This story is part of Next Generation, a series in which we give young makers a platform to showcase their work. Your work here? Get in touch and plot your coordinates as we navigate our future together.
Get into the work of Lena Kuzmich, a multidisciplinary artist with a focus on the photographic image and video. In their work they imagine alternative visions of society; creating a fluid remix from fragments of pop- and subcultures. Their work is an exploration beyond taboos and an act of liberation form the preconceived and stigmatized notions of society about gender and sex: explored through imaginative landscapes and hybrid representations of bodies. Through their practice they investigate technology as a portal to a world in which gender and sex are not a set of rules in a power dynamic, but get dissolved as free form of expression.
I imagine a future in which non-binary, queer and fluidity are the norm
How do you define yourself?
I identify as non-binary and would describe my expression as fluid, while currently I am leaning more towards femme.
In your work you imagine non-binary futures. What does this mean?
I imagine a future in which non-binary, queer and fluidity are the norm. Or in which the understanding of the norm gets dissolved in an appreciation for multiplicity and complexity. Right now we live in a cis-dominant world, we function within patriarchy. While this being the dominant part of humanity will not necessarily change, I believe that the power structures need to change. In my work I imagine a world in which these power structures present get questioned, expanded and dissolved. A world where the binary disappears in order to connect to the simple state of being and understanding the complexity of the self.
Where does this fascination —hybrid representations of bodies — come from?
Society does not offer enough spaces for queer expression. Or, it does not include queer expression in the established repertoire of normative ways of living. It is somehow seen as the other, as a strange element, even something unnatural in some cases. I became interested in understanding where this need of othering comes from. Looking into mythology, biology, history and pop culture I discovered parallels between the queer body and characters such as Frankenstein, hybrids from X-Men, etc. They all somehow share this base of the body being an organic creation that gets merged with something nonhuman. I find that interesting in the context of Queerness, not to other the queer body, but to understand the framework we function in. Understand how we could expand this framework of the normative towards queer realities. That said the past and present do already offer such realities, but I am especially interested in their expansion on a bigger scale.
I believe that the power structures need to change
Tell us about the importance of creating hybrid representations of bodies.
It is important to understand that the body is not a linear or a singular object. But instead a collection of organisms, consisting of multitudes. The Western self is bound to this idea of the autonomous entity functioning in a binary system. While actually we are a superorganism and our body is in constant change and transition, such as the mind is too. It is important to acknowledge that for many reasons.
How do people react to your work?
My work is received very differently. Some people really love it and can connect to the themes I speak about; the vulnerability present or the aesthetic world my works function in. Others are rather confused, perhaps even provoked. I hear a lot that the work I make is very specific—which I don‘t mind at all actually. Because I believe there is a great beauty and strength in finding the universal in the specific. Furthermore is the generic flawed anyhow and it is important to take elements from many different worlds to re-contextualize meaning.
The body is not a linear or a singular object. But instead a collection of organisms, consisting of multitudes
How do you see the relationship between physical bodies with virtual identities? Is it even there?
There is a strong relation; both influence the other. This correlation expands our understanding of the self and spaces we function it. But I‘m specifically interested in how future developments will be able to close the gap between mind and body awareness. I do believe that currently the detachment of the mind from the body when being present in the virtual world is still very apparent. It is interesting to think about ways of bringing the body and with that I mean sensorial experience beyond visual and auditory into the digital realm. Exploring this will bring great possibilities for radically changing body politics.
The Western self is bound to this idea of the autonomous entity functioning in a binary system. While actually we are a superorganism and our body is in constant change and transition, such as the mind is too.
Can technology teach us to become more natural?
In Xenofeminism it is believed that “Biology is not destiny”. This creates fantastic motivations to look into technological possibilities that will greatly change our understanding of reality and bodies, and through that, offer incredible potential for radically including queerness, non-binarity and fluidity in the normative realm. But with that idea again a symptom of othering gets carried with it. It sees the queer body as a cyborg sensation and while that is interesting in its own ways, it is also problematic in others. It does not necessarily help queer beings or push non-binary philosophies on a practical level further now. While technology often mimics systems found in nature, due to its efficiency, I believe that a full abolishment of nature is not the endgoal and technology not the solution. That said, we should also not neglect that looking into technological futures, this actually tells a lot about the present and past. As science fiction does too, it deals with real problems and thinks of creative solutions. So while technology is maybe not the ultimate desirable end of everything, it can really help us to understand and reconnect to the complex, chaotic beauty of being a living being.
Your work appears to be digital-native. Can you tell us more about the aesthetics of the work?
I grew up with the internet and its endless possibilities but also pitfalls. I like to see the digital realm as some kind of second, intertwined reality in which our understanding of the physical world can somehow be twisted around, glitched or debunked. The internet especially is this strange place in which we gather collective knowledge, live out phantasies, construct our identities, etc. It is a magical place. I like to investigate this space, use it for narrative construction or visual creations - basically treat the digital but also the internet with all seriousness. Because being cringe is being authentic.
We must think about ways of bringing the body into the digital realm. Exploring this will bring great possibilities for radically changing body politics.
Any final words to our readers?
I would like to end this interview with a quote by Paul B. Preciado from his book An Apartment on Uranus: “I am not a man. I am not a woman. I am not heterosexual. I am not homosexual. I am not bisexual. I am a dissident of the gender-sex binary system. I am the multiplicity of the cosmos trapped in a binary political and epistemological system, shouting in front of you. I am a uranist confined inside the limits of technoscientific capitalism.”