MEETING WITH ANGE AKA ANGELA DONHAUSER22 juin 2017
Seen on A Part Volume 3 Popular/Unpopular, Meeting with Anela Donhauser
For 3 years, the New Yorker Angela Donhauser has been taking disturbing photographic self-portraits almost every day. We have seen her face covered with needles, her eyes weeping blood, her body assaulted by clothespins bondage style or made up to look like Edward Scissorhands or the Statue of Liberty. A way to express one’s feelings and react to the major issues of our time; from immigration to the US elections. Meet this “emotional activist” who under the name of Ange does not hesitate to unveil her most vulnerable aspects.
HOW DO YOU DEVELOP YOUR PHOTOGRAPHIC SELF-PORTRAITS?
I’ll make a confession: I do not know a lot about Photoshop. Everything is done while shooting! I sometimes start with an emotion or a feeling that I turn into a visual idea. Or, sometimes, the picture is a pure accident. I place myself in front of the camera and I see what happens. I am more interested in surprises. Finally, my work is very intuitive. I take such pleasure in it that I have almost become addicted to it. Last year, I had to take my picture every day.
WHEN DID YOU BEGIN THIS SELF-PORTRAIT PROJECT?
Three years ago, by accident. I had absolutely no knowledge in photography. Everything happened following a break-up. I felt the need to express my emotions and the photo seemed like a good option. It is a cathartic exercise that also allows me to give meaning and shape to the creative chaos of my mind. Each photograph creates a little story. It may well be dramatic or comic… Which corresponds to my personality.
YOU SUBJECT YOUR BODY TO REAL PHYSICAL CHALLENGES. WHAT ARE YOUR LIMITS?
As far as I can remember, I have stopped the project only once. My head was like a sunfish! I had an allergic reaction due to bad makeup. But apart from this episode I do not see what could stop me. I’m more the type to exceed my own limits. That’s how I discovered that some things could hurt my body more than I could have imagined (laughs).
But you know what they say: no pain, no gain. Endurance and patience are the keys to success, especially when some images require hours of preparation. But when you are your own instrument, you submit more easily to torture than if you were to ask the same thing of someone else. Including the fact that I am available day and night… It is not unusual for me to get up at night to take a picture before going back to bed.
YOU REGULARLY POST YOUR PICTURES ON INSTAGRAM. CAN YOU COMPARE YOUR IMAGES TO SELFIES?
Instead I try to offer some depth. Social networks are full of crap and yet they represent a real opportunity. A phenomenon like Kim Kardashian remains a mystery to me. How did we get to look up to a woman who came to prominence through a sex tape? When I was little, my hero was Mother Teresa! But it is still possible to use social networks in a different way. You just need to be a little more courageous and ambitious. Through the pictures I post on Instagram, I try to reveal my most vulnerable aspects and explore all the facets of my human condition. My work is emotional activism from this point of view.
THE POLITICAL AND ENGAGING ASPECT OF YOUR WORK IS ALSO ESSENTIAL. WE HAVE SEEN SHOTS OF YOU UNDER THE GUISE OF A WOMAN WHO IS HALF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY AND HALF HILLARY CLINTON…
Yes, she is very ambiguous. This is a deliberately parodic image. What is happening in America right now is frightening. The election is about to turn into a circus. I have never seen this since I moved to America 20 years ago [Angela Donhauser hails from Tajikistan and studied fashion in Germany]. Violence is everywhere, not just in the US. In this context, it is especially important to be open minded and honest and all the more urgent to fight to defend our freedoms.
LOVE IS ONE OF YOUR FAVOURITE SUBJECTS…
This is what permeates all my work! I think we are all connected in one way or another to the world and that implies respect for life in general. This may seem a bit silly but I am convinced that everything has a soul. We are all spiritual beings.
HAS YOUR JOB AS A FASHION DESIGNER IN THE THREEASFOUR COLLECTIVE INFLUENCED YOUR ARTISTIC PRACTICE AND YOUR APPROACH TO BEAUTY?
It is always difficult to say who influences who. To be honest, I feel more of an artist than a designer. But since we started threeASFOUR, being at the forefront has been at the heart of our approach. We never looked for classic beauties. Beauty is everywhere, especially in differences. It goes beyond appearances. My work as an artist uses the same approach…
YOU EXHIBITED FOR THE FIRST TIME IN JUNE 2016 AT THE UNTITLED SPACE GALLERY IN TRIBECA. WHAT ARE YOUR NEXT PROJECTS?
Creating sculptures and paintings!That is my immediate plan. I am currently renovating my studio to move to a more professional practice. Previously, I was enclosed in my cocoon. But there are so many reasons to leave it and be even more creative, to welcome people into my studio and to take even more risks.
/ TEXT BY Thibaut Wychowanok