Artists in lockdown Q&A: Troika
Over the past year we have learned to organize our daily life in a different way. A lot has changed for artists too: there were no – or fewer – opportunities to exhibit work, while a lot of time was spent in the studio. How do artists shape the changing world? In the Artist in lockdown-series, we’ll talk to our artists about their experiences during the pandemic. Today’s Q&A with: Troika (Eva Rucki).
“I remember the passage of time because of journeys taken; marking it through the making of physical artefacts that are characterized through their materiality and process of becoming.”
How has life been during lockdown? Has it been a time of solitude or has it brought you and your family closer together?
It’s been a time of constant adaptation and reinvention. In regards to the collective – which is partly my family – it has been interesting to see how far we can push and adapt the ways we can be working together. Keeping a balance between home schooling and different ways of working has been both rewarding as well as challenging. On an every day level, living close to parks and open green spaces has been a life saver.
Did the lockdown alter your vision of the world?
Seeing people in movies that aren’t wearing masks in the rush hour on trains now feels somewhat awkward. It goes to show just how much new norms have settled into our subconscious. Of course – how could it not. To consider the person on the other side of the road a walking health hazard is a pretty intense way of getting by.
The last months have laid bare the fragility of our existence and the fault lines are becoming increasingly more apparent. And whilst it is amazing just how quickly people have adapted to this new world, here is hoping that we take something more away from having lived through this historic event beyond pretending that a vaccine is the solution to our problems and aiming to revert to old routines as quickly as possible – both on a global scale and a personal level.
How did the lockdown affect your art practice?
Troika is an art collective founded 18 years ago by Conny Freyer, Sebastien Noel and myself, Eva Rucki. We work collaboratively with an emphasis on a studio based practice. The studio, located in East London, is a little microcosmos that is intertwined with lots of surrounding entities. Assistants who come in to help on the larger works, suppliers of materials and parts, external fabricators and specialists, all form part of its everyday activities. It couldn’t be further from the traditional idea of an artist working in solitude tucked away in an iron tower.
We had to change our way of working throughout the different lockdowns quite a bit – having less and less people in the studio, closing it completely, working at different times from one another in the studio. We keep on adapting as we go.
From the beginning of last year, we had lots of exciting projects lined up – a solo exhibition in a new art foundation in Mexico City comprising an new immersive installation and several new bodies of work, a large permanent sculpture in a university in Denmark, a permanent architectural installation in a museum in Bristol, a solo presentation in a museum in France, a public art installation in East London, a three year project with Cambridge University that will culminate in a large outdoor installation … All this next to smaller works that form a substantial part of our practice such as the Irma paintings, the Borrowed Light and dice works. It is as if the pandemic has put everything into slow motion. For us, it has meant that the timeframe for the larger project has roughly doubled, which has been a welcome side effect – even so everything takes so much longer on the other side, too. But on the upside it gave us the possibility to spend more time on a publication that will accompany our upcoming exhibition in Mexico City and reach out to writers that we have been wanting to work with for a while.
Could you tell me more about one specific work you created during lockdown?
‘Unstable Constructs’ is a recent work using colour fields on photographic slide film. Emerging from the combination of overlapping gradients on cylinders of photographic film, the two dimensional photographic medium is transformed into a colour shifting object. Depending on the position of the viewer the colour spectrum continually changes and an infinite almost liquid colour spectrum emerges by overlaying the colour fields in different ways through moving around or past the object. ‘Unstable Construct’ is ungraspable in its totality as we can only ever glance one facet of its make up at any one time; we have to content with the fact that some aspects will remain beyond our knowledge.
What do you think about the surge of online activities during lockdown? Besides negative experiences, like being unable to see art in real life, were there any positive experiences? Is there a specific initiative that inspired you?
Of course there are plenty of great initiatives out there, projects like the artist support pledge come to mind. It is really encouraging to see these kind of projects that draw new connections and support in new ways. #artistsupportpledge
I have loved following film maker Mania Akbari’s ‘Conversation during coronavirus on IG live’. Some episodes are in depth conversations, in others she creates a space for someone’s meandering thoughts. I have enjoyed its unpretentious personal format that seems to be entirely unaware of an audience beyond the exchange. (maniaakbari.film)
But in general I try to spend as little time as possible in front of a screen and this has been more important now than ever. I remember the passage of time because of journeys taken; marking it through the making of physical artefacts that are characterized through their materiality and process of becoming. Between a walk after dark and a virtual showroom it will always be the walk for me.
What will 2021 bring us?
I suppose, in first instance more lockdowns and hopefully a gradual easing out of restrictions by the summer, but it remains a moving target. Of course in uncertain times like these one wants to plan the un-planable even more so. However futile the attempt, not making a plan at all doesn’t seem an alternative either.
We are currently working towards an immersive installation of a dreamlike alternate reality which will open in Mexico City. As with many projects it has been moved into the future a couple of times now. However, we hope that 2021 will afford us to possibility show our work in actual spaces to real people again.
According to the Stockdale paradox one must maintain unwavering faith that one can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time, confront the most brutal facts of your current reality. It is a challenging balance to strike, but in comparison with Stockdale who was a prisoner of war for eight years with no set release date my own personal situation strikes me not as that severe. Stockdale also referred to his time as a POW as the most defining time of his life that he would not trade in retrospect – this might be something to take on board.
Troika is a collaborative contemporary art practice formed by Eva Rucki (b. 1976, Germany), Conny Freyer (b. 1976, Germany) and Sebastien Noel (b. 1977, France) in 2003.
With a particular interest in perception and spatial experience, their collective works challenge our prescriptions of knowledge, control, and what it means to be human in an age of technology.
Troika’s work is part of the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum London, The Art Institute of Chicago, MoMA New York and the Israel Museum. In 2010, Troika was commissioned by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to produce three site-specific installations for the UK Pavilion, designed by Heatherwick Studio, at the Shanghai Expo. In 2014 Troika was selected to present their work ‘Dark Matter’ at Unlimited, Art Basel.
Eva Rucki, Conny Freyer and Sebastien Noel live and work in London.