Karly Andreassen A strong belief in being vulnerable and the radical, transformative power that it has...
By Mary Truong October 7th, 2020
Karly Andreassen inherited storytelling as a custom from her Mexican, German, and Dominican relatives. Through her work she seeks to explore the inherited traumas of colonialism within the Caribbean, or in more recent history, the legacy of Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship and its impact on her family's experiences of migration. Despite how affecting this history was to her family, Andreassen found that official accounts of this history often elide details Andreassen found in conversations that her relatives had with each other. Loss is a ubiquitous component to discussions of diaspora, and like many others, Andreassen finds herself mournful of “generational knowledge” forgotten by institutional archives. She says, “this moment is very good at illustrating that so much is very fragile in terms of older generations, in terms of what we’re losing, and in what we can learn.” In reaction to this, Andreassen creates documentational artwork that seeks to preserve vernacular histories through using her inherited storytelling tradition.
“What can I learn about the past that isn’t being told to me from official records?”
Even if her practice seeks to preserve knowledge that official archives may otherwise ignore, her work is still subjected to limitations. Archives tend to exhibit information didactically, but Andreassan prefers her audience to engage with information through discovery, “learning little by little.” This process is especially pronounced in her interactive computer-based artworks. In Islas, an open world game about the transmission of knowledge in the Carribean, the player finds televisions playing enigmatic videos with Spanish audio and Bolero music.
Although Andreassen considers herself a “maximalist” that attempts to jampack information into her art, she chooses not to directly expose everything to her viewers. She notes that much of the history she learned from her family was not explicitly told to her or was deliberately excluded from conversation. By making computer works where the viewer/user is forced to navigate a confusing terrain, she translates her experience of learning from unclear conversations. There’s a kind of negative space at play within Andreassen’s experiences, and she compares these omissions to islands in the Carribean: “There is so much that’s transmitted across huge spaces, huge distances. It’s not always necessary to have surface or land mass at every step of the way.”
“Introspection is the word I’m using for resonance.”
To Andreassen, there is beauty in the interconnectivity that occurs in the Caribbean despite the vast distances: a radio broadcast of bolero music in Mexico can be heard in Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and more. Likewise, even though a viewer may lack context with her stories, Andreassen trusts that they can find meaning in the ambiguity. She admits that her work can be “self-indulgent” because “in a very naïve way, I started making artworks to explain where I came from and how I came to be.” Still, she hopes that “within those particularities, there’s things other people can identify with.” Even more than simply resonating with others, she imagines her work to be connective, saying “There’s so much possibility that emerges with people being vulnerable with each other, and I think that my art often takes that first step…”
“It is important to recognize that everything is rooted in the context of the present.”
If time can be considered a fabric, then Andreassen’s artistic practice acquaints itself with time’s warp and weft by interweaving the past, present, and future through narrative threads. Of course, her art is documentation of discursive histories, so it works as a record for posterity, but it also serves as an introspective space for her to understand who she is. In this way, she ties her art to a contemporary moment found in herself.
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