Monika Deimling - 1989, Poland / Germany
Artist with a focus on photography, embroidery and art film.
Specialty: constant stream of thoughts.
Let’s start with the basics, where are you from?
I can give you a small riddle. I was born in a country, which recently implemented a near-total
ban on abortion and it’s the government who decides about women’s body. If you know which
country I mean then I feel shame that our government is doing so bad that it’s all over the
news. On the other hand, if you don’t know anything about it, I am happy to raise awareness,
because Polish women need support in this absurd situation. I’m Polish, born in a small town
and living between Poland and Germany.
Do you have some German roots?
Not that I know of, but I’m married to a German artist and I decided to steal his surname.
Anything else you stole from him?
Sure! A relationship is all about permanent stealing! I steal his evening with a talk, I steal his
duvet in the night, I steal his toothpaste, pen, sweaters and of course his smile because it’s
contagious. This type of theft has its unique beauty and often leads to our artistic
collaboration. There are mainly two paths I follow artistically, one is through individual
researches and another is a collaboration with my husband.
I steal his evening with a talk, I steal his duvet in the night, I steal his toothpaste, pen, sweaters and of course his smile because it’s contagious.
I want to look closer at your individual work. I’m intrigued by the beauty you see in these
little actions that you called theft.
I am an observer and a thinker, these are my two favourite activities. I’m flooded by thoughts
on a daily basis and some people say that if they would think as often as I do, they would simply
die. I feed my thoughts with observations and there are many aspects I could mention in this
regard. I can observe something or someone here and now, look at each detail, from far away
and from a little distance. However, observing doesn’t stop at here and now, I am also looking
back A LOT. I get stuck with some memories, revisit them many times and try to understand
them. I like to swim in the unknown, it’s my favourite pool for creation.
I’m wondering if someone ever said: „What are you staring at?!”.
Good point! That’s strange, but I cannot recall any situation like this. I think I trained to be
invisible so much, that people hardly ever notice when I look. Another sentence that I hear
though would be „Why are you smiling?!”.
I come from a family of smiles! Monika Smiling should be my real surname because I smile
and smile and smile, but sometimes people think I sneer at them, which is not the case at all.
With the smile, we can release tension in our bodies and I tend to smile when I feel nervous,
which doesn’t fit the situation and can become an insult, but what doesn’t kill you makes you
stronger. I use it as one of my inspirational research fields. Every ugliness can be transformed
into beauty and each beauty can be transformed into ugliness. What some call „weak points”,
I’d rather call „advantages”.
Let me go back in time. How it all started?
I’d say… turbulent. I met many photographers who start by telling „my grandfather had a
camera and taught me how to work with analogue photography”. I didn’t have this luck and my
grandfather taught me how a small kid can buy a bottle of wine or beer for him. It wasn’t entirely
useless lesson but maybe slightly unusual. Already as a kid, I wasn’t talkative on the outside, but
I had a lot of inner discussions going on. This is where my flood of thoughts has begun. My first
way to express these thoughts was through writing journals and poems. Photography came next
and until today I work mainly with self-photographs. I circulate so much around my thoughts that
the only reasonable way is to transform them by using my body. The body is a natural
transporter for memories, including traumas. Memories go away unnoticed as opposed to
trauma which pops-up without any warning. Biography is my library for creation, where I can be
sure of new books being delivered each day unless I’m dead and forgotten. (Then I don’t care
I can see a lot of humour in your works. How does it connect to memories and trauma?
Do you remember the smile? Not all of my works use humour, but it’s one of my ways to
transform the thoughts. Some of them would be utterly sad and heavy to take, so if I would
always keep it on this level, then I’d probably die. (laughter) A good example could be any
type of anxiety. If we take a closer look at these fears, take them to pieces and judge with a
logical view, this can become a symphony of absurdity. It’s unbelievable what the anxious
mind and body can create. If you can see the humour in my works, it means that I reflected
upon my thoughts and can laugh about it. I play a lot with my body, throw away all
uncertainties and it is relieving for me in some ways, but I wish that this gesture can help
(mainly women) to look at their bodies or memories differently. The culture of beauty, diet and
stereotypes should die and be replaced by anything that deserves the word „culture”.
What is your „culture” then?
A culture of exchange, a culture of awareness, a culture of inclusion, a culture of caring, I could
go on, but I think you understand what I’m trying to say. None of us is perfect and none of us can
avoid mistakes entirely, but trying and being aware is already a treasure! For instance, last year
in March I travelled to Brazil to make an art film with my husband and we got stuck there for 3,5
months, because of the world lockdown. We spent this time in the middle of nowhere, at the
farm with extremely beautiful landscape, variety of plants and animals. At that time I was still a
vegetarian, but even though this farm was far from European hell standards, I felt that my big
love for animals and nature grew like crazy. This triggered that I wanted to care more and make
more conscious choices, which ended up with me going vegan or at least trying to. This is what
counts, not perfection that is promoted by the beauty and diet culture, you fit or you don’t, black
What a story! Can you tell a little bit more about this art film?
I collaborate with my husband (BBB Johannes Deimling) since 2015 when we did our first art
film. As an artist, he uses mainly performance art, which never became my medium for
expression, but it inspires me a lot. We decided to join our forces and find intersections in our
artistic practices, but also in the way we think and observe. We just had the premiere of our
newest art film „ A cow won’t eat foxes when the grass is dry” that we did during the mentioned
lockdown and one of the reviews sums it up pretty well as „a poetic symphony of colours,
shapes, composition, movement and sounds”. Until we arrived at this point, our road called
„artistic process” was very bumpy, especially at the beginning of filming in Brazil.
Your works often appear to be very neat and far from bumpy roads. How is it behind the
Mess pops around me quicker than the mushrooms. I am often perceived as a very well
organised person, but as soon as I start working creatively, things pile up so much that even
an ant would have troubles to fit in my space. Please, notice my wording, they do pile up on
their own, I do nothing and it just happens. I think it’s perfectly mirroring my flooding thoughts.
The threads I’m working with are all around the flat and I just can’t help it. On the other hand,
out of this chaos, I’m trying to create quite the opposite - clean frames. I am unable to create
balance without allowing chaos to happen.
Regarding the threads, how come you started doing embroidery?
Photography has many limits and I try to overcome them by using other forms. Embroidery is
one of them. I am always doubtful about my drawings, but when I transform them using a thread,
suddenly they get the beauty they deserve. My mother always laughs that I cannot draw and for
a very long time I avoided drawing just as much as I avoided learning German until I married.
(laughter). Embroidery, as well as drawing, is a very meditative and calm act. If you were to visit
my mind, you would see me running around like a headless chicken, but not when I embroider.
Now comes the big question: how do you envision the future?
Oh, so shiny! I am an introvert and optimistic expressions are not my strength, but what I really
wish is that egomania will extinct like dinosaurs. Nothing against dinosaurs of course, but
egoism is healthy until the moment it isn’t healthy anymore… Pandemic is just one of the points
in history which laid bare that egomania is yet another virus of our times. I believe in
togetherness because if we want it or not, we are social creatures, and even social phobias
cannot erase it. That’s the reason I joined this magazine.
1. Photographs from the series “Carrot or stick?”, copyright
Monika Deimling, 2020
2. Embroidery by Monika Deimling, 2020