We talk to Cherophobia’s Noëmi Lakmaier about London’s floating art marvel
To Do List caught up with artist Noëmi Lakmaier to hear more about Cherophobia, which is part of Unlimited – a festival showcasing new work by disabled artists.
Noëmi will attempt to lift her immobilised body off the ground with 20,000 helium-filled balloons over 48 hours, starting on 7 September 2016 at 12pm.
Cherophobia | From 12pm from 7 September-9 September (48 Hours) | St Leonard’s Church, Shoreditch High Street & Broadcast Live at Southbank Centre, Waterloo | Free
Tell us about Cherophobia and how the project came about?
Cherophobia is a 48-hour durational living installation. It is an attempt to lift my bound and immobilised body off the ground using 20,000 helium party balloons.
The word Cherophobia means the fear of happiness, a state of being where one sabotages any chance at joy and pleasure for fear that something terrible might happen if this was achieved. Cherophobia is the state of suspension between the desired happiness and the terror of perceived consequences.
Cherophobia is a work of contrasts and opposites, of the push and pull between fear and desire, freedom and constraint and about our responsibility to make choices. The cheerful, happy image of a giant cloud of balloons stands in stark contrast to the artist’s bound, restricted and immobilised body, while the helium-filled balloons pulling upwards are in turn constrained by the church building.
The idea for Cherophobia has been with me for over eight years. It initially developed while I was creating my piece Experiment in Happiness during a residency at the Camden Arts Centre. Even since then I have been fascinated by the concept of happiness, its elevated status in our fast-paced, pleasure and perfection seeking society – what it means to us, to how we live our lives, and to me personally.
What can we expect to experience when we visit the project?
It is a performance and a gathering, a one-off event that intertwines people in their shared suspense and anticipation. Visitors will have an experiential and immersive encounter with the performance and the building it is happening in. Visitors are welcome to stay as long as they like, or come and go at different stages of the work.
Your work deals a lot with the view of ‘the other’ in society. What do you think ‘the other’ means in 2016?
To me there are many nuances to the ‘Other’. On the one hand it represents minority groups, which I, as a disabled queer, immigrant woman identify with, on the other hand the other is everybody – the Other is everybody who I am not. As intersubjective beings we all need an Other to understand ourselves and be seen. In my practice the presence of the viewer – the ‘Other’ – galvanizes my work.
In 2016 I find it sad to observe that we seem increasingly to assign other certain groups of people to a status lesser than than ourselves.
What would you say to the new prime minister Teresa May if you met her?
I would tell her that she is not a democratically elected leader, and that she has no mandate to govern unless she calls a general election and gets elected.
I would also tell her that we live in an increasingly divided society and that talking about the hard-working poor, as those who own their own home and are struggling to pay the mortgage, is frankly insulting.
Who or what inspires you to be an artist?
This is a tough one to answer. It has always been what I wanted to do and what feels right.
Where do you feel most at home in London? Are there any free or cheap places you’d recommend to our readers?
I definitely feel most at home in the East! There are lots of great free and cheap things to do in London, so it is hard to choose. Maybe I’m easy to please, but I love going for long walks along the Thames path or one of the many canal passes, and stopping off for a pint in one of the many beautiful pubs on the way.
If you are at a loose end between the 7th and the 9th of September, come see Cherophobia at Shoreditch Church, it’s absolutely free and should be a great experience.