CHASED) Art and People Berlin

People: Photographer Ana Bathe

11 Jan

On a grey winters day I set out on my bike to meet photographer Ana Bathe at her home and studio in Kreuzberg. We met in her living room, drank coffee, chatted and experienced Berlin’s first snow fall of 2014 together. Ana was born in Serbia and grew up in Canada. She moved to Berlin in 2012 to pursue her career as a photographer and has since become well known in the Berlin art scene and has received international recognition for her work. In the creation of her images Ana assumes the role of make-up artist, lighting assistant, set designer, photographer and subject! Subsequently Ana’s work is always a full expression of herself and her ideas, resulting in intimate self-portraits that challenge perceptions of beauty and gender.


Interview with Ana Bathe

Chased: Your work has become very well known in Berlin and we have seen many exciting exhibitions from you, what can we hope to see from Ana Bathe in 2015?

A.M.: My ultimate goal for 2015 is to reach out beyond Berlin.  I appreciate this city and all of its guts, glitter and garbage, but it’s very easy to get stuck here.  I will be spending a few days in Milan in February, in order to research a top for my upcoming project about gender in religion.

I am also currently looking into residencies and exhibition opportunities in Japan, because I feel that I need to be taken out of my comfort zone again, in order to develop new ideas and projects even further. Plus, Japan has been a trip in the making for me for the last five years, so it would be incredible to combine a travel destination with a work destination. It seems I can’t stay in one place for too long, if I stand still for too long, I might cease to exist.

Chased: Your work has a strong focus on the subject of gender roles, this is clearly a subject that has affected your life and continues to do so. Can you tell us more about that?

A.M.: I made a sculpture for my recent solo show, and it was basically a woman’s torso covered in sprinkles, candy and gum and the title was ‘Hey Sugar! Hey Sweetie! Hey Honey’. The head of the sculpture was elongated and almost alien like, because I wanted to convey the feeling of ostracism that women feel sometimes, when they are objectified and perceived as something delicious to be consumed.  But what surprised me the most is that a few people came up to me and once I explained what the sculpture meant and represented their response was ‘Oh yes, this was an issue a few months back’.  As if it had been resolved and we had moved onto a utopian life, free of all forms of oppression. So that comment pretty much summarizes why gender inequality is so close to my heart and why it is so strongly reflected in my work.

I was recently in Belgrade during Pride week, where I was assaulted on the street multiple times, but this sort of atrocities happen everywhere, the only difference is the matter of execution. We need to acknowledge these matters and fight against them together, weather a man tries to touch my face on the street, drag me into a building at night, body check me, spit at me, licks his lips, shouts or uses adjectives to get my attention, it’s all abusive and it’s all happening the 21st century right here, right now. I have zero tolerance for sexism, racism, homophobia and lookism, among other forms of bigotries.
Chased: Is this something that keeps you from showing your work in Serbia or do you feel it makes you even more determined to show your work there?

A.B.: I had a solo show in Belgrade a year ago and I will go back definitely, because I am stubborn, but also because I think it makes more sense to exhibit political work in countries where the attitude you are fighting against through your work is prominent. The message may not resonate with everyone, but it will catch the eye of like-minded individuals, it will provoke and may be the first step towards a movement, no matter how small in the beginning. It’s easy to keep having shows in Berlin, a city where I can walk down the street, green hair and all, holding hands with a girlfriend, but it’s an entirely different thing to take these works to a city like Belgrade. There are a few festivals I am keeping my eye on and I plan on being involved again in the future.

Chased: Why do you think that there is sometimes an apathetic approach to these subjects and can art change those attitudes?

A.B.: I think art is the ultimate rebel.  I do firmly believe that art has to be provocative and ask questions. It channels all the filth and injustice into something though provoking and relevant; otherwise the entire art universe would be limited to IKEA’s posters of pretty things. Pretty things are okay, don’t get me wrong, all our eyes gravitate sometimes to shiny, beautiful things for a few moments, but then we forget them. Whereas the truly moving things, the ones that send shivers down our spine, induce Stendhal syndrome, the strange beauty that makes us feel something – those are works of art with a message. They are confrontational and force us to think.

There are various types of beauty in art; it cannot be limited to a single definition. The work that is simply pretty, because the model themselves is beautiful or because nature depicted in the work is beautiful, but then there are works that show the ugly truth or question our beliefs in a beautiful way. Works that are beautiful because they are so unique or demonstrate immense skill and take us into a different world.

Look at Caravaggio’s ‘Young Sick Bacchus’ or Shadi Ghadirian’s Like Everyday Series or even anything by Claude Cahun or Ai Weiwei. These are not works that would be forgotten easily, because they are thought provoking. So yes, I think art has the power to shine a spotlight on certain topics and open doors for change.

Chased: What is one of your favorite books to read?

A.B.: I like to re-read Jeanette Winterson every now and then, because she always manages to make me fall in love with her use of language over and over again.




ana chased illustration 2015 fin


Interview and Illustration: Benjamin Martin




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