Raven Ravishing, 2020
Introducing Florencia Prats aka Bicéfala, Berlin Collagist
/DRI:M/ARTZ: You are a Berlin-based artist originally from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Both are edgy cities renowned for their arts and cultural scenes, including graffiti and street art. As much as I love Berlin, the temperate climate of Buenos Aires appeals more to me. If you had to help me choose between the two, which city would you recommend and why?
Florencia Prats aka Bicéfala: Difficult to say right off the bat, I guess it really depends on what you're looking for as both offer different things. On the one hand, Berlin in the summer is really one-of-a-kind. Once the temperature rises and the days become sunnier and longer, everyone will come out of their caves, hoards of young tourists will get to the city (well, in non-pandemic times, of course) and the parks, lakes, and party districts become something of a big long festival. I'm not much of a "people person" but it's remarkable because it's such a huge contrast. Subsequently, winter will come again and, like the Pied Piper of Hamelin, it will lead the children out of the city. Buenos Aires, on the other hand, definitely has sunlight and warmth, to a certain degree, almost all year round (it does get quite chilly in the wintertime though!). I must say it—Buenos Aires has prettier architecture and a natural, romantic charm and authenticity that I miss a lot. Berlin is grey and grittier, more industrial, with remnants of a terrifying history. Both are interesting in their own right! While it could very well be said that Buenos Aires is one of the most cosmopolitan cities of its region, it is also not the European rave-hub that Berlin is. At the end of the day, Berlin is a rich European city and Buenos Aires is still a Latin American capital with all the sociopolitical and economic differences that this entails.
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What's Inside a Girl?, 2020 / Opium Dreams, 2020 / A Spell was Cast, 2021
DA: You are an entrepreneur and have worked on a variety of different projects. Did you have an artistic background growing up? How much of it is what you’ve been taught? What have you learned on your own and what tools have guided you?
FP: There are artists in my family, but it wasn't something that was directly encouraged on a personal level. I was, however, a dreamy and imaginative child and I guess it was only a matter of time until I would finally become actively interested in different artistic disciplines, which started happening during my teenage years. I am mostly self-taught in virtually everything I do artistically and, unfortunately, I've never partaken in a course or workshop related to collage or the visual arts in general. My formal education is actually in Translation Studies and Language Teacher Training, a different thing altogether! As to the tools that have guided me, it is mostly inspiration drawn by fellow artists and friends, and it guides me still, every day. In my opinion, if you surround yourself and actively consume what you're interested in and what inspires you, reaction and feedback happen naturally.
DA: I love your zine and journaling projects. The delicious materials you use made me a wee bit envious. I don’t have access to a variety of paper media, especially the titillating kind. Pornography is strictly forbidden in Saudi Arabia and it’s a throw away culture so I haven’t found a place to source paper cuts. You have a shop called Kabinett that sells original antique and vintage prints. Where do you find your materials both for the shop and for your own collage work?
FP: Lots of rummaging! Both physically and online. Platforms such as eBay can be a gold mine, especially if you're looking for something specific. But, to me, there's nothing like browsing through piles of old books and magazines at flea markets and second-hand shops, I miss that! Almost all of the materials I use for my art are vintage—it's my signature, in a way. And then there's Kabinett, which is my own project and store where I mostly sell antique prints. These prints stem mainly from 19th-century German encyclopedias that have been lying in people's cupboards and basements for many decades, falling to pieces and into oblivion. Open one of them and you will come across these mesmerising colour lithographic prints full of life and beauty, original pieces of a fascinating natural history right there. So I made a point of repurposing these otherwise forgotten prints as wall art. They are way too old and precious to be snipping and cutting for collage projects.
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Top Panel - Séances, 2020 / A Haunting Unavailability, 2018 / Bicéfala, 2020
Bottom Panel - Medusa, 2019 / Forget-Me-Nots, 2020 / Truth, 2019
DA: On the topic of journaling, I see that you participated in The Sketchbook Project out of Brooklyn, NY. It’s an inspiring endeavor. I remember when the project first came out and I can’t believe they have housed over 50K sketchbooks to date. Tell us a little bit about your participation in the project.
FP: I was as surprised as you. My love for art journals and sketchbooks is infinite and I was thrilled to find that there was a library particularly dedicated to it and housing thousands of them so I pretty much didn't give it a second thought and I registered. Soon thereafter, I got a blank sketchbook in the mail—everyone gets the same one. Once I filled it out, I digitized it myself and sent them the original hard copy. They notify you of views and favourites. As disappointing as it may sound, mine has apparently zero views still! Oh well! At least, it felt good to fill out a sketchbook with a particular and more collective project in mind, which was not really something I had done before. It was a great exercise.
DA: Analogue, digital, mixed media, graphic arts, screen printing—you do it all! Could you tell us your approach to collage making? What’s your studio space like and how do you organize your materials? I really must get into the studio and make sense of the mess. I’ve been procrastinating—need to motivate and create a system of organization so that I spend less time rifling through the piles of magazines and more time creating!
FP: This is somehow challenging—I do not have a studio. It's something that I've been needing for a while now, but it still hasn't become a reality. I live in a small apartment, my studio is my desk and my desk is in my bedroom, next to my bed. Organization and order are a bit crucial to me in order to be productive. My desk is almost like an extension of my mind in this sense, and the bed next to it needs to be made as well for me to be productive and creative. That being said, I do the best that I can with the space that I have, which involves quite a few shelves and boxes and I have my own logic as to how I organize them so that, as you say, I can make sense of the mess. For snippets and pieces of paper that are already cut out (and of which I have a lot), I use folders with punched pockets and each pocket has a theme.
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Bicéfala's Workspace & Materials
DA: Your first Instagram post is a analogue film self-portrait that you have burned so it has a distorted, melted effect. What role does photography play in your life and how does it inform your collage work?
FP: I'm not sure how much of a role it has in my collage art per se but it definitely had a big role in my life in general. It used to be one of my main artistic endeavours at one point, although I was anything but technical and was doing all sorts of weird experiments. I mostly did, and still do, analogue photography. My mom used to be a photographer so, one day, I grabbed a semi-pro Canon AE1 she had lying around. She taught me how to use it and off I went. In my view, photography is the visual translation of how I interact, through a lens, with beauty, with people, with everything that catches my eye. Through collage, I create new universes that weren't there, to begin with.
DA: Your first collage post was a manipulated vintage postcard featuring a kitty with embroidered eyes and donning a stitched pentagram. Was this your first foray into the world of collage?
FP: It's strange. Even though it definitely wasn't my first foray into the world of collage, I wasn't thinking of it as collage art. You see, I've kept journals for years that would sway between scrapbooking, collage, mixed media art and text, I like to call them my "proto-collage art" because that's kind of what it was. It was all playing and experimenting and it wasn't supposed to be displayed to the world. It wasn't until the end of 2017 that I began getting into collage as a technique and an art in itself and taking it more seriously.
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Top Panel - Zine Centerfold, 2020 / Journal Page: Untitled, 2020
Middle Panel - Journal Pages: That Dread, 2019 / Untitled, 2019 / Baby Strange, 2019
Bottom Panel - Pages for the Sketchbook Project, 2019
DA: I’m really drawn to your collage, "Fleeting". I love your use of text with the images—aesthetically, it’s right on. But, it's also up for a more intellectual interpretation. It got me thinking about life, sexuality, and how women are labeled as mysterious. It’s such a strong image! Would you indulge your fans and provide some contextual framing behind why you titled this work, "Fleeting"?
FP: I like to think that it's open to interpretation, you know, whatever this tells you, it will be valid but, at the same time, you're spot on with your conjectures about female sexuality and mystique. I personally relate this piece to a glimpse of intimate femininity and eroticism, something as fleeting as the shooting star right next to it— entrancing and chaotic. Almost as if we shouldn't be looking at it.
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Whatever Lies in Between, 2020 / Herzschlag, 2020 / Fleeting, 2020
DA: On that note, is there an overarching message you are trying to convey to your viewers? What themes do you find yourself coming back to the most?
FP: My collage art mostly portraits women, elements of nature and the occult, and, at other times, just abstraction and surrealism. But I like to think that it all has a dreamscape-like sensitivity where symbols and archetypes come to life, like visual poems. I'm scratching the surface and exposing what lies within, even the darker and freakier stuff, that I usually mix with subtlety and purity.
DA: 2020 was a crazy year. Some creators found themselves in a black hole of stasis while others said it was their most productive year. How did you fare through all of it? How has creativity helped you during this time?
FP: 2020 was a pure transformation in almost every aspect of my life—both on an individual and collective level. My creativity felt quite renewed and I had bursts of creative force mixed with periods of radio silence, anxiety, and uncertainty. It came in waves and cycles. I scan and digitize all of my creations and then separate them in folders by "month + year" so my point becomes pretty evident when you take a look at those folders—some months were very productive, some just have a few scattered creations that maybe I didn't even like that much. All in all, I really enjoyed seeing what happened to my art last year. It's been a hell of a ride.
Virgen de la Magnolia Esconde Una Serpiente Bajo el Manto, 2020
DA: Staple question of mine! What’s on your playlist these days? Give me your top pick to share with your fans. What film has inspired your artistic vision?
FP: Ready for a long answer? I listen to music a lot and to lots of different styles to the point that I actually create playlists that I make public for all my friends to listen to. The last playlist I created is called "Soft Grooves" and has a soft, poppy, psychedelic feel, featuring mostly 70s tunes, psychedelic soul and neo-psychedelia acts. It fits with the coming of spring here. I have recently discovered the Alessi Brothers, a twin duo act from the 70s, and I'm obsessed with their song "Seabird". I also listen to a lot of old world music and fell in love with Rupa, from India, and her Disco Jazz album, especially her song "Aaj Shanibar". Additionally, I have recently reconnected with legendary Argentinian singer, actor (and sex-symbol) Sandro de América who was sort of our Elvis, you could say. Lastly, I'd like to mention the Greek Lena Platonos and her dark 80's electronic sound which is great to work to. In regards to movies, I have drawn lots of aesthetic inspiration from old horror movies, such as those from Dario Argento, Mario Bava, basically the whole giallo genre, with its supernatural mystery and erotic thrillers, and the Hammer Film Production gothic horror movies from the 1960s and 1970s. I'm also a David Lynch fan and his dark Surrealism has definitely influenced me more than I can probably think of.
DA: Last question! Do you have any big projects in the works that you would like to share with us? What can your fans look forward to in 2021 and beyond?
FP: No big projects in the works, unfortunately, but, on a very personal note, I enrolled in quite a serious two-year professional training as a graphic designer starting in March, which will require my full attention. I can't help but wonder what this will do to my art! Maybe I'll be experimenting with digital tools more? We'll see.
Website | Florencia Prats
Instagram | bicefala_
Instagram Shop | kabin.ett
Etsy | Kabinett