Multidisciplinary artist Jonna Hansen has beef with normality. She’s not only bored of it, but she feels like otherness is used to dehumanise certain people to terrifying ends. And trust me, she knows what she’s talking about. As a trans woman with autism, a large part of society has made her feel like she doesn’t belong (or worse). That’s why, since an early age, she’s found comfort and refuge in art and creativity.
But it’d be unfair to say she’s become an artist because of her bad experiences. As a kid, she was already very creative, and as an adult, the stream of ideas is still flowing as rich as ever. “There seems to be an infinite supply of ideas and energy inside of me, and trying to turn that into something of value is more of an urge than a decision,” she says in this interview.

Today, we introduce you to Alien Fashion, a collection of CGI-generated images that portray aliens in imaginary clothes. But Hansen escapes the anthropomorphic depiction many films have popularised; instead, she imagines abstract forms and shapes, making them hard to classify or even understand. “My goal was to create something as subtly foreign and unfamiliar as possible. The human body wouldn't have gotten me far there. So ‘they’ had to be something else – doesn’t matter what, just not human,” she explains. Below, we discuss trauma as a creative force, otherness, and Denis Villeneuve.
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 20.jpg
Hey Jonna, thank you for speaking with us. It’s crazy how time flies and we’re almost in the middle of summer. What have you been doing, and how have you been feeling lately?
I'm in a sort of limbo state. I'm not a student anymore, but I also don't have what you would call an artistic career yet. So I spend a lot of my free time doing acquisition, trying to get funding for projects, or promoting my work to galleries and publications like METAL. Since I'm focusing so much on the business side, I don't do a lot of artistic work right now. But things are starting to happen, which makes me quite happy and optimistic.
You graduated in Communication Design and have been exploring writing, illustration, and digital art since your teenage years. Have you always been creative?
Yes! Growing up, I had trouble communicating due to being neurodivergent, and the emotional pain of going through male puberty led me to isolate myself socially for many years. At that time, making art became a lifeline for me. I can remember spending twelve hours a day on weekends drawing comics because it gave me an escape and also a sense of value, which I craved due to the lack of love I had for myself.
Today, there is a lot of happiness and amazing people in my life, but making art is still at the centre of it all. I get out of bed and into bed thinking about it. That kind of obsession is pretty common in people with autism.
You’re open about how your identity has shaped your perspective on otherness and normality from an early age. As a trans woman and person with autism, how does your personal experience translate into your art?
Being ‘other,’ if we want to use that term to describe my situation, forces you to see that ‘normal’ is just a random point in the universe that everyone has agreed to orient themselves to. In the case of gender norms, this puts trans and non-binary people in a situation that is often dangerous, but in any case, severely impacts our happiness and quality of life. However, cis people also suffer under these norms even if they don't realise it because ‘normal’ just isn't a thing. There is no right way to be a man or a woman.
Autism has shaped my point of view because many social norms, like small talk and politeness rituals, didn't make sense to me growing up. They seemed like an elaborate dance routine that everybody engaged in, including myself, because I had to learn the moves for reasons I didn't understand. I guess being trans and neurodivergent has made me see the whole concept of normal as a joke, and I want to let others in on the fun. But my beef with normality isn't just because it bores me artistically but because it can be used to dehumanise those who are different to horrifying ends. So there's also a survival aspect.
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 5.jpg
People make art for a number of different reasons: impulse, curiosity, money, escapism, self-knowledge… What are yours?
It's a combination of all of the above, but impulse is the biggest one for me. There seems to be an infinite supply of ideas and energy inside of me, and trying to turn that into something of value is more of an urge than a decision.
I don't enjoy making art much as a free time activity, which you do just for the fun of it. Even as a teenager, most of the things I created were part of large projects that I wanted to finish and to be seen by lots of people. So there's also the factor that I want to be admired and prove my worth in some way. But even without that, the ideas would just come and I wouldn't have a choice but to turn them into something.
You’re presenting Alien Fashion, a stunning digital clothing collection for nonhuman bodies. Tell us a bit more about how this project started and evolved since its original idea.
Initially, I wanted to do a narrative VR project about aliens and humans meeting for the first time, a bit like the movie Arrival. My goal was to give the audience the experience of coming face to face with an entirely unknowable, other thing from beyond the fringes of their comprehension. But it didn't work because when I designed the aliens, I found myself slipping into clichés or feeling like I had seen this kind of thing before. It looked too much like H.R. Giger or insects or something from the deep sea, which was still too Earthly to me.
So I started designing clothes for the aliens without putting any thought into the anatomy underneath. That felt a lot more abstract and unsettlingly intelligent. Clothing turns a living being into an individual. That's because it’s the product of a complex culture with its own history and traditions. I didn't know what that culture would look like, and I didn't want to define it since I would just come up with a reinterpretation of things I’ve seen before. But that’s the beauty of it. Since I don't define where these clothes come from, who wears them, or what they mean, you can fill them with all of your subconscious imagination. I'm fascinated by how differently the designs speak to different people.
You say this work is supposed to “incite a conversation of how the feeling of strangeness shapes our sense of the world.” And also, talking about the audience, you say that “When viewers are unable to understand what they are looking at yet trying to classify it within the familiar system of categories, they experience otherness as a state.” Do you think that conveying this feeling of strangeness connects the audience to your own feelings and experiences?
In an abstract way, I think it does. My particular relationship with strangeness and normality is shaped a lot by me being trans and autistic. If you aren't either of those things, it's not my goal to make you see the world through the eyes of a neurodivergent trans woman. That's not necessary because everybody feels alienated and different in some way. My goal is to enable people to look at that feeling and examine it.
“My beef with normality isn't just because it bores me artistically but because it can be used to dehumanise those who are different to horrifying ends. So there's also a survival aspect.”
I think we all have felt or still sometimes feel alienated, like we don’t belong. Since you’ve been dealing with this for years, could you share some words of advice on how to handle it?
What has helped me during Covid-10, but also since, was trying to be better friends with myself. The biggest source of estrangement I can identify in many people's lives is their alienation from themselves. Sometimes I'm the last person I would want to spend the day with, but no matter how many amazing friends I have around me, I'm always going to be there too. Unlike other people who treat you like shit, you can't just block yourself on Instagram. So give yourself some love, and you may just get some back in return.
I love that you don’t envision aliens as anthropomorphic. Instead, you’ve let your imagination fly and created several kinds of shapes and bodies. I love that take on the subject, and it reminds me of some of my favourite alien movies like Dennis Villeneuve’s Arrival or Jordan Peele’s Nope. Why was it important for you to create a collection that’s not centred on the human body?
My goal was to create something as subtly foreign and unfamiliar as possible. The human body wouldn't have gotten me far there. So ‘they’ had to be something else – doesn’t matter what, just not human. They didn't even have to be from outer space, just from some place that isn't here. I didn't want to narrow it down any more than that.
On top of all those things which they shouldn't be, they had to look intelligent. Like conscious individuals instead of objects. And that was when I realised that fashion was such a perfect angle from which to look at alien life. When you see clothing, you understand that the thing wearing it is not just an animal or a fungus or a rock.
It’s funny you’re using aliens as models, which many people would assume are dressed in futuristic, shiny, super tech attire. However, your creations bring me back to folklore, to tribes, to the images of documentary photographer Charles Fréger, especially the ones that feature prints on the clothes. But there are also rocket-shaped pieces, for example. Is this dichotomy between past and future something you were trying to achieve?
I didn't look at aliens in terms of science fiction or futurism, just as I didn't see them as having to be from space. As for the design, I tried to think as little as possible about the shapes in terms of human analogies like rocket ships or tribal elements. Of course, the designs are one hundred percent based on my visual memory of things I have seen in nature and human civilization, but I try to decontextualise these influences as much as possible.
Then again, I don't mind elements being vaguely reminiscent of things from Earth as long as they don't become too legible. It encourages people to try to visually understand the designs. When they can't do that, it is a lot more irritating than looking at a thing that is completely alien, like a cloud or a perfect circle.
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 11.jpg
Nature also plays an important role in this collection, especially the sea (at least, I feel like some designs feature shell and marine-inspired shapes). Am I right? What’s your personal connection to nature?
For some reason, it is difficult for me to answer this question. I have a deeply unspiritual personality. Feeling a sense of connection to something higher, and I would classify nature as that, doesn't happen easily to me. I find nature wholesomely terrifying. Just thinking about the distance between galaxies or the fact that there isn't an up and down in the actual world inspires awe in me, but not a sense of connection. On the contrary, nature is so mystifying that it alienates me, just as I want people to be alienated by my work.
Let’s discuss the future. There’s a lot of debate around AI right now, especially about how it will reshape labour and take over thousands of jobs. Many creatives are scared, from writers to graphic designers to filmmakers. As a multidisciplinary artist yourself, how do you feel about it?
AI language models might actually be the first alien intelligence we as humans have had the opportunity of interacting with. This fascinates me, especially since this intelligence is so absolutely different from our own. It can combine letters or pixels in ways that imitate outputs of human intelligence to a high degree of logic. At the same time, it doesn't have even a tangential understanding of the real-world concepts the language it produces describes, or the images it generates depict. That's alien as hell if you ask me.
Then again, the results it generates are everything but alien. They tend to be gender normative, sexist, Western-centric, and racist. The algorithm reproduces what's in the mainstream of ideas and images because that's what it has been trained on. And since it doesn't have an understanding of the real world or a way to observe it, it cannot engage critically with the information it reproduces. But that might change, who knows? AI is going to solve minions of problems, and it is going to cause millions of problems. Maybe on the whole, that will turn out to be a good thing or it will be bad. The work of artists is definitely going to change, but as of right now, AI is still pretty incapable of creating things humans are interested in if left to its own devices. Instead of speculating about the changes machine learning will bring about, I have decided to just observe them in the coming years and decades.
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 1.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 2.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 3.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 4.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 6.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 7.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 8.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 9.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 10.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 12.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 14.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 13.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 15.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 16.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 17.jpg
Jonna Hansen Metalmagzine 18.jpg