Interview with TM by: Heather Schmaedeke
How do you want to be known?
Talissa Mehringer- TM
How would you describe yourself/your work to other people?
My work springs from a desire to create timeless representations of dreams and the subconscious. I attempt to bring to life mind and soul processed experiences by indirectly referencing a cycle of rebirth and alchemical rejuvenation through depictions of decay and the beauty of altruistic suffering.
It is driven by a strange, blissful, and passionate sadness that reaches far beyond the surface of everyday life into a mysterious, binding and unifying element which connects everything and everyone. It is something rooted deeply in the visceral emotions associated with life, death, and the human search for happiness.
Mediums of choice?
Ink, pencil, paper, print-making, spray paint, video, photography, installation, sculpture, etc. Any tool I can use to enhance my creative vocabulary🙂
I’m half Mexican, was born in Munich, and lived in the U.S.A for 15 years. Both of my parents were social anthropologists when I was growing up and I was lucky to travel extensively with them as a child. At age six, I accompanied them to Brazil where they were doing field work with the Canela Indians in the Amazon Basin. My mom, my sister and I were initiated into the tribe through ritual ceremony and given Canela names and a Canela family. The name given to me was ‘Jaupro’ and means ‘Daughter of the Sun’.
When I was seven, my family moved to Tanzania for three and a half years to work for a German agroforestry project with the Maasai tribe. We were once invited to a special ceremony lasting several days which few outsiders had the honor of witnessing. As we arrived, we were welcomed into a small, dimly lit hut where about 20 Maasai men sat chanting rhythmically with beautiful undulating low tones. We were offered their traditional drink of milk mixed with cow’s blood from a gourd being passed around.
I remember visiting Nairobi and seeing people suffering with leprosy begging for change and I vividly recall a kind man my mom used to give rides to and from the market whose legs and feet were heavily affected by elephantitis. I also remember scenes of awe-inspiring nature- the vistas of the Serengeti + Ngorongoro Crater national parks and the massive mango tree in our backyard. It was a place of stark contrasts, one full of beauty and suffering.
Many such moments had a huge impact on my young impressionable mind. It was during those early years that I know an insatiable fire for exploration and adventure was lit, + may well have been the beginning of my creative journey.
After Tanzania, I moved to the U.S.A. (Louisiana, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, and Minnesota). I studied film and media arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn , NY where I completed my two thesis films ‘LID’ (a surreal stop-motion animated short) and ‘Remnants’ (a short documentary film on contemporary Cambodian issues). I lived and worked in NY for 8 years and it’s never ceased to feel like home. I moved to Berlin 3 years ago from Minneapolis where I had been working primarily with bands shooting music videos, doing album art, + photos etc.
Has art always been a part of your life?
Yes. My mom Lucia was always a huge inspiration and motivating force. She was an avid painter of fantastical + surreal landscapes and figures where faces formed in clouds and melted into the horizon, and tiny skeletons climbed around ‘traditional’ still-lifes. She made all of our clothes and played keyboard + flute filling my mind with music and art from early on. My aunt Monika was also an early influence. She would always sit + draw with my sister + me for hours and take us on long epic adventure walks in the Bavarian forest full of dragons, goblins and magic.
You work in a variety of different mediums – do you have a favorite?
Up until the end of high school, drawing was my primary medium of choice until I started messing around with video. I discovered that it perfectly combined my love of making things and music + I began to create non-dialog driven narratives heavily stylized and often stop-motion animated, driven by soundscapes I programmed using Reason, and a variety of groove boxes/drum machines. Since I moved to Berlin 3 years ago, I’ve learned and experimented with spray painting, etching, silkscreen printing and most recently, sculpting/ mold-making which have allowed me to broaden my means of expression. I’m currently starting to do some special effects masks and latex casting for props + dolls. I don’t have a favorite medium but it definitely fluctuates from month to month.
Do the works you create in one medium influence the work you create in another?
They’re definitely connected and influence each other as they are all coming from the same source and seek to express the same artistic intentions. A skill learned in one medium may help to more intricately render a project in another medium.
When did you first come to Berlin and what originally brought you here?
I wanted to experience living in Germany as an adult so I made the decision to give up my Green Card and moved to Berlin in 2012.
How has living in Berlin influenced your artistic practice?
Berlin is an extremely affordable city and moving here has given me the financial break to branch out, learn new things and grow artistically. I spent a lot of time photographing abandoned buildings in and around Berlin and I wanted to integrate my work with the ambiance and textures of these decaying structures. One of my first creative projects in Berlin focused around this concept. What started out as a photography mission to document the vivid colors and mood of a graffiti covered edifice in Berlin, later grew into the installation project entitled ‘Degenerate Chromatism’. Created for the street art exhibition ‘Silence is a Lie’ which featured over 100 international artists in 2012, it sought to reinterpret the space and provide a new environment to be experienced and emotionally processed as I had done exploring the decaying rooms of the abandoned building. I built a giant rat-like creature painted in colors inspired by the graffiti there with a back-drop of paste-ups and a false distressed wall. The cycle was supposed to be completed in that I brought the elements of the installation back into the original building, but the building closed and I was never able to do so.
After that show, I wanted to learn to spray paint + took advantage of Berlin’s numerous abandoned buildings to practice and experiment. I loved how physically involved I became in creating paintings larger than I had ever painted before. Not limited by the edges of a page or set size of a canvas, the act of painting now felt more like dancing- unrestricted and whole-bodied. I enjoyed the corporeal parallels between painting and filming as well. While painting, I had to control my breathing + focus my mind to create intentional lines. While filming, I had to do so to create smooth pans and tilts.
Since I moved here, I’ve taken a couple of courses at the Volkshochschule for silkscreen printing and for etching. Each of these newly acquired skills has already presented me with several opportunities to participate in national and international festivals + residencies.
Tell us about some of your exhibits, exhibits, events that you’ve been part of…
Last year I was invited by Festival Mundial in Tilburg, NL to be their artist in residence for the month of June. I created several murals and held a couple of monster drawing workshops with kids at a local kindergarden. My main project during that time was a 4-story mural on the side of an apartment building in an area of Tilburg called Jeruzalem. The apartments were built after WWII and were supposed to be just temporary housing. Years later + bit by bit, the entire neighborhood is now being demolished and rebuilt.
One of the most involved projects I’ve ever done was a collaboration with my friend Laekun Foto entitled ‘Transfigurations’. It sought to create an experience which transcended the idea of art-on-the-wall shows, by creating an environment in which viewers where physically involved and became part of the narrative.
The living spectator was invited to accompany the dead on the journey into the afterlife. This all-encompassing installation was loosely based on the traditions of Samhain, or All Hallow’s Eve, during which the veil between life and death is at its thinnest.
With life-size soul drones, a series of large creature sculptures, vignettes and environments from beyond, soundscapes- as well as photo, video, paintings, and a variety of other two and three dimensional artwork- we presented a surreal opportunity to cross over and explore.
The characters created were inspired by mythological creatures and deities from different cultures, giving spectators an understanding of the cross-cultural similarities and timeless reinterpretations of concepts such as death, chaos, balance, and beauty.
The exhibition itself was laid out as a cycle with different transitional areas. As one passed through the veil separating life and death, the spectator encountered Leinth- Goddess of the underworld, veiled and mysterious leading us beyond the second layer deeper into the unknown. Everyone traveled as equals, unified by death. Then, there was an atmospheric realm of warm light and thin layers of material through which one had to pass, allowing for a moment of familiar introspective reflection. As one re-surfaced, a more tangible scene was encountered. A large mask reminded us of the many roles we played in life in a very personal, eye-opening way. Our positive and negative characteristics personified.
Yan Luo- The Judge of the Underworld stood before the travelers, slender and ominous holding the large book of the dead and presented people with two choices:
To return to life wearing a mask- fragile, emotional, malleable, vulnerable, but alive nonetheless, and therefore capable of experiencing all extremes of sentience.
Or, the choice of journeying on in our purest, most honest form. At peace with the chaos necessary for balance. Part of it. Content. And capable of finding beauty in the darkness.
The show was up at Echo Arts gallery in St. Paul Minnesota during October 2011 and took 6 months to complete leading up to its final installation.
Info, commissions + sales:
My work can be found on my websites. Samples of personal + commissioned work, music videos/art I’ve done for bands, some samples of music and my short films all for your viewing displeasure.🙂