Creatives in Confinement: Louisa Menke
Words Britta Burger Images Louisa Menke
In this new series, ALSO talks to creative women around the world during the current COVID-19 global pandemic on how their output has changed, coping strategies for isolation and their hopes for the future.
Louisa Menke is a Dutch-Algerian artist working with music, words and photography. She lives in Barcelona, where she is currently in lockdown.
‘Dreamworld’ by Louisa – one of her creations during lockdown
How are you coping?
It’s up and down. Today I’m frustrated, it’s hard to release fear, or pain, or things from your past in lockdown. And there are no distractions.
Can you release these things by being creative?
Yes, I’ve been doing some online courses, I’ve been making music. I have all my instruments here, although my guitar string broke on the first day of the lockdown, which sucked, but I ordered a new one online and luckily it came. There’s this keyboard that I bought when David Bowie died, I’m relearning to play the piano. I’ve been writing songs, or maybe it’s poetry.
A multidisciplinary approach… I knew you mainly as a photographer, have you always been making music too?
I stopped drinking alcohol a year and a half ago, a lot of things changed in me and I began to play more music again. A friend and me started a band in September. Photography was a bit on the downlow for a while because felt blocked. I didn’t feel like I was going where I wanted to be going.
So you moved away from the visual to more music again to express yourself?
I feel like music is feeling and story in one. It’s more magical.
Do you think photography stays more on the surface?
I started analysing the medium of photography and began to think it’s all fake, a reproduction of a reality which is never lived. When you shoot something, you don’t really see it and when you have shot it, it’s forever in the past, it’s dead life, catching a moment which is never really lived. I lost my motivation. I didn’t even bring my camera around anymore, I didn’t shoot people’s portraits, I didn’t feel the need to document things. I don’t see myself as a photographer.
What are you? What kind of artist?
When I feel like there’s a story worth telling, I tell it. I did an art show last year with some friends, of the two pictures I showed, one was a collage, the other one I painted over. It came subconsciously. Now I have a scanner here and all my negatives, 13 years of negatives. And there is this one shop that’s open around the corner, it’s a printer shop! I could have bought a printer years ago but I never did so I thought this is the time. I feel like my evolvement in photography is recreating a reality. Pictures that I’ve taken mixed with other images, there are so many images out there, we’re brainwashed, I want to recreate the images that are already out there like it’s a movie.
So you are embracing the fact that photography is not real? And you go a step further and create your own reality.
Exactly. I really love photography, it hurt me that I lost my motivation, I think I found my new path. I’m doing this whole subconscious project, going through all my negatives, scanning every negative that makes me feel some kind of feeling and recreate realities with them, my reality, like a dream world on 2D. I’ve always felt like I was not able to really express myself at art school because I was stuck on photography and couldn’t go a little crazier. The block I had was because I haven’t been able to identify as a photographer and I tried to for many years. You think you were something and you have to realise you’re not.
“I feel like my evolvement in photography is recreating a reality. …I’m doing this whole subconscious project, going through all my negatives, scanning every negative that makes me feel some kind of feeling and recreate realities with them”
And this realisation came during this lockdown? That’s a big thing, artistically.
Yeah. Crazy, I started two days ago and just went with it, I’ll send you a photo (above). I have no idea what’s coming out of this, it’s probably going to be my world, I’m probably going to be in it.
Sounds like the essence of art, you create your own world.
The beach is five minutes walking distance, but all of a sudden there’s a lockdown and I’m not allowed to go. What I am allowed to do is create my dream world.