Artist based in Lausanne, Switzerland
Gina Bolle, Portrait of the artist by Philipp Zofer
Tell us about yourself, what's your background?
I am a multimedia artist from Germany based in Switzerland. I work with various mediums from photography, sculpture to installation, text and sound.
Back in school, I was already interested in topics related to control and manipulation. I first wanted to become a food chemist to find out how our food is composed and what effect that has on the body. Fortunately, that didn't work out. Since my photographic skills were recognized at the time, I began professional training as a photographer at a local photo studio. My career in this field took off, and for the next ten years, I used the medium of photography primarily to tell people's stories of social injustice. I worked primarily for editorial and corporate clients but also had all sorts of other photography assignments. During the coronavirus pandemic, and after I was almost burnt out, I moved to Switzerland and started my master's degree at Ecal, which I finished just a few months ago.
Installation View of "Lightbox" at the exhibition at La Maison Des Femmes* in Geneva, Switzerland, 2023, Lightbox, aluminium frame, ring light, satin photo print, silver balloon foil, 27.56" x 27.56"
During this study, I was lucky enough to meet many inspiring people and create a series of works that deeply correspond with my inner world. I grew up near Dachau as an only child, and a camera was almost always present in our family, though not in the typical way. My father, who was born in the Second World War, collected “evidence" by taking pictures, and typologically archived the images. This led me to question the use of the medium in general and to examine the intentions of photography, which often remain unclear to the viewer, such as political propaganda and advertising as a form of manipulation, also in pop culture. In addition, as a woman, I often encountered judgmental and degrading behavior, which catalyzed my need to explore the concept of bodily autonomy and create art.
Breathable Object, 2023, Installation, 80x100x30cm, 168x30x30cm, © Gina Bolle
"This led me to question the use of the medium in general and to examine the intentions of photography, which often remain unclear to the viewer, such as political propaganda and advertising as a form of manipulation . . . In addition, as a woman, I often encountered judgmental and degrading behavior, which catalyzed my need to explore the concept of bodily autonomy and create art."
What are you currently working on and where did the inspiration for it come from?
Recently I was and am part of three exhibitions, which is great and meant a lot of work. I'm also finishing a piece called "CCW," which stands for "carrying a concealed weapon”.
The plaster sculpture was created using several digital cameras, an iPhone with a camera lens, and storage media such as SD cards and MiniDV tapes from the family archive. These were placed in a bag and the air was sucked out while the plaster was poured on with the help of my dear neighbor and ceramic artist Valérie Alonso.
Installation View of "Kate Moss" at the exhibition at La Maison Des Femmes* in Geneva, Switzerland, 2023, Acetone transfer on drawing paper, Halbe aluminium frame, white glass, 11.69" x 16.54"
The inspiration came from my research on how the medium of photography is used as a tool to hurt individuals, and I thought about how an intrusive gaze affects physical development. For example, I found out through a recent performance, that if you want to hide from an intrusive gaze, it affects your posture. So I wanted to cover the lenses while addressing the feeling of immobility.
I also recently finished "Evidence III-V”, a continuation of "Evidence I" and "Evidence II". These pieces reflect on personal, social and cultural aspects of patriarchal structures as well as female identity. The intention behind these images is not directly visible. The work is a reminder to think about the subtle backgrounds of images, memories, and the influence of norms on the individual self.
Installation View of "Instanz", "Lightbox", "Upskirting", "Olympia" at the exhibition at La Maison Des Femmes* in Geneva, Switzerland, 2023
Innovation does not only happen in the field of technology — it occurs everyday in a creative practice. What do you do for inspiration?
I like to observe, listen and find my inspiration in my daily surroundings, often on walks. I use things that interest me and give them a different meaning. For example, the walls of my work "Instanz" were directly inspired by soundproof walls on the streets that are supposed to protect residential areas. But encouragement from my partner, friends, family and collaborators is very important. And of course, experimenting. I am constantly experimenting with different techniques and materials. I've spent many nights programming, asking around, and learning mostly through failure.
Instanz, 2023, interactive 5-channel video installation, 212x107x107cm, © Gina Bolle
Describe your practice and process. Where do ideas start for you? In the studio or being in the world?
Definitely, to be in the world, or, I would say, by living in this world. Because with life comes struggle, and struggle is an important root of the artistic process. My practice revolves around the concept of experiencing injustice on a psychological level. The conflicts that we have with ourselves, are initiated by others who have problems, initiated by others, and so on. I see the source of oppression in a deep-rooted structural system, and I want to understand that with the help of my art.
(left) Work in progress for resin sculpture on "Evidence II", © Gina Bolle
(right) Work in progress aceton and photo transfer for "Evidence III", © Gina Bolle
To take a closer look and question persistent opinions. I have these observations in my head, and then there is the question of what is the best medium to say something about them. I sometimes take photos for inspiration on my daily walks and wonder why this is important for me. For example, again, the soundproof wall protects, it looks threatening, it separates, and it is full of significance. Then I know that this is important to my concept.
Installation View of "Instanz" at the exhibition at La Maison Des Femmes* in Geneva, Switzerland, 2023, Steel, wooden panels, aluminium mesh, acoustic foam, five 27” screens, iMac Mini, three Raspberry Pi cameras V3 NoIR, speakers, magnetic sensor, Arduino controller, two infrared light panels, two surveillance cameras, 83.46" x 42.13" x 42.13"
How do you make your work, does it start with a sketch?
Ideas usually start with a feeling in my stomach, and then move into the brain. I connect them with a memory, and I start researching, planning, and reaching out to collaborators I need to realize it. I draw sketches. For “Instanz”, I collected 700GB of research material, including a 5-part performance series featuring eight amazing artists to manifest my thoughts, fears, and conversations, which is the key to my process.
(left) Inspiration for "Instanz", soundproof walls, © Gina Bolle
(right) Work in progress, video installation, © Gina Bolle
After the idea became a concept, I start working with my hands. The next steps are very process-oriented because, with all the electronics I use, not everything is plannable and predictable. But it has to feel right. The style is also a matter of the quality of the materials and the symbolic weight, but also the contrast between soft and hard, light and dark, protected and threatened.
Process of programming "Instanz"
Do you have your own studio ritual? What does that look like for you?
Currently, I am moving and looking for a new base and studio. Usually, I spend at least 50% of my working time in front of the computer, especially during intense planning times. Some days I have to remember to maintain a healthy routine, to take walks where I also get ideas, and to exercise. Music helps me concentrate, and having a clean space helps my mind generate ideas. For sure, it is one ritual to clean before I leave.
(left) From the performance series "The Intrusive Camera", Performance I with Alizée Quinche, 2023, © Gina Bolle
(right) Experimental piece, work in progress, © Gina Bolle
Gina Bolle in Instanz
Who are your biggest influences?
Life! Including relatives and friends, tutors, politics, world events and psychology have a great deal of influence on me. From the art world Marina Abramović, Louise Bourgeois, Julia Scher and Arthur Jafa, and many more 🙂
From the performance series "The Intrusive Camera", Performance IV with Adina Voldrabova, 2023, © Gina Bolle
Are there books or films that are an important source of inspiration?
Yes, I love reading or watching something that corresponds to an urgent topic of mine. Foucault's theory on “dispositif” and the “panopticum” was an important reading for "Instanz", Paul B. Preciado, Karen Horney, and Kafka's observation on society.
(left) tools (right) Making Of Instanz Gina © Philipp_Zofer
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?
Listen to your stomach, trust the process & embrace the chaos. 🙂
What is the best advice you would give to other artists?
It’s always and never about you – as an artist be able to show your vulnerable side and at the same time don't take yourself too seriously!