In this series of interviews, we take a look behind the facade of the featured artworks and consider the people and thoughts behind them. Faces to works. Stories to concepts. We introduce you to the artists of our collective.
Today with Sound Artist Sophie Stroux
- An interview by Lucie Vollath
In Sophie's poetry, words are images and riddles with sounds. Soundpoetry. A playful use of language that is not simply meant to please, but to be an impulse. About growing up in a creative family, developing one's own style and breaking down existing boundaries in art.
What is your vision - as a person and as an artist?
I write mainly poetry, and poetry works with strong images that function in a limited space. Poetry is often like a little puzzle, where you try to put the individual pieces together to decipher different levels of meaning. I often feel a bit like Sherlock in that regard.
I also try to break down existing genre boundaries bit by bit with my Soundpoetry. According to the ancient definition, poetry is spoken word, not written word.
I don't want to just read my poems aloud and wait for people to applaud me. No one has to think my work is beautiful. I don't think it's contemporary or really satisfying as an artist to have that expectation of art. But art should evoke reactions - reactions of whatever kind. It should evoke images, stimulate and be an impulse.
Do you think creativity can reach people more than pragmatism? Why?
Again, I think the division between creativity and practicality is artificially drawn. One is compatible with the other and the combination of both is good. After all, one can also make a factual statement via the creative track. And in the same way, some poetry can be found in mathematical formulas or physical proofs. An acquaintance of mine likes to combine forms of documentation with poetry - that is factual and poetic at the same time. Or better: shows the poetry in the factual...
How did you get into art?
My parents were both active at the theater, directing and writing scripts. My grandparents already had an artistic background: literature and music on the one hand, art and graphics on the other. That has accompanied me from the very beginning. So I grew up in an artistic household and I am aware of this privilege - art has always been present for me in many facets.
Since elementary school I have always written a lot and as a teenager I gave talks in front of artworks in museums.
Later, two moments were very groundbreaking for me: In the writing workshop at the Literaturhaus München (House for Literature in Munich), I met great mentors who gave me the right tools and continued to support me in the years that followed. They encouraged me to take part in competitions. That's how it came about that I was actually invited to the Treffen junger Autor*innen in Berlin (Young Authors' Meeting) after applying several times. There I met many important voices of the current literary world such as Daniela Seel from kookbooks, Rike Scheffler, Olivia Wenzel, Rudi Nuss and many more. I have also been there as a blogger in the following years. For me, it's a place that has shown me that I will feel at home in the art and culture scene - in whatever capacity. Right now, for example, I'm working as a production manager for Burg Hülshoff – Center for Literature and as an art educator as well as a writing workshop leader.
How did you decide on the particular kind of art you make? How did you find the right form of expression for you?
That defintitely was and is a process. Sometimes when I look back at what I used to write, I often think that it was super naive and that I would do it completely differently now. But that's absolutely ok, after all, over time you get more and more know-how and find new forms of expression that seem to suit you just for that moment. It's a constant change, a constant development.
What defines your art? Is there a theme/motif that runs through all your works?
In poetry, definitely the playful use of language. One of my favorite poets, Uljana Wolf, about whom I also wrote my bachelor's thesis, wrote a cycle of poems about 'false friends‘. In linguistics, these are words that sound the same in different languages, but each have a completely different meaning respectively. I always take up the multiple meanings of words and the immediate play on them. Right now, for example, I'm working a lot with line breaks, that is breaking at a certain point in the word so that a completely new meaning emerges. This is also closely linked to the phonetic quality of language - that's why sound poetry is so much fun. It offers completely different tools to play with.
As far as topics are concerned, they are of course mostly things that move me personally at the moment. Grief, for example. Or the pain of separation. Also a form of grief. For the new issue of turtle magazin(e) I will write a cycle on the topic of gender.
Where do you find inspiration? And how do you start a creative process?
Mostly quite simply in the writing itself. I don't actively search for it, I just start. Often a stricter form also helps me with poetry - recently a series of rondelles came into being this way.
For my sound poetry, I pick up certain sounds again and again. I have a collection of sounds from my time in Japan. For example, there's the chirping of cicadas that appears in some of my sound poems - that's pure Japan feeling for me, that's how my time there began in late September, when it was still humid during the day and I slept with the balcony door open at night.
Of course, these photographs have meaning, especially for myself, that is not visible to everyone. They are cross-references to a time and also my memory of it. But something completely new can rise from them, from the old, as well and therefore I like to use them again and again.
How do you stay authentic among so many other creators of art?
As a teenager, I always found this thought totally intimidating, because I thought that everything already existed - what could I possibly create that was new? At my first writing workshop, the author Doris Dörrie came by, who then said encouragingly: "Surely someone has already written about exactly the same thing as you - but never exactly like you." After all, you can even take up something old, something that's already there, and still have a completely different point of view, a new perspective on it. You can always create new forms, there are endless possibilities. Maybe you also have to take away a bit of your own demand for performance.
How do you deal with criticism? And the other way round: How do you yourself, especially in your role as a leader of writing workshops at the university, criticize the works of others?
I have learned that it is always important to state one's own perspective - but also that it is not the only one. It's such a cliché to say that, but it's true: Art is subjective. Our own evaluation is often the only one that can really be placed over a work. Sure, there are objective parameters, but ultimately you're always guided by your subjectivity. Often I have to restrain myself when I want to say that I don't like this or that so much. After all, it's another person's text and I want to give them the freedom to express themselves as they would. That has a lot to do with acceptance and also with not holding the categories of 'good' and 'not good' too high. There are always things that work well in texts - for example, does the feeling of fear come across well, is the tempo right, do I understand the perspective. That's what you talk about first, and then you see how you can tweak these things to make the text even more coherent, even more rounded.
And when texts are rejected, sure, that can be disappointing, but you shouldn't let that discourage you.
Art always offers a lot of room for interpretation. What do people see in your art and do they see in it what you hope for? What reactions do you encounter?
What you yourself intend with your art is not always seen. It's like in translation. What I say definitely never comes across the way I think it does. That's the magic in art. Every time people look at a work of art, it becomes a different work of art again - because we humans always connect it to our own horizon of experiences. So there are infinitely many ways of looking at one and the same work - and not only my intended one is the right one.
Thank you so much for the insightful answers and for sharing your experiences!