Within her work, Berlin-based self-taught illustrator Adrienne Kammerer follows the logic of unconscious. With its anarchic and gothic depiction of impossibly entangled, androgynous bodies, the worlds Kammerer's work inhabits exists in-between: they must resist the coherence of a narrative, and are often fragmented and apparently arbitrary. Her artwork haunts the periphery: occupying vague pasts, presents, and futures. Immersing us in her world, Kammerer's animated objects are a mediation of the possibility of universes not cogently known. By excavating the charged moments when anxiety seeps into and contaminates the illusion of a sealed universe, Kammerer offers more surprising ways of being in the world.
How long have you been living in Berlin? I know you lived in Toronto previously; do you feel your environments affect the worlds you create in your work?
I've been living in Berlin for 3 years, although I dipped for a significant chunk (5 months) to stay in LA and Mexico this past year. There are lots of things I like about Toronto, especially now that I can just go back and visit but I found it just didn't make sense economically to stay. So many of my friends who are still there have really precarious living and work situations. Unless you have your shit really figured out, it can be really stressful to keep up with rent, maintaining a social life (and not becoming a shut in because it's too expensive to go out) and the pressure of constantly having some kind of artistic output if you are in a creative field. Berlin is obviously not immune from gentrification but it seems like it's at least happening at a more manageable rate. Sometimes I do miss the no-chill workaholic vibe of Toronto though. Berlin can be a little too relaxed at times.
Your work is almost a descent in the valley of the unconscious, akin to a turgid dream. On Instagram you record your dreams from nights previous in great detail as well. There's almost a compulsion - and desire - in remembering such monstrously intimate scenes altogether that impresses upon your work, with a comedic - and almost deviant - touch. How important are dreams to your work?
I have been trying for years to successfully keep a dream journal, and then this year me and a friend started a fb group. Knowing you have an audience, and waking up to other people's submissions has made it into more of a habit. I don't know that my dreams directly influence my work but you can see a lot of the same emotional themes/tones in my illustrations. Characters in my dreams and in my artwork seem to live in a world of constant anxiety, vacillating between demented euphoria and hopeless misery.
Your work uses a lot of symbolic imagery and mythologies, how do these images change significance or meaning once they enter into your worlds?
It's a copy and paste collage of bits and pieces that resonate with me either aesthetically or thematically. I collect and re-arrange references until I've curated my own universe. Most of the time it becomes completely disconnected from any of the original mythologies but sometimes I'll do more of a soft remix like the illustration of sailor moon as Judith beheading Holofernes where her facial expression is maniacally gleeful instead of devoid of emotion.
What is the relationship of temporality in your work? In other words, in their undeniable gothic-ness, does their re-production or circulation in our time change its meaning?
When I imagine the worlds these characters live in I don't imagine them in the past. I imagine their universe existing adjacent to our own operating on something akin to Narnian time, where earth and Narnia existed alongside each other but the relative speed of Narnian time to earth-time was inconsistent and erratic.
All the objects in your work are lively, animated, and self-aware, what are some of your favourite objects and your relationship to them?
I go through phases, but currently vases and flowers. I spent a lot of time in my mom's carefully curated and manicured garden that was filled with plants I would help her steal from the botanical gardens. We would sneak through a back entrance so we didn't have to pay and bring backpacks and shovels. My grandparents lived in a house they built surrounded by woods and dug up clay and made pottery and vases as a hobby together. My grandparents have both passed and I don't live on the same continent as my mom so sometimes I think it's a way of connecting to family that I don't get to see anymore. I also never used to have plants in my room either until I moved to Berlin and now it's completely overrun by them.
Your work dissolves the boundaries of animate/inanimate in their representations, if any, what lessons do you want people to learn from this kind of rupture?
I don't really draw anything with too many expectations of how the viewer will interpret it. I spend a lot of time alone though and have to constantly have books or podcasts streaming to offset some of the isolation. So maybe anthropomorphising everything is another form of that.
Images courtesy of ADRIENNE KAMMERER
interview ALEXA VAN ABBEMA
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