Stanislava Pinchuk (you may know her as MISO) is quite easily one of my favourite artists, creating beautiful works by data mapping war and conflict zones. She is also insanely lovely, and gave such in-depth and inspiring answers to my questions, as well as calling me an ‘Epic. Woman. Fuck yeah.’ which I will be making into a badge, thank you very much.
How are you? What have you been up to recently?
I’m well! It’s a good few weeks in the studio. I’m on a plane every other day. It’s the very end of the year and somehow things just really ramped up in a wild way. It feels like a really good place to be, lots of really diverse projects, all in the beginning stages of development. I’ve just finished a project data mapping the oil fires set by ISIS south of Mosul, on the Tigris river basin. I feel really excited about what that project will become.
What is your process when it comes to creating your art? How do you map nuclear disasters?
With my practice, there is a lot of research. There’s a lot of development before you even work on the ground, and there are a lot of logistics around that. And after, there is always a lot of research prompted by what you found, or by thoughts that experienced triggered. Sometimes you need to go back and forth, and keep resolving things. With mapping the nuclear zone bodies of work - they were both really different methods.
That’s the hardest thing with working in difficult places - you can’t really have a standard way of working or methodology you apply to places. Security is limited, time is limited, exposure is limited. So you have to be quite nimble and adaptive. In a way, I’m really glad for that - because it gave me a pretty big crash course in surveying pretty quickly. So in Fukushima, I very much had to map the land and the fresh layers of new earth topography that were created in removing the radioactive topsoil. I had a little more time, that that worked really well for me. And with Chernobyl, which is a much earlier nuclear disaster, I was able to map how different ground retains radioactivity with geigometers and plots. There, I only had 30 minutes at Reactor 4, and strictly no recording or photography - so I really had to work with what I had, and it turned into a really incredible data set. And that was partly from research, and partly a hunch and being really aware of your surroundings and what you’re looking at.
Your work focuses around places that you call home, no matter the dangers within them. What does the concept of home mean to you?
It’s a funny one for me. I don’t think I have a strong concept of home, in the way of most people. I didn’t grow up in one place, and I travel pretty permanently. I have two passports, and I’m not ethnically really a part of either country. I’m actually pretty grateful for this - so I feel really home everywhere. I like that a lot. So mostly and very strongly, I feel that my body is my home. And my chosen family, creative family - in whatever city, that is my home. I’m lucky to have deep friendships in a lot of places as I move.
Why did you decide to set tattoo solely around trade with friends?
I find tattooing a really intimate thing. There’s a lot of trust, and I give it so much of myself. So it’s not something I felt, from the start, ten years ago - that I could put a financial amount on. And it never felt like something I could provide for strangers, or people I didn’t know. And it still doesn’t.
Who was the most interesting person you’ve tattooed?
Every tattoo and every friend is interesting to me. I think it would be a huge disrespect to tattoo something I wasn’t excited about, on someone forever. So I really only agree to do things, if I feel genuinely inspired and enthusiastic to do it and do a good job.
Describe your workspace…
I’m on the move pretty permanently. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere more than two weeks for about ten years. You’ve got to be pretty nimble when you live and work like that! So some days it might be a sculpture studio, some days its my publisher’s place in Paris, some days it’s the public library in New York, sometimes a hotel room or an airplane, some days a photo studio… and some days it’s my actual studio. Where I can, a clean desk and natural light is a bonus! Right now, and for the rest of the day, it’s a beach in Sydney.
What is the hardest thing you have had to overcome as an artist? What’s the best thing that has come out of being an artist?
Some of the hardest things that have happened to me, have fed me tremendously as an artist.
And some others - surviving them was enough, and I would never let them have the victory of appearing in my practice. In overcoming, building support networks can be a really difficult thing. Finding the right people and collaborators you can trust, or producers or galleries that can adequately support the work. It takes a huge amount of capacity to have a sustainable art practice, and an expansive art practice - and finding the logistical ways to make it real, and people who work as hard as you do, has been - and still is - a really big one for me. And I think it will be a challenge for the rest of my life, because the work should always keep moving and needing different things.
The best thing as an artist, is that it’s a practice and way of living that lets you expand on every curiosity and every part of yourself. The ability to shape your job by braiding everything you are interested in and creating your own world, and being rewarded for it. And truly, I think one of the best things about being an artist - is that we really see the highs and lows of the world. I think we are really welcomed in, and invited in by people, to see a really huge strata of the world and ways of living. I would never give that up in my life. And I don’t think many other jobs give you that experience so deeply.
If you could, what would you tell your younger self?
To worry a little less. That if you make things you really, really feel - and really smart work, that other people feel that, and want to be a part of it. If the work is strong, the rest falls into place.
When I was younger, I didn’t believe this so much, when older artists said that to me. I thought it was just an older generation that had it easier. But now, I really see it.