‘CREATURE METAMORPHOSIS’ follow up interview - STRAND X Livia Rita take over

Following Livia Rita’s ArtFashion exhibition ‘CREATURE METAMORPHOSIS’, which was live-streamed from the Strand’s main IG page, we caught up with the multimedia artist to discuss futuristic dreams, collectivism and rethinking the binary of utopia/dystopia in anticipation of her upcoming FUGA FUTURA album (due September 2021). Scroll down for the full discussion with one of the most groundbreaking artists today.



Photo credits: Johann Otten



Bo:

Welcome, Livia. Thank you so much for joining us. We really enjoyed watching your ArtFashion installation show on our Instagram live. As means of an introduction, would you like to tell us a bit about who you are, what your art stands for and could you give us some insight into your collective ‘The Avantgardeners’?


Livia:

Of course, yeah. I am Livia Rita, and I am a singer. I try to create identities in the world out of my music. So, I work with fashion, movement, visual art, to kind of transcend into other realms and create immersive experiences. And maybe these feelings when I make music, and feel like I can connect with the audience, can extend to become something that can be stepped into. Something a bit more real, maybe, than just an internal world.

To tell you a bit more about who I am, so, I grew up in a little valley in the Swiss mountains. And I moved as far away from it as possible. I moved to London via Paris. I mean, firstly to Zurich, then Paris and London. It kind of all took its time, because I had to figure out a lot of things. As I wanted to study dance, and there, in my valley, weren’t really a lot of dance lessons, moving away made sense. It happened quite organically.

Now, I just live between London and wherever projects happen. I am enjoying the fact that, I don’t have a lot of weight in terms of life organisation, so I am just kind of following the ideas now… And the other question, you asked?


Bo:

About the collective.

Livia:

Ah, yes. We are growing a little garden of different creatives and ideas. It started simply because I realised, I don’t want to do everything myself. I think the theme of the work being the future, and future identities, is a very collective notion. So, you know, I love exchanging ideas and collaborating. I also don’t want to be this leader on a high horse, but rather I want to create a family, or collective, where we can connect in a more creative way, as well.

It also builds a sense of community. It’s nice to feel like there’s some sort of family, that can grow with the work. There’s a certain degree of excitement we can enjoy about ourselves. But I think, that only gets bigger when we are connected with each other and can share it.


Photo credits: Johann Otten



Bo:

Wonderful! Actually, a quick question related to that. How did you get all these artists together? Was it kind of organic? Or were they your friends before? How did you create the collective?

Livia:

I mean, it’s not a fixed constellation, at all. It’s actually some kind of ground for new ideas to be explored collaboratively. For me, it’s really important to think of it as not exclusive. With new projects, there are always new collaborations. So, generally, I would do a call out, reaching out to people with different skills, different causes. At the beginning, there was also no budget, so I am really grateful for people, who also did a project purely because it excited them.

Bo:

Rather more like a network, right? Where you can let people join for a specific project if they will. That’s really interesting. Thank you.

Isabela:

Yeah, and I also find it really inspiring, this idea of a collective, where you can still stay true to yourself in a collective setting, while you are able to work towards some common goals together and inspire each other through each other’s unique personality.

In the video you posted on the Strand’s IG, there was a moment, when you showed a series of Polaroids hanging on the wall and each photograph had a name underneath. What is the significance behind each name/ picture?

Livia:

Yeah, those pictures were like the first sketches of the creatures. The idea is that, every song on the album gets its creature incarnation. I guess, it’s about feeling different. Sometimes, I crave to be able to share this feeling on the outside, too. I feel like we hide so much. But in theory, we are all connected through these emotional experiences and inner worlds. So I just tried to create an art fashion piece that looks like how it feels. And yes, the names belong to the eleven songs in my album. Every song has it creature, and with each creature comes a superpower, a certain characteristic, a symbol, a tool, etc. We are currently creating Tarot cards for each one of them, to generate some kind of game. In the end, it’s just spending more time with the songs and trying to figure out what I tried to say with them. Sometimes it’s really nice to define something and then, it can be undefined again. Just trying to see more clearly, it’s not about understanding. it’s just about…



Photo credits: Johann Otten

Isabela:

Embracing this feeling, maybe, of not knowing who you are, and then experimenting with it?

Livia:

Yeah, maybe that’s the nice thing about this unknown, not knowing. I mean, it’s really more of a question of ‘who we could be’, rather than ‘who am I’. Then, it’s nice to connect all of these fantastical elements with this identity that one tries to define. The possibilities of the mystical is something we can invent. And that can empower us, that can inspire us. It makes us dream.

So yeah, that’s what’s nice about this fantasy unknown. It’s very much not a defining, but rather an extending of what we know, while possibly trying to define a certain emotion or point in life. Extending to the future possibilities, and future realms. There is a lot of already existing mythology, which is really inspiring. But no one is holding us back from creating our own because the world has changed so much, and there’s knowledge in both the past and in the present.

Bo:

That’s relevant for the times we’re living in now. Everything is digitised. We are staring at our screens a lot of the time and it’s kind of easy to forget the mythological, and the mystery that is still to be explored in the world. What I’ve picked up from reading your website, and watching your fashion show, is this mysterious, mythical vibe surrounding it. There’s a lot of references to witches and rituals. I feel like, this sort of practice is coming back. A lot of people are getting into astrology, and reading tarot cards, etc. I think, people are reaching out for the supernatural, in a world, where we are kind of lacking that.

Livia:

Yeah, I also think that’s because our perspectives and awareness is shifting. At that point, I think, is important to include new ideas into the old mythology.



Photo credits: Johann Otten

Isabela:

Definitely! It’s nice to have that space, in a world, where everything feels so rational and structured. To have your own place, where you can let your imagination run and imagine what else can be created, because, I guess, it helps with creativity, as well, this notion of magic. When you feel stuck… when everything feels like it’s been done before… it can be a muse.

Livia:

To a degree, yes. I mean, when we grow up, everyone starts to integrate into the working society, etc. Creativity is something we have to garden, and take care of and nourish, and I don’t think the modern world feeds you that. I mean, a lot of adults say ‘I don’t feel creative anymore’. But everyone is creative at their core, it’s just something that doesn’t have a value in our society for the commercial system. So, I think it’s really important for us to nourish our creative instincts and for art to be able to invite us to escape or connect to the future as a space, where, exactly, we can actually imagine a world without limitations, and add everything all of us are lacking into it, without the dualism of utopian/dystopian. That’s why I think the future is really a safe space. It can be a mirror of the now, but it can also be a place to be defined.

Isabela:

You mentioned in some previous interviews, this relationship between utopia and dystopia, and the fact, that the need for a utopian vision is derived from the kind of dystopian present we have. Could you go more into detail on this topic?

Livia:

Yeah, it’s kind of interesting. I was never so sure about utopia-dystopia. How relevant it is to have one or the other for the future.

The terms ‘utopia’ and ‘dystopia’ are just two ends on a scale, but everything is sliding within it. It’s interesting to play with them both, too. Because, I believe, we all have a need for brightness and a need for darkness , and emotions are on scale. Utopia as utopia is a place to strive towards, but it’s actually not a place I try to create. In the exhibition, a lot of things can look quite dreamy or quite colourful and happy to some people. But to me, colours don’t equal happy. There’s a lot of sadness in there, too, although the whole show is very colourful and has a lot of playful ideas within it. But, I’m glad, that people are able to read what they want to read, and draw different things out of the experience. Utopia is a term that’s always really interested me before. But, during recent times, I got much more interested in the dystopian flip side. Maybe they are somehow connected on this sliding scale?

Photo credits: Johann Otten



Isabela:

I think they definitely are. Because if you’re not aware of the flip side, then you know, you’re just gonna live in an ignorant state of mind, where you’re not able to work towards something better because you simply think ‘everything is how it’s supposed to be’. So digging under the surface of things can potentially open your mind, and be healing, in the long term.

Livia:

Yeah, yeah. I think we all strive for happiness. But the valuable thing is the journey we undertake trying. In that sense, happiness is so fleeting. Probably the same as utopia. There are certain moments, when I’m just like ‘yes, that element, that situation, that is utopia’. But it’s not a place to find and hold onto, it’s a direction to look toward. Sometimes one craves for that, sometimes one craves for another direction. As you mentioned, there’s maybe this tendency, in the culture I grew up in for sure, to try and say ‘everything is fine’, even though it’s not. I was actually really inspired by my brother, for example, who looked at things with a big question mark. It’s amazing how much material he found from his life to grow and work with. That’s probably the case with utopia and so on, there’s no material from pretending everything’s perfect. I guess, it’s hard. It takes a lot of energy.




Bo:

With ‘FUTURA’ you are reimagining our own world and our future. How are you revolutionising or criticising our current world with ArtFashion?

Livia:

FUGA FUTURA was mainly about getting ready for the future. Maybe, it was like a journey of empowerment, or a journey of growth and getting self-acceptance. And searching for togetherness. For me, it was very much an identity search, figuring out who I am, and actually feeling at ease with who I am. Being able to share that.

I think ‘FUTURA’ tries to encompass our future desires, our future needs, our future fears. Being a political activist and being an artist are very connected, in my opinion. I try to let the art come from a more intuitive, impulsive source. I mean the work that many people are doing - discussing and explaining and coming up with evidence - is super important. At the same time, what’s also important is to have a welcoming space where it can be encompassed and it can be made up and it can be attractive. Maybe it can feel more inclusive than words sometimes can. I mean, that’s my question mark. That’s my hope.



Photo credits: Johann Otten

Isabela:

The fashion show was supposed to be taking place outside on an airlift in the Alpine valley of Obertoggenburg but it was moved to an indoor gallery due to the weather. How do you think this changed the show from how you planned it originally?

Livia:

It was a really short notice decision which was kind of an improvisation and a big surprise for everyone. We met with a lot of new people a few days before and you just meet up at 9 in the morning and everything had to happen in two, three hours, hair and make up (etc.). There was this element of the unknown and unfinished, which was nice because you could see a process and all the different tryouts.

Isabela:

What was your reasoning behind choosing the Alpine location and the chair lift (Sessellift) for the fashion show?

Livia:

The beautiful thing there [the chairlift] is that you're actually physically floating. Maybe something we don't do that much in life. I think that just adds to this element of being somewhere else, in the otherworld, far away from the habitual while still being in nature. There would have been people that came because of the ArtFashion, because they wanted to see exactly that. But [with the Alpine setting] there would have also been people from anywhere, who may not be involved in art at all and who just want to go hiking on the swampy trail at the top. So these kinds of encounters are what I was hoping for. The sky, the green, the nature and the mountains were images I grew up with. [Obertoggenburg] is a very traditional little valley, quite far away from other towns. Combined with the ArtFashion that I’ve created in London there’s a certain tension and weirdness to it. Kind of the sense of feeling connected but also alien, it feeling organic but also inorganic.



Photo credits: Johann Otten

Bo:

Besides London you’ve lived in many different parts of the world. How did it influence your work to come back to your small hometown in Switzerland now?

Livia: