Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honour to interview Nika Fontaine, an inspirational Canadian artist based in Berlin, Germany, coffin designer, curator of the Kitsch Lexikon and Kitschypedia. Her works consist of glitter paintings, sculptures, video, music, photography and performance art. Hello Nika!
Nika: Hello Monika! Thank you for the invitation, your blog played a big role in my process of acceptance!
Monika: Thank you! Could you say a few words about yourself?
Nika: I very much like your introduction, maybe I can just make it more precise. I am French Canadian and I have been living in Berlin for almost seven years now. I started the transition process one year and a half ago.
|Picture by Lucas Recchione for Artitious.|
Nika: Yes indeed, there is a big variety of techniques that I pursue. The coffin project is still only at its beginning, but I expect to make a whole collection of them. I have been fascinated by death for a long time. Most probably because I lost father at a very young age, it brought me to question this universal phenomenon very early.
I remember one of my 5th grade assignment; I did a speech about death and the possibilities of after life and ghost photography. Later on, through painting, performance and video, I explored that topic in various ways, but mostly with sarcasm and humor.
Personally I am not afraid of death since I don't see it as an end but more as a new beginning. My goals with the coffin series is to bring some joy and celebration in the funeral tradition as well as a new understanding and appreciation of life by lessening fear of disappearing.
There is also a play on the art market, that if someone decides to get buried in one of my coffin, the loop of resale and speculation is stopped. I can also mention my love for design, and I think coffins can be very seductive and fetishized objects. It brings to light a question about ego and vanity at the same time. On another hand, my first piece, Pimp my ride to heaven, that was produced for a show at the Deutschebank Kunsthalle in 2014, was in a way my own coffin where I buried my life as Nicolas to give place to Nika.
|Installation view, Deutsche Bank Kunsthalle, 2014.|
Picture by Daisy Loewl.
Nika: I started with painting and I think this will ever be my beloved medium. I wish I could compose music as freely as I paint... maybe it will come. Sculpture is very new in my practice, but I fell in love with it instantly.
In a near future sculptures, textile based works, and fountains will definitely be as present as painting is for me now. I must say that I don't really enjoy performing in general... I just get so stressed... But somehow people keep asking me for more and I tend to just do it.
Monika: Your glitter paintings contrast lyrical spirituality with glamour and kitsch. Where does this inspiration come from?
Nika: For a long time spirituality has been my main thematic in many forms. I incorporate my beliefs and personal experiences in my works. This interest in the invisible started at a very young age under the influence of my mother and aunt who were into new age culture and dream exploration. One of my great uncle in Canada is a monk and as much as we in my immediate family were not very religious, we always had a big respect for sensibility to it via Jean-Marc.
I believe in life as a quest of elevation and art as a mean of communication and teaching. The kitsch and glam aspect of the work is mostly my visual interest. I used this aesthetic language to transmit my beliefs. Some projects are as well purely decorative and I am not ashamed to say so. For me, decoration is very important in the well-being of the soul. Having said that, there is always a part of it which tends to elevate the soul.
|With her friend Valeska.|
Nika: Yes, maybe too many actually... I prepare a series of exhibitions that will launch my career in a more international scene. In May I will be performing in a theater piece in Berlin for the first time.
At the same time I keep on the development of the platform Kitschypedia and the curation of the upcoming exhibition in December about kitsch. The coffin project is as well one of my occupation, for now it's the very beginning of it, but hopefully this will be fully operational in 2017.
Monika: Is there anything like transgender art? What does it mean to be a transgender artist?
Nika: Of course there is! But I wouldn't say my work is ''transgender art''. Some people might associate my work to the queer culture solely based on my use of glitter and kitsch icons.. but that would be a mistake.
My definition of Transgender art is mostly art that expresses this topic as main content. I personally don't want to address this topic all the time... though in August I will prepare a project, which is in this definition, transgender art.
To me being a transgender artist is nothing more or less than being a male or female or black or white or first nation artist. One can choose to talk about it if one wants, though life and art are not all about who you are. Of course, being a minority often sparks the need of expression and with the knowledge comes responsibility.
Therefore I will make this project in August, but I don't want to be exclusively identified as a transgender artist, but more as a authentic creator. There are many trans artists out there who are making a better job in creating political works. I leave it to them, and I focus on my strengths and interests.
|Installation view, Kunstlerhaus Bethanien.|
Monika: At what age did you transition into woman yourself? Was it a difficult process?
|Project "Souls in a Box". Picture by Alessandra Mannisi.|
|Costume for DragQueen Event.|
|Starting transition. Picture by Stefanie Walk.|
All the photos: Courtesy of Nika Fontaine.
Main photo credits: Alessandra Mannisi.