Chloé Sapelkine, Rozy, almost escapes description. The self-professed 'Budget Barbieboi', potentially named after the influencer Sai, goes far beyond the realm of Barbie and into a boundry defying world of play. Rozy’s work reflects an ever-expanding experience rather than a strictly outlined art form you can pinpoint.
From building transformative spaces and engaging their audience in intentional rituals of care: decorating the human form with their self-designed hair sculptures, prosthetic genitals and garments, Rozy’s practice intertwines fashion with set design and hair styling. Nonetheless, they refuse to exist within the boundaries of any one medium, within their delimited space to work and play. These artistic creations, as a response to barbie, are only 'budget' insofar as the materials Rozy sources are inexpensive or second hand. In their bright and colourful art they turn Barbie, and binary gender expression on her head.
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As a friend, I’ve had the chance to observe how there’s barely a noticeable line between you as a person and your artistic practice; the two flow in and out of each other constantly. Is this something you think most artists inherently embody?
I don’t think I can answer for all artists, but for me, yes: my 'art' is what I do daily; dressing-up, putting on make-up, doing my friends’ hair or building tents. This can all be an average weekly hang out with my loved ones, but it is also just therapeutic to me. I need it when I am alone, or in difficult moments. So, in that sense, my routine and what I need as comforting rituals have become my practice, and I don’t see it as a separated activity from me as a person.
Pink plays a big role in your practice, and, dare I say, life! Why?
I use pink in my work as a form of self-parody. In Western culture, this colour is so heavily gendered: it’s always associated with an ultra-feminine world, but also not really to grown-up women, but more so to girls’ socially expected traits; innocence, virginity. Pink is associated with the perfect doll. For instance, the Plastics in Mean Girls, or Sharpay in High School Musical. Well, my idea with using pink all the time is to propose another type of model. I am trying to disconnect this colour from the expected blonde silhouette, which I never related to anyway, and to show off a bold and bald Barbie, who’s weird and confident in their sexuality.
You are 'the' Budget Barbieboi! You never source from expensive places and all you do is so cute and seemingly 'femme', yet there’s a layer of irony to it all.
I am trying to envision an-other type of beauty. From our physical appearance to the world that surrounds us, everything we know has to be questioned. I like to play with beauty standards, I might add that I propose a sort of new body on a budget, an accessible metamorphosis; I’ll give you new hair, some prosthetic genitals, and I’ll send you off into my big, weird world.
Also, I find it important to mention that none of the artists I look up to wear fancy outfits or seem to care about expensive materials. They upcycle, deconstruct what already exists and propose something new and unusual that triggers your attention. Currently, I’m crushing on Vava Dudu, who’s so extreme and so true to herself, I love it. Check her out!
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What role do textures play in your work?
I use texture as a form of play. I love to combine something organic with chains, for instance, and then add softer materials to the mix; a combination of 3 different play identities. I like to see my work as a play mat for kids: something to, first and foremost, awaken your senses. I am really bored with minimalistic aesthetics. I want to be able to run my fingers through a surface and feel multitudes of textures, shapes, and forms. When it comes to playing with materials, volumes, or colours, you should never be shy. I like seeing the audience come close to my artworks and discover the numerous materials blending in one piece.
How does space influence your practice?
It’s by delimiting a space that I can usually start working. I think it comes from childhood, when you set for yourself the limit of your imaginary playground. Now, when I build a space, it starts by setting up a floor, or soft walls. Building a space around my artwork, or just in my studio. It helps me get immersed in the universe I fabricate and start truly believing in it. It guides me to disconnect with the 'normal' surroundings I’m in most of the time. Those moments are close to a ritual and are essential when I start working. I feel like it’s the same when you’re a kid; you might build a tent to give life to your fantasy, or to be able to share your secrets.
Do you have an audience in mind when creating?
I used to not really create for an audience. Ever since I started making things, I was just creating my own toys for me to play with. But somehow, an audience of like-minded people organically came to me, and vice versa. I define those people not so much as an audience, but as magic bats and fairies that flow around me and help me build my universe.
I know that care, and the practice of care, is a big influence on your work. I’ve observed you not only doing your work with the intention of it “caring” (for) someone else, but also you yourself quite literally caring for others by aiding them in their own transformation through your work. So, what does care mean to you? And why is it important to you and your practice?
Care is doing something with good intention and love. When it comes to this subject, I can get quite spiritual, but I know this doesn’t speak to everyone. As my work involves a lot of intimate moments and proximity between bodies, I always try to receive the audience with care, by being attentive to their mental state once they come near the work and to what they need in that moment. In that way, I prepare them to penetrate the installation, or I guide them through the transformation. It’s important for them, but also for the work. I want the performer to treat the wigs or prosthetics with care. I’ve noticed through my practice the power that a physical transformation can have on mental health. Receiving care is a moment of relaxation and releasing, and this is what I am looking to create.
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Speaking of transformation, your work seems to be always evolving and you yourself as an artist and as a person never stop pushing your own boundaries with expression. Can you tell me more about this? Are you obsessed with change?
Yes, I am obsessed with change! I don’t like anything that is fixed; I get bored and frustrated. Although sometimes I wonder if my relationship with permanent change is healthy. I feel I can get manic and make impulsive decisions with my look, for example. I don’t think I can keep the same hairstyle for more than one month. And I like to challenge myself a lot in general, and I believe that I still have a lot to discover about my identity, and with every new personality change I give birth to a new facet of myself. This is super exciting. Right now, my character is a bald Barbie transported straight from The Matrix.
How important to you is the medium your work is presented through?
I think the peculiarity of my work is that it can be shown in any context, and that won’t change its energy or meaning in any significant way. My installations are dressing-up time capsules, and if they get activated, it works for me. Though, sometimes, I feel like my art works best in an intimate context and when approached intuitively. What I do is more about a lifestyle than something that will stay still in a white cube.
You’ve had your work shown in physical spaces, but also some things maybe are best shown online? Do you agree? What are your thoughts on the physical and digital presentation of your work?
I’m starting to enjoy both equally. I mean, physical places are for sure one of a kind experiences, but there is something about the digital realm that gives space for more creativity sometimes. Without having access to all the contextual information that a physical space may offer, you can develop your own narrative around the work when experiencing it digitally. I’m currently collaborating with a 3D artist, Aurelia Noudelmann, and I realise more and more the possibilities we have when building a digital world. Also, I’m more and more aware that, through digital presentation, I can reach a community that I cannot always meet in real life.
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