“Real events and feelings pass along its corridors, but, reflected in the mirror surfaces, they are distorted beyond recognition” is how Ohii Katya, the Rome-based Ukrainian sculptor and performance artist describes the labyrinth of affects her creations invite into. Enter today’s feature – a fantasy suspended between eroticism and abjection, emanating the smell of latex and burnt sugar.

How would you describe the process of creating your art in regards to an emotional effect on the viewer, or creating a large installation?

The process of creating a work depends on what kind it is. Usually, an idea comes spontaneously into my head in the form of a visual sequence or some kind of an unfolding story, always in motion. After an initial creative insight, I move on to its subsequent conceptualization and polishing, but the primary impulse is ALWAYS intuitive. As for making the objects themselves, that is where I rarely think a lot :). I start working right away, mostly without any sketches. I am definitely one of those who “think with their hands”. Such a method often leads to a lot of errors and their correction, as well as to unexpected results. I am obsessed with experimenting with various materials and techniques, often unconventional.

You work with themes such as metamorphosis and change of identity which are shrouded in a dark veil of mysterious, ritual aesthetics. What sources of inspiration do you draw for your multifaceted work?

Inspiration could come literally from anywhere, you just need to observe. My research oftentimes draws from a fusion of anthropology, philosophy, fetishism, mythology and weird literature. I would describe it as persistently evolving visceral fairytale chapters, fed by my own memories and a wide range of inspirational sources from inhumanist philosophy to the BDSM subculture.

How did you learn to process and handle materials such as resin, silicone or the use of latex?

I am completely self-taught, everything I learned about techniques and materials, for now, was a result of enormous amounts of experiments, research and, of course, mistakes. I was also never shy to ask other professionals questions, irrespective of whether they were strangers or close friends. I think if you are really passionate about something, you will find a dozen opportunities to learn how to make it work.

In your works there is a combination of abjection and eroticism. How do you maintain this thin line and how do you work with organic elements in your performances?

Yes, true, with my artworks I always try to evoke an underlying tension between erotism and abjection. I think this effect of simultaneous attraction and repulsion is quite natural and is always present in nature, because nature does not have only a “positive aspect”, there are numerous mixed, contradictory matters. I also think that this effect in my work is associated with the allure of the alien and the odd, bolstered by the use of organic materials, foodstuffs and liquids, which are always acutely corporeal.

Characters clothed in skin-tight latex wraps, silicone suits fused with medical tubes and supplies, sugar “tentacles” sprouting from the masks, constantly melting and exuding liquid as if they were bleeding, embroiled into phantasmagoric ritual, and framed by eerie tree root structures, whether architectural or alive – all this plunges us into a very personal and strange journey through the world modern and archaic at the same time, not really a human one, but rather chimerical and alienating.

As mentioned before I use a wide range of organic materials. My favorites are burnt sugar and fallen tree branches. You can see them in the VOLTO mask, the MORULA and IZBA installations and many others. I started to use sugar when I had no money to buy any sculpture materials at the very beginning of my career. So, I simply started to create sculptures using the foodstuffs I could find in the kitchen. 

With the large-scale wooden structures, which can be considered temporary architecture, I focus on the construction of “animated temples”, a sort of hybrid creations – “living houses”, both inanimate structures and living creatures, inside of which ritualistic performances take place. Assembled from diverse materials – fallen branches and animal bones, leaking a substance of burnt sugar – they are often inhabited by ants who bring life inside, but also exaggerate the viewer’s repulsion. The first attempt on these temporary temples was made with the support of the band Archivio Futuro, when we collaborated on their music video and performance “Deserto Giallo”. 

I often work with natural latex and soy milk as well. In the video and live performance BALIA, I was choking on soy milk coming from a medical IV bag, mounted onto the “body” of a woodlouse-like mother. BALIA is the first act of an ongoing project, which tells us a story of an entity going through the intense, even violent process of metamorphosis.

Our current theme is “Full of Desire”. So, I’d like to ask you what your dream goal is, or what you desire for yourself as an artist right now and what would be the ultimate achievement?

I want to continue learning and evolving both as a person and professional. I want to have wider possibilities to show and make my new art projects, creating immersive environments inhabited by chimerical identities where phantasmagoric spectacles take place. I want to collaborate with other talented artists, curators and magazines for both institutional and underground projects.

Are you currently preparing any new exhibition or project we can look forward to?

I am currently working on several new projects. They will intertwine sculpture, installation and video performance into a series of quasi-theatrical spectacles. The stories will take place in a fictional realm divided into dominant and submissive castes. We will be plunged into a dystopian society obsessed with a desire to constantly transform, craving for unexplored sensations. Such a society stratified into dominant and submissive castes, involved into ceremonial spectacle, extends my long running fascination with BDSM subculture as a mode of ritual practices leading to a new psychological and sensorial-limit experience, which catalyzes the evolution of consciousness.

I have recently completed writing scenarios for this series of quasi-theatrical plays, and now I concentrate on designing costumes and installations for these projects, searching for suitable off-site locations and funding.

Is your work influenced by the events in Ukraine? Did they influence your choice of theme or the symbolism?

Of course, the war in my country, where my family and friends live, affects me as a person entirely. I believe that all Ukrainians now, like myself, have undergone an irreversible change, and a return to the pre-war state can never happen. Of course, this tragedy was bound to affect my art as well. However, no direct reflection of political events can be found in my works. I would say my art can be compared to a room of crooked mirrors. Real events and feelings pass along its corridors, but, reflected in the mirror surfaces, they are distorted beyond recognition. Their outlines float, multiply and split up, and it becomes impossible in this kaleidoscope to guess out any certain silhouette from known reality.

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Ohii Katya is a Ukrainian self-taught artist, born in 1993 in the periphery of Kharkiv city. She lives and works in Rome, Italy.

 Taking the form of performances, sculptures, installations, moving images, and culinary arts, her multifarious practice revolves around the dark dive into intense, even violent processes of metamorphosis.

Using a fusion of resins, latex wraps, silicone, medical supplies, organic elements and liquids, her works at once contemporary and archaic, often evoke an underlying tension between eroticism and abjection.

Rich in its immersive experience for the viewer, her massive sculptural installations, performances and video works narrate surreal tales, often connected with the aesthetics of horror. Through nonlinear chapters, they carry the audience into an odd and personal journey.


Artwork / Ohii Katya @ohiikatya

Interview / Markéta Kosinová

Photographers / Patrizio Gentile, Daniele Allegritti, Oleksandr Radomskyi
Director and editor of video BALIA  / Finn O’Hanlon

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