Boris + Natascha (Germany/Australia) produce twisted conceptual works that explore the human condition using photography, video, mixed media and text. Born in 1940 during the war of Not-So-Nice-Land vs. the world, Boris learned fast to have an evil plan. Although he never imagined one day to meet his evil twin: Natascha, daughter of communist immigrants, born 1950 in Convict Country. After two lifetimes as solo artists they started collaborating in 2003. In between their dark pranks, Boris + Natascha maintain University teaching positions in Pottsylvania and Mainz. In 2007 Boris + Natascha bring their Meditations to PICA for the Biennale of Electronic Arts Perth – twisted re-imagining of self-help videos that play with western society’s obsession with fear, albeit with a slightly more sinister bent.
Boris and Natascha – tell us where you met, and what attracted you to work together? Was it art at first sight?
We met in Coober Pedy while investigating underground tunnels for evil plans. We both had the right kind of mischievous twinkling in the eye.
What do you feel you’re able to achieve working together that you cannot do on your own? Has it taken your work in a new direction?
Besides having better sex… when we’re working we find the two-brains-is-better-than-one rule helps a lot, especially if one of us is tired or lagging We also have skills in different areas and trust the other in their area of speciality.
Working collaboratively teaches one to leave the ego behind and be open to new ideas. That’s important for the modern day spy.
How do you manage the collaboration, between Germany and Australia? Do you rely heavily on technology or communicate telepathically? If so, how?
We tried carrier pigeons and messages in bottles, but soon found out that it works best in person. So we move back and forth together. Means one can’t bungle up travel logistics or expect to own too many things, like property. Things clutter the mind too much anyhow.
Tell us about Meditations – it’s described as “anti-relaxation for tough times” and it sounds like a confronting experience.
The most confronting thing is to be confronted with oneself.
That’s what we do. Hold up mirrors. In this work it’s presented through five video vignettes, showing five anxieties related to modern life. The viewer sits in a little dark enclosure. If one turns off the mind it’s all a very relaxing experience, but who can turn off the mind these days?
The fears are timeless but presented in current day situations, heightened by the paranoid and scary world we feel we now exist in. Our mantra for this work is ‘Relax into fear’.
Does this work come from personal experience (with self help products)?
1.a) Fear is the predominant feeling in western societies.
b) Fear and happiness never go together.
c) Confucius says: Fight fire with fire.
d) We happily decided to spread more fear.
2. The strongest work you can produce is based on your own experience. It allows you to combine thoughts and feelings. We believe that the more personal you become the closer you get to an overall truth and the closer you get to a connection with more people. At the same time we vehemently oppose all “based on a true story” artwork. The truth of art differs from documentation. Clinging to the “real” label is another form of fear. Be unreal but truthful.
Meditations #1 – 5 come from the experience of living in this society. It is not an ironic take on relaxation forms, meditation or self-help.
What do you most hope people might take away with them from experiencing Meditations?
Greater knowledge about ones own fears, thought patterns and behaviour. To become aware of how fear is used as a tool for manipulation.
What next for Boris + Natascha?
1. To take over this station and spread chaos and terror amongst those, who try to convince us, that art is about beautification and entertainment.
2. To excommunicate all artists who are afraid of calling themselves artists and instead pray to the gods of advertising, design and fashion in order to receive respect.
3. To recruit an army of starving artists and shape them into fearless leaders.
4. To embrace the void.
Is art important?
It contributes. It is not a product or a by-product. It doesn’t address its audience as consumers or clients or target markets. It can open minds and hearts, challenge, irritate, spook and bring on tears.
Like Sisyphus the artist rolls a rock up a hill, then it falls down; up and down, up and down. The intention to go beyond oneself is enough to fill any spy’s heart with loathing and love.