Daniela Bershan

Daniela Bershan

»Everything comes from somewhere and everything is always already there.«— artist Daniela Bershan answers our questionnaire.

What are you working on at the moment?
I am working on relational structures and the politics of intimacy. My recent works are dedicated to nourishment and reproductive labour, the daily rituals that maintain (our) life. I see these rituals as sites of agency. They offer the possibility to rehearse different relational muscles. I believe the maintenance of life, the connection to the web of life—beyond an anthropocentric agenda—is central in the quest of finding as many artful tools and ways as possible into a more connected, more abundant and more liveable future. ›OCEAN‹—a manifestation of care in the form of a ritual performance—is practiced and thought as such a tool. Another of my ongoing projects is ›GROUNDWERK‹—a longterm platform dedicated to future worldings and reproductive futures.

Who or what has influenced you in your work?
The collective environments that I have been committed to for the past 15 years have been and are important teachers for me. Most notably FATFORM, Performing Arts Forum, and Elsewhere & Otherwise—sites of experimentation in building collaborative ecologies and landscapes together with others through active engagement. In a slow-growing process they have offered alternatives to the binaries of public/private, domestic/work, intimate/political. They have taught me how micro-intimate gestures over time and with dedication can lead to macro-political change. Growing new platforms and infrastructures that are based on erotic connection in the spirit of Audre Lorde, a multiplicity of styles and relational complexity—the space and time they open up, the challenges they bare—is as much part of my work as the practices and works that are circulating. Everything comes from somewhere and everything is always already there. Me and my work are an affective, erotic, political remix of many practices and thinkers that I am grateful to call my kin.

What artwork do you return to again and again?
When I have a crisis with art—or should I say with the historical discipline of Western art and its market—I seek the company of folk and outsider art. Recently I have spent time studying ancient Goddess sculptures that I encountered via Marija Gimbutas’ work. The capacity to charge matter energetically, to store thought, empathy, affection, consciousness in objects outside of the human body—how another being can be touched years, decades, centuries later—is something that deeply moves me. I feel dedicated to a creative force that transcends categories and disciplines. Since I was a child, I have always been fascinated and captured by patterns. I can drive the people around me crazy with the wild and sometimes crass way in which I sample and draw connections. But I cannot help it; I open my fridge and I see the world.

What would you do if you weren’t an artist?
There are so many things I am interested in and curious about. Studying soil or self-organisation, experimenting with rituals, love work, trauma, magic, sex, time and space, music. Plants and healing, making care, communities, kids, elders. I am not a specialist. I try to be at service to the communities and causes I am dedicated to. I am an octopoidal being, a remixer and I am not so attached to being called an artist anymore.

What are you reading at the moment?
I am quite slow in my reading and study. That I do not have much capacity for memory when it comes to written words is a challenge as well as a gift. I have to spend a lot of time with the things that fascinate me, remix them over and over through conversations with friends, or making maps until something gets embodied. In the past year I spent a lot of time with ›Subversive Spiritualities—How rituals enact the world‹ by Frédérique Apffel-Marglin, and with Alexis Pauline Gumbs’ works, specifically with ›Undrowned‹. Quite different in approach and nature, I am interested in how both touch upon repetition and practice and how politics are related to rituals. The way this resonates with me is that every time I repeat something, it gains muscle and weight. Their research, experience, and dedication connect to how I am experimenting with rituals, how I remix different ontologies through one another, and how imagination connects to remembering and intuition beyond categories or disciplines.

What should art today be able to do, in your opinion?
Art is from and for the world. As I see it, art should make unexpected movements and encounters possible. For me art is about opening up space and time to more than human perspectives. It can expand human consciousness and nurture intuition. In different times art has different challenges. Right now, art can be a specific type of realm to grow relational muscles and ways of living together beyond exploitative and extractive modes of operation. It can build a horizon for being otherwise.

What aspect of the pre-pandemic world do you grieve—and what things do you not miss at all?
At large there is little to grieve about of the monstrous, so-called normality of the pre-pandemic world. Feelings of grief and loss of specific things like travelling, limitless access to social life and entertainment are mainly observable amongst the privileged. However, the pandemic has opened up possibilities to be vulnerable in face of the challenges of our time: environmental destruction, systemic oppression and overall division. It has opened up a space to face how oneself is part of modes of living that are simply unsustainable and at the cost of others, whether these others are human or not. We are all partial, inconsistent beings. Many of us are socialised to flush our shit down the toilet instead of seeing and using it as a resource. In some circles, the pandemic has enabled individuals and collectives to look at their shit together, so to say. At the same time, my impression is that parts of society are waiting for ›normality‹ and the next techno-fix to distract from what is really at stake.

If you had to sum up your work in one word, what would it be?

Do you have a daily ritual??
Every night I ask my 6-year-old daughter if it was a good or a hard day and then we talk about it, what we are grateful for, what was challenging, how we can do it better next time we are in a similar situation. We tell each other dreams, anecdotes and stories. We ask each other questions to which there are no answers. We ground each other in cuddles. Spending time with kids helps me to separate what is important from what is really not. It can put things in perspective and it reminds me that being at service to a future soil and horizon that I will never be able to experience is non-negotiable.

What art or culture-related events do you look forward to in the near future?
I am looking forward to the ›Chaos‹ workshop organised by Gabriel Catren at Performing Art Forum in France in September, and I am always looking forward to MaerzMusik—Festival for Time Issues in Berlin in March, and to Berlin Art Week of course.

16—26 SEP 2021
18 SEP, 3—9.30pm Performance ›Ocean‹
Part of ›BAW Garten‹ programme on Wed 15 SEP, 5.30—6.15pm