Fette Sans’ practice can be accessed as a chameleonic repository of coincidences, not to be regarded as acts of fate, but rather portals to the proliferation of variables and kaleidoscopic meanings: disseminated fractures that lay bare the visceral urge to experience life both in its concavities and convexities.
By juxtaposing and emulsifying a mélange of media, figures, props, performed rites or storylines, Fette Sans delves into the liminality of existence to cope with the innermost, primal and even morbid instincts and phenomena pertaining the realities we navigate. In conversation with Giulia Ottavia Frattini, she reveals how her work oscillates vertiginously between the sensual and the ludic, the paradoxical and the defiant, the theoretical and the corporeal. And how it stems perhaps from the need to be simultaneously prone to a restless process of infiltration into oneself and lubed dilation towards the external.
While cruising across your bio, three constructs have particularly struck a chord with me: »online gestures«, »obsessive rituals«, and »speculative narratives«. How do these components inscribe your position?
I am interested in the ambiguity of what constitutes an image’s residue. It’s all confused and unreliable what we call the memories of one’s lived experience, or one’s reality. No way to contextualize it, no way to accurately store or archive the layered input we continuously get. The brains do not function like a file cabinet. This unreliability is a fabulous excuse to make anything.
Games of dissociative identities and the stories we tell ourselves to collect evidence of what has happened – as in the experience of being – are recurring components in my work. What constitutes »the work« is as ambiguous and intricate of a thing, a golem of sort. Or let’s call it a monster. So what brings me to shape and obey and dismiss and dress the beast seems to be held by sheer obsession. I just need to be in this state.
By now, I have a myriad of ruses that will eventually bring me to make »the thing«, but for me it’s a very collaborative affair, this being in the loud world. I like to use the word speculative, instead of fictitious because to me the word fake is sloppy and much too limited. As if it could place itself in the opposition of real – that’s absurd and I’m not interested in such oppositions. I feel very porous and I am very invested in the taking it all in: to archive, to note, to watch, to read, to walk — let’s call it my own binge-sensing fucked-up symposium. I see coincidences as some sort of synapses to my neural system of beliefs, a certain nervousness, being observant, balancing between telling too much about the self and the impossibility to say anything (or everything).
I perceive a sort of visceral sensitivity towards language – how you employ, disrupt, twist or question terms and their meaning. The philosopher and essayist E. M. Cioran speaks about VERBAL DEMIURGY in the book »The temptation to exist«, and he writes: »The discomfort which language provokes in us does not differ from the kind of reality inspires; the void we glimpse at the bottom of words evokes the one we grasp in things: two perceptions, two experiences in which the disjunction operates between objects and symbols, between reality and signs. In the poetic act, this disjunction assumes the image of a rupture […]”
Language is a tremendously insufficient medium to present anything, and it is precisely its failure to represent something that is its exciting aspect. Like wanting to stay in the trouble of what it feels like to be in love.
It seems that a hint of sarcasm and bitter irony permeates your projects. This perception leads me to think of a sort of theatricality or drive towards dramaturgy and masquerade. How do you relate to such an attitude?
It’s about the desire to be the priest, the altar, the invading host and the light falling on the scene. I have a very cinematic urge. I don’t see the theatricality as bitter, but yes irony is a cheap tool for those too shy to get by. I am more of a skeptic, so when this is soaked in romanticism, it may feel like sarcasm at times.
How do these mechanisms of »staging« creep into social environments and have an impact on collective mechanisms, in your opinion?
We are all scattered trying to locate ourselves within a »Real« that is so contingent, so slippery that our efforts seem to (only) occur—or more precisely, fail to occur—in a virtual limbo.
In this collapse of everything, we perform our various messy selves despite this tense and closed loop of failed occurrence. In a way, persevering in making anything in spite of universal vulnerability, of universal ineffectiveness becomes that radical thing of weaving together the poetic, the political and the personal, and to eventually throw it back on fire in the face of expectations. I like to imagine masquerade as some leaky brawl against this relentless idea of self-optimization where even rest and pleasure are framed as productivity enhancing activities.
Fluidity appears to be a core state in your practice. If I were to describe your pieces with one single word, I would perhaps choose the term »reversible«, as if your materials were drenched with ambiguity that allows delicate topics to drip out. Would you say that your work aims to instil some emotional dislocation in the audience?
I like that, fluidity and reversibility that speak of hazy dimensions. I think a lot about the territoriality of the performer and the audience. The term »emotional dislocation« feels very poignant to me, the way it conveys this out-of-sync physicality, like a out of joint broken hip, and something about a place, not belonging somewhere allocated to you. The figure of the artist as court jester, freak show act, ornamental hermit, it is very interesting to me. I think of this interview with Lauren Berlant where they talked about the public having to become »entrepreneurial individuals«, and the growth for perpetual entertainment we have imposed on one another. Like the ideas that the public is your inexhaustible recording device, »the public« exists beyond this limit outside of »the performer«. I don’t see one being passive and the other active.
That was the premise for my work The bitter ends of (the technologies of tenderness), which disrupts the roles by playing with who’s performing, who’s waiting for the performance to begin, who needs to be entertained, and so on.
There’s this idea of constant sampling, the compulsory archiving makes light of this. Language borrowed, re-used.
Often I think the work speaks of something about warmth colored with a lingering threat, like some existential fog lurking.
Since often presenting yourself in a confrontational way to the spectators, what were the most significant outcomes or unforeseen reactions you have received due to such an exposure?
Often it will be a glimpse of a gesture that remains very strong with me. During Tenderness at »Alte Münze«, I remember one person who wanted to show me the pic they had taken of *me* by facing the screen of their phone to the monitor laying on the daybed, instead of directing it towards the laptop’s camera.
In 2017 I staged a »five-month-long performance« named If I can’t sleep at night is it because I am awake in someone else’s room? in a room of the Hotel Zoo in Berlin where I lived at no cost. At the end of each month, I would stage one or a series of public actions. Two friends who didn’t know one another came to the room during the first 24h performance I did. And I think of the conversation they had in the elevator on their way out. They were arguing whether or not there had been music. The fact that they had a significantly different memory of a room left a minute earlier and felt compelled to argue which one was the »truest«, is what I mean when I say that the work is an ambiguous thing.
It feels like your everyday experiences inform your practice as if ordinary phenomena are the well of inspiration for creating divergent narratives. How do you think that perpetually attending online spaces and digital platforms impact our intimacy, even from a physical perspective? Where do the encounters happen, and which entity, according to your take, stands on the other side of the screen?
Being online for more than twenty years sometimes feels like the cursed gift of divinity. The virtual realm generates personal plural truths and fosters tangible conjectures, the digital layers of reality are real the same way telepathy is real, or ghosts are real. Real in the way they are brought into the world by the very loud act of thinking. We are all oracles, all able to compress and to stretch time, our bodies haunted by the stories of our elders.
The tactile aesthetic and seductive tone of your works convey the impression of living halfway between provocation and desire. Possibly two concepts that mirror each other. Where do the boundaries of the two lie, in your opinion? In your last film AGIRLICA this seems to be a highly evident dynamic.
It’s definitely about wanting to move and wanting to feel the friction. It’s the ever push and pull, love as devious conflict.
»AGIRLICA« was conceived as a hyper and horny play on the 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I wanted to mess around with both the character of the doctor and the character of the story teller, who happens to be the patient. It also came to me out of wanting to examine both the gesture of kneeling and the gesture of opening the mouth. The film is kind of possessed by longing, but maybe it’s just a love story.
Can knowledge and culture be perceived as substances to be absorbed or fetishised? I borrow the word »substance« here because when visiting your exhibition The Cabinet many objects, props, and tools pertaining to medicine and drugs were displayed in an evocative but nevertheless immediate manner.
Again, I love your play on words. How this term, »substance« is absolutely fetishized. It’s in the way the tangible, the real is slammed against the virtual and places itself as a foundation, both as body and as ground, and in the way substance is also essence, ethereal and mystical like beauty, prosperity.
The play between medicinal and recreational is this constant conversation around bioengineered life-solutions and necropolitical economies. Or the pharmaceutical, pornography and surveillance ouroboros that Paul B. Preciado brought forward even more evidently.
Like other practices with a gender history — the practice of making food, or of making clothing, the making of substances to alter, to cure, as well as to hurt, can be traced to the efforts of women and other members of marginalized communities, before being re-authored, re-manufactured and re-glorified by men. Images of the witch convey dread and masquerade, whereas the status of a doctor — a profession still dominated by men, implies authority and factual knowledge.
What are the biases, trends, problematics and current socio-cultural fabrications that, in your opinion, urge to be addressed, also with an eye on your future plans?
The constant input does feel toxic when unmediated or unregulated and I mean that by oneself, not regulated by another company/app. I am skeptical of our ability to calmly decipher and to make sense of this literal overdose, of the superimposition of discourses, aesthetics, engagements. All this exists in this strange paradox: enforced and distinct categories – cats, war conflicts, cooking tutorial, art show – when everything is deeply intertwined, in a temporal, economical, geographical space.
I imagine some future made of radical analogs and digital militants and an ocean of boiled down in-betweens enduring the uncertain. Those who afford a fantasy even warmer, brighter and calmer than what we imagine are already out of reach.
In a way these speculations keep feeding my investigation of cults and fanaticism, the protocols of spectacle and mandatory celibacy/intimacy via the developments of AI and gendered robotics. And I think of this interview with the artist Pippa Garner where she talks about the figure of the court jester, of the fool. How they were essentially artists who could be maneuvering around the court with tremendously important insight. The fool as an excuse, unnumbered, the protagonist of a delirious story.