by Nana Francisca Schottländer, performance artist, dancer and choreographer
Words by Monique Schröder. Illustration by Sine Jensen.
Nana Francisca is the living paradox: an introvert who at the same time also embodies an exhibitionist. In combining these two, she explores human interaction in more than just one way. Merging the intersection between dance, performance, installation- and conceptual art, Nana Francisca is constantly on the lookout for new boundary-crossing experiments. We met her to find out more about why her relationship with the human body can be frustrating at times, what she was like growing up and how she sees the world.
Would you describe yourself as introvert or extrovert - or something completely different?
I am definitely introverted, although most people aren’t aware of it. The work I do is part of an ongoing life-challenge to connect with others and become present as I am in the world. In one of my pieces a passerby wrote the exact same question for me on the glass: Are you an introvert? I answered: ‘Yes. And also an exhibitionist. It's a never-ending paradox of being a shy person and then putting yourself in a situation like this…'
Where does art start and where does it end? Do you even think about art as a framework existing alongside "real life"?
To me personally, life and art are intrinsically linked. I think of most of my life as somewhat an artistic or creative process, and then the pieces are the outward manifestations of this ongoing process. I need to do art on a regular basis; otherwise I get weird and unhappy. Not that I’m not weird or unhappy when I make art, but then I can pour all of it into the process, and that makes it worthwhile.
Photo by Sosha Teparowska
Where and how do you seek creativity, and what does your creative process look like if you can even generalize that?
It usually starts with a theme or a concept that interests me. It can even be just one word; the connotations and layers of meaning of a single word. A word is an entire world, just waiting to be unfolded and mapped out. Usually I then explore this word or idea through research – random searches, literature, people who work with related themes. Asking my friends and family. Educating myself and deepening my understanding. And then the actual piece grows out of that. But I need a deadline and a space or setting. Otherwise I just go on researching indefinitely.
When did you become interested in art or artistic expression? - What are your earliest memories?
When I was growing up my father was an artist and my mother an actress, so art and artistic expression have always been integral parts of my life. They both taught and showed me a lot, simply through their own work and interests. I learned ways of perceiving the world and all its images, interactions and haphazard choreographies. I’ve always been creating things and exploring the world this way. People have called me ‘a real artist’ (in a cute, slightly condescending way) before I ever thought of myself that way.
I do remember the first time I saw flamenco dance and knew, that I simply HAD to learn how to express myself like that. Back then I was a timid, boyish girl… And I remember being at a Laurie Anderson concert in New York when I was 12, which made a huge impression.
Photo by Jens Thau
What was the most unexpected experience you ever encountered with art?
I don't know. So many ...
Why do you put strong focus on the body? And on that note, what is your relation to the body in general and towards your own?
I come from a background in dance, and my relation to my own body has been a source of much frustration. I’m still learning what it means to be a human being with a human body. And I feel an urge to share this process of exploration and realization with others through my work. I think we all need to learn or realize the potential of our bodily presence in this world.
Still from the video piece 'Spatial Meditation' - a collaboration with Katja Boom Philip
For both "Please Be Here Now" and your installation at Roskilde Festival this year, were you ever worried that people would not look or interact?
Yes. One of my main concerns, especially with the first piece, was that people would simply pass by without being affected by it. That would be such a tremendous waste of my energy if that was the case. The thing is: I don’t necessarily need people to look at me but I want them to be affected by what I do; I want them to have an experience that matters, that moves them somehow. Otherwise there is no need to do it.
Detail of costume for the performance 'I'd rather be a mountain'
Where does your fascination and curiosity to experiment with human interaction com from?
I think from my own insecurity as a child, which meant that I was always observing others to see what they were doing, how they were interacting, what worked and what didn’t, so that I could apply it to myself. Later this has simply turned into a huge curiosity about why people do what they do, the underlying intentions and objectives, how we affect each other and all the many levels of communication that go on between us all the time.
How are you - in your own life - able to separate the private, public and artistic? Are there any boundaries, and if so - where?
Yes, there are boundaries. But to be honest these boundaries are mainly defined by the needs of the people close to me. I my opinion, life, with all that it contains, is a potential work of art. And I like to expose it as such – with all that it contains. But I have to consider my children and other people close to me. I try to do that. But I don’t always succeed.
Selfie in Tel Aviv
What do your loved ones think about the exposure of your private self in the public self?
Most of them are totally fine with it. And I guess they would have to be, if they want to be around me. Doing what I do is quite important to me and I probably couldn’t keep a close relation with somebody who was critical of it or impeded it. Of course my children are an exception to that. But ideally I want to integrate them into my work.
What was the weirdest or craziest co-creation experience in your artistic expression?
When I was 21, I lived in New York for a while. I started collaborating with Japanese avant-garde artist Noritoshi Hirakawa. Amongst other things, he wanted me to shit in a gallery space every day for a week and do a large photographic print of my anus to hang on the wall in the same room. I was too shy for that back then, but we did a photo which involved me standing completely naked and very still for 30 minutes amongst the skyscrapers of Manhattan’s financial district, late at night, while a woman was giving a man a blowjob on a nearby bench. Somehow it was very empowering.
I also had a short collaboration with architect Thomas Wiesner; we invented a performance duo and fabricated the documentation of their legendary performances. The plan was to re-enact the postulated performances. We even entered a paper about them for a conference on architecture in Helsinki. He lectured and I pretended to be the female half of the duo…
And of course all the SIGNA performances. Endless hours of pure co-creational-craziness at its best…And many, many more.
Photo by Max Kruszewski
How do you see the world - and where is your place?
I think that’s impossible to answer for more than a moment at a time… It changes. I think the world is a place where all of us, all our individual lives and stories are entangled and connected and where we can, potentially, unfold beautiful and meaningful sceneries. My place is somewhere in there. Entangled.