Get to Know: Liliya Lifanova

Interviewed by: Eliana Blechman

We asked Liliya Lifanova a few questions about performance, the role of self-referentiality, and personal experience as revealed in her work. Read on for more...

Art-in-Buildings: Study for L'Attente at West 10th Window is the mockup for a performance to be staged sometime next year. What is your process for developing performance-based works?

Liliya Lifanova: With each performance project I find that the process is different. In the case of L'Attente, I started with a very vague idea: What happens to the chessmen in the coffer? ... which was a way of asking "What happens in the wait?" And in response to that question I envisioned an endless chain of possibilities, which lead me to considering several practical questions such as "Is the performance durational? Is it scripted? Do the chessmen have a choice once off the grid? And, what are the practical needs of such a piece?" After discussing the idea with my collaborator Sebastian Alvarez, we began to get a sense of what the form can be, what the piece might look like and sound like... Making a miniature seemed like the appropriate next step as it would provide an opportunity to think through the upcoming performance and possibly discover something that I would not if I went straight into production.

AiB: You use different types of performers in your work – both professional and nonprofessional, as well as often performing yourself. How does choice of actor influence the work?

LL: I find that each project has an organic way of developing and attracting the right performers. I become fascinated by the real character of the people that participate in my projects. These people become the "motor" of each piece, which has its own way of working when there is a healthy sense of discovery and challenge for all. I find it great when trained and not trained actors exist in the same frame. It makes the work fluctuate between the different layers and situates it somewhere between the different genres.

Liliya Lifanova, Anatomy is Destiny

AiB: Your artist statement describes your work as referencing a "cultural memory of a political system destroying itself from within." To what extent is personal experience rooted in your work?

LL: My personal experience is like a filter; I am not always conscious of it, but it's always there. I am tethered to it and trace the parameter of its limits in the work that I create. It's the only viewfinder I was given, so I use it to notice the cyclical nature of history and human life and the persistence of patterns, variants, and symmetries.

AiB: Several of your works reference each other, or continue where a previous project left off. For example, your works Rumour from Ground Control and Flying Carpet Project reference back to the materials in Rolled, and L'Attente is the sequel to your performance Anatomy is Destiny. Do you consider each artwork to be interrelated or do they exist as separate pieces/performances?

LL: They are both interrelated and exist as separate pieces. In the end, it's all one big project, I think, in which there are different chapters that correspond to different experiences. I find that my ideas get clarified in time, and in different mediums. I recycle forms to have a sense of continuity. Much of my approach has been informed by Jasper John's thoughts on the "rotating point of view," and Marcel Duchamp's suggestion "to reach the impossibility of sufficient visual memory to transfer from one like object to another the memory imprint."


Liliya Lifanova, Rumour From Ground Control, 2015                  Liliya Lifanova, Nothing on Blank, 2013

AiB: What's next for you?

LL: I am in the process of developing a performance called Flight Over Wasteland in collaboration with Japanese composer Hiroya Miura inspired by T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land. We hope to have a draft of this piece by the summer of this year. In the meantime, I am about to leave to teach a workshop / do a residency at the Illinois State University, where this project will get clarified with the help of the Department of Art students there.

Learn more about Liliya Lifanova's installation here.

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