Stephanie Ballantine is an interdisciplinary artist located in Berlin since 2010. In her works, she explores unusual tropes like ‘The Alchemist’, ‘The Researcher’, ‘The Gaze’, or ‘The Hysterical’. Her researches often bring her on the shores of queer culture, expression of contemporary intimacy. Her work is critical but also poetic. Her newest works merge her portrait practice with performance art. Ballantine told us more about her projects and collaborations.
KALTBLUT: Your work is a contemporary discourse on the intimate body as a medium for emotions. What is your relationship with your body?
Stephanie Ballantine: I was thinking about this question a lot because my relationship to my body feels like it
appears differently on different planes of time, ‘space’ or environment, theory or reality, material or cyber. I have put my body through a lot, testing it somehow, by degrading it in certain ways : drugging it, exposing it. Now I mostly over work myself and do not stretch enough.
I could go through a whole list. I feel like I’m a list of identifying features : white, ‘skinny’, ‘attractive’, things that make you somehow ‘lucky’ but at the same time do not fulfill what I really want from existence – connection and not hierarchy. I don’t think its my right as a white person to even shout about my ‘queendom’, but to be an advocate for the changes that need to be made globally. Black bodies represent what we have not yet achieved as feminists, connecting by something other than color (and the history and struggle for power POC have endure).
My cyber body is evolving and in my next exhibition / happening I will be exploring the body
as labour through its cyber image. I work with self portraits a lot in my work, I think it can be very therapeutic to take control of your own image, and also as an exercise to observe the tropes we have been taught and that we apply to ourselves.
KALTBLUT: And with other’s body?
Stephanie Ballantine: As a photographer the body through my camera lens is such a privilege to experience.
There is no body that does not have depth and (I’m not sure if i want to use the term but here we go: Beauty) I cannot differentiate… Sexually I’m attracted to both men and women this is very playful and interesting. In terms of the other as ‘the other’, a body which is external to me and so can become a canvas for my projections and a metaphor for our shared existence. I am constantly realizing patterns in thinking and behavior that I want to break out of.
KALTBLUT: You play a lot with stereotypes or archetypes, how do you get the strength out of it?
Stephanie Ballantine: It’s super important to keep pointing out what the stereotypes are and then to point to the violence they can create. Being an artist is somehow acquiring strength through creating questions that are clear and well understood. The aim is to be an activist through inspiring others, through empathy, through critique but also through a space where new perspectives can develop. I think especially now all art (should be and) is political.
KALTBLUT: What makes a Contemporary Body?
Stephanie Ballantine: The features of our identities, which are plastered onto our bodies are our heritage and our presence in the political environment. So I would say the contemporary body is Still a vehicle of control, discipline, self – flagellation, and also endurance.
KALTBLUT: How did you start the collaboration with Zack Helwa?
Stephanie Ballantine: Zack Helwa is my partner and we started collaborating the moment we met. We kind of egged each other on when we were trying to impress each other so this became a mishmash of ideas. Later it became a symbol of our power struggle in the relationship. But now, especially with Love is.. it’s clear that we encourage each others ideas as a dialogue, and can compliment each others skills and talents. We are also running a collective and gallery space together which is also very challenging, but again we can do it, it’s just working it out haha.
KALTBLUT: As you also use your artistic skills for business, I would like to ask what is your take on the commodification of subculture?
Stephanie Ballantine: It is extremely important. My artwork often deals with commodified sexuality, we all know its ubiquitous but we need reminding all the time. For business i think that we should all know that photographers are in a very strong position of power, the image they take of the model does not belong to the model initially. There needs to be a learned and well understood trust built between the photographer and the model. This is something I hope to achieve in my photography business, offering portraits that could be art documentary images, but that show a part of the model that they want to show!! It’s a lifelong learning process, being aware of this paradigm – kind of the stealing of identities is a way to distract from it. Perhaps subcultures can only be fleeting or secret somehow… its a dream to escape.
KALTBLUT: A lot of your projects deal with the The House and the Intimacy, can you tell us more about it?
Stephanie Ballantine: For the Love is exhibition Zack and I made an installation in the downstairs part of the gallery- which was dark, no windows and small. We projected a split screen with both of us sleeping and I created a sound piece which is a mix of different advice self – help guides on relationships. It was a kind of home with the big Other looking over us… entering our dreams and manipulating our consciousnesses… the relationship needs fixing! Don’t think about the inequalities and wars we need to protest!…some how the cyber media voice world comes into the home comforting us, and drugging us.…
KALTBLUT: Where do you go out?
Stephanie Ballantine: When I first moved to Berlin I spent a lot of time in Berghain as many people do. I met some incredible people there whose energy needed this place to be released somehow. I am grateful for this period in my life as I was lucky to connect with people who I still am in touch with now. Intensely creative, intensely queer, and at moments can act with a sense of ‘freedom’. But at one point I really felt I was in a scene that was eating itself, and that perhaps a club like that perpetuating self destructive practices. (I love this blog’s take on this subject: a berlin diary )
KALTBLUT: What do you love best about your house?
Stephanie Ballantine: My cat and my bed