Born in Berlin in 1987, Daniela Stubbs is an American-Peruvian multidisciplinary artist based in New York, who trained as a fine artist in France. Her work stems from a place of intense personal anxiety — one that creates dissociation between the present moment and reality. She experiments with the perception of time, space and the notion of belonging. Her work has found expression in diverse mediums: painting, video, photography and mixed media. Noah Klein interviews the artist.
You are originally from Peru, but you have not returned there in many years. What do you think of your origin and home, and the concept of “home”?
As you said, it’s been quite a while since I’ve been back. What I think of Lima is a recompilation of memories I guess. I’ve been told it has changed really fast, so I’m left with just memories of whatever experiences I’ve had while living there. “Home” is a really abstract concept. I like to move, so I consider wherever I am a “little home” in some sense. It makes me melancholy just to observe that concept.
You said to me that you have a “a great love for traveling. I’m always on the move.” Do you feel that your passion for travel is expressed in your art? If so, how? And can you give us an example?
I don’t think I represent the act itself, but certainly traveling influences my work. Not so much for the physical movement part of it, but for whatever I find and discover on the land to explore. You meet new people, new cultures, colours, flavours and sounds. It’s inevitable that all these influences will become part of your practice.
You are primarily a photographer; do you work in any other mediums besides photography?
I work on video, painting and installation too. I think the medium is ruled by the concept of the work.
Who are your artistic inspirations?
I’ve never really liked that question. I’m inspired by lots of artists and it varies according to infinite factors. It could be a super long list: Viola [Bill]; Muntadas [Antoni]; Huyghe [Pierre]; Fontcuberta [Joan]; Rovner [Michal]; Hesse [Eva]; Matta-Clarck [Gordon]; Gowin [Emmet]; Woodman [Francesca], and so on.
You told me you felt like an outsider in your birth country, and that your grandparents raised you. This concept of “outside” seems especially critical when examining your recent work “Foreign”, which depicts plants de-rooted and placed in alien environments. What is your take on the nature versus nurture argument in psychology, and what role do you feel “nature” and “nurture” play in your work?
Both “nature” and “nurture” are co-dependent influences that directly affect any individual. I couldn’t separate them and pinpoint their impacts on the body of my work.
Temporality is a constant theme in your work. Can you please explain more about this concept, its personal relationship to you, and why it is so prevalent in your work?
The necessity I have of expressing my concern about different aspects of temporality comes from the anxiety I suffer. When you have an anxiety attack time collapses: in other words, what you feel is an emotion from the past manifesting in the present due to something that triggers it. Thus, time becomes this disintegrating form that breaks with linearity. This recurrent phenomenon has most of my attention and that is why I try to explore it and question it from different points of views.
Working and living in the United States, particularly New York City, do you feel this has affected your work in a positive or a negative way?
NYC is a very overwhelming and intense city. I still feel I’m in the process of understanding it, in a conscious and an unconscious way. The current environment has a direct affect on everything both good and bad. I have certainly had more anxiety since I moved here, but, ironically, also more clarity.
I found your “L’arbre de mai” installation to be, in one word, intense. Do you have any other installations or collaborations planned for the near future?
I have a couple of collaborations that hopefully will take place. Nothing too defined though. For now, they are just in the idea state.
We have discussed the term “artist” and all its connotations, what is an “artist” to you? If you were to give advice to a younger “artist” what would it be?
In principle, I would describe an artist as a person that has the need to express something with art. But again, aren’t we all trying to express something? I do make a distinction between arts and crafts though.
If you could be any geologic or natural formation (a mountain, a river, a stream), what would you be?
I would definitely be a river.