Smells Like Teenage Armpit: A Conversation with Super Future Kid
It's no secret that we have a weak spot in our heart for Super Future Kid's way of perceiving and filtering reality and translating it into hyper-pop images and sculptures. It's also no secret that we enjoy the program and artists presented by Copenhagen's Gallery Poulsen. With this in mind, it's so nice to see these two working together and putting up Super Future Kid's first solo show in Denmark.
The London-based artist's quirky, playful, neon-infused work was featured in our print edition almost instantly after we first saw it. We've learned that her superpower is "to be incredibly childish and yet able to do all the grown-up stuff," which kind of explains the way her career has been blossoming. Born in the Eastern Bloc without access to the fancy, flashy world of toys and cartoons or visuals that children in the western world enjoyed, Super Future Kid experienced the fall of the Berlin Wall at a young age and got to enjoy her teen years fully immersed in pop, consumerism, and neon. This left a huge mark on her and transformed her vision of the world, to the point that she's still obsessed with toys, cartoons, and hyper bright colors.
To kick off the 30-year celebration of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Super Future Kid will present Smells Like Teenage Armpit at Gallery Poulsen on October 26th. We got in touch with her to talk about this particular body of work, her relationship with Nirvana and plans to transform the gallery into a playful setting that evokes youth and dreaming.
Sasha Bogojev: It's obvious where the title of the show came from, but why did you choose it?
Super Future Kid: The title of the show was initially chosen for one of the paintings, I only later figured that it also fits very well with all the other pieces. When I was a teenager, Nirvana was quite a big thing, so it definitely left an impression on me and throws me back to the 1990s whenever I hear it. The 'armpit smell' is me adding a layer of silliness and schmutz to the whole thing. I think I can be pretty childish at times, but at my core, I am a very grungy person, so I suppose I felt this title just sums it all up in a nutshell.
Are the works in any way connected to either Nirvana, music, or teenage years in some way? Is there any thematical concept around this body of work?
Many of the works in this show carry a '90s vibe nostalgia for me. That decade, from when I was 8 years old to 18, reminds me of school, living at my parents, not having a clue about life, and not worrying about anything. It was all about toys, computer games, stickers, cartoons, Fanta, MilkyWay and the early internet. That kind of stuff. Not much of that has changed for me and, in my mind, I am still that person, still not having a clue about life, playing games, collecting toys and exploring the internet. The only addition now is that I gained experience and skills to make art about it all.
So all those pieces are, in one way, kinda personal, but at the same time, look into something that is far away in time and space, perhaps even as far as happening in another universe.
What type of works did you create and how many pieces will there be in the show? Is there a connecting line, a Leitmotif between them?
I made eight pieces for this show. Six paintings and two sculptures, including a seven-and-a-half foot totem. There are also some support sculptures for paintings. Because the gallery is so spacious, I created some of the largest paintings and sculptures I have done so far. Even though working at that scale in my studio was a bit of a challenge, I enjoyed it very much.
Are you introducing any new concepts, formats, mediums, or techniques this time around? In what way do you think these pieces are different from the works we've seen so far?
I always love to play with new materials and techniques. While preparing for this show, I started working on a series of totem sculptures. The biggest will now be at my solo with Poulsen, it's the first time I'm showing any of these. I've also begun a series of room-paintings for this show. I wanted to paint my characters in their own personal space or environment. The first of those paintings were more like bedrooms but space quickly expanded and transformed into corridors that extend indefinitely around curved walls. I also left out any ceiling so that the entire thing could be imagined as a view from inside a maze or labyrinth, floating around in space somewhere.
In terms of the way I think, the new work is different from previous work, so I'd see it as a natural progression. New work will evolve or change in ways, but it continues to be part of my world and extends piece by piece, like an endless puzzle.
Do you have a particular favorite piece? Why?
I'm actually very happy with how all of the pieces turned out. But if I had to choose one, I'd probably go for the painting that shares its title with the show Smells Like Teenage Armpit. When I started working on this show, I was bouncing back and forth between different concepts until I arrived at the idea of 'building' rooms for my characters, which is how that particular painting came to be and the others followed. To surround a character with a very personal space allows for many more possibilities to express who that person is or what their life might be like on their side of the picture plane. And for some reason, I felt as though the person in my blue painting was like an alternate version of myself. Because it was the first room painting I made, perhaps it was charged with more of the personal thoughts and feelings I felt while in the process of making it.
How was working with Poulsen and having your work alongside some of their 'big guns'? Was it more of pressure or motivation to put on a show there?
I am super happy and proud to be working with Morten. The Poulsen Family, including all of those 'big guns' that I've met so far, are all fantastic and very welcoming people so I'm very much looking forward to having my solo now at his gallery.
And there is a plan to create a big installation for this show, too?
Yes, we have a plan of transforming the space involving a soft and smiling floor and deep space walls! I might even wear a costume for the opening since it's just a few days away from Halloween!
Smells Like Teenage Armpit will be on view from October 26—November 16, 2019.