Katya Grokhovsky

Artist Interview

July 10, 2016
Katya Grokhovsky was born in Ukraine, raised in Australia and is based in New York. She is an artist, independent curator, organizer, and educator, exploring ideas of gender, identity construction, alienation, labor, history and the self.

Can you tell us about your relationship with your work?

My art is my life, and vice versa, I see no particular separation between the two.

My relationship to my work is akin to my relationship to love: it is a savior and a punishment, it is a grim reality and a colorful fantasy, it is hope, it's a storm, beautifully frustrating, brutally passionate, depressing, but always feeds the soul.

Can you tell us about the use of fabrics in your work?

Fabric represents a vehicle of memory to me. It is one of my earliest, most favorite materials to work with. Having studied fashion, I possess extensive knowledge about textiles and am fascinated by the texture, color and tactile faculties of fiber. How a small piece of worn cloth can trigger an emotional response, a fragment of memory, a feeling. To an immigrant with partially lost personal archive, sometimes found old clothing, blanket or table cloth can become treasures, containers of narratives, lost histories.

Human bodies and body parts can be beautiful, grotesque, and inspiring, what are your thoughts on the body?

I have always been fascinated and obsessed by the body. It’s supposed gender, external appearance, mortality and interior life. How bodies are perceived, examined, policed, colonized, politicized and fetishized. When I was very young I was interested in dance and later also studied fashion, disciplines which revolve around the body’s movement and presentation, which I still refer to. As a woman, I am an owner of the body that seems to be public property. So I am interested in trying to subvert this gaze, in de-objectification, in freedom, through often absurd, radical and humorous actions, adopting characters, personas, deconstructing fashion images, playing with costume, reconstructing the body as I see it. I am inspired by bodies which do not comply, which are displeasing, discarded, deemed to be irrelevant and grotesque, second-tier, the undesirable, which hide unseen traumas, are silenced.

Can you tell us more about Uproar and Utopia 16000?

Both Uproar and Utopia 16000 are site-specific installations, created with various found materials, assembled on site in spaces other than a white box gallery. In Uproar, I was interested in the bodily absence and presence imbued in everyday objects. Utopia 16000 deals with post industrial nostalgia and failure of utopia, it examines the residue of economic crisis and depression. By sourcing, collecting and and re-mixing ready-made materials, I am exploring my environment and learning about the life of others, adding my own interpretations, finding new meanings and possibilities..

Is there something you can’t live without in your studio?

Ideas, time, imagination, extreme self-belief and scissors.

How does being a foreign artist in America influence your artwork?

Being a foreigner is my reality and a state of being, it puts me in a position of a curious observer, situated often behind an invisible glass wall, looking in. I feel like I belong nowhere in particular. This condition allows for certain freedom to dream up and create my own worlds and identities through my work, which I can inhabit. I have learned new languages and adopted new ways of being and thinking, often relocating my sense of self dramatically. This practice has taught me to be light on my feet, to deal with displacement in my life through my work, to try to excavate my identity through my art, to be alert. I am reminded of my "otherness" sometimes abruptly, in situations where cultural misunderstanding takes place. These incidents amuse and surprise me every time, adding to my ongoing research.

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Do you have any bad habits? And does it affect on your work?

Yes, I have plenty of bad habits. I can be extremely lazy and completely apathetic, I obsess over every detail of my life and work and analyze it all too much. I procrastinate too often. However, I am learning to incorporate these habits into my work, to let them run their course, to allow for the supposedly wasted time be part of my process, to resist the pressure to "perform" at my best all the time, to stand still and meander through the seemingly unproductive space. To accept it as fertile ground for growing new ideas.

What else should we know about you and your work?

I am an only child, an avid reader, sometimes an insomniac and I love dancing. I was born in Ukraine, migrated to Australia when I was 15 and came to US to study almost 7 years ago. My first language is Russian. My first Bachelor degree is in Fashion design. I lived in London and Paris. I studied in an MA Fashion program at Central St Martins College of Art and Design in London, from which I dropped out to eventually pursue artistic career. I was a Dux (from latin - leader -  dux is a modern title given to the highest-ranking student in academic or sporting achievement inUK, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Iceland, ) of my high school in Australia and gave a graduating speech in front of my whole school, which I just found out in USA translates toValedictorian. My work allows me to laugh at myself.

For more of Grokhovsky: katyagrokhovsky.net

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