Melancholy Maaret de la Foret is a multidisciplinary artist, writer, and composer, based in Helsinki and New York. She is the founder and artistic director of the sound, performance, and research project, Secret Sauna Sirens.
Her work is often thematically influenced by Finnish folklore, feminism, neuroscience, the ersatz eroticism of the male gaze in canonical art and classical art theory, and by the works of Gilles Deleuze, Edouard Glissant, David Markson, Andrei Tarkovsky, Rene Char, Audre Lorde, and Simone Weil.
Classically trained in theatre, movement, and voice, she has a five octave range. Many of her sound compositions are installed with video or multi-exposed video stills, often shot under textured glass, steam, or water, then hand-painted and scratched.
Her work has been described as "ethereal", "haunting and sensuous", "otherworldly", "Bjork meets a young Isabelle Adjani", "esoteric and literary", "a millennial Meredith Monk with a computer", and "hermetically melancholy".
She has three audio compositions in the permanent archives of the International Streaming Festival for Audio Visual Art, the Hague. She contributed vocals and narration for Istvan Horkay's film on the life of Raoul Wallenberg, which premiered at the Kiscelli Múzeum, Budapest, 2014.
In 2014, she released a collection of live audio compositions and sound art installations, as well as a collaborative installation with the artist Roland Quelven, which premiered at FIVA, the Festival International of Videoart in Argentina. Subsequent screenings include Video Raymi International Festival in Peru, Galeria Texu in Spain, and the Fantadia Festival Internazionale di Multivisione in Italy.
Other collaborations include the sound, text, and voice for a series of video installations with the renowned digital-collagist Istvan Horkay, and the narration for the film adaptation of writer Susana Medina's novel Philosophical Toys, which premiered at the Freud Museum in London.
Recent and selected screenings, exhibitions, performances:
2018: Private comissions, audio EP, commercial collaborations, limited edition book.
Video and Sound installation @ visualcontainer, Milan, 10-30 November, 2017.
Video and Sound installation @ Instants Vidéo Numériques et Poétiques, Marseille, France, 10-12 November, 2017.
Video and Sound installation @ VideoBardo and @ Vidéo Poesie, Escuela de Arte Leopoldo Marechal (La Matanza), Buenos Aires, Argentina, 5 October, 2017.
Video and Sound installation @ Magmart VideoArt Biennal, Naples, Italy, 14 October-15 March, 2016.
Video and Performance installation @ Fonlad, Coimbra, Portugal, 21 November-31 December, 2015.
Video and Sound installation @ [.BOX] Galerie, Milan, 6-20 November, 2015.
Video and Sound installation (Premiere) @ Instants Vidéo Numériques et Poétiques, Espace Culture, ADPEI, SARA, Marseille, France, 6-11 November, 2015.
Video and Sound installation @ Shedhalle Forum für zeitgenössische Künste, Tübingen, Germany, 16-18 October, 2015.
Video and Sound installation @ Proyector International Videoart Festival, Spain+Mexico+Italy+Portugal, 10-20 September, 2015.
Video and Sound installation @ Arad Art Museum, Romania, 17-30 October, 2014.
Video and Sound installation (with Roland Quelven) @ Szczecin European Film Festival, Poland, 29 September-6 October, 2014.
Print exhibition @ Verge Art, Soho, NYC, 8-11 May, 2014.
Group show @ Forum Factory, Berlin, 14-19 February, 2014.
Audio/Video and Photography exhibition @ Art Basel Miami, 5-8 December, 2013.
Sound Art and Video installation/performance @ International Festival for Audio Visual Art, The Hague, 1-15 December, 2013.
Video and Sound installation @ NAA Festival, Portugal, 16 November-28 December, 2013.
International group show @ Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, October, 2013.
Video and Sound installation @ 13 Videoart Festival, Stockholm, September, 2013.
Influence is such a delicate matter. Surely, nourishment and subconscious absorption are forms of influence. I try to be a sacred sponge, not a shit succubus. The smell of cardamom and sauna smoke, Glenn Gould sighing, decay and rust, Kazuo Ohno, the writings of Balthus and Donald Barthelme: These have fed and probably influenced me far more than the two years I spent in a Paris atelier learning to draw women who did not resemble sacks of potatoes. When I work, I need convent silence and solitude, to feel and feed the phantoms and the melodies. When I edit, I need jazz and pavement.
I am an artist and writer, an intersectional feminist and practicing ethical humanist. The former are sometimes but not always shaped or informed in a linear way by the two latter.
I am consumed by the artistic and neuroesthetic aspects of the impetus and paralysis of emotions (intentional), mood (accidental), and non-pathological forms of melancholia. Much of what I make is audio and performance based. I'm a multi-disciplinarian and a performer. But I'm not comfortable with the "performance artist" label. There are magnificent artists practicing within this genre, but the contemporary landscape of performance art has become largely and inextricably synonymous with a philosophy of bromidic confession or prosaic provocation without imagination and of solipsism without art or craft.
The most technically elegant take is rarely in the final cut. I am moved by ferocity and frailty, by accidents and imperfections, by scripted and choreographed moments that appear haphazard or improvised. During the incubation and creation of much of my recent work, my mind has been on Hildegard von Bingen, Joan of Arc, Pauline Oliveros, the vanishing ecology of forests and archipelagos, Laura Mulvey's seminal "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" and the diverging Freudian view on scopophilia. I am particularly drawn to a contextual juxtaposition of sound and image creating a sense of cognitive dissonance in the audience who hopefully experiences harmony and fracture. This dissonance is, for me, always traced to John Berger's "Ways of Seeing" and Walter Benjamin's dialectical image and the loss of aura as the price of reproducibility. My storyboard for these works contained images of Hedy Lamarr and this Berger passage: "Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation of women to themselves. The surveyor of woman in herself is male: the surveyed female. Thus she turns herself into an object -- and most particularly an object of vision: a sight."
My work is also shaped by the isolation of illness, by lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, and by the empathetic imagination birthed in a childhood full of books and art but little socialization. Adaptation and perseverance are essential to a life in art. I have worked in a hospital bed. I have experienced months without human interaction, using my microphone and camera as testimony. I have recorded inside cupboards and closets, turning the microphone on at three in the morning to avoid interference from traffic and elevators. I have ruined shoes and dresses, wading into the sea to capture the lull of wave on thigh.
Ultimately though, for art to matter, in a canonical or universal sense, beyond any aesthetic or socio-political trend, beyond any cathartic motivation, there must be a final or ephemeral work that exists and provokes visceral response transcending all critical or biographical explanation or context.