A conversation with the artist, DJ, model, student and musician Sofie Fatouretchi about prioritization, painting and performance.
Sofie Fatouretchi, who was born in California to Iranian and Austrian parents, grew up between the US and Vienna. After previously working for the LA label Stones Throw Records, Boiler Room, and the now-defunct New York station East Village Radio, she is currently based in Vienna. Here she studies painting, pursues a teaching degree in Philosophy, Psychology and English, plays the violin in the Wiener Akademische Philharmonie, DJs and hosts a radio show on ORF’s FM4 as well as on the London based station NTS.
Marie-Claire Gagnon spoke to the multi-talented woman about how she retains the overview, her painting and what it’s like to perform for Donna Huanca.
You are involved in a vast number of different things. How do you manage to prioritize?
It’s pretty difficult for me. A lot of the times I end up feeling like a jack of all trades but a master of none. Of course there are things I have to prioritize out of financial necessity in order to support myself. But thereafter it’s all pretty much a beast I wrangle on a weekly basis - if I try to look beyond those 7 days it can give me anxiety. This ruthless person inside me wants to do everything, and schedules an abysmally tight month or so, then my other, meek and submissive self gets through it week by week. Don’t get me wrong, I really do enjoy doing so many different things, and I also feel like creatively, it’s crucial for me to do so.
It used to be worse, too. From 17 onwards pretty much up until my early twenties, I was working two full-time jobs next to other endeavors I was pursuing. At least now the energy I’m expending mostly goes towards myself, whether that’s through my studies or music or art. To quote Bernadette Corporation - “Are all my activities part of a continual process of self-realization? Very Yes!”
In a lot of interviews I was able to find online, the focus has been mostly on your previous jobs or music. Let’s talk about your painting — what is your approach, for how long have you been pursuing it?
I’ve always been making art, mostly as a creative, non-serving respite; painting allowed me to enter a mental zone of escapism from my thoughts. My approach so far has been very intuitive, but my output does of course change in relation to what I am consuming and experiencing. It is entirely new to me to have works of mine existing in a vaguely public sphere where they are able to make impressions on people at all, previously there was not much interaction from my painting to an audience, because I was not putting it out there. So for me, that is a whole new dimension that I am excited to explore, what can one evoke?
You are currently studying painting at the University of Applied Arts here in Vienna under Henning Bohl. How has that affected you?
Yes, so I guess, entirely unwittingly, pursuing painting academically kind of changed this, because now it’s no longer this entirely non-serving respite. There has definitely been a little more purpose behind it, but I wouldn’t say this is to my detriment. Quite the opposite, it’s been wonderful to feel challenged and to learn. As maudlin as this may sound - I can just devour the literature we’re introduced to. It’s great. Without the context of academia I don’t necessarily believe that on my own I would be privy to this type of information, or knowing where to start. The class is super nice, too, people are doing interesting things.
You were asked to DJ at this year’s Essence (the annual exhibition of the University of Applied Arts), but did not exhibit. Do you find it tricky to be taken seriously as a painter given that you have such a strong identity established through music?
I haven’t been at the university for very long, so it’s not like I felt slighted! I’m happy I was asked to participate at all! I still wanted to use the opportunity for my art to be seen somehow, so I ended up building this light sculpture that stood on the table during my set. Regarding the question … yes, I suppose so, I sometimes do get that feeling.
You’re also involved as a performer in Donna Huanca’s most recent exibition, Piedra Quemada, at the Belvedere Museum, how did that happen? What’s your experience been like?
Richie Shazam asked me earlier this year, but I wasn’t able to make it to the casting because I was on tour somewhere in Germany playing the violin for Wanda. I didn’t think I’d still be part of it, but I did a Skype interview at some point, and that’s when it also became more clear to me what we as performers would be doing, and I was very much looking forward to it. The opening itself was pretty overwhelming, the energies of the visitors were very palpable, there was a lot going on. It really is very bizarre being silent and moving so slowly for such a prolonged period of time. It’s interesting what place one accesses mentally there. Working with Donna is super cool, her team and everybody, it really was something different. What she created in the space really feels like you’re stepping into a different, a very female, very earthy, natural and yet completely surreal reality. I also got to choose which which headpiece I was going to wear for the performance, it felt collaborative and personal. I enjoyed that. And I got to meet one of my favorite musicians, Elysia Crampton!
Anything else you are working on which you’re excited about?
I have a band, Sofie and the Cult Survivors. It’s super new to me to be writing these types of songs, and it’s very much different from my 2016 2LP, which was a compilation and served to spotlight other artists. This record I am working on will be, for the first time, songs that are written entirely by myself, sang by myself, arranged by myself - and most of the instruments on the recordings are also all played by myself; so it’s very personal. I hope to release this next year.
Sofie Fatouretchi has an upcoming exhibition Reena Maris Jutta King, alongside Luna Mae Heflin and Nina Zeljković which opens on the 11th of December at 6pm, Schwanzertrakt, 6th floor, Oskar-Kokoschka-Platz 2, 1010 Vienna