SHIT SHOW

WRITTEN BY
Ashley Simpson

ARTWORK

L'enfant and Janina Sais

A flame-faced clown inside a pastel park with a balloon covered in sun-kissed locks reading “CRY”; a shaved head transformed into a grinning statement, dyed acid green with a smiley. These are just a few of the pieces (characters, really) in l’enfant and Janina Zais’ ongoing collaboration and upcoming exhibition, Shit Show. The two artists, born in Portugal and Germany respectively, found each other after appearing in an issue of Purple. L’enfant happened to be moving to Berlin, where Zais is based, the very next month.

“We met and we just had a discussion about what we can do. The vibe was there and we had so many nice ideas, so we started working,” said Zais. They started to build off their own respective practices. Zais is known for her bold hair art (think shaved heads transformed into fluorescent flames, pastel cloud heads, and my favourite, which is business in the front but reads “LIES” in neon green lettering in the back). L’enfant combines many mediums. His practice has no traditional rules but is more like self- created utopia, a way of speaking and experimenting through anti-fashion styling, colourful painting, public art and photography. Now, they are creating a whole world together. “It’s ongoing,” mused l’enfant. “Every week there is a new project. That’s the rhythm. Sometimes, I’m texting her, ‘I need to do styling, right now!’ That’s how creativity happens. You can’t copulate creativity, you can’t force it.

 

IT’S REALLY COOL TO MEET YOU GUYS. ARE YOU IN NEUKÖLLN?

L’ENFANT: Yes, we’re at my place. We’re going to transform it into the gallery.

 

MAYBE FIRST CAN WE TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU CAME TOGETHER AND STARTED WORKING TOGETHER?

L We were both in Purple magazine, and that’s how we found each other. Then we started to follow and message each other.

JANINA I thought you were in London?

L I was in London, but then because of Brexit and corona I had to leave and now I’m in Berlin.

J Actually, it was super funny because he was like, I’m coming to Berlin! And I was like, what? And a month later he was in Berlin and I was like, great! [laughing]

 

SOMETIMES THINGS ARE JUST MEANT TO BE. WHAT KINDS OF IDEAS HAVE YOU BEEN EXPLORING TOGETHER SO FAR?

L We both share the same vision when it comes to not taking things too seriously and sometimes just creating work that is a bit funny as well. Taking the piss let’s say. We just want to have fun. She’s very colourful. I’m very colourful. It’s very genuine…

J [to l’enfant] You’re anti-fashion. And this is the same aesthetic. I got a request from a gallery in Hamburg and they asked me to do an exhibition, so we were like, of course, we do it together.

L The Shit Show was born. Reflecting 2020.

J It’s like a huge show, also with clowns.

L We have in mind what comes with the show is the circus, so we have a lot of clown images, clown makeup, and clown styling. And we want to showcase just the humorous side of the world, reflecting what we all went through.

J It’s kind of political, but with a lot of humour and sarcasm.

 

 

WE KIND OF NEED TO BE ABLE TO LAUGH AT IT OTHERWISE IT’S JUST TOO MUCH.

L Yeah, we don’t want to take it too seriously. I think everyone was in serious mode for one year. I think people need to laugh now.

 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU WORK OFF OF EACH OTHER?

L So, Janina is doing the makeup and I do the styling and photography.

J And also we create outfits together.

L It’s a nice workflow. I trust her, she trusts me. There’s nothing worse than if you work with someone and you can’t rely on that person. So, if I take a photo, she knows that we’re reaching the aesthetic that we’re aiming for. There’s just yes or no. There is no ego. We’re mainly using clowns and the imagery of something ridiculous, something that is making fun of something.

 

THE ABSURD.

L It’s like Disneyland, but twisted. A lot of cute elements but with knives.

J A friend of mine is a musician, more of a performance artist, Tanjya. She is perfect for this show. The idea is that she’s performing at our exhibition the whole evening. Makeup as a clown. The real picture.

L So, it’s going beyond you going to a gallery space where you have four paintings in one room. We want to liberate ourselves from that. And that’s why I created this gallery, as well. It shouldn’t be about that boring experience. I think we’re kind of over that time now. Imagine you get invited to a gallery, you travel the whole way there, you dress up, you get there and see two or three paintings.

J It’s more like a meet and greet.

L You need an experience. So, we have a performer. We have installations.

J Also sound.

CAN YOU BOTH TALK ABOUT YOUR VISION AND POINT OF VIEW IN YOUR WORK? AND HOW YOU CAME TO BE WHERE YOU ARE NOW?

L When I started creating what I’m doing, I realized very quickly that I don’t want to limit myself because in certain aesthetics you have to always follow certain rules. Some people are a bit grungy, some people are more happy. It’s kind of boring because sometimes we’re naturally happy, sometimes we’re in a bad mood. That’s natural, you know? So, I reflect that in my work, and I create by using my emotions. Tomorrow I’m sad or I’m in a good mood, whatever. I create every day out of my emotions. So that’s why I created the persona that I am right now, in order just to be who I am and not to follow any system or rule.

YES, THERE’S NO REASON TO BE LIMITED OTHER THAN BY THESE OTHER CONSTRUCTS.

L A lot of artists limit themselves. I know so many artists who are super successful but they are extremely depressed within themselves because now they have the fans and the gallery and everyone who is relying on them and they can’t change their style anymore. By themselves, they get bored, as well, by doing the same stuff every day. I was like, let me just end that and create what I want.

 

THAT’S REALLY COOL. AND WHAT ABOUT YOU?

J Actually, I’ve been a hair and make-up artist for 13 years now. That sounds so crazy. My father is also a painter and I always painted my whole life. I saw myself more as an artist than a hair and makeup artist. It felt weird when someone asked me, oh, what are you doing? And I’m like, hair and makeup. This is not what I wanted to do at all. I don’t see myself [as] a basic hair and makeup artist. So, I started [with] my canvas as the head but I also do paintings. The Shit Show is actually a dream come true because I always wanted to do more as an artist.

YOU BOTH LOVE A LOT OF COLOURS.

L I get inspired so much by colours. For me, it’s more because of the painting world. The colours are always dominant in our work. That’s who we are as well. We are very alive. We are more about the happiness in life but also aware of the shit that is going on. But we try with our aesthetics to translate that within our vision—it is colourful but also a bit dark.

J And also a little bit childish. Your paintings are as well. It’s always like a princess or a unicorn.

L You know, just being kids who take the pen and draw randomly on someone. And it’s also colourful. It’s random.

J I’m still working on paintings, also with clowns and using an airbrush. It’s childish. I love it. I’m really happy to show my work as well because everybody knows me as a hair artist.

WELL, I REALLY LIKE THE OPTIMISM OF YOUR WORK. EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE THE DARKNESS. IT’S LOOKING AT POSSIBILITIES AND THERE IS HUMOUR AND SOME ABSURDITY.

J We have the chance to create something bigger and to show people our point of view. It’s weird times but it’s super interesting right now. We try our best to create our own artist’s world.

L Creating a new generation of artists.

J There are so many amazing young artists and they are never seen. So, we use our social media to create a community of new artists.

L Especially the last years [have] been too much focused on commercial, on selling. I feel like when Alexander McQueen died the whole world just turned commercial. I love observing it because I come from fashion as well. Especially now, after this shit show, this entire year, we should relieve ourselves from this and just pay attention to creativity. That’s what we’re aiming for. We’re really trying in our deepest heart just to create the stuff that we like and not just what the people are copying from each other. It’s like a copy of a copy. Everyone has enough of it. They still get support. You still see them. It just means there’s not enough of the opposite. So, it’s good that there’s a new wave coming because we need that now.

YOU CAN FEEL IT THOUGH, IN YOUR WORK. IT FEELS POSITIVE EVEN IF THERE’S A LITTLE BIT OF DARKNESS OR SOME HINTS OR REFERENCES.

L We’re not evil-minded. Even if it’s a bit grungy, like you see a teddy bear with a knife and glove. There’s no evilness behind it. No one has a good day every day. There is always bad and evil.

J We also want to change the view: The world right now is so evil. Psychopaths are ruling the world, so we can show or say evilness. But we want to twist it. We want to show that there are kindhearted people. I mean, like us [laughing]. We’re not evil.

L We have people who take us too seriously. They think we’re Satanists. If you take it seriously… I’m sorry.

IT’S SO ABSURD. BUT THERE ARE SO MANY PEOPLE WHO ARE SO QUICK TO JUDGE WHEN SOMETHING FEELS A LITTLE DIFFERENT TO THEM WHEN THEY COULD JUST BE ENGAGING WITH IT IN SO MUCH MORE INTERESTING WAYS. THE OTHER DAY MY FRIEND AND I WENT TO THE SHOP IN A LONG BRIGHT RED LEATHER COAT WITH TIGER STRIPES AND I WORE A BIG PURPLE FAUX LEOPARD COAT. PEOPLE WERE STARING FROM ACROSS THE STREET AND WE WERE HAVING THE BEST TIME. YOU NEED TO [PLAY WITH THAT DYNAMIC] SOMETIMES.

L We need to change that in the same way that people need to accept skin colour, sexuality, and gender. What we do is a part of that too. One of the most important things I have noticed is it’s too sensitive. People are taking art too seriously. If you limit art, you castrate art. It’s one of the things that we try to voice. We live in 2020, we know what art is. We are going in the wrong direction, and we have to represent that; we have to say that. Otherwise, you kill creativity.Even if it’s fashion or art. It is an escape for us. If someone says ‘Oh you can’t do that’, it loses its purpose. You just want to be yourself at the end of the day.