Monday, 2 February 2015

Interview with Ingrid Ung

Monika: Today it is my pleasure and honor to interview Ingrid Ung, a Finnish visual artist based in Helsinki/Turku and Berlin/Leipzig. Hello Ingrid!
Ingrid: Hello Monika! Thank you for inviting me and kind words!
Monika: Could you say a few words about yourself?
Ingrid: Well, I could say that I am quite a happy person nowadays because I'm able to do what I really love and have passion for, and at the same time, perhaps give people a bit of inspiration and hope.
Monika: Your background is very multicultural and multilingual. You were born in Sweden but you studied arts in London UK and lived in Berlin, Stockholm, Estonia, Paris, and India…
Ingrid: Yes, when I think about my life up until now... I have been through a lot of adventures and possibilities through my private life or through my work as an artist.
I have taken these options like moving to my ex-boyfriend's country like a journey not like a hindrance, which of course have helped me a lot.

Courtesy of Ingrid Ung.

Monika: You use different mediums such as video, sound, photo, text, drawing, painting, installation, and performance. Which one is your favorite?
Ingrid: It's really hard to say Monika, but I figure that my background as a painter can be seen still in my photo and video work. I've done a lot of media art but for some time I have missed the more traditional craft, based on creative practice like drawing and painting, which is really nice and perhaps more romantic as well.
Monika: Some of your works explore how identity and gender are continuously reshaped. Could you elaborate on some of them?
Ingrid: I think that my gender and identity-based artworks came quite naturally since artists work with issues that are close to them. When I was going through all these different treatments, I had a lot of time working at home. For example, for many days my face was very swollen due to hair removal, which was also very painful, so I had to change my practice a bit and work more in a home setting through video, photo, drawing, and text because I couldn't go out like a swollen tomato.
Monika: Are you working on any new projects now?
Ingrid: Yes, I'm happy to say that I'm working on new video films, photo works and I'm going more into drawing and painting again.

Monika: Is there anything like transgender art? What does it mean to be a transgender artist?
Ingrid: I'm not sure if there is any transgender art or being a transgender artist. I think art is beyond boxing or label making that we often use as human beings. Yes, of course, people tried to label me as a trans artist but I had, for example, a lot of shows and works in public collections and art museums before I decided to undergo my transition.
The strange thing was also that people were like saying that I use my situation as an artist to get forward in the art world, which was quite bizarre! For me, it has always been a very important part to inspire people and give them hope. Nobody knew who I was before as an artist but my works were in museums, then I became more visible when I worked with gender issues, and of course, people noticed me more since I took my place in society.
Monika: Are you familiar with any works of other transgender artists from Scandinavian countries?
Ingrid: I'm afraid I'm not aware of so many transgender artists though I think that it's coming.

Courtesy of Ingrid Ung.

Monika: What do you think about the present situation of transgender women in Finnish society?
Ingrid: Well, the official side is that there is no discrimination but I can't deny that there is a prejudice that I've encountered a lot in my everyday life, both in the art world and in health care, and for example if you want to find a flat/apartment.
I know that quite a lot of transgender people leave Finland and frankly that's no wonder since it is the everyday life that counts. Although I have to say that my friends have been in general very supportive.
Monika: At what age did you transition into a woman yourself? Was it a difficult process? 
Ingrid: I started really late I think when I reached my early 30ties. I wish I had started earlier now but everything has a purpose in life. It was quite difficult in the beginning due to the fact that I had a boyfriend and we had a house together. It's always in the beginning since you don't know how you will manage and if it is the right decision. When I took that step to live every day as a woman I've never ever looked back! So it's usually that first step that is the threshold.
Monika: At that time of your transition, did you have any transgender role models that you followed?
Ingrid: Yes, of course. I had transgender role models and I read and I searched a lot on the Internet and in books to understand and get information regarding the process of gender reassignment.
Monika: Are there are any transgender ladies that you admire and respect now?
Ingrid: I think that Amanda Lear with all her sides has been an inspiration since she is always herself, no matter what. She is not very politically correct but she is authentic, which I admire and she didn't plan her career or moves … she always did what she loved. 
Monika: What was the hardest thing about your coming out?
Ingrid: I have to say that it was probably hardest with my mother since I perhaps was the favorite child as an artist and quite sensitive. It has taken some time for my mother to digest the change. But she is happy now that she can see that I have
quite a good life.

Monika: What do you think about transgender stories or characters which have been featured in Scandinavian films, newspapers, or books so far?
Ingrid: In the media, I think that journalists often don't research very much but only use populist phrases that sell better. It's rare that I get some intelligent questions. It's more like they would like to make a magazine interview with me in a raunchy dress.
Monika: The transgender cause is usually manifested together with the other LGBT communities. Being the last letter in this abbreviation, is the transgender community able to promote its own cause within the LGBT group?
Ingrid: I think we can drive our own cause but we are stronger together as minorities and I really don't like some trans people's homophobic stance, which is very absurd, since it is often, for example, in the gay community that I find loving friends and support.
Monika: Are you active in politics? Do you participate in any lobbying campaigns? Do you think transgender women can make a difference in politics?
Ingrid: I'm not active in a political party but I"m sometimes active on social media since I know a lot of people. I think transgender women can make a huge impact if we just step out and are more active in the formation of society. I have been more active in ecological/holistic groups since that is more my thing.

Courtesy of Ingrid Ung.

Monika: Do you like fashion? What kind of outfits do you usually wear? Any special fashion designs, colors, or trends?
Ingrid: I love fashion and I am usually more attracted to Italian and Spanish fashion due to the fact that it's better to cut and the color scale suites me better than, for example, minimalistic Scandinavian fashion like H&M. I'm getting more comfortable with age so I only want very soft, good materials.
Monika: Could you tell me about the importance of love in your life?
Ingrid: Love is important in life… I think that we need to start by learning to love ourselves as transgendered women and then reach out to others. I've been very lucky to have very loving friends and at some point, I will probably meet a guy and have a relationship. Love is the source and wheel for everything.
Monika: Many transgender ladies write their memoirs. Have you ever thought about writing such a book yourself?
Ingrid: Yes, I've been thinking of writing a biography if it could help inspire and give people some hope. That's the greatest gift you can give to anyone. I would also have quite many amazing and comical stories to tell.
Monika: What would you recommend to all transgender girls struggling with gender dysphoria?
Ingrid: My advice is to go to your own heart and follow it no matter what! Don't postpone your process due to family or what others might think or do it for some guy. Have your intention straight that you are doing it for yourself. When you do that ... you will find life much easier and the ironic thing is that you thereby can
also give more to others and society when you are 100% you, irrespective of other people's opinions.
Monika: Ingrid, thank you for the interview!
Ingrid: Dear Monika, thank you so much for having me here and that I could give perhaps some support and advice for my sisters. 

For more information about Ingrid's art, visit her website:

All the photos: courtesy of Ingrid Ung.
© 2015 - Monika Kowalska

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