Olek was born Agata Oleksiak in Poland and graduated from Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland with a degree in Cultural Studies. In New York, she rediscovered her ability to crochet and since then she has started her crocheted journey/madness. Olek believes she chose crocheting as her artistic method to be able to do two things at once: to watch movies and make art.
“I think crochet, the way I create it, is a metaphor for the complexity and interconnectedness of our body and its systems and psychology. The connections are stronger as one fabric as opposed to separate strands, but, if you cut one, the whole thing will fall apart. It’s also a literal extension of the body, a sort of second skin that can be stretched and reshaped by the body inner workings as it shapes or distorts that body. I can’t really speak to what I want to reveal—to know that, you’d have to find the end of the string and unravel it.” (Agata Olek)
1. What inspires you or do you have a special place of inspiration? How does a thought/idea form itself?
It is a response to information, images, words, food or lovers you had… Conversations that flow through an individual’s unconscious. It is collaboration between environment and time. Inspiration comes from real life like my camouflage pieces come to me from my own obsession of wearing different color camouflage pants. I wore camo pants the first time I came to the USA, and working with camo seemed like an extension of myself.
I started crocheting, as I could not afford anything else. In 2002, I crocheted between trees because they were around me. I covered a stepladder because my ex-girlfriend had one and I was bored when she was working. Everything comes from real feelings and intuition. Life and art are inseparable. In July 2011 I was working around the clock for my first solo show at Jonathan Levine Gallery. My ex-boyfriend whom I was living with gave me his laptop to check my emails. I found out that he was writing to some girls off Craigslist. We broke up. I said nothing. Instead, when the time came, I crocheted the entire email and it became the central piece in the show: “I do not expect to be a mother, but I do expect to die alone” in Tony’s Gallery in London in January 2012. Most men hated the show. Women thanked me for empowering them. Life and art are inseparable. Anything that enters my life will be highlighted in crochet either you like it or not.
2. What are the challenges you are facing while working on a project?
I create a sculpture, the ready-mades and object or human being must fit inside and conform to their new environment, much like being inside a specifically conditioned suit where identity, the body and its covering are inextricably linked. The familiar and unfamiliar are confused
3. What are the biggest delights of your work?
One might write a review, one my acquire my work. But even if I just see a smile on person’s face, my work is complete.
I am crocheting, making the sculpture for my body, in which my body becomes the ready-made. The “cover” completely redefines my movement and my identity – sexual, personal and cultural. Then I take the end of the plastic twine and by ripping it apart, I start remaking it. When the “new” suit of armor is ready I am being exposed as an object. Then I put this hand-crocheted wearable sculpture onto my body and take the end of the twine and undo the 'cover' again and again. I crochet and crochet onto my body until I have reached a point where I know I could go on forever. The artwork is destroyed as it is created, and created out of its own destruction. Still and metamorphosing, old and new, unique and fleeting, public and private, hidden and exposed, performer and creator, traditional and innovative, decay and renewal, are all interchangeable.
5. What can we expect from you for the Clash Project?
I am a visual artist and I chose it as my language. You can find the answer to this question in my work.
6. What does “fashionclash” or a “clash with fashion” mean to you personally?
How do you define that for yourself? This wearable sculpture is a literal extension of the body, a sort of second skin that can be stretched and reshaped by the body inside, even as it shapes or distorts the body. I expect the space, an object, to conform to my crocheted new skin. I intend my sculpture to be the action of an environment and not its subject. As such, they are meant to generate new facts not to reflect or reveal. I am interested in commenting on the hierarch of materials within a sculpture. Fabric, specifically crocheted fabric, by design is meant to cover form. By using fabric as form, I continue to broaden the notion of sculptural materials.