Lisa Spilliaert has a Japanese mother and a Belgian father. After growing up in Japan, she moved to Europe at the age of 17, where she studied photography at KASK in Ghent. Soon after arriving in Belgium, Lisa and her younger sister Clara shot Hotel Red Shoes (2013), a short movie about a girl, a man, and where they’re going. From 29 September, the artist’s solo exhibition, Growth Record, can be seen in the Beursschouwburg. Annual snapshots and making-of short movies reveal the growth of a child whose mother she could have been, having had sex with the father nine months before.
Interview by Laura Bonne
Photos by Tiny Geeroms, shot in Ghent
We are half-Japanese, half-Belgian and about a two-way desire for two different places
Your work is very autobiographical.
Indeed. That counts for my early as well as for my recent work. For Growth Record (2014-ongoing), it’s logically so in the sense that I had an intimate relationship with the father of the child I’ve photographed every year. Hotel Red Shoes is autobiographical as well, but in a completely different way. I made it with my sister Clara, and it references a traditional Japanese song about a girl with red shoes who goes away with a man to the far country he’s from. In that way the piece is more about origin – we are half-Japanese, half-Belgian – and about a two-way desire for two different places. However, this kind of autobiographical material was merely important in that specific period of my life. I hadn’t been living in Belgium for that long, and therefore the theme asked for exploration. Today, I wouldn’t elaborate on this any more. I’m more interested in different issues now.
My interests have shifted from origin to a wider notion of distance and space. I’m more interested in the kind of impact distances can have on emotions – for example, how one can desire something that’s far away. Many of these interests I have nowadays are explored in Growth Record.
From the moment I heard the baby was going to be born, I knew I wanted to make pictures
Can you expand a bit more on that?
The piece comprises an annual documentation of the child that was conceived in the same period I was intimate with its father. From the moment I heard the baby was going to be born, I knew I wanted to make pictures of him and that the process of me photographing, which I tend to repeat at regular intervals, had to be filmed. Growth Record shows key aspects of what I do in life and especially how I think about a lot of subjects. As such, the piece reflects on genealogy and on how these relationships could exist in different capacities.
Growth Record shows key aspects of what I do in life and especially how I think about a lot of subjects
What are your plans for the future?
I’m working on my first full-length movie, which will be released next summer. I’d love to make several more films. Next to that, I’d like to study law in the near future. Law is an interest that has been on my mind for a long time as well: the way judicial conceptions form people and the way they relate to each other is something I want to reflect on more. Growth Record also reflects on that topic. Traditional family conceptions are questioned and it puts genealogy in a new light. It’s very important for the life stage I’m in at the moment.
Growth Record is happening 4 Oct-22 Dec at Beursschouwburg, Brussels. The expo is free for member.