Artists on Coping: Iris Häussler

During the Coronavirus pandemic, Art Spiel is reaching out to artists to learn how they are coping.

Iris Häussler. Studio-shot by Brian Lynn, 2018

Iris Häussler studied conceptual art and sculpture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, Germany, and lives and works in Toronto, Canada. She is known internationally for her unsettling, immersive installations that she creates around her fictitious characters and constructs them in situ in collaboration with museums, art institutions and galleries. Recent projects & exhibitions include: Apartment 5 at Platform, Armory Show (2019), New York USA; Apartment 4. John Michael Kohler Arts Center & Chipstone Foundation, Wisconsin, USA, (2018/19); The Sophie La Rosière Project @: PSM Gallery Berlin (2019), Daniel Faria Gallery (2017), Scrap Metal Gallery (2016), Art Gallery of York University (2016), Toronto, Canada; He Dreamed Overtime in the 18th Sydney Biennale in Australia (2012). Awards include the Karl-Hofer Prize (Berlin), the Kunstfonds Fellowship (Bonn) and the Canada Council for the Arts. Häussler is represented by: Daniel Faria Gallery & PSM Gallery

AS: How are you coping?

IH: In the midst of this crisis I feel like “the world is arriving in my world”. Sounds crazy? And why so? Well, strangely, it feels as if my fictitious characters tap on my shoulder and remind me that each of them was conceptualized for being a survivalist, leading a solitary life… And now “they ask me to walk the talk”. And beyond me… they even ask this of the world. .

My site-specific installations are now mirrored by our reality as my fictitious figures lived mostly in self-isolation. But they were highly creative. Imagine someone who lacks the language to tell his/her story, but then: creates a visual language to tell that tale. Some of them went very far, creating a “parallel world” in their four walls in order to generate a sense of belonging.

So yes, I do well. I feel good. I feel very privileged that this happens while my children are grown and I have fewer responsibilities than decades ago. I allow myself to look back, to reflect on my work and life. What a gift to have time for that. I also explore the physical self-isolation as a way to connect differently with my space, the architecture I live in, my physicality – my body, in self contact rather than in connection with others. Some of such new experiments I post as mini-videos on my Instagram. I use social media now for showing snippets of my work. Let me say with my tongue in my cheek: when I lose human touch, and even when I lose my mind, I notice one thing does not leave me and I don’t lose it: creativity. It’s available and unpredictable. What a blessing!

When your legs search for foreign ground. Video still, 2020.

AS: Have you had a show or other creative opportunities canceled?

IH: Yes. My project Unwashed that I initiated and curated with two schools – one in Germany, one in Canada, is frozen in time. Meaning one part of it that had been mounted into an exhibition in Bayreuth, Germany, is closed. The second part is on hold. And my solo show Prototypes for Dirty Laundry at Gallery Stratford, Ontario, also stays installed but closed till further notice.

Prototypes for Dirty Laundry. Gallery Stratford. 2020

AS: Has your routine changed?

IH: Yes, of course, like for almost all of us. The outer rhythm lost most of its power, my inner rhythms breathe stronger.

AS: Can you describe some of your feelings about all this?

IH: Conflicting feelings are at work: Immense worries, sadness and feeling of failing the most vulnerable people globally during this pandemic. Pain and empathy towards people who have no voice and can just try to outwait this time and then try go back to their low paid jobs that enslave them.

But then, more personally and palpably: no anxiety, no pressure, more hope for the next generations to create references for a more meaningful, less consumerist world ahead.

Work-in-progress. Studio Toronto, 2019

AS: What matters most right now?

IH: “What matters?” are two words written on my blackboard here too. To find a way to translate the positive effects of this global crisis into building a better world? A big project, yes, but small steps can initiate a start that now feels closer than ever: like less air-travel, less consumerism, supporting local food production and craftsmanship, thereby humanizing politics, economics and education.

It’s crazy, I look at personal decisions I undertook last year: like, I had decided to fly less, and so I turned an invitation to speak at the event-series “Art Now” at the University of Lethbridge into an online talk via Skype. I turned an invitation for a show for the City Hall of Bayreuth into a localized, collaborative, student-orientated, low carbon project. Little did I know that just six weeks later almost everybody would turn their speaking events into online presentations. And no one would fly around for attending conferences, giving talks and mounting exhibitions for an undefined period of time.

Apartment 5 at Platform, Armory Show (2019), New York USA, presented by Daniel Faria Gallery, Toronto

AS: Any thoughts about the road ahead?

IH: Globally, I hope for the disappearance of colonization, for healing and more collaborations. For me personally, I feel that my work is changing intrinsically. But as always, I am not the master of the developments in my work. There is no blueprint that I follow. What I can share is that I am more and more interested in team-work, mentoring and sharing. The beauty is in surprises, failures, unpredictabilities. In change.

Studio Toronto, January 2020.

Etty Yaniv works on her art, art writing and curatorial projects in Brooklyn. She founded Art Spiel as a platform for highlighting the work of contemporary artists, including art reviews, studio visits, interviews with artists, curators, and gallerists. For more details contact by Email: