Hybridising technology of the past into accessories of the present, Ukraine-based artist Hanne Zaruma offers a vital materialist approach that emphasises how beauty is in the eye of the beholder. By utilising tossed-out retro technology, she fashions them a new life beyond the trash heap in her efforts to contribute to a transhumanist future.
Vital materialism is a branch of posthuman philosophy contending that all matter, including non-human objects, has a liveliness no matter how inanimate such objects appear. One proponent of this radical, materialist school of thought is Jane Bennett – author of Vibrant Matter (2010) – who, instead of asking what something is, asks what it can do. This is to say that objects have the capacity to produce effects within the network of relationships they are involved with.

Think of the relationships people have with their favourite pair of shoes or perhaps the loving effects produced by the giving of a present to a significant other. In a similar sense, 21-year-old Hanne Zaruma creates a new life of vitality for technologies the world had all but forgotten, by utilising them in her practice. Commanding we see the magic in these everyday things, Zaruma discusses with METAL her creative expression alongside her potential career pathways.
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I’ve noticed your early posts have centred on painting, whilst you have also modelled and augmented various fashion items in tandem to this technology-focused output you currently have. How long have you been engaged with your creativity? Has it always been a constant in your life?
Creativity has accompanied me all my life. For a long time, I was only engaged in painting but I realized that I wanted something big. I painted graffiti, wrote poetry, took photos on film cameras… After that, I started to do what you see on my Instagram.
Is there a particular medium that is your favourite mode of expression?
I like to express myself differently and new things all the time. Now I dream of mastering animation and 3D / 4D graphics.
Whilst your work is most recently centred on retro technology, you are often applying it to the context of the body, fashion or the modern human experience more generally. Was exploring this relationship between humans and technology a conscious starting point for you? How would you describe your work?
I’m concerned about the interaction of people with new technologies. I always want to create something new, and I dream of being able to contribute to transhumanism. In my works, I connect a person with a computer – these are my favourite. I never describe my work as I prefer other people to do it. The only thing I can say is that I do what I feel, and in my work I want to make the viewer believe in magic, escape from routine and see the beauty in ordinary things.
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I’d like to dig a bit deeper into the relationship between humans and technology. Especially because of quarantine and lockdown, we’ve perceived most parts of reality through screens these past weeks/months – even more than we were used to. How do you envision a quarantine/lockdown with early-2000s flip phones? 
There are many games on old phones and you can also listen to music on there, so I think I would do that
Moreover, what does your creative process look like? Is it a natural extension of your interests?
My creative process is like magic. The idea comes from nowhere, and then the necessary materials seem to find me. But it happens that I need to try hard to come up with something really worthwhile.
Nostalgia seems to play an important role in your creations. You recall wanting your own phone and computer for a long time, especially when your classmates already had theirs. Is your art a way to cope with this nostalgia?
Nostalgia is not the main idea of my work, it’s only a part of it. My art is rather a zeal for something new.
“I do what I feel, and in my work I want to make the viewer believe in magic, escape from routine and see the beauty in ordinary things.”
Fashion is also a big influence: your art pieces range from shoes to bras, to purses and sunglasses. How important have fashion and beauty been in your life? And how do you contribute to the current aesthetic canons with your work?
Fashion and beauty are a part of me and my life – I like beauty but I wouldn’t consider myself a ‘hostage of fashion’. I like to see and find beautiful things.
Most recently, your Instagram filter has been everywhere. What did going viral mean to you? Has this changed how you view and think about your art?
I’m very glad that a huge number of people saw my filter. To be honest, I didn’t expect such good results, but it’s insanely pleasant to do something really large-scale. It didn’t affect the way I look at my art. It only made it clear that I am doing everything right and the desire to make more new creations.
In addition to technology, your work is very related to upcycling. Are there any underlying environmental intentions behind your artworks?
Sustainability is the idea of the future. In my work, I show that people need to use one thing twice or more times. I make art out of unnecessary things, and I feel like I’m giving them a new life. People don’t pay attention to them and want to throw them away. For example, I used one keyboard for eight works including shoes, a cap, a bag and so on. To me, it’s like magic. So with my art, I encourage people to see magic in ordinary things.
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Having visited Ukraine, I found it to be a beautiful country filled with some of the kindest people I’ve ever met. Yet, people – at least where I live in Western Europe – have no idea about Ukraine aside from Chernobyl! What can you say about your home country? How has growing up there influenced your work?
Unfortunately, in the city where I live, people don’t understand my work. I didn’t show my creativity on Instagram for a long time only because the people who surrounded me said that this was unnecessary absurdity. I am very sorry that few are willing to accept my work, but I try to use every opportunity to convey to the country in which I was born the message of modern art.
Stereotypically, one doesn’t think of a lawyer having a creative side – although you challenge that lazy assumption. Given a law degree is no easy feat, is this your planned career path or are you simply taking each opportunity as it comes?
Studying Law is my parent’s desire, but I don’t plan to connect my life with this. I hope that soon I will be able to take responsibility for my life and leave university. Coming to study, I don’t understand why I am here, I’m not at all interested in this – it’s just because my parents don’t see prospects in my art. But there’s a positive side: after boring classes, I want to do art more than ever. Now art, for me, is like a breath of fresh air.
Are you working on anything else at the moment?
I’m constantly working on something, now I want to learn how to make more filters on Instagram and animations.
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