FeltZine returns for Issue 63 featuring Barcelona-based digital artist, Armonie Pierson! Experience Issue 63 here and learn more about Armonie Pierson below:
What are the essential or main ideas in your work?
Each piece is different but the essential part they all have in common is definitely the expression of one’s self. That’s why I often shoot nude. It allows me to fully be myself and that’s the message I think my subconscious is trying to express through this art. That being you, being weird, being nude, is something to be expressed and felt and explored to the fullest.
Where do you live? Does this have an effect on your work?
I have very recently moved to Barcelona, Spain after living in China for a total of 5 years (Shenzhen & Hong Kong). Before that, I lived for 8 years in Switzerland (Zürich and Lausanne). Before that in the suburb of Paris, France for 5 years and before that in Guadeloupe and Martinique, where I was born. As you can probably tell, I’ve always moved around a lot, and this constant traveling since early on has definitely impacted my work. Being immersed in so many different cultures and languages early on opens up your perception of the world and your acceptance of other’s differences. It has created a personality which is very open-minded and constantly looking for new ways to look at things. For me everything can become interesting, old things can be rediscovered and looked at with a new perspective, it all depends on the viewer. I play with that a lot in my art and often use things I have lying around my place as props or inspiration.
Your work creates an illusive mix of visual mystique. What are the various materials used within your work? (Paint, makeup, photography, etc?)
This past year, aside from my independent clothing design, I’ve been focusing my art on a mix of self-photography including digital painting and/or photo-edited details. This was actually a way for me to mix a few of my artistic interests into one. I have another Instagram account (@anyixin_art) where I only share my ink art and paintings. As time has gone on I’ve found less and less time or practical opportunities to paint and draw so I came up with these mixed media types of photography as an alternative. Lately, I’ve been trying to include more and more makeup and body painting into the mix. When creating a photo I’m basically thinking of it as a painting. Each step of my creative process (styling, photography, editing, painting, etc.) I feel a variety of completely different emotions and inspirations. This often results in a final piece with details or themes which would not usually “go together” but it always ends up being something unexpected, at least to me and I love playing with that. Mixing and seeing what happens, it’s like a thrilling experiment for me.
How would you describe yourself?
A colourful, messy ball of constant emotional intensities. I’m very aware of my emotions and this means that most of my work is pure impulsivity hiding in art. I have always felt a bit odd, off, not able to fully feel like I was totally connecting with other people in the way that I “should” if you know what I mean. It can be hard for me to connect with people at first as I’m very shy at times, BUT, as I said previously, I’m very emotional and you could find me looking extremely excited and extroverted all of a sudden and out of nowhere. A messy ball of emotions, haha!
Your work involves creating new & innovative ways to cover/censor nipples. When did you first develop this style and what was the story behind it? How else does censorship have an effect on your art?
Nipple censorship is one of my péchés mignons (guilty pleasures). I find it so outrageously ridiculous that female nipples are banned from social media that I can’t help myself but want to defy that. It kind of all started by accident because I’ve always had some nude content here and there until platforms like Instagram and later on Tumblr started taking down or shadowing some of my work. A photo of mine in particular really made me want to create more work around nipple censorship because it was taken down, ironically, because of its own success… Let me explain: This photo was one where I’m sitting in the meditative position, hands placed in the air on both sides, index fingers and thumbs joined pointing up. In this photo, I’m nude but wearing a peplum skirt and hiding my private parts with one of my holographic creations. As for the nipple censorship, I thought I would play with the algorithm and cover them with my own lips, that I duplicated and photo edited right where my nipples should be. I then, in the same way, placed my nipples as floating pieces above each of my meditating hands. This photo went viral, for the size of my account, and this resulted in a lot of people either loving it OR reporting it to Instagram as being inappropriate. The response of the platform was to delete my content without prior investigation or contact with me the artist. This made me realise how brainwashed some people are. Media, religion or whatever it is that has made them believe that the human body is not pure: IS WRONG. The simple fact that some of the most famous artistic work of humanity, such as Greek statues, are openly shown in museums, outdoor spaces, books, TV, etc. Yet still depicting fully naked bodies of all genders and ages, is a huge message against abusive censorship! When nudity is pure, it’s not forced, it’s not pernicious: it’s natural, beautiful and it’s normal because no matter what, we are all naked under our clothes. As long as the content shared isn’t pornographic, violent or criminal, it shouldn’t be treated as if it was.
As an artist that creates work in the Algorithm Era, would you say your work is inherently political as well?
I’d say it’s a mix. Some of my work is definitely trying to share messages with the hope of opening some rusty minds into a more open-minded and welcoming perspective. The algorithm on Instagram and Facebook definitely impacted us artists as well as activists and other good causes. It’s forcing us to put in way more work as not only content creators but by forcing us into marketers in order to get our art shared to people who already chose to follow us. In 2019 Instagram only shows your content to 10% of your total followers, which means that we’re constantly forced to work double or triple the amount in order to simply be able to show our work to people who are supposedly already subscribed to our art! The worst part about this system is that most users have no idea that they aren’t being shown the work of people they follow because of the algorithm. Unfortunately, it’s just another way for capitalism to control us all. On the other hand, I think the algorithm is like any business tool. If you learn how to use it and constantly adapt to keep up with its evolution, you can definitely use it to your advantage, but at a cost. Either in real money, if you can afford to advertise, or a lot of dedicated time to use organic marketing techniques. This is definitely a full-time job for a lot of millennial entrepreneurs like me. Being an artist isn’t just a hobby.
What is it like using your own body to create your art?
It’s liberating and inspiring. When you take off your clothes and start creating, it’s like “nothing can stop me now”. It’s the best way to feel 100% comfortable when I’m shooting because then I’m able to connect with myself, my movements and my body better. Of course, I still love to shoot in clothes but it has to be comfortable in that specific moment or something that I love wearing, that inspires me. I rarely wear clothes that cover my entire body anyway but you get what I mean, haha!
Where do you look for inspiration?
My emotions guide me the most, but I’m definitely influenced by my environment and by the Internet. The constant overwhelming amount of content that we all have access to affects us all. I think the key is to let it flow through me and then, later on, when I’m shooting, I let it submerge me all at once through my mood/feelings and then catch what comes out to translate into art.
Is it difficult creating in this process? How would you describe your artistic process?
I think the creation part is the best part of being an artist. I usually start when I feel in the mood, sometimes I have to put myself in the mood of course if it’s a paid commission with a deadline, but I only work on projects which I feel connected to, so inspiration is not hard to find. I set up my own mini home studio and decide on the props, styling, and makeup on the spot (most of the time). My way of creating mostly relies on freestyle and impulsive decisions! It’s the one moment anything is ok to do, nothing can go wrong and I love that. I think putting myself in this state of mind really allows creativity to flow and take over to create something that will hopefully be pleasant to look at and will connect with other people. Then there is also the filming part too. I create video content for IGTV, YouTube and exclusive content for Patreon, which involves artistic nude videos. This is an opportunity for me to catch and share the exact emotion of the look just created for the shoot. I let my body and movements speak for me and just let the camera film these little moments that I then edit into more visually artistic and very often psychedelic types of content. As it involves nudity, Patreon is the best platform for me to share this side of my art. I also shoot normal behind the scenes videos that I share on Youtube or IGTV. These are more chilled and can connect with anyone who feels like it. It can take a long time to select the best photos or bit of footage to work with. It’s a very important part, as I’m searching for a feeling or a pose which makes me feel something the most. I then start working from there. If I see something in a photo, I will most likely get inspired by its aura and start creating on top, that is when I usually add digitally painted or edited details. I play with colours, lights, shapes, body parts and see what happens.
Does net culture or the internet impact your work as a source of inspiration or merely as a presentation of the work?
Both, and I think the subconscious has a very important part to play in it as well. Being a millennial, you’re constantly immersed in the Internet, directly or indirectly, it’s always there. I think that’s beautiful because your mind is constantly fed with new things which can be sources of crazy and beautiful creations. I think our generation is blessed with The Internet. For example, for someone who didn’t get a chance to go to university, The Internet allows you to learn for free, the exact topics that are needed in whatever project you’re working on, or the knowledge that you’re interested in feeding your being with, to hopefully become the best version of yourself. Of course, The Internet also impacts the way you package your art. It becomes «content» and needs to be treated as such, especially to make a living as an artist in this day and age. So, yes it inevitably impacts both the inspiration and presentation of your work.
Do you feel like the algorithmic attitude towards gender equality and femininity is against you online? How do you navigate this?
Yes I do, but I think what happens online is just an extension of what’s being fed to the public mind IRL. Politicians, religious organisations and big businesses. They all have this common goal to make us believe their vision and adhere to it. Being a woman has always been something difficult since day one of humanity. Patriarchy isn’t over and neither is toxic masculinity. Algorithms being against gender equality is toxic as well, but it’s also a good reason for us artists to continue playing against it. The only reason things like this are here and able to control so many minds is because a majority of the people aren’t aware of their own sexuality and of their own self enough. If we continue to spread our message about these topics as artists, we may open enough minds little by little and make it change, but you are asking this to a hopeless optimist and idealist.
What are you looking forward to in the future?
More respect towards artistic fields. More awareness about the amount of time, skill, passion and dedication it takes for creators to continuously feed platforms and people with new content. A lot of people don’t know but the ones who pay the most online are creators. Big companies and platforms wouldn’t be what they are without creators and yet we’re being unfairly treated, and not paid properly for our efforts. We’re stuck in a system where consumers want free content and corporations want fast delivery of high quality yet cheap content. Imagine the horror for us creators, it’s constant competition forced on us, that impacts so much more than our rights or our work. It impacts what type of content is being shared and inevitably what type of message is being spread, and most often than not the ones that are spread aren’t the positive or educational ones which humanity needs… So as an optimist and hippie at heart, I believe that we, creators and dreamers, can continue to spread good vibes through our WiFi signals and virtual platforms and hopefully slowly open more minds to create a nicer future on the Internet.
Written By: Dev Moore