At some point in our lives nearly every single one of us are going to experience grief…so why aren’t we talk about it!? If you’re unfamiliar with Fandangoe Kid PLEASE PLEASE read this and check out her work. Beautifully brave and beyond bold…I wish I had something like this in my life earlier. Her words blow me away every time. Now get neon ready!!
UA: As an unfinished animal what is the driving message or idea you're creating and sharing through your art?
FK: I’m continually seeking to smash taboos around death and traumatic loss and associated mental health : all complex subjects that resonate very strongly with me, in terms of my own personal journey. When I was just graduating from art school I experienced the loss of almost my entire family and it totally changed my direction and the work I do. I had always made work that was very intimate in any case and the mirror of my personal experience, always believing that art imitates life, but when this happened it turned my whole life on its head. I remember being a young woman and feeling so isolated, no one was talking about death and loss, there were very few platforms to creatively unfold trauma like this, at that time. I decided that if I survived my experience (and there were times when I absolutely thought I wouldn’t), that I would work to break down these barriers and push to make the ‘unspoken’ spoken about through my work. I’m particularly motivated by working with young people and underrepresented, marginalised groups and individuals to run workshops and endeavour to create a safe and nurturing space for their own stories to unfold through a visual lens. This is often the way I work and forms the backbone of all of my public installations and murals.
UA: What has your work taught you about people and the human experience in our ever changing and busy world?
FK: So much of my work is driven primarily by human experience and the human condition. My practice is absolutely essential to me as a means of unravelling my own experience and I cannot live without it. It’s a release and a necessity. A large part of my practice involves public engagement and working closely with a broad spectrum of the community, often minority groups and often marginalised groups—these sessions are the most meaningful part of how I work, and the stories that are shared in this space have been so profound, tender, heartbreaking. I’m interested in using my own experience of loss and trauma as a means of opening up a platform for others to share their stories safely, with the intention of creating a therapeutic space. One thing I notice in every workshop is that people do all want to connect in some way through their experience and they do want to share their understanding of the human condition. The workshops provide a safe and nurturing outlet for people to do this. I feel humbled and in awe of so many people I meet and work with on a daily basis. The world is full of some incredible, brave souls who have really had to fight to be where they are and meeting people with so much substance on a daily basis is an absolute honour.
UA: How do you keep yourself and your work evolving?
FK: My work evolves as I evolve, it’s a direct reflection of how my life unpacks itself and this is often aided by a lot of reading, constant conversations (I’ve never been one for small talk, I’m so bad at it!) so I carry my sketchbook with me absolutely everywhere and I’m constantly writing and making notes. I record a lot of thoughts and film a lot on my phone while I’m out and on days when things aren’t flowing creatively I seek inspiration from other sources--film and moving image are a big source of visual joy! Keeping aware of what is happening in terms of global politics is also essential. Sometimes you can get caught up in a delicious bubble of making and these days are wonderful but I think you have to have a strong understanding of the world around you and people around you as well to make art that is impactful and thought provoking. My experience and personal story has been a real baptism of fire and terribly painful but the depth the understanding I have of other people (because I’ve found myself in a do or die situation following the loss of my family) and the process of unravelling pain has been the most incredible learning curve and it has without a doubt made me a better person.
UA: How would you like people to connect with your work?
FK: One thing I always stand by is that my work is non prescriptive, I don’t have any fixed intentions for how people engage with my work, or don’t. I put my work out into the public realm because I think my experience may be useful to other people and I always show my work publically as opposed to doing exhibitions because I want it to be received by anyone and everyone that may choose to engage with it. I don’t adhere to any sense of elitism within the art world and I hate that whole sphere: art should be for everyone and I want my work to be seen by people who don’t feel they have a place within an art gallery, people who feel their voices are not heard, hence the focus on doing workshops with a broad spectrum of the community as such a key part of my work. People will always connect to work through their own lens and prior experience and I receive a lot of messages and emails from the public where they share their stories of loss and grief as a result of having seen the narratives and installations that I do. These messages are always very touching and amazing and I hope if nothing else that the work and what I share of my story would help other people to know that some of the worst things can happen to you as a human being and you can survive them. There is absolutely nothing extraordinary about me other than the people who love me, they have made me who I am today and kept me upright, I’m only the sum of the people who have loved and supported me in these years and I really do think love heals and binds—I’m living proof of it!
UA: Do you think we can empower people through art?
FK: Yes! I think that’s one of the key purposes of making art and it forms such a huge part of my remit as an artist. I want people to feel emboldened by my work and visual narratives but I also want to communicate my own understanding of strength through my story: that it exists in so many different realms and that showing vulnerability is also a great act of strength. I try to communicate this balance through the visual storytelling. I think the easiest, most common thing to do when really struggling with a lot of pain and trauma is to close down and I think it takes a lot of work and self-care to stay open. This is something I still work on daily and try to communicate in my work as much as I can.
UA: What impact do you think your work has or could have on culture and humanity?
FK: I hope that some people have engaged with my work, particularly those experiencing some terrible times in their own grief, and that it may have helped in some way. I hope that my work continues to smash taboos around death and traumatic loss and that we eventually reach a point where it’s openly talked about, that there are more and more outlets for people who are struggling to go and be in a safe space where they can feel seen and heard and less alone. Things are changing slowly and since I started working in this sphere, so much more seems to have grown around the subject and we are now living in a culture whereby young people are so much more active in embracing daily mechanisms for self love and open honest attitudes towards mental health, which is so fantastic. It definitely hasn’t always been this way! I can’t imagine a day where I won’t want to make work around love and loss, I know I will be unravelling it for a long, long time and I hope in doing so that the work can be useful for other people.
UA: Where do you find inspiration when you’re not feeling inspired?
FK: I think allowing yourself the time just to switch off is really important, and actually to allocate time to read and restore yourself with sleep is as valuable to the creative process as the making itself. I do have a daily ritual of running, meditating and having a morning solo dance and hula hoop! These are all my own acts of mindfulness that work :)-- they distance me from the bigger matters at play in my head and help to sieve through the priorities for the day. A trip to the rose garden in the neighbourhood in summer is another really simple and restorative gesture for me to help things start to flow. And I think accepting that some days your practice will unfold more fluidly than others, it’s not an endless and effortless source, it takes time and sleep and great thought and good breaks!
UA: When do you feel most alive and being your best self?
FK: In New York—without a doubt. It’s a second home to me, it’s the source of both such heartache and such repair in my life—I lost pretty much my whole family there back in 2011 in an accident and at the time I thought I would never return—too much pain. But ironically it has become such a place of peace and so restorative for my healing process to keep going back. Now years later, it gives me such a great feeling of excitement deep in the gut, you never know how to day may pan out. It’s a city that has almost broken me but it has given so much back and continues to every time I go there.