In conversation with Lioh Moeller
Lioh's art often addresses political and social issues, challenging the government's authority and human justice.
Her work is known for its uncompromising honesty and directness, constantly exposing uncomfortable truths many prefer to ignore.
We will be discussing the impact of her work on our society.
Lioh - Hi Del, thanks for having me today.
Del - I know your work can open hidden feelings in the audience, which can sometimes cause misunderstandings.
Please tell us a little bit about one situation in which you felt the most misunderstood.
Lioh - There have been several situations where I felt a little bit misunderstood because my work is generally relatively strong, so this is meant to cause some misunderstanding and often also frustration because it triggers hidden feelings in the audience.
And there have been several situations.
For example, I have built a large installation in the Kunsthaus of Zuerich called Rescue Boat for Dead People. It was about three meters high and consisted of old materials like reels and wood pieces. I combined it all together into a large-scale structure that can be seen as a boat.
This piece somehow reflected the situation in the Mediterranean Sea, where people were dying every day trying to find a better life in Europe or the rest of the world.
And the reactions to this were quite mixed, so some people felt shocked or confused. They could not even really handle it. And some feedback I have also received from other artists was, "hey, how can you do things like this?" "This is too strong; this is too hard."
But this kind of work is important because it clearly shows what kind of world we live in, and sometimes we try to avoid this.
We are trying not to see the situation which surrounds us and the difficulties we face every day.
Del - It is interesting how every person can react differently depending on their life experiences. Please tell us another situation that you remember.
Lioh - Yes, actually, there have been several situations like this.
Another project I have been working on was also in the area of the Kunsthaus in Zurich.
And this was a Sujet of a North Korean soldier.
I glued several pieces of paper together and mixed the glue with my blood, which I have brought out on the so-called, in Germany, we say Bautzaun, so that is the coverage area of the building site.
This work shows a typical North Korean government propaganda that wants to motivate the people to participate in the war and be proud of their dictatorship country. So the near you were coming to the work of art, the more you could see the suffering in the face of the soldier.
I did everything possible to showcase my work by requesting permission from the administration of the Kunsthaus to display it there. They agreed to it, but it lasted only four hours before they had to take it down. This reaction showed me how people perceive things. Many didn't understand my message. Later, I posted the same picture on social media and received similar negative feedback from followers, accusing me of creating war propaganda. Although this subject can be used in war propaganda, as an artist, my intention was to shed light on the suffering caused by war and the false interpretations created by propaganda, which is prevalent not only in North Korea but also in the US and Europe.
Del - I see you are very involved and connected with street art.
Lioh - Yes, my roots rely on street art, and I actually started doing street art when I was 13 years old, more or less. However, I eventually found it too destructive and began looking for new ways to display my work. It was during this period that new technology emerged, such as the first computers. I obtained my first computer, a Commodore 64, and attempted to blend elements of street art with this new technology.
My following works were mainly based on these classical elements of street art but mostly done on paper and combined with new features like ASCII and ANSI art. You can still find some of these pieces also today.
I still use elements of these old technologies in my current works, where I, for example, put a classical drawing or picture and overlay it with ASCII elements or ANSI elements.
Del - What was your first contact with art in general?
Lioh - My first contact with art was through my second-grade art teacher.
She was an amazing teacher. She taught me about various techniques and materials, such as paper and paper cuttings, and how to combine them with foil and transparent elements to create 3D objects. For instance, we built bridges by gluing these elements together, and you can still find these techniques reflected in my work today.
Del - So did you feel connected to art at a very young age?
Lioh - Yes, that's for sure.
Del - Fairness and inclusion come to mind when I think about your work.
Do you feel any connection to these values?
Lioh - Yes, for sure. Fairness and inclusion are my most important values.
I recently did a project in my hometown
about a local tree standing in the middle of a town.
This tree had to be taken down because it was sick; it was such a sad situation because it was always giving pleasure to the community, acting as a meeting point, and giving us shadows on the hot summer days.
I was very sad, so I decided to do something about it.
I started an art competition where the people from the town could participate.
The idea was that they should bring and create works of art to remember their feelings about this tree. This idea brought many people together, even dough not everybody wanted to participate. Some people said, "I don't have time," "I don't have time to do art," or "I have other things to do." I find it sad because there should always be time for art.
But, of course, other people took part, which brought the community even closer, and now we have a new tree, which is also the same type of tree we had before.
And it's so nice to see these values being passed down to the next generations.
Del -I am very excited about the current work that you are working on.
It's a future project that is called "Enjoy Your Bath."
Do you already have a date?
Lioh - No, there is no date yet.
But I it should come soon as it's related to the situation in Ukraine and the war and the attack of Russia against Europe and the Ukrainian people.
My aim with this work is to find a new way to bring people from Russia, Ukraine, and the world together. Despite the actions of a guy who believes war is necessary, most people share common interests such as music, movies, and other aspects of culture. Through my work, I want to remind everyone of our shared humanity and encourage them to focus on what unites us rather than divides us.
With this work, I want to invite everybody to return to their base ground feeling that we all have inside us and remember that we are all humans and should not fight each other.
Del - How would you like art to evolve in the future?
Lioh, I can only tell you how my art is currently evolving. I wish to find new ways to express myself rather than solely creating works that feel like a punch in the face. While these works have shocked people, it's becoming increasingly difficult to stand out this way.
I'm interested in creating more subtle works that require the viewer to think and interpret meaning multiple times. I'm also exploring works that inspire a range of emotions, including feelings of hope, motivation, gratitude, and honor, rather than solely evoking negative emotions.
I'm currently working with these emotions and themes, which can be seen in my artwork, for example, in the work "Blick in die Ferne" which is a calming and motivating piece, especially in difficult times. When you're in a difficult situation and look at this piece, the light shining on it and changing its colors is just wonderful. It gives you a view of the future and makes you feel like there is hope and a brighter future ahead. Also, it carries the feeling of adventurousness, making you want to go there.
This work, in particular, can help you during a challenging situation. However, while still having some intensity, my other works carry more profound emotions. They also evoke feelings of connection with oneself, one's country, and being proud of where you live or grew up, the people around you, and so on.
Del - yes, your work carries so many deep emotions...
Lioh - yeah that's definitely true, but you have to put also a little bit of effort; you cannot just drive by and think, "oh, what is this horrible thing" you have to give your time and also allow your emotions to come up
Del - yes, exactly.
I know that last year in 2022, you gained new interest in architecture.
Please tell us a little bit about it.
Lioh - I started studying architectural theory because I was interested in understanding how architecture develops and influences our daily lives. I wanted to learn more about the kind of feelings that architecture can evoke. Over time, I've gained a lot of knowledge and found new and exciting perspectives that I've incorporated into my artwork. For example, my piece "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Joy" both contain architectural elements.
On Instagram, I've also started a continuous series of pictures called "Bad Pictures of Architecture." In this art project, I take pictures of interesting and prominent (or sometimes not so prominent) pieces of architecture and post them under the hashtag #badpicturesofarchitecture. It's so much fun to explore architecture in this way and to see how people still enjoy living in houses built by prominent architects like Le Corbusier, even after 70 or 100 years.
Le Corbusier has built the foundation of what we know now as postmodernism and the industrial style which surrounds us every day.
Del - How do you see art and architecture coming together?
Lioh - Architecture is, in the end, a form of art, and this is why I often mention Le Corbusier, who was not only a great architect but also a talented painter and artist. He serves as an inspiring role model to me. Art and architecture can come together in various ways, such as when a piece of architecture is a work of art in itself. Art can also be combined with architecture, as seen in the large paintings or mosaics on platten bau buildings in East Germany or the Soviet Union, which bring new life to otherwise unattractive architecture. I am interested in creating toys and developing playgrounds where people can interact with the works, and it is very satisfying when people can engage with my art in this way.
Del - A playground could be one way to interact and include the audience. Are there other ways to include even more people in it?
Lioh - That's a really good question. Actually, I'm currently working on a project that aims to include people with seen disabilities. If you cannot see or are completely blind, you have limited ways to interact with art. You can only rely on descriptions if they are available, or you can hear audio transcriptions and things like that. My idea is to make the art also tactile or olfactory so that people with these disabilities can perceive my work in different ways. What I want to achieve with this work is to make it accessible to everyone, regardless of their physical abilities.
Del - I am really looking forward to this project and I'm very sure that people with this disability would love to live this experience.
Lioh - thank you very much.
Del - would you like to share some personal goals Lioh?
Lioh - Yes, of course, I can do so.
I have been living in pandemic times with my partner in the south of France, and we have really enjoyed it. Currently, we are back in Switzerland, which we see as our home base. However, this experience has brought up the idea of developing a more sustainable second home a little more in the south, in Côte d'Azur, and I am really looking forward to it.
Del - it sounds great, and it was a pleasure to have you here today.
Lioh - Thank you very much for the nice invitation.
Del - Thank you, Lioh.