Be The Counterflow - Viktoria Modesta, Bionic Artist, Performer, and Futurist
Our current fashion editorial features The Bionic Pop Artist, Viktoria Modesta. I had the pleasure of meeting Viktoria during fashion week last February, at the Ace Hotel in New York City. This amazing event, was a platform for various strong women and their contributions to their chosen profession. Because I arrived late, I didn't know who some of the speakers were, but I was instantly fixated on a well-spoken British woman, whom I found out was Viktoria Modesta, Latvian-born English singer-songwriter, performance artist, and model. She had an angular, sophisticated yet modern up do, and was well dressed in a sharp black suit with a slim fitting ankle pant that highlighted her diamond leg. After the discussion ended, I approached her. I had never seen a prosthetic leg with diamonds and a stiletto heel. Use your imagination, as I am sure Viktoria did since she designed it herself, wow, such amazing art was unknown to me. Redefining how amputees are seen is just one of the amazing things this renaissance woman does.
It's been a great journey to unfold this editorial and video and I am proud to showcase them along with her intimate interview. Check out Viktoria Modesta here in Jejune Magazine and, for all you fashion lovers, I reference this strong and passionate woman for her inspirational avant-garde look.
Foreword by Alison Hernon, Fashion Director, Jejune Magazine.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I developed an overactive imagination during my childhood. Following an accident, at birth, I was in and out of hospitals from the age of 6 till I was 12. I spent a lot of time watching Disney during that time and the ideas of transformation, magic and the solid belief in a better future really shaped me even at that age. At 12 I moved to London with my parents in search of a better life and ended up in the adult version of a world filled with imagination. I was amongst the most vibrant club culture in London full of flamboyant characters, fashion, art and I was fascinated with the idea of dedicating your whole lifestyle to a vision, to a heightened idea of reality. That was the time I was faced with having to resolve my health and at the age of 15 I decided I wanted to take control of my health and dedicate my body to art, I decided to have an amputation to remove my damaged leg. It took me a further 5 years to convince the doctors to perform the surgery. In that time I threw myself into everything creative. Modeling, creative direction, retouching, and most importantly performance and music. I had spent a few years on and off studying sheet music and piano back in Latvia but didn't consider working on music till I was in my late teens. From the date of my operation or liberation is probably the most suiting word I have been using a multitude of disciplines working with music, performance, fashion, architecture, and technology.
Please tell us about the MIT Media Lab and your partnership with them.
There are two key projects in my career that elevated my work of transcending the body and disability with a culture and entertainment lense. First the Paralympic Closing Ceremony in 2012 where I performed as the snow queen wearing a diamond-encrusted prosthetic and "Prototype' video that was part of the Channel 4's Born Risky disability rebranding campaign. This video piece became viral across the world and has reintroduced the bionic, post-disability, posthuman image for the first time to the masses since the early work of Aimee Mullins in the 90's. I was shortly invited to the MIT Media Lab and was offered a Director's Fellow position.
The access to the Media Lab has pushed my work and vision further from fashion and traditional design into a more technologically interfacing frame. I have been collaborating with Prof. of Biomechatronics Hugh Herr as well as some of the students working in tech fashion. The vast network of MIT's fellow and faculty has really given me a massive overview into innovation and new media, which I have been integrating into my more recent work such as a series of performances a year ago at Art Basel with a piece called 'Sonifica'.
How has your experience with prosthetics influenced other areas of your work?
The very basic experience of me voluntarily and positively improving my physicality with a prosthetic has really sent me down the rabbit hole of exploring the post-disability and post-human concept. Although I intuitively began my experimentation with artificial extension to the body because of my health after my operation where I got to play around with basic design of prosthetics and costume in an art form. Its the collaboration with tech artists and scientists that has really focused my work and passion on connecting the academic innovation, research and art world with pop culture. Over the past few years, creative direction has been taking center stage for me orchestrating a positive and romantic vision of future culture with what I see as educational entertainment that also strikes a chord on social impact.
Will the medical and ability-enhancing technologies such as phones be viewed the same in the future? Is there much more to the concept of a prosthesis and can it be redefined soon as we continue extending ourself into the digital world of avatars and AI? A neuroprosthesis so to speak. That's the kind of stuff that keeps me awake at night.
Of course, there is also the more immediate impact that working with prosthetics has had one me. For example, I have witnessed and experienced the lack of progress of female prosthetics, that's an area I am working really hard to improve at the moment by developing a range of high heed adjustable feet that I know will transform lives of many women.
So far, we have seen albums and videos from you - what are you working on over the next year - music and other things?
My last EP release Counterflow was really a step towards interpreting the world that was shaping around me and at the time and I had the pleasure of my very first unusual collaborations, bringing the world of tech and commercial fashion. That record presented many opportunities to create a pop style performance with a deeper cultural anchor. A track from that release was used in a collaboration with the British Council, where we created a bionic reinterpretation of Midsummer's Night Dream.
But recently I started working on probably what is for me the most complex conceptual series of releases, performances, and content. This time i want the music to be directly informed by the experimentation and research that I'm doing in the fields or tech fashion, prosthetics, music technology as well as VR, AR and AI. I feel like I have a fairly unique perspective of where I'm at culturally and i want to focus on the reality of sci-fi that is already here. I don't want to speculate a dystopian future I want it to be based on the reality a one step closer to the unknown. I am very excited to bring to life a multi-sensual experience of my journey to the audience very soon!