Amsterdam based performance artist Lisette Ros sees what most people don’t. She preoccupies her time by diving into human routine and its mundane daily tasks. Taking apart human behaviour and identity piece by piece she aims to confront us all and see our social behaviours change before her very own eyes. We sat down and talked about system, performance, individuality and what it is like to be her.
Who are you?
Who am I, good question, I am still trying to figure that out. That is the main reason I am an artist. The thought “this is just the way I am” is such a lie. I am constantly busy unraveling myself and my emotions.
Where are you from?
Originally I am from Hilversum but ever since I was little I’ve always had a connection with Amsterdam, which is where I am based now.
Which school did you attend?
I studied Branding at Amsterdam fashion institute, AMFI. After that I did a master at the art institute ARTEZ. I chose ARTEZ to take a step away from superficial fashion and get more into philosophy and sociology.
How did you get into performance art?
A teacher of mine told me how I myself was more important than anything I made. It was a natural progression to use myself as my art, this through performance.
Why did you stick with it?
I felt very comfortable performing. Of course there is fear in doing it but it is very therapeutic for me. I learn a lot about our Western society, the systems, patterns and myself by putting myself in situations where I literally use my own body as a research tool.
Images by Rik Dijkhuizen
Describe yourself in 3 words
Paradoxical, inquisitive and opinionated.
What do you try to achieve with your performances?
I try to get to the true core of things. I try to reach vulnerability, a sense of insecurity and get better understanding with what I am doing, and what my identity is opposed to the identity of the society.
What feeling do you want your audience to get?
I want to confront the audience with their routines. I try to make them voluntarily and [un]consciously participate in the performance. Through this participation I try to take away the self evidence of our actions. Through this I want to create a new level of consciousness.
I try to make people feel uncomfortable while confronting them during a performance. I use this as part of my research method as a way to reach the audience, to get under their skin and hopefully to make them revision their own routines, conventions and daily rhythms.
Why do you think it is important to create a new consciousness?
A lot of the time we do not realize how good we have it in life. We all tend to slack off and be lazy. These are things that preoccupy me a lot. Who am I on the larger scale of the world? Fundamentally I find it important to start with myself, maybe change my own attitude and become more socially aware, before being able to confront others with that. In my opinion, I can only try to disrupt others while disrupting myself as well. In that sense my work is never finished, the process is the work.
Stop motion image by Marieke Gras
How do you start the process of researching this kind of topic?
It always begins with observation, usually the observation and/or irritation of myself. The observation phase can take weeks or months, that depends on the focus point. I find a subject that that concerns my own daily life and myself, I try to read between the lines. I then dive into theoretical research – philosophical, sociological, psychological… I have developed my own methodology to dive into the next questions and steps towards shaping the actual concept. I ask myself a variety of questions to research:
Type of space
Type of public
Mode of society – what is happening now -, meaning society’s identity versus my own identity.
I then begin to experiment by intervening spontaneously with myself in different types of spaces and diverse types of public. The whole process that goes into a performance really never ends. The work is never truly finished.
Can you give me an example of the types of experiments you perform?
I use a variety of techniques such as emphasising, isolation, repetition and over-exaggeration. I only do long duration performances to keep on challenging myself as well, trying to find different modes and feelings; it can be very draining doing even a single performance.
By Lisette Ros
Do you feel like it breaks you down?
In a way I guess it does. But it is the kind of destruction that I need to be able to contemplate whatever subject I am using for the performance.
When you talk about your process it sounds very structured and scholastic, is that how you experience it?
I am very neurotic and the system I have created is something for me to hold on to and have control of. At the same time, I am very intuitive, flexible and perhaps anti-systematical so there is a huge paradox in my way of working. I need these paradoxes to be able to reflect, evaluate and continue questioning.
Polaroids by Marieke Gras
By Lisette Ros
Any tricks of the trade to convey the emotion you want to your audience during a performance?
I try not to make too much eye contact. Prickling too many senses can take away from the performance, but also this varies and depends on which performance work it is, what the concept is and which techniques will work most effectively to strengthen the message instead of my personal preferences. For example, with the current work I am busy with, I did one live experiment in which I made a lot of contact but I was the organic factor within the space and the public and not a static factor as part of my installation. Exciting and fearful steps, which are important for the development of my work.
Is it scary doing something that is so open to criticism?
It can be because in most performances I am literally naked, without any clothes. Even if the response from the audience is negative I am still happy, it means it did something to them.
Describe in 3 words what you’d like to see from yourself in the future?
Less judgment, More socially involved, International
What is your greatest advantage?
My social side. The fact that I have gumption and also the fact that I am capable of adjusting in various situations.
What is your greatest disadvantage?
My gumption and social side, it means I also like to party, get into discussions and confrontations, and I my focus can fluctuate a lot.
Who is your greatest inspiration?
Which other performance artist do you admire and like to collaborate with?
Artist Ulay, or maybe a toilet lady that works in clubs!
What is your favorite word?
The Dutch word “geestig” which means funny
What is your least favorite word?
Image by Afagh Morrowatian
By Lisette Ros
What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
Lack of interest
What is your favorite curse word?
Godverdomme, it means god damn me
What sound or noise do you love?
What sound or noise do you hate?
Very loud motorcycles or being woken up by the sound of construction in front of your door.
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
It doesn’t really matter actually, as long as it won’t be only one job to fulfill; I like versatility and the variety of creative, theoretical, brainless activities, and it keeps diverse parts of my brains rotary.
By Lisette Ros
What profession would you not like to do?
I would never be able to do a 9 to 5 office job, but analyzing it I like, in the performance work ‘INTERVENING SPACE: Reframing conventions’ I researched the act of sitting that derived of my research into the plain office space.
If heaven exists, what would you like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
Meid, neem ruim (girl, take plentifully)
By Indiana Roma Voss