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Leave nothing as it was

Leave nothing as it was

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Leave nothing as it was

Even as a child Luka Jana Berchtold designed and changed everything she could get her hands on. The artist from Schwarzenberg’s first ambition was to become a ski racer. Now she is shaping the world and her everyday life.

We didn’t meet in person for our talk. Luka Jana Berchtold lives in Vienna and I live in Bregenz. Isn’t it nice that you can still sit together in the living room these days, even if each participant is actually located on opposite ends of Austria? So it was that on a dark Sunday afternoon, I found myself greeted by a bright and shiny face on the screen. Her two large, brown-green eyes, which were thoughtful, alert and considerate, accompanied the whole conversation. ‘Do you like to do a lot or do you do a lot that you like?’ I ask, fascinated by the number of different projects, media and art forms that the 28-year-old has already managed: sculptures and short films, installations and performances, photographic works and illustrations. Moving in different worlds was a conscious decision, says Luka Jana Berchtold: “I like to play, be it with materials or with content. But it’s never just a matter of trying things out. I think that ‘trying’ often serves as an ‘excuse’ because an ‘attempt’ is often dismissed and it loses its weight.

There are no do overs in life.” She rarely lacks for ideas, she adds: “Sometimes I ask myself the question: What don’t I do? My works are always a reduction and a consolidation of ideas.” What inspires these projects? How do the ideas find her? Berchtold thinks long and hard. She is cautious and concentrated. Wrestling for the right words, searching for the right expression. “My art is often rooted in everyday experiences, banal things that I begin to think about. But just as the banal is ultimately only a reflection of the big picture, it’s also true that our everyday life is always connected with meaningful concepts such as consumption or globalisation, digitisation or feminism.” In 2012 Luka Jana Berchtold was part of the summer exhibition “z’Breagaz” at the Palais Thurn und Taxis in Bregenz. In autumn 2017, the “kulturverein bahnhof” in Andelsbuch showcased her first solo exhibition “Concrete Dreams.” The latter featured Berchtold’s current favourite material in its title: “Concrete.” In English, the word refers to both the construction material as well as the definitive nature of an object or concept. “The interplay of the words ‘Concrete’ and ‘Dreams’ creates tension because dreams are often abstract and intangible, but the origin of everything concrete is ultimately rooted in ideas and dreams. During the exhibition, the material triggered many interesting discussions, because many people in the Bregenzerwald are themselves builders and concrete is a familiar material.”

The fact that she later chose to focus on art at the Egg high school seems only logical. But Berchtold smiles mischievously: “I also skied professionally as a child. When I was 14 years old, however, I decided against the pressure to perform and the ski high school.” Since 2009 the artist lives in Vienna. Does she still have a close relationship with the Bregenzerwald? “Vienna is my home now. But so too is the Bregenzerwald. I’m rooted there and I consider it to be my heritage.” Is that something special? She laughs. “Regional patriotism is strong in Bregenzerwald, but this has never been a big topic for me.

Where we are born and grow up is a lottery. Why be proud of that? Nevertheless, I do have an affinity for Bregenzerwald as my home. It’s just beautiful there! And then there’s travelling: If I’m in the same place too long, I feel out of shape. After graduating from school, I spent a long time in Central America, studied Spanish and worked in an Austrian school in Guatemala. Then I did various jobs, for example in a bar in Mexico or a research centre for turtles in Nicaragua. Travel is inspiration, refreshment and a reminder that what we consider to be normal is just a construct.” Berchtold says that her parents have always supported her artistic ambitions. “I put pressure on myself. At the beginning of my studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna I thought briefly that I should perhaps study something that would allow me to more easily make money. But now I’m glad I chose this somewhat complicated, but all the more exciting path.” Luka Jana Berchtold earns money today, among other things, with illustrations for various media. She has contributed humorous drawings for the children’s book “Kasimir und die Mondverdunklungsmaschine” (Kasimir and the machine that puts out the moon). She is also part of the creative team of the concept agency friendship.is, which became famous for transforming Vienna’s Café Griendsteidl into an experimental restaurant bar gallery called “Rien,” as well the festival “FAQ Bregenzerwald” and “Feldküche,” an initiative for outdoor cooking. But they clearly differentiate between art and design, says Berchtold emphatically:

Making art also means exposing very personal works to public opinion. Did she have to learn how to handle this aspect? Luka Jana Berchtold doesn’t hesitate for a second this time, her answer comes promptly and unflinchingly: “What other people think is not so important to me. Especially the ones I don’t even know. Focussing on this costs a lot of energy, limits what you do and are, and takes all the fun out of it. You can’t bend over backwards for the whole world!”

Author: Babette Karner
Edition: Winter Travel Magazine 2018-19