Interview with Aniara Omann
Interview with Aniara Omann
Photo by Sean Campbell
Vincent Schneider: I recall my feelings when I got in touch with your work over Instagram while I was co-curating at ≈ 5. I was totally fascinated by your sculptures – by their beauty and physical presence – and simultaneously repulsed by their deconstructed and organic feel. Looking back I felt like watching a still from a psychedelic sci-fi movie… one I would really enjoy! In it you are the creator of these weird beings – your offsprings – and they travel through a microcosmos made of fungi and soft warm feelings.
Thinking about that how would you describe your relation to your works?
Aniara Omann: I definitely feel that many of the creatures I make come from a different reality, beyond our current society's dualistic idea of human/nature. With the risk of romanticizing my role as an artist, I do have a sense of being a sort of creative incubator or 3D printer of the beings. I continuously do a lot of research around different subjects, and then when it comes to sculpting, I trust that the knowledge I have accumulated will seep through me and into the work. I like your soft and warm association with the work, that's the feeling I'd like it to evoke.
VS: Your works often carry an expression with them. Either it is a face or just eyes tranporting a certain character. Your edition for CAT are alien vessels – open organic cups with pointy legs. Are they of a different breed or another species?
AO: With the edition, I was really fascinated by insects and how their bodies have such different ways of moving to human bodies. Obviously this difference has also been hugely inspirational to a lot of sci-fi writers and filmmakers, and so I am also capitalizing on the collective associations of alien-ness that we already have to those particular body shapes. I also wanted to reference mass produced flat-packed furniture, so I made separate body parts that are joined together with nuts and bolts, giving it a sort of Ikea-alien look.
The pieces are made from recycled plastic, so I wanted them to carry an identity of human waste and culture reformed into a new body; a reincarnation, that emulates practical utility without actually having it. The majority of the plastic I have used comes from a variety of plastic containers, such as bottles for shampoo, milk and cleaning products, and that's where the title 'You-holder' comes from, also referring to Apple's more ego-oriented ‚i‘-products (iPhone, iMac). As a sculptor I have been keen to find ways to transform waste into new material without compromising on the aesthetic qualities I am going for, and it was really exciting to learn how to cast the plastic for this edition.
VS: Obviously we share this obsession with fungi, mold, lichens and all sort of microorganisms. Could you describe what you think is so mesmerizing about these forms of existence?
AO: I have been working with fungi as a theme and material for some years now, and there are so many interesting aspects to it. My main draw was that the organisms themselves have such undefined edges. Humans and other animals seemingly have very clearly defined "outlines", meaning we know where our bodies end, and the rest of the world begins. But fungi and many other microorganisms don't have such clearly defined edges to their bodies, and I find this interesting on an existential level. In actuality humans don't have these boundaries either, but we live in a way as if we are separate from nature, and this perceived separation has had a lot of negative consequences to the planet. Lichens are incredible too and I love how each of them are a symbiotic relationship between two organisms (algae and fungi). As with fungi and moss, lichen is necessary for natural biodegradation to happen. If these organisms didn't exist, the planet would be covered in dead matter. Unfortunately a lot of the materials we produce, such as most plastics, are very dense (their polymer chains are too compact), meaning they take very long to biodegrade, leaving a lot of rigid material laying around in our soft environments.
I find that for a long time culture has prioritized rigidity over softness both in materiality and attitudes, but now there is a lot of contemporary interest in how we can work with materials like mycelium, and I am curious to how this new direction into softness will manifest in culture in general.
VS: What is up next for you? Maybe a solo-show in Berlin?
AO: At the moment I am working on a research project around children's books and how they often present gentle mini utopias, in a similar way to science fiction's depiction of alternative realities and societies, but through a more traditionally 'feminine' and soft gaze. Most of the books I am inspired by are by female Scandinavian writers from the previous century, such as Elsa Beskow, Tove Jansson and Astrid Lindgren. As a part of this project I am learning photography and experimenting with ways to transfer my sculpture practice to photography and video.
I would love to have a show in Berlin, hopefully that will be possible in the not-too-far future!
VS: Have you always worked as a sculptor or do you possibly have a background in practical effects or prop-making?
AO: I actually worked in quite a conceptual way for years, and then at some point I started getting really interested in props and their ability to create imagined environments. I have never been taught sculpting or prop-making, but I did watch a lot of a tv show called „Face-off“ which is basically „Project Runway" for creature design and prosthetic making. Once I started working with sculpting and casting I was hooked. I love to be able to create skin-like textures with silicone, and play with different levels of realism and abstraction, and to incorporate found objects and ready-mades into the creations. I often draw on the collective references we have for what „otherness“ or „the future“ looks like through fiction, and then try to adjust them to sweeter, weirder or softer versions.
VS: What is your favorite sci-fi genre? A must watch or read?
AO: I am a big fan of Ursula K. Le Guin. Her ability to create environments and imagine alternative worlds has always been very inspirational. I also like Philip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke who both explored spiritual and existential themes in their writing, which resonates with me. As a child I read a lot of sci-fi comics, including Valérian and Laureline and the Incal series, and even if some aspects of these comics are a bit questionable now, the creatures in them and general aesthetics have been a big influence on my practice.
VS: Thank you so much for your time! We hope to see you soon.