulations, these are big political movements, they are bigger than you. So don’t let them limit you. At the end, they don’t really mean much to an artist who will need to find a way through any given frameworks and who has enough curiosity and drive to seek out their own knowledge. Harald: A little bit off-topic, but I also read that you hold a master in anthropology? Aleksandra: I spent three years in an MFA program in Cultural Anthropology at the New School for Social Research in NYC but
Aleksandra Mir, Airplanes # 23, 2005
I don’t have a degree, I didn’t graduate, I did all the course work, but I didn’t want to pay a fortune to receive my diploma. I had no plans to become an academic; I just loved being in school so I did it as an artist. All my art today developed from there. Harald: I don’t know how much you could follow Jennifer Allen’s lecture, given in German, during the “Sculpture Unlimited” symposium here in Linz, but she referred to three historically different ,memorias’ – oral culture, writing culture and the digital culture of our generation. How do you think as an anthropologist: how does digitalization influence your work? Aleksandra: I use email and the Internet extensively, so the digital realm affects my communications patterns to a large degree. However, I still see my methods as being very traditional. As an anthropologist, you study vernacular culture, and in my work I use culture in the most general sense possible. Not just cool pop culture, like movies and cinema, fashion or advertising but the mundane reality that anthropology looks at, you know... cooking utensils and housing solutions and migration patterns, things like that. Anthropology for me opens up a much bigger playing field than art. Art is very narrow and the engagement with just and urban cool culture that art school often promotes is very narrow. Anthropology opens up to everything. This chair is interesting, the floorboard is interesting, how you are sitting is interesting, why your hair is long is interesting. So, I use it and there is an oral history tradition in anthropology, and a history of observation, of interviewing and of taking notes and creating records. There are methods of research and documentation that I can also take advantage of as an artist.
My art education, which I enjoyed but left after only two years was essentially too narrow. Anthropology made my practice much richer; it put the flesh on the bones. Harald: And the open mindedness? Aleksandra: It’s not just about being open minded, but to educate yourself about society, the world. To be in the world, not justxxxx the art world, which is what, a village of 30.000 people? Christian Öhlinger: Is this your personal strategy to combine your works with history and especially things that happen in whichever country you happen to live? Aleksandra: Yes, I try to comment in a way. I think my art is a comment to what happens to my life and to my surroundings. Not like a journalist who reacts immediately and has to file their story within 24h when it is already outdated, but as an artists who gets deeply involved and responds with a process and delivers a result maybe 10 years later and that is supposed to remain as a valid record for... ever? Well, that is unlikely of course, but it still is a kind of commentary on the time and place where I live and on the present, it’s just a very stretched out idea of the present. So in order to do that I try to mark my work with a time and place. I try to position myself in a specific time and place which you can identify, so I do become a commentator of my time and place, yes. Christian: Is it true that you now live in Sicily? Aleksandra: I was living in Sicily for five years until June, but now I... Christian: You live out of the suitcase? Aleksandra: ... live out of the suitcase, yes that’s the word. Christian: I’m also interested in your dra43