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Future Watch: Victoria Verseau

“There’s a personal reality I feel like I need to process, and which is very relevant to shine light on. This reality includes lost friends, abuse, vulnerability but also amazing travels, kicks, strength and sisterhood. I believe a problem that exists is how few transgender individuals are allowed to speak, due to structural issues and oppression. Rarely have our narratives been told by us ourselves who first-hand share transgender experiences”, says artist and filmmaker Victoria Verseau who we have faith in to be one of the seminal artists of this new decade.

Victoria Verseau, Foreign Body, installation view in FUTURE WATCH, curated by C-print, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, 2021, Stockholm. Photo: Matilda Rahm

C-P: I find your work to be so important. When we first met we spoke about the pressure that sometimes might be felt as a transgender artist to meet the expectations of a larger community of individuals who might wish for the output of an artist to also inform their specific reality. All the while as an artist one is often trying to stay true to a narrative of one’s own. Surely the choice to work with your own story of transitioning has come with a great deal of considerations on your part?

V.V: I would love not merely to be viewed as a person with transgender experiences, or not to have to feel that my art and I bear a responsibility to inform and educate. Foremost I’d like to be held as an artist and a human being. Having said that, my art will likely always be informed by experiences from my own life, which is from where my narratives and driving force derive. I speak about life the way I’ve lived it. It’s a blend of light and darkness and fluid movements on the one hand between life and death and hope and despair on the other. For me art is never only political and rather the poetical condition is a greater and more important part for me. Art is an intuitive, almost magical action where my own objective does not lie in informing or being political.

Victoria Verseau by Martin Hernandez-Brusewitz for C-print

As for your question, I have been encouraged over time to tell the narratives of others and such that

are less tragedy-ridden and melancholic because there has been much of that already. I just don’t think I’m the person to do that right now and my feeling is that I can only depart from my own perspective; what is my own narrative. One reason for this is that I haven’t fully yet had time to process much of what I went through in the years between being 18 and 26. Those were intense and dramatic years which at times make me feel like having lived several lives at once. I lived fast and hard and then came tumbling down and art and film became the solace to channel and deal with it all. So, in a certain sense, I think I need to use myself; the genesis of an identity to comprehend something that is larger and in order to be able to explore and address what it is to be human. That too finds itself in encounters with others but I find it difficult to tell the narratives of others without having to relate to a feeling of exploiting them or their lives.

Victoria Verseau, Approaching a Ghost, Photo: Daniel Takács

C-P: You’re currently working with two feature length films and have been navigating in the film sphere as well in the contemporary art scene. Sometimes their realities overlap and sometimes not. What sort of comparisons can be made at this point about various experiences in film and art?

V.V: I’m experiencing that there are pros and cons with both worlds and since for me they compliment each other, it would be hard choosing just one to work in. From my experience, they don’t intersect particularly often which can be challenging for someone who like me seeks that overlap between them. The art world appears to me much more open in terms of the freedom of expression, The film world has a clear structure and while it has seemed easier as an emerging filmmaker to find encouragement and a platform in order to create, there are also so many rules on how to make film in order to find the funding and an audience. That can be suffocating so it tends that sliding over to art allows for a breath of fresh air. The art world in contrast to film is much more of a haze to me. It hasn’t been easy to figure out how to navigate and get ahead.

I feel that my artistic practice encompassing performance, sculpture, installation and video extend so much to the two feature films I’m working on. The process of a feature film is often very long and it’s nice as a variation to wrap my hands around an artwork that does not take five years to execute.

Victoria Verseau, Approaching a Ghost, Photo: Daniel Takács

C-P: One of these long-term film works is Meril which initially appears intended as a tribute and commemoration of Meril, a late friend you met in Thailand while both were pursuing gender confirmation surgery. While the project began in that end it took another direction with the actors casted to play you both in the film. The process of this film is a fascinating and organic way of letting a narrative unfold and letting the shoes of a project lead you forward, so to speak.

V.V: I wanted to let two actors who themselves are going through a transition just as me and Meril were when we met, play us both. The initial idea was that we would reconstruct moments that Meril and I once lived through. The reconstructions are a protection of me and my integrity. The process has been unruly at times and I try to listen to where it’s going and to follow it forward perceptibly which has led to a place where additional documentary angles have been afforded a lot of space. The narratives of the two actors have now too become part of the work. The work essentially is a series of works which dissolve time and place. I would like to reach us, me and Meril; who we were and try to understand what happened to us and why Meril chose to end her life. I want to understand how that has shaped me. It’s an exploration of three transgender persons’ view on change, femininity, dreams and illusions.

Victoria Verseau by Martin Hernandez-Brusewitz for C-print

C-P: Your video work Approaching a Ghost has per the way of Bonniers Konsthall been selected for the Artists' Film International 2021 program and will as a result be extensively screened around the world. Exciting! How does this work narrationally relate to the feature-length project Meril?

V.V: It stems from the same event and place. I wanted to approach a memory, something which will not abandon you, something that lives on despite being gone since long. As I revisited the place where Meril and I met, seven years after our surgery, I set out to figure out whether there was still anything left of us there. Could I possibly summon our presence and memories through the moving image? In Approaching a Ghost I look closer at those places we frequented, the rooms and sites which now lack our presence. There’s the hotel where we lived the months after the surgery, both a prison and a shelter from the world outside and the heat. Our “place of birth” of sorts, you could say. A now run-down and abandoned mall where we went when restless and without much else to do than the challenging physical exercises we had to do in order for the newly created vagina not to heal up. A deserted dusty road on which we walked searching for the sea to feel a moment of freedom from our struggles. The tidal land we found and were met by instead.

When I went through the filmed material I felt like it took me to a place between reality and memory. Those documented places are devoid of people, cars, Tuk-Tuks and all the bustle that usually fill the surroundings in Thailand. What’s left is only the traces of that and us. Occasionally a whisper emerges as you watch. That’s my voice, Meril’s voice and the voices of all those who never got to be heard. Transgender sisters who were murdered or chose to disappear and no longer are here. A long time I didn’t dare to speak, it didn't feel like a certainty that I could make my voice heard. That’s why what is confided with the viewer is whispered to them.

Victoria Verseau, Foreign Body, installation view in FUTURE WATCH, curated by C-print, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, 2021, Stockholm. Photo: Matilda Rahm C-P: You have such great material command and have extended your videos through spatial and sculptural installations where notably latex as a material makes a significant part. Latex bears so much inherent identity. What have been your considerations using latex for instance to project film? V.V: I wanted to present a large spatial installation for my MFA-exhibition. I find it hard to just exhibit a video or a sculpture directly in a room. I almost always feel like creating spatial installations and “concealing” works within them to emphasize the border between the private and the public. In the exhibition the viewer stepped into an intimate room which held inside ambivalent and often personal narratives. In light of these interests the idea arose to work with a semi-transparent architecture which stresses the ambivalence of whether to show what is covered behind there or not. Working large-scale so that the viewer could relate physically meant I needed to find a material which would allow me to mold large sheets without it getting too expensive.

A theme in my MFA-project A Body of Ghosts is the body itself; the body in a state of transition, like my body was and like everyone’s actually is. A course of physical change is constant as is our aging. In this regard, latex was a very good fit, since it like our skin goes through changes and aging. Within a period of ten years it has ceased to exist, will have withered and disappeared. Latex is also very light-sensitive and changes in daylight to shades I’ve had no control over. I’m a person who likes control and that is why this material has been challenging and important for me in my process. The light sensitivity in combination with the obscurity in my artistic practice have gone well together thematically. Through the latex screens you can see shadows from visitors and sculptures; what becomes a certain shadow play. I think a notion of “backsides” interests me because it’s tied with an expectation or fear of what awaits behind there.

Victoria Verseau, Foreign Body, installation view in FUTURE WATCH, curated by C-print, Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, 2021, Stockholm. Photo: Matilda Rahm

C-P: You are taking part in our exhibition Future Watch this spring at Kulturhuset which highlights artists who we believe will be frontrunners in this new decade. What can be said about your participation in the exhibition?

V.V: I feel very excited getting to be part of this exhibition. The venue is very interesting since it houses so many artistic disciplines under the same roof. We are planning to exhibit one or two large-scale installation works and extending one of them with sculptures and perhaps performance. I’d love to do something which joins the collaboration of the theatre of Kulturhuset and want to keep it playful and view the exhibition space as a site for experimenting and trials rather than complete answers.

This feature was originally produced for C-print's The Future Watch Issue in print, a close collaboration with the BA3 Class in Graphic Design and Illustration at Konstfack, and released (May 2021) and sold at Index Foundation in Stockholm (our main distributor). Victoria Verseau has since participated in C-print's curated exhibition FUTURE WATCH - 10 konstnärer i tiden at Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (Galleri 3), April 16 - August 8.


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