INTERVIEW Body Issue #1 Performance, 2017
Yelena Myshko in conversation with Samantha Thole 
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YM: You often work with performance. What attracts you to this medium?

ST: I don’t see myself exclusively as a performance artist, but as an artist with a highly material based practice. My focus has always been on painting and sculpture in their medium specific context. I appropriate performance as a material. With it’s own history, texture and associations.
Performance is very fragile; it frames one unique moment in time and space. But what sets it apart from any other moment? Those lines are very thin. But when we agree to use the tools provided by the contemporary art domain, we have the ability to take that framed moment and turn it into a work of art. This makes performance for me very poetic, delicate and valuable. Because of this ephemeral nature the performing artist -for me- has the tough job of enforcing the credibility of this framing of the moment together with obtaining a high quality artwork.
That’s hard work but also magic.

YM: When did you realize that the female body could be used as a tool in your art?

ST: For me it works better to refer to my body as a material, instead of a tool. But to answer your question; as I mature as an artist, I realize that I prefer a proclaimed personal perspective. In this line of thought I do not view my works as instrumentalizing the female body, but as working with my own body and I am a woman. This is a given fact, just as my age -34 years -, my height -1.86 m – and my West-European viewpoint. I have the ambition to connect to things on a grande scale. For example: to be able to reflect on our contemporary society by using themes from classical antiquity. But in order to address this concept of the “longue durée” and investigate the universal, I believe you have work from your own human scale.
As neither a scientist nor a journalist, I am not objective. But as a (visual) conversation partner, I am subjective. As long as I can safeguard my works from being reduced to ego documents, this is proving to be a very constructive attitude.

YM: You often use nudity covered with body paint in your performances. What attracts you to dressing your body this way?

ST: To “monochrome” my body is a way to set it apart from my everyday physique. Colouring and covering helps me to make the subject matter more abstract. It transforms and objectifies as it is easily identified as a conscious act of distortion.
Sometimes I do this very literal, as the whitening of my body in my most recent performance “the drawing room” was done with gesso. I prepared myself like a canvas. Next to this the nudity is a way to get to the essential, cutting out any decoration by deploying my own basics.
What I also do not want is to be shocking. I see my work as small-scale and intimate, especially when I compare it to the more explicit female body performances as the 1970’s works of Valie Export or 1960’s Carolee Schneemann. My works are not provocative, but they are stories told from my physical perspective