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Between Worship and Consciousness

Interview by Jana Astanov.

[photo: Pola Esther]

Coco Dolle is a French-born & New York based visual artist, performer and curator whose work explores themes of sexuality and gender dynamics. Her drawings, paintings and performance art projects invite a contemplation on female identity, women’s symbology and the construction of the self.  She is the founder of the Legacy Fatale project and the director of concept curatorial Milk and Night. Her work has been exhibited and performed internationally. She can be found on Instagram: Coco Dolle, Milk and Night CuratorialLegacy Fatale and Twitter

3:AM: Are there any people who have influenced you in the choice of performance art as a way of expression?

Coco Dolle: I started my art career as a painter looking up to the great paintings at Museums from Paris to New-York. My first solo show in 2005 was a painting show. Yet the painterly studio practice wasn’t sufficient to explore my artistic vocabulary. I have been a dancer since my early youth from classic ballet, I studied jazz and African dance. I grew up bathed in the vicinity of my home town, Avignon France, that holds a yearly renowned performance art festival. The body in movement was in my blood, my stamina. Further in New York, I discovered the avant-guard programming of Deitch Projects in Soho and saw The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black. At Moma PS1, Connie Butler’s exhibition WACK! Art and the feminist revolution in 2007, I discovered the wide range of the feminist practice, videos, manifestos, performance art. That made total sense. I had to use body language in my work. My first art performances took place at the annual Deitch Projects Art Parade’s in NYC. It became an obsession, to form a group of performers generating a strong presence. I incorporated the motions of dance and movements upon working on my solo pieces. In groups not everyone was a dancer, I have to manage characters and types, it’s more of a social practice. In solo, I can use my background and knowledge naturally with little pre-production. My movements became my tools, my body my canvas. So I would say that my art practice is a dance between painting and performance.

 

[photo: Pola Esther]

3:AM: Do you have any mentors, artist you look up to?

CD: Yoko Ono, Isadora Duncan, Yayoi Kusama, Louise Bourgeois, The Universe, our Cosmic Mother, the performance artists of the Festival d’Avignon (a yearly theatrical festival in my hometown in the south of France), Georgia O’Keefe, my mother, and any women artist, performer, singer, mother, writer, scientist, business women, politician who thrives for their higher selves and shares the magic of its power with their public, their entourage, their friends.

[photo: Pink Iconics, oil on canvas, 2010]

3:AM: What are the themes that you explore in your performance practice?

CD: My work explores the construction of the feminine. I am a fond believer of writer and philosopher Simone de Beauvoir’s infamous quote: “One is not born a woman, one becomes a woman”. I take inspiration from imagery from our contemporary world as well as ancient myths. I look at the concepts of pin-ups and femme fatale in film noir as well as the mysterious legends of women healers and warriors and tend to investigate the lines between worship and consciousness. This takes the form of performances with specific female character types, such as erotic, ethereal or mythical. The idea is to activate the sensibility of the viewer from a passive observer to a tangible being in a subtle manner, almost unconsciously. Like when connecting with nature or a Tree, the sensitivity of the live body performer has the most instant effect. Music plays an important role in my performance work. It helps delivering the message while creating a mental space. I undertake a lot of research to find the appropriate sounds and sometimes create my own.

 

[photo: Gwen, 2017 Watercolor &Ink]

3:AM: If you were to come up with one sentence or a piece of wisdom for other women to include in their lives what that would be?

CD: DON’T HESITATE

3:AM: Is art and performance an example of spiritual activism? How do you understand the concept of spiritual activism?

CD: Art in all its forms, music, visual, moving image, poetry and performance is a direct expression from the heart. In this respect, we could say that artistic practices are an active generator of the spiritual. There are of course artists that are more visionaries than others. I understand spiritual activism as a positive force elevating the human consciousness to a higher vibration. Since the new millennium, there is a strong interest for a collective spiritual awakening that will enable us to play a major role in helping create a happier and healthier world. Hence there are many new forms of body practices that have spread rapidly across our western worlds, such as yoga, pilates, reiki, even pole dancing has become a legitimate workout. In my own practice, I had developed a class designed to enhance and energize the feminine force called ‘Dance and Rituals’. Through meditation, breathing techniques and expressive movements, I lead other women in challenging their emotions and self limits. My intention is to guide them to connecting with a cosmic truth, the essential yet invisible part of ourselves.

3:AM: How important is the collaborative process in your practice? What inspired you to create your Amazon group?

CD: The formation of my performance group “Legacy Fatale” is a direct inspiration drawn from scientific research led by Jeannine Davis-Kimball, who had devoted 30 years of her life studying these nomadic tribes from the Paleolithic age throughout the ancient Greeks. She scientifically proved the existence of the mythical Amazon warriors, the ones you see on the Greek vases in Museums fighting the Greeks. I became obsessed with the idea of re-creating an army of women. I wanted to help other women unchain themselves through my performance work while looking for answers on social construct through the work.

[photo: Legacy Fatale, “Feminism & Territorialities” performed at The Queens Museum, 2017]

3:AM: Who are the most interesting artists within the feminist agenda?

CD: I am surrounded by a mosaic of strong female leaders, artists, entrepreneurs and activists. I believe that every voice counts. The feminist conversation takes multiple forms. We all participate in a greater social practice. I am interested in all kinds of feminisms, intellectual, performative, conceptual, spiritual, domestic, social etc. We all participate in re-shaping a greater agenda stemming from a variety of feminisms from older generations, Judy Chicago, Carolee Schneeman, Gloria Steinem, Yoko Ono, etc. We are to continue the work they have started.

3:AM: You are currently curating a series called TRANS-Ville, can you please tell us a little bit more about this project?

CD: TRANS-Ville is a concept performance art series I co-created with Catinca Tabacaru, a ballsy art dealer breaking the boundaries of the Art World. TRANS-Ville plays with notions of transition addressing inclusive narratives and offering a variety in content, form and emotion. The current political and social context we live in outpouring of gender inequalities, censorship and borderline dictatorship are calling for a distinct presence and resistance strategy. TRANS-Ville invites all revolutionary spirit to stay alive.

3:AM: What is your reading list?

CD: On-going : Women Who run with the Wolves – Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Seasonal: My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

The Sea Priestess – Dion Fortune

The Power of Kabbalah – Yehuda Berg

[photo: Naomie Plage, 2018 Watercolor & Ink]

3:AM: As a character in art history, what impact do you think you’ve had? How have you changed the ways in which people look at art?

CD: I don’t know if I create an impact but I’m definitely a local participant in our current cultural landscape. I mingle with conversations on women’s empowerment with underground artists in the alternative and independent art scenes in New York. In the future, I would love to help bridge new conversations and concepts from New York to Paris.

 

ABOUT THE INTERVIEWER

Jana Astanov is a multidisciplinary artist, poetess and Priestess of Impermanence at Red Temple. Her work includes photography, poetry, performance and new media. She published three collections of poetry: Antidivine, Grimoire and Sublunar. She can be found here: website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Sunday, February 11th, 2018.