We are not just an art collective, we aspire to become a subculture

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In the 1950s Popart and artists worked to reevaluate the seriousness of the fine art world, by introducing pop culture images and references to their practice. Today, ‘New Masters’ like Trance Collective hope to recreate a similar subculture. We met with Trance Collective’s Bridget, Molly, Lex, and Sheeque at Smak’s Popart expo, to discuss alter egos, the Scandalous Gaze, pop culture influences and accessibility to the art world.

Describe your Alter Egos, why did you choose to portray yourselves this way?

Bridget: We chose alter egos because in life we have so many roles to fill in like when you are at work or with your family, you have a role, and with that comes certain obligations. With our Trance alter-egos, there are no boundaries, we can do whatever we want, while still respecting each other's boundaries. That was important to us. We made this platform for ourselves, but we want to take it further than just our art, or what we do. Even right now, we are already working with other people and we want to offer a platform for other people as well.



Sheeque: We want Trance to be a place for all like-minded people that understand the irony we are presenting. For me, the alter ego is not just an alter ego, it is the real me, but without the boundaries that mainstream society has set. It is the uncensored me, not something completely different from myself, not an act, just me. We all chose a name that represents the uncensored self and suits each of us.

Lex: It feels very freeing to just be that person. It is a safe space to be the extraversion of yourself, maybe one that you have always wanted to be but felt like you couldn't.



Is the goal of Trance to reach other people who share similar views of the world?

L: Yes, because we have found each other, but we know there are a lot of other people out there who would vibe with us, and with this concept.

Molly: People who also struggle with society telling them what they can and can't do, we want to reach these people to inspire each other. And become friends, of course. 

L: It goes beyond an art form, it is just a way of being.

S: We are not just an art collective, we also aspire to become a subculture.

It goes beyond an art form, it is just a way of being

What energy do you hope Trance can put out into the world, and how do you see this benefiting other like-minded people?

L: First of all, kindness, and an invitation for everybody who feels the way we feel to join. We want to broadcast this openness and tolerance for everybody.

S: And it is just about having fun, we want other people to have fun because that is the core of what we do. I can only speak from my own experience, but since we started Trance, I have just had so much fun; I have felt so free while opening up this side of me.

L: This is such a valuable feeling that we all have and now I just want to share it with other people.

B: Because we have gotten very close in a really short period, I think we all feel very loved by each other, and we love to see each other in and outside of Trance, so when we have our meetings and talk about the collective it comes from the heart.



Historically, pop art came about to juxtapose the seriousness of fine art, to incorporate popular images in media and advertisement, as well as irony and parody, is this an idea your collective focuses on as well?

B: Pop culture back then is not what we see now as pop culture, because, of course, we have evolved past that. So I would say the intention is the same, but it doesn't always look the same because it has changed.

M: I can be inspired by normal, popular things, like Britney Spears songs, or things she has said, and I don't find any blame in it. Sometimes people think these things are too basic or mainstream, like listening to Beyoncé and eating ice cream in your bed, but you can be inspired by mainstream media. I think art can get boring when people are constantly looking for something different or unknown; they forget that the well-known things are not necessarily bad to like. 

I think a lot of creatives feel pressure to be interested in ‘educated’ art…

L: I think a lot of creatives feel pressure to be interested in ‘educated’ art…

S: The Art with the capital A

L: But it can just be very fun to listen to Beyoncé and watch Winx Club in your bed eating ice cream. And there is also something in owning that, which is almost a criticism towards the art world.

B: These are also what I grew up with, and what I have always loved. It is so much fun to reintroduce this youthfulness to the person I am today. It is nice to embrace this because it did play a large role in who we all are. 



Is irony an important aspect of Trance?

L: I think irony for us is an important element in having fun with what we do, and not taking things too seriously, but at the same time, it can be used to criticise mass culture, consumption, and the stiffness of the bourgeois art world. I think by using very clear pop references, art can become more accessible.

M: And people can still recognize themself in what we make because we are just trying to have fun, not make serious things for people. I don’t see it as us being artists or making art, it is more that we are having fun.

Irony can be used to criticise mass culture

S: We are also not trying to pull anybody in that isn’t attracted to it or doesn’t want to be a part of this endeavour, we are not going to give a whole story to try to draw people in. 

L: But we don’t want to make it exclusive, everyone is welcome to join us if it genuinely attracts them.

B: Our aesthetic is very kitschy and camp, we love that, and I think we showed that with the calendar. But that doesn't mean that, for example, when we organise an expo, anyone needs to report to these aesthetics, that's not what needs to happen, but if you are in the same mindset and have the same values, then everyone is welcome to use the platform as well.

M: Pop culture can impact people in such different ways: we love the same things and are inspired by the same things, but we all use it differently. This shows that pop culture is not a one-sided thing, and it is not the same for everyone. That is also expressed in our group because we are very diverse in our styles and aesthetics.


Did you recognise any pop culture references in the Pop Art Expo?

S: The pop culture references remind me of Andy Warhol's portraits of Marlyn Monroe. Her face is so well known, super mainstream, but the way he manipulated the portraits is similar to how we use the pop culture of today.

M: I think Andy Warhol was kind of giving people, or society ‘the finger’ in his work, through his use of pop culture references. In the expo, there was a statue of a naked woman sitting on a chair, and when we see it now, it is kind of normal, but back then it was a big deal, not socially acceptable. Even now, people will still be triggered by it, or uneasy about it

It will be a dress-up party, very campy

What were some of the pieces that stood out to you in the expo?

L: The car crash, definitely.

B: It was very enticing because it makes you wonder when Andy Warhol took the picture and if this woman is dead? You keep watching because you know it’s not right to take a picture when something like this happens, but it is so sensational, you just can not look away. 

Define the Scandalous Gaze, and what it means to Trance.

S: The Scandalous Gaze means that we don't care about the boundaries that mainstream society has set. We don't shy away from being scandalous, sometimes even marginal, we actually kind of love it. It is mainstream society watching us do these things, that we define as the Scandalous Gaze. For me, owning the Scandalous Gaze is not only wearing revealing clothes in photoshoots, but is taking things that society has cast away and deemed as shocking or marginal, and embracing them.



What can we expect from Trance in the future?

B: Right now we want to do an expo, not of our work, but we want to reach out to people that inspire us, and that we think have similar energy and mindset, to give them a platform. With the calendar we kinda gave ourselves a platform, we put a name on what we are doing, and now the next step is to focus on using this platform for other people. We are also looking to plan a party because that goes with the energy we want to put out: just having fun.

S: It will be a dress-up party, very campy.


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