An Interview With... Laura Fischer
Laura Fischer is the Co-founder of Onen Ena, a cross-disciplinary Art Collective. I first met Laura in 2014, before Onen Ena was born, and I could see that she was moving towards great things. Since then, she's continued working on her art and multiple projects. We talk about female experiences and art, activism and collaboration.
You recently launched your freelance business Onen Ena. Can you explain what Onen Ena is?
Meaning “One Soul” in Cornish, ONEN ENA symbolises the unity and equality of all art forms and artists alike. It’s as much a concept and a way of approaching the world as it is a tangible creative entity. We believe that raw creativity and the real richness of Art lies in the grey zone, the blurry borders between the different art forms, which is why the ONEN ENA Art projects aim for the different art forms to flirt with each other, merge and blur. This approach of Art without borders not only implies a change in which it is practiced but also in which it is experienced by the audience and in which role they play, as well as its relationship to other disciplines such as philosophy or physics, for example. Art in this way has a natural inclination for collaborative work and thus aims to bring people and their ideas together. Exchange being one of our core values, we give workshops and classes focusing either on Visual Art or Musical Art (or both) where we work with people in much the same way as we work ourselves; helping them unlock what is beheld inside rather than imposing traditional schools of thought onto them. They have as much to give as we do!
On a personal level, ONEN ENA is the bloomed flower of years of sowing a seed-idea. Throughout my career, I was constantly labelled different things. In one world, I was a Ballerina and Contemporary Dancer, in another I was a Photographer and Filmmaker, whilst in a third I was being awarded prizes in Literature, in a forth I was studying Performance Design and Practice, and a fifth I was working as an external examiner in Mathematics and Physics. But perhaps most ingrained than any other, having had my drawings and paintings exhibited since I was 12 years old, I was a Visual Artist or, frustratingly, a “Fine Artist”*. For me though, it was quite simple: I was doing what I felt passionate about. In my mind, there was no title, no box. Just fascination, curiosity, ambition and stubbornness. Each of these mediums came from the same instincts and used the same intelligence, so they naturally fed off each other and influenced one another. My idea of combining all of these was the obvious conclusion of the tension between these externally-labelled different things that to me were one and the same: creativity. ONEN ENA has just taken off, not all of this is visible yet, but be sure that there are many more flowers yet to blossom from the ONEN ENA garden in my mind!
* “'Fine Art'” is a term I feel is obsolete; Art is no longer defined by a criteria founded by our definition of beauty, though it is an aim that still drives the work of some artists. Its purpose goes much beyond that of being aesthetically pleasing; Art is a means of expression, freedom of speech, claiming the right to be, and a tool to perceive the world without the obstructive vales that society often places upon our eyes" - Laura
What do you think is the importance of collaborative art?
In the case of ONEN ENA, collaboration is essential in order to develop this idea of Art explained above. Different perceptions, different skills, different trades and different cultures create a richer, more challenging, more vibrant palette. Only such a palette can claim to shake the definition of Art in an attempt to redefine it.
In a broader sense, the psychology of the process of a true collaboration is a profound interdependence. The sense of the boundary of the self is lifted. You are relieved from what you think you are and therefore what you need to be. This I feel allows for a shared breathing space, one in which each individual is of equal value. I think that if you succeed in creating such a space where people feel their intellects are being drawn upon, they will start to live in that space and qualities will expand.
Your partner, musician Daniel Woodfield, is the co-founder of Onen Ena. As two professional creatives, was this the natural next step of your relationship?
Yes, it was the natural direction of our relationship. But I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “step”. “Direction” is more appropriate because it didn’t happen in stages; it grew along with our relationship. Soon after our journey together started, he asked me what this big project of mine was. It didn’t yet have a name, but as I explained the concept to him I saw this light in his eyes. He didn’t say anything then, but I knew we had had the same thought: this was going to be our big project. Not only did it felt right to do this as one but it also made sense from a purely business point of view: we hold the same values, perceive and approach things in the same way, think scarily similarly, yet have perfectly complementary skills. Whilst able to overview the visual and movement-based aspects, I wouldn’t feel comfortable being in charge of the music which is of course an essential part of creative projects. He, on the other hand, is exactly the opposite.
What struggles have you encountered with the creation of Onen Ena?
I haven’t encountered many problems with the creation of ONEN ENA as such. The struggles have been with my health. I’ve had severe health issues the last 18 months, which inadvertently had an impact on the development of the project. But eventually ONEN ENA took off anyway. It didn’t wait for us to be ready, it seemed as though it had decided it was time. We were offered an exhibition in a fancy space in the City of London and the paintings dressing the marble walls were those I did whilst being very ill and in need of expressing. This, to me, was a strong symbol. That’s when we launched the website. However, ONEN ENA as it is now is the baby of a bigger project. We planned our long-term vision before tailoring an adapted version for the present and near future. Scaling it up is where it’s going to become difficult. But challenges allow for creative solutions, so we are prepared!
At the Crack of Dawn
You've been working to aid Syrian Refugees. What work have you been doing and what do you think others could do to help?
I only do my bit. I had been thinking of ways I could have a positive impact on the refugee crisis, whatever the scale of my reach, it seemed clear that I – like everybody else – should be doing something. With my health being so unstable, I felt quite restricted. So I decided to start small. The initial plan was to join my sister Aurelia who had left for Hungary to do some volunteering work wherever was needed as there was a high influx of refugees. But things changed and escalated rapidly. As soon as she arrived, the borders closed. She and some other volunteers she met there drove to Slovenia where they heard people were forced to change their route to due to the closing of the borders.
They arrived in a transition camp at the border between Slovenia and Croatia where thousands and thousands of people were enclosed behind bars without any food, water, medical attention or warm clothes. I won’t give graphic examples of the horrific things she reported to me, but in an audio message she sent me she described in tears these “modern concentration camps”. That’s when we understood I could be of more help from the outside. No one was allowed in the camps and no media was allowed to cover this story; all were either restricted access or censored. So instead of going on the ground, mine and Daniel’s role was to coordinate between the ground and the outside world; get the information out, raise awareness, funds and supplies.
Contacting the media and people in government proved one thing: it was all down to us as individuals. We didn’t sleep and at times it felt almost hopeless, but then we realised not only how much power a single individual can have but how it is precisely by not being affiliated to any official organisation that one can be so impactful. The situation evolved rapidly. Aurelia was invited by the Foreign Policy Advisor to the President of Slovenia who made their group of volunteers the official one in charge of the camp, then they were received at the headquarters of the UN in Vienna, and finally, as a result of this chain of action and hope for Humanity, the association Individuals United (In’U) was created. In’U acts as an umbrella structure for all individuals with a common objective of support and help to any human being suffering – currently focusing on the most pressing matter; the refugee crisis. ONEN ENA is now an Honorary Member of In’U and we had the honour to launch the association together in Lausanne, Switzerland, on the 11th [December 2015].
This is just one story. There are many, many stories yet to be written by individuals like you and me. If you are not sure where to begin, start small. What is paramount is to speak, to talk about it to friends and family, on social media, by email, by post to your local MP. Staying informed, signing appropriate petitions, contacting the news. Showing you care. Raising funds, collecting warm clothes and medical supplies. Following and supporting the work of organisations you trust. Donate whatever you can. In’U and ONEN ENA are quite active, if you are uncertain about big organisations, it might be a good place to start.
Whatever you do, don’t ever give in to the thought that just one drop is too little in the ocean. That drop has ripples.
Are art and politics linked?
In my opinion, yes! As Artists, we have the unique ability to act upon what is happening in the world and express it through a universal language. I believe every Artist has a responsibility to be aware of the society he/she/they live in – how they act upon it is then their choice. For me personally, Art and Politics are strongly connected. Having always been quite politically engaged, Art not only helps me to express and channel my emotions, but also allows for a scream to be heard, a point of view to be seen, a different audience to be engaged, a debate to be triggered and the potential for a chain of action.
When I was 13 or 14 years old in Switzerland, a right-wing political party launched their new advertising campaign showcasing white sheep kicking black sheep out of the country. Yes. Seriously. To the contrary of the Swiss-German part, the French-speaking part of Switzerland was outraged (there is always this division). It was obvious people needed to do something about it. Posters were torn or tagged. But their ad was very clever; it was so simple and so visual that absolutely everybody understood it and remembered it – regardless of whether it was then destroyed or altered. So I decided to use exactly the same process and create political posters of my own, using lots of satire and irony. My drawings were shown in a big theatre, then in the newspaper. Whilst they may not have changed the politics of the country, I would like to think they have influenced or encouraged some people to vote (especially considering I wasn’t old enough to vote myself!). Art seems to have this beautiful capacity to be tailored to the situation and the audience; I don’t think any other medium would have had that reach.
Do you feel like your experiences as a woman inspire your art work?
Yes, definitely. They aren’t the only life experiences that influence me, but my experiences as a woman certainly are some of the most inspiring. As a young feminine woman, I find myself on the receiving end of sexual harassment on a near-to-daily basis. Considering the nature of Parallel magazine, I don’t think I need to expand on that. You probably know exactly what I mean. This, and one of these situations in particular, greatly inspires my work. I believe any bad holds the potential to be utilised for good. I would not wish for anyone to have to go through this specific event I am referring to (though sadly many have, do and will), but having lived it offers me a precious insight that can be used to create work that can raise awareness, attempt to break a long-standing taboo and hopefully help others. I won’t go much more into detail as ONEN ENA will soon be releasing “The Awareness Project” touching on this subject and on women’s rights.
The Awareness Project
What advice would you give to aspiring young artists?
I don’t have more valuable advice than that can be found in the heart of each Artist so as long as they are true to themselves. They can each get more answers from within than I could ever give anyone.
Interview by Jodie Matthews
Facebook page: /ONEN ENA