Multidisciplinary, polymorphously perverse, and dripping in internet culture, Polish duo Tikul and mi$ gogo have been exploring their mutual fascinations together for almost a decade. Their divine union—known as Pussykrew—draws inspiration from Shanghai cityscapes, VHS tapes, beat literature and A.I. fantasies, to name just a handful. From dreamy scenes of erotic, digital, post-gendered worlds, to gifs of rotating avocado halves, Pussykrew are an art collective for the digital media age. We chatted them to find out more.
How did you meet and begin collaborating?
Tikul: We met in Dublin in 2006 at a break-core party, and then again at the short film festival, through a mutual friend. Our first meeting involved conversations about art, design, film, magazines, erotica and inspiring personalities like Natacha Merritt [Digital Diaries published by Taschen in 2000—the first digital photography book ever published. Merritt cataloged her sexual history on the Internet through explicit photographs]. I was looking for her Digital Diaries work but couldn’t find it in Poland. mi$ gogo told me that he found her erotic digital photography album in one of the bookshops in Dublin- I went there immediately the next day and got my copy. We had two copies of the same book; it was our cute Natacha Merritt connection. We had many mutual fascinations and became best friends, then we started working together around 2008. Before that time, Pussykrew was a bigger collective, and mi$ gogo was involved mostly as a VJ.
We started spontaneously producing DIY short films, and gradually collaborated on more projects. In the last 7 years, we have become this super hyperactive collaborative dream team; a two-person crazy production studio where anything is possible. I never thought we would work together, and never expected this to become such a fruitful and intense experience. When we work, we try to manage as many things as possible. We handle every stage of the project, from creative direction and pre-production to post-production. We do cam work, editing, CGI, sometimes we learn new skills on the fly if the project requires. We often shift our roles depending on the work. We accept new challenges, and there’s no fixed hierarchy in our creative relationship- it’s free flowing. We are both argumentative and critical towards each other and everything around us. We fight a lot about ideas or about their execution. The fights enrich our creative practice and make the outcome even better.
How does a futuristic city like Shanghai influence your work compared to other places you’ve lived like Poland, Ireland, Berlin, Brussels, and the UK?
Tikul: Shanghai is a really fascinating ‘future’ city. It has such an inspiring architecture and pace. At first glance, some sites of the city bring to mind scenes from Enter the Void or Blade Runner. I really love the night bike rides, the LED lights, and the crazy atmosphere. Compared to China, Europe seems slow. The very talented German architect Ole Scheeren said last year, “Asia has a series of attributes that differ from Europe. The two most obvious ones would be scale and speed, but I think there is also an even more fundamental one—a certain fearlessness and vision for the future. It is a dedication to what the future may be like without the fear of losing something.” We completely agree with it and this is why we find Asia more fascinating than Europe.
But right now, the best creative/living situation that we can imagine would be living between Asia and the US. Hi-tech architecture and fast-paced environments are things we feed on as humans and artists, but I don’t think any place heavily influences our work directly. It’s more complex, and connected to a particular moment where creative possibilities can take place. Moving across countries and continents proves that we can work from any remote spot; we are not bound to any particular place. Geography can be as fluid as identity. We’ve had an intense interaction and connection with every location… We felt fulfilled, but only for a certain period of time. We both have an explorer’s nature, and will always be in search for new paths and new possibilities in our creative lifestyle.
Before leaving Europe, we got rid of all our belongings (mainly electronic equipment), so that we could move wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted to. Our dream was to live this kind of ‘temporary’ life, with no attachments to any personal space, no nostalgia, and no expectations. We’re filled with curiosity, excitement, ambition and goals. For the last 8 years we’ve been living this dream. At the same time, the constant movement has its negative aspects too. It can be risky and unstable. It’s challenging, perhaps that’s why it’s so interesting.
“Hi-tech architecture and fast-paced environments are things we feed on as humans and artists.”
What inspires Pussykrew and how would you describe your aesthetic?
mi$ gogo: It all comes down to our first conscious experience of culture. I was 7 when I watched Terminator 2, Robocop and Alien. Then, when my friend got this fake Nintendo, we dreamt about was the ability to augment our bodies and expand our memories by plugging cartridges straight into our brains. Later, there was Lawnmower Man and Ghost in the Shell. This was my early childhood—bootleg VHS tapes, very often without proper translation. I’ve been watching lots of movies since I was a small kid. I think I was really addicted, hence the later fascination with VHS tapes and glitch.
The moment when I decided that I really wanted start to making videos was when I saw “Come to Daddy” by Aphex Twin on German Viva Zwei. I was 13 back then. It all just spiraled, along with early fascinations with Hakim Bey and William S Burroughs. My greatest influences at that time were Philippe Grandrieux and Bruno Dumont films, and seeing Matthew Barney’s Cremaster.
Tikul: We draw a lot of inspiration from our childhoods and teenage years—late 80s vibes, the ‘digital revolution’ of the 90s, early cyber aesthetics, Japanese cyberpunk, art house films and experimental music, as well as everyday life, media theory, internet community and the future or possible future of our species in general. Sexuality, sensuality, the study of human materiality and inhuman emotions and desires are important aspects of our work—often in the context of the body in relation to technology. Artists such as David Cronenberg, Chris Cunningham, Catherine Breillat, Matthew Barney, Philippe Grandrieux, Natacha Merritt and Bill Viola are definitely important for us. Despite these alternative influences, we are both also interested in many aspects of pop culture, including the mainstream; we are fascinated by corporate aesthetics, our complex relationship with common goods and the fetishization of objects. More or less explicitly, current global events are part of our work
How did hacking VHS players turn into these hyper-reality CGI environments and other world dimensions?
mi$ gogo: For me, it was just part of the journey. It grew from interest in video artists, like Valie Export, Pipilotti Rist, Nam June Paik or Bruce Nauman. VHS tapes felt physical as a medium and were easier to manipulate, but with the passing of time, the PAL signal lacked resolution. CGI was a natural progression, especially because we couldn’t do what we wanted in the studio just filming stuff. It was 2011—after working with HTRK, we felt that to actually augment the bodies the way we want and to create the worlds we have always been dreaming of, CGI was our only option.
Tikul: I joined Pussykrew in 2008. At that time, we were mixing analogue and digital tools, looking for ways to manifest physicality and materiality. We had an audio-visual noise project back than called Domestic Violence, where we used self-built sensor interfaces and audio-responsive glitches and data moshing. It was all based on the deconstruction of material, or some sort of destruction. At that time we were studying Digital Media in the UK, focusing on things like programming and physical computing. We were shooting a lot of video at that time, but after moving to Berlin, we moved more towards CGI. For many reasons, 3D became more accessible to us and we felt like it was giving us more possibilities for production. Both of us were always interested in digital tools since late 90s, when they became more democratized, but we never want to limit ourselves to just being “CGI/3D artists.” We are interested in too many aspects and modes of creation. We want to expand our 3D skills, to create immersive interactive environments and VR projects, and one of our big goals is to one day shot a feature film—erotic science-fiction/queer porn.
What are your thoughts on technology reinforcing a post gendered world?
mi$ gogo: Technology may reinforce a post-gendered world as a utopian ideal, but I don’t feel like my mind has the capacity to process all the obstacles to making it a reality. Maybe it will be possible somewhere in the autonomous zone, but given the current political climate, I sometimes lose hope. This is a polarizing topic, and conflict is inevitable… I think the fear of this conflict is visible in our work.
Tikul: Someone interpreted the words of Donna Haraway as: “women would only be freed from their biological restraints when their reproductive obligations were dispensed with. Women will only achieve true liberation once they become post biological organisms, or post-gendered.”
Many post-genderists say that in the future, ‘artificial’ reproductive technologies can replace the conventional methods. Most people would see this as a crazy stuff, visions taken from Brave New World, or some sort of ‘dehumanization.’ We don’t really see it in such a straightforward way.
Most people find technological progress quite scary, but we find it fascinating. It may not be as utopian as we expect, but it’s still relevant and necessary. These gradual changes can seem like natural progress and progress is always positive. If we have the chance to live as data patterns on supercomputers or completely engaged in immersive virtual realities, existence will take place beyond the gender binary; we will be able to morph virtual appearances and sexuality as we wish. Sexual relations can exist in a post-gendered future in a different form, and on many levels. We find these potential ideas truly liberating.
Who are these characters you’re depicting in your works? Are they male, female, or other?
mi$ gogo: It depends on the project but in general we try to make the bodies as neutral and abstract as possible.
Tikul: We are trying to create characters that are gender neutral. They may have some male or female features- they’re often sexual and eroticized- yet for us they’re symbolizing the new kind of human being, with fluid identity. We like to use the body as a vessel that can be filled with any story or idea. Characters usually oscillate between masculinity and femininity, or even beyond sexual definition. ‘The body’ is the primary subject of our work, but often the bodies are fragmented or distorted. They mutate, and they exist between digital and physical realms, outside of the gender binary.
You’ve previously talked about your work expanding on the broader issues of femininity in our society. In what ways do you want to challenge these issues?
mi$ gogo: The issues of femininity have been important to us since the beginning of our collaboration; we try to relate directly to the problems of being female and how femininity is perceived in society. Our goal is to create an environment where female characters are empowered, but there are many more issues connected to gender and how it is constructed or performed. The patriarchal paradigm is in full swing in too many places. We feel like this is something that we can have an impact on, in our own way.
Tikul: We’re challenging patriarchy and misogyny by doing what we do and encouraging people to follow their goals and creative dreams. We encourage people to take control over their lives, under any circumstances. We try to motivate our peers online and offline, through multilevel exchange, by openly sharing our knowledge and skills. We often give open presentations and workshops. We don’t like to talk too much about ideas behind our work, communicating instead through our practice and the way we share it with the outside world. We see our actions as part of a bigger picture that resonates constantly. We try to challenge the image of ‘traditional beauty,’ and we like to play around with masculine and feminine energy, and how they blend and shift.
“We try to challenge the image of ‘traditional beauty,’ and we like to play around with masculine and feminine energy, and how they blend and shift.”
We often touch topics such as gender fluidity or post-gender environments, but we treat it as something natural. We are not trying to make subversive works and don’t consider ourselves “activists” in the common understanding.Some people find our work offensive- too intense or too erotic- and some find our name a bit controversial, I’m not sure why. Some guys think that we are a group of sexy ladies, some ladies think that we are a group of douchebags that are into girls—people get really confused sometimes, and it’s interesting to observe.
Femininity and repression in society are important and complex subjects that affect us on a daily basis. The spectrum of possible actions is really broad. Many of our friends are active across different platforms—everyone has their own way to make the world a better place. Our collaborators usually have a similar view on these issues. They try to shift gender boundaries. It’s a part of their everyday battle—their lifestyle—yet it’s not the only matter they focus on. We tend to work mostly with women that are strong individuals, as it feels like we share the same sensitivity, depth and sharpness.
Other than one day becoming cyborgs, what are you most looking forward to in the future of technology?
mi$ gogo: I think AI is the ultimate goal. With the current political situation it is really hard to think about anything else. I see AI as an evolution from what we are, because it seems like we cannot change in our own capacity. The future is supposed to be exciting, but what if there actually is no future? We are longing for some kind of idealistic vision of the future, but it always feels like it is amiss or available only for a handful of people.
Tikul: The idea of extending the physical and mental abilities of the human body is thrilling. We are still hoping to experience a time when cloning the mind will be possible and accessible to everyone. We are truly hoping that technology will become a vehicle for the dissolution of sex and gender, as well as a means to link the body with machines.
What’s up next for Pussykrew?
Tikul: We can easily shift between places, depending on the projects we are involved with, so we don’t really have a super fixed plan for the future. We definitely want to concentrate on more extensive, complex creative works and it looks as though this is beginning to happen: our collaboration with Long Clothing is finally out, and in the next few months we are probably going to work on a few new music videos and try to push some experimental short film ideas. We can’t really share too much on the other projects right now, but we’ll let you know when it’s time! The future is always bright.