INTERVIEW WITH ALIX VERNET
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA
par EVÀNGELINA ROSE
Earlier today, I scurried across the boulevards of Los Angeles and found myself standing in front of The Beverly Hills hotel. I was in complete and utter awe. This pink oasis or pink jewel is an elegy to Old Hollywood. Almost like a mosaic of yesterday’s memories. As I raised my hand in slow motion to fish out my camera (and cue the first few portentous bars of Carmina Burana), the security guard alerted me that such act was strictly prohibited “due to celebrities coming in and out of the hotel.”
And that’s when it hit me: there’s something thrilling – if not subversive – with the idea of violating this level of perfection. Try this scenario on for size: Two young girls taking a full-on siege of this iconic monument by staging a guerrilla photo-shoot and interview. Cinematic? It got more so. Of course they say that you have to go through a lot of pearls to find the one that’s toothy. After scouring the depths of the Internet, I found her.
It is now 4 o’clock in the afternoon. I perch on the edge of a large pink sofa, plug my phone to charge and wait for her. This carefully curated world of The Beverly Hills hotel is exactly as you would imagine: a sprawling, high-ceilinged space with vast hallways and marble accents. Even the polished and perfectly rounded Granny smith apples, piled in a pyramid on a silver tray, are so super-green they look photo-enhanced. It seems that here they favour the concept of hyperbole, yet the state of bonhomie is minimal.
But when a slight, brown-haired creature in a red velvet dress skims through the room and slides onto the couch beside me, the room instantly radiates luminosity. Alix Vernet, who is a 19-year-old artist at UCLA, is every inch the silver screen manqué. From the way she moves to the way she talks, she is so je m’en fous.
Artistically, she finds herself at a dichotomy. “I am not sure if I am going where the film path or the video art path but I don’t think the distinction necessarily matters. But I don’t think the distinction necessarily matters”, she tells me. If you close your eyes and listen she sounds like a Monroe.
Vernet’s first body of work was based on the concept of transparency, which was the paradox of how one can be seen and unseen at the same time. And how you can become invisible through being seen or how you can become unseen through things. It focused on this paradox of perceptions – this is all a bit William Blake, or is it Alice in Wonderland?
“I was really into using mirrors and veils as a simultaneous existence within a context. This has led to another series, where I was more interested in the body of an already existing environment and how our presence, or our bodies, or our functional structures depend on this environment and how we find ourselves within that context,” she tells me.
This evolved into a graffiti project, entitled “Nudes In Context”. Alix found a way to represent the bear form of bodily presence on camera. “To me it had to do with reclaiming the space I was frequenting like the city, or New York, or this urban space. It was kind of this symbolic thing of me trying to establish my own space within this highly consumerist, capitalistic structure, I guess.”
That very sui generis, rather artistic confidence, as she tells me, is because of feminism. “I lacked confidence artistically and feminist art has helped me understand abstruse concepts and built confidence along the way.”
Alix started experimenting with utopias and the creation of new realities.
“As a woman you kind of exist in a space where as a feminist you are conscious of the infrastructures in society that are detrimental to you, difficult to deal with and therefore your art responds to that. But while you are trying to exit this patriarchal space, you still depend on it by defining the reasons you have issues or the reasons you are victimised. So it is this dichotomy where in order to get out of it you have to address the patriarchy or get through that”, she says.
What about this existence of a pseudo, post-sexist world that has currently infiltrated society?
“Anytime a woman makes art that reflects feminism, that in itself is a feminist act. But when media capitalise on feminism and jumble all these images together as feminist art, it looses the entire point. I personally, support a woman creating her own world but nowadays feminism is becoming accessible in this kind of buzz-feed way, where you think you know everything after looking at 30 gifs or whatever.”
It’s approaching 18:00pm and the single train of thought is tough to follow. Do you have any plans for the future? I ask. “I want to start my own space, where people can come and creative semi-intellectual. I mean I don’t know. I am only 19, what do I know about being an intellectual? When I was a child, I was always old in my head. Now I feel like I am getting younger and younger”, she slips into a playful disgust.
After the interview, Vernet glowers with deliciously listless intent at my waiting lens. The coast is clear. I hungrily snap, snap, snap away! “Hotels like this one, usually have nice bathrooms”, she tells me. Upon entering the marbled bathroom, the mirrors above the sinks reflect Vernet. Suddenly, a woman explodes in a coughing fit – a seizure no doubt brought on by the sight of this Alice in Wonderland illuminated on every surface like an ecstatic angel.
As she stands up to say goodbye, I ask one last question: “What’s your purpose?” She turns around and with a wide smile she says, “I guess the ultimate thing would be to provoke something.”
And with that last statement, it hit me. My task to undertake the Beverly Hills hotel was a success – partly because of serendipity, yes. But it was also because of the very special, Alix Vernet. █
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