Coming from the midst of Transylvania, the performance artist and photographer Viviana Druga crosses the subtle boundaries between art and magic and unites them in transcendent pieces of works of her imagination.
With the powerful influences from her childhood memories formed in the magical environment of the Carpathian mountains, her work explores new dimensions of reality, often having transforming powers towards the subjects of her art as part of the process.
Her upcoming exhibition titled ‘Urban Witches Not Bitches #2‘ launching on 14 January 2017 at Neurotitan Gallery in Berlin is a combination of an exhibition, including performances and sound-based events, and a calendar composed of photographic portraits of eight female artists representing the neo-pagan wheel of the seasons, forming the central part of the display. Each portrait is a powerful depiction of the transformative energy of the individual pagan festivals, celebrating the cycles of birth, death and renewal, captured during a ritual performed in 2016.
Discover more about Viviana and her art in our interview:
Some of your performances are related to rituals – do you consider rituals mainly from the artistic point of view or do they also have their place in your personal life?
I do not separate my personal life from my artistic life – it’s all connected and intertwingled. Rituals have been accompanying me since my childhood: my mother used to take on the role of the priest to bless the house with flowers when we missed the actual priest ringing at our door (the baptizing ritual at the end of December) so she knew that you can actually be your own priest – you can incorporate that role and heal yourself.
The original concept of ritus may be related to the Sanskrit ṛtá (“visible order”) – “the lawful and regular order of the normal, and therefore proper, natural and true structure of cosmic, worldly, human and ritual events”. A ritual is a way of connecting a life event with the cosmic power, to give it an aura, a higher meaning. The casual / profane becomes sacred (The Sacred and the Profane, M. Eliade). Personal rituals are extended to community level so anyone can approach it.
Do you believe that any of the objects you keep around you have hidden powers within them that can transfer onto you upon your interaction with them?
I believe that an object I used in a performance becomes a totem in which that energy is contained. I can always go back to it and connect with that information. It does not have this effect with anyone else but me, I suppose. I tend to keep important elements from my performances as a reminder of good and bad times and that there is a cycle in all so if you are uphill and you rock, there is gonna be a downhill one day, the thing is to keep a sense of humour about it all. Love the Dalai Lama laugh here… (photo of Viviana holding a crystal in the desert)
You’re describing your use of art as a magical activity – is it that you often just allow the energy flow through and let the results surprise you?
I always plan my actions very precisely but I never rehearse. I study all possibilities in the physical reality beforehand but without a rehearsal because the rehearsal would be the actual performance – I want to save that initial energy of the first time expression for the ritual itself. It would be a pity to waste that energy in the rehearsal room. The action itself is a magical activity that is satiated with meaning which can be accessed by the people attending it. It’s a channel of information and I am the conductor of that particular energy. This method allows for accidents or just lets life interfere with the pre-established plan. It’s all part of it. The magic is when you completely surrender to the situation you created and you become part of it. I had a performance in London during which I became my mother. It was literally called Becoming my mother. Over the course of one hour I invoked the spirit of my mother (she died in 2007) and had a dialogue with her during which the audience was dyeing my hair black as my mother used to wear it. It was an embodiment of her and but it was also about letting go. Twice, I would say something bad about her and the string connecting our foreheads in the displayed pictures would fall. Accident? Maybe, maybe not…
Do you feel like the art you make and what is has given you has transformed you through the years or rather the other way around?
Yes, the art I started to make has a life of its own and has transformed me into what I am now. Who would have thought 4 years ago that I would create a tarot deck with real people (my family and friends) and start doing psycho-magic readings to people that relate to the subconscious not the future. The tarot becoming a visual alphabet of the subconscious. What an amazing tool to get to know yourself. One project leads to the next as a new chapter of life to get into and understand. The current project URBAN WITCHES CALENDAR that I am working on right now for the 14th January show in Berlin at Neurotitan Gallery is about the sacred feminine. It all started one year ago when I was in India at a performance festival and I self-initiated myself into the dark feminine magic by drinking my own menstrual blood. Since then I’ve been running a series of workshops called My Red Tent in which I teach what I’ve learned to women and men who want to understand the women in their lives. The calendar I am planning to launch is about trying to create 8 different images of what the “new feminine” is, how it looks like, what it’s inspired by in each and every phase of the moon connected to 8 important sabbaths [pagan festivals] of the year. All of this would not have happened without the previous Tarot project [22+1 Tarot]… One thing leads to the next just like the journey of the Fool (no number [tarot card] ) leads one by one to 21 (The World [tarot card] )…
What made you embrace the metaphysical side of things and seek connections on a different level?
A near death experience I induced to myself when I was 16 after being a big follower of the nihilist philosopher E. Cioran who basically saw no sense in humanity. After the incident I was in a coma for 3 days, after which a click happened – to make it short and less dramatic – but it did open the gate to a new unfolding of myself. I am so grateful to E. Cioran for showing me the darkest depths of the human psyché, which allowed me to touch with my foot the lowest pit of the subconsciousness. The metaphysical was always of my interest – it was just that my perspective on it changed a lot after I was 16. I started believing in change and self-healing. We all have the intrinsic power to do it.
You got your own tarot cards made – could you tell us a bit more about the idea behind the design?
22+1 Tarot de Berlin’s actual creative process was a two year adventure during which my friends and members of my family embodied the 2D characters of the Tarot de Marseille. I tend to involve my community in my art projects as life cannot be separated from art. By transforming my friends into icons I substituted other icons that were pre-given by other establishments. To create your own reality, you start with yourself, I guess.
More info about the project can be found here.
Apart from the “Urban Witches not Bitches #2” show you are preparing in January, is there any other project you’re planning to execute in 2017?
I am planning to be in Mexico for two performance festivals, one of them in Tarahumara in the north and central Mexico. I am looking forward to the journey and experience in April – May 2017.
Last but not least – we’re always looking for new interesting European artists to cover. Is there someone you would like to recommend to us?
Shaltmira from Vilnius, Lithuania – she is one of the Urban Witches in my show, representing Yule (Dec 21st) – the moment the Sun reaches its lowest point in the Northern hemisphere and from there it starts growing. From the darkest pit of the human psyché, a glimpse of light is to be seen. The birth of the God, whom the Christians called Jesus. Jesus is the Sun, nothing more, and Jesus is in my case a woman.
Another amazing artist is Moran Sanderovich, who represents Imbolc (Feb 1st) in Urban Witches not Bitches.
( y )