VIDEO: Life and Death Collide in Annina Roescheisen’s Video Art

The artist takes inspiration from the Middle Ages and the German Romantic period,

German-Slovenian artist Annina Roescheisen grew up in Munich, where she received a master’s degree in history of art, philosophy, and folklore. She began art-making in 2012, using video, photography, installation, and sculpture to explore questions of identity, human relationships, and spirituality. Drawing on her own life and her academic studies, the multimedia artist fills her work with visual metaphor, poetry, and allegory. Roescheisen’s short video What are You Fishing for?, with music by The Shoes (Benjamin Lebeau), is an atmospheric meditation that plays with visual iconography.

artnet News caught up with the artist by email to find out more about her creative process.

What is the inspiration behind this recent work?
This piece of video art is based on several things: the questioning and tension between life and death, as well as the literal and visual metaphor of a fisherman. It’s about rebirth and renaissance, about the idea that we are so afraid of death without understanding that we are dying a thousand times a day. All our body is in perpetual renewal, and so are our ideas and who we really are. Moreover the video is about “fishing,” about searching deeply in your soul for who you really are and where you want to go.

I definitely was inspired by Hemingway’s novel The Old Man and the Sea as well as the paintings of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich. What are You Fishing for? is furthermore about freedom—liberating us of all dependencies. It’s about reconciliation (in general) of man and woman. Spun further, it can also be seen as a reconciliation of a father and a daughter who are positioned together on a subtle, still-fragile base.

All in all, the video has a lot of different aspects, a lot of different parallel stories, and a lot of hidden messages. The whole composition is out there to be decoded. Metaphorical messages are spread through color symbolism and through the volunteered slow movements of the persons that perform in front of the camera. Time stands still, and you ask yourself at this very moment, “What am I fishing for in life?”

Tell me when you first began to make art and why.
My debut as an artist was in September 2013 in Paris with two solo exhibitions. Before that I was already in art but in a completely different section. I studied history of art and political philosophy. I specialized in medieval art and worked for Sotheby’s in Germany. I settled down in Paris seven years ago and worked as a curator and agent with young artists before I switched sides. The last push came via two people: an artist (Guillaume Baychelier) that I collaborated with and a Parisian gallerist (Renaud Bergonzo, acte2 Gallery, Paris). They both were important people, inspiring and fully supportive. I am very thankful and aware of their presence back then. They are part of who I am today.

About the “why” . . . 
I was always writing a lot, but I was in the beginning too timid to share that with other people, and it took me a while as well to find the medium that I could work with to visually translate my writings. I finally feel like I have arrived at where I was supposed to be or what I was searching for for so many years. I knew it was in art but it took me quite a while to understand where exactly and how exactly. By coming a bit closer to who you really are, I feel being an artist is one of the most precious gifts that life has offered me so far.

You recently moved to New York. Does living in a particular city or country affect your creative practice and subject matter?
I haven’t fully moved to New York yet. I am still living between Paris and New York. All my production is still based in France—but in the near future I want to move to New York.

In general, it’s important for me to travel and to be as open minded as possible to new experiences and places. I definitely think that a city influences one’s art. Every city nourishes you as a person. Cities and life are a little bit like a meal: you take it all in, absorb it, and keep what you think is interesting and good for you. It becomes part of your body, part of your vibes, and part of who you are, and therefore definitely an influence on the artistic work.

What is special about video as a creative medium?
Every medium is special in its own way. I love to work with the video medium, as my artwork is based on a lot of writing. My medieval art background informed me with everything that is iconographic and I love to translate former symbols and metaphors into a contemporary language of the 21st century. I found art of the Middle Ages and other eras, like, for example, the German Romantic period, so contemporary sometimes that in my mind I spin back and forth between ancient times and now. I found video to be one of the best mediums to translate and share what I question inside of me: existential and spiritual questions that I translate in a poetic, hopefully profound, and subtle way. The medium of video allows me to work deeply on different levels: form, content, image, storytelling, movement, atmosphere, decor, music, the light, etc. There are so many factors to play with that I found it a very interesting module to express topics on a lot of different bases and with a lot of nuances.

Besides video as a medium, I like to work as well with sculptures and especially installations. They function for me like kinds of video work. You create one special, precise moment. Installation projects have this absorbing ability to completely pull you into a universe where all relation to time, to space, and to existence is gone.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be doing?
Living a full Gypsy life. Traveling the world, gazing for freedom and the Bohemian life. Not thinking about tomorrow and just being. I always feel that Gypsies have this capacity to be extremely in the now. I love their wilderness, their Nomad life, their colorful living, and wild dancing. Sure, they have this heavy melancholic side—being chased from any land throughout their entire lives—but even this fragile melancholy makes them so beautifully sensitive to all that is and it gives them this ability to fully live in the present moment.

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