in the Category: art

School is a little ecosystem, so let’s make it a good one

Fae Felis (she/he/they) is a performer, a writer, a visual artist and an activist. With a KASK bachelor in autonomous design in his pocket, a KASK master Performance art in sight and a passion for the occult and fantasy, Fae is an artsy something wicked this way comes. Something wicked, but also soft and caring and safe. We talked with creative centipede Fae about their imposter syndrome, inclusivity in art education and what it means to be an artist in our modern world. They shared a glimpse of their artistic practice and read us a chapter of the queer fantasy book they are writing.

Interview by Maria Magdalena de Cort
Photos shot by Valerie de Backer

You have a bachelor in autonomous design at KASK. You’ve probably been asked this a hundred times, but what is Autonomous Design? 

Autonomous Design is a constantly changing educational program. For an education to stay socially critical, the possibility of adapting and changing is very necessary. It adapts to what is going on in the world, to what is going on in the life and mind of the students and the teachers. I chose to study this because of how open and free it is. We can paint, we can write, we can perform, make installations: we can experiment.

For an education to stay socially critical, the possibility of adapting and changing is very necessary

Of course, with such a wide range of possibilities, there might not always be a mentor to guide you in your idea or passion. When the program Performance started 4 years ago, it reshaped our program as well. If you’d start your bachelor's now, you’d likely be trained more as a social designer: how can we design things beyond their mere practical use? It has a practical function as well as an artistic, environmental and social one.

The designer, the designed product and the user of the product are all directly connected. A chair that hugs you for example has the functionality of a chair, but also the symbolism of loneliness, of love.

 

Why did you decide to do the Performance master? 

It was encouraged by my teachers, as it became quite clear through the course of my bachelor's that I loved performing the most, and a lot of things fell into place when I started this master. I was also a lucky girl because when Covid hit, there was an exception made for practical courses that could not be done online and I was able to spend four days on campus every week. I think a lot of people missed out on such a big part of their education because of Covid. I had fantastic classmates who were my friends but also my teachers in a way. Since we were basically only in contact with each other during Covid, our class became a little ecosystem. I think that was the most magical part, feeling so harboured within a group. As a queer person, it’s often hard to find such safe enclosures. I struggle with imposter syndrome, in that I feel like I’m just pretending to be an artist and that it’s only a matter of time until people find out I’m a fake. In the Performance master, I was given a lot of trust by my teachers and peers which helped me overcome that. I felt like I didn’t have to prove myself.

I feel like I’m just pretending to be an artist and that it’s only a matter of time until people find out I’m a fake

How did that imposter syndrome influence your art education?

I have a hard time accepting compliments. If someone says they think my work is good, I always assume there is a reason for them saying that beyond that they think the work is good. For example, in my head, receiving my bachelor in Autonomous Design has nothing to do with me or my artistic skills. Rationally, I know I’ve worked and studied for it and that I showed up to class, but something in my head doesn’t allow me to be proud of myself. It tricks me into strange narratives where I’m just an annoying student so they let me pass to get rid of me or whatever. It feels like it doesn’t mean anything.

What would be meaningful to you then? 

The concept of ‘meaning’ is such a strange thing, our ‘mutually accepted’ understanding of meaning is what shapes our society. There’s this idea that everything has to mean something, and I find that's weird but also very pressuring. I think imposter syndrome might be specific to marginalised groups, as our understanding of meaning is a bit divergent from the default. We desire things outside of the norm. Ideally, my diploma should at least be proof of my hard work. But a school or a piece of paper can not define my worth. Artistic competence cannot be proven by a diploma; in fact, artistic competence cannot and should not be proven at all. You just have to believe in your own ability to make art. Does that make sense?

A school or a piece of paper can not define my worth

Believe in your own ability to make art. Would that be advice you give to people who start art education? 

Maybe, yes. I always felt like whenever I had a month without any inspiration or little output, I was a bad and fake artist. But you have to believe in your artistic ability even when you’re not making any art at that very moment. You’re still an artist, even if you haven’t created anything for over a year. So don’t beat yourself up about it. Your creativity will return.

 

This was a good year for you though - you wrote a book. Can you tell me a bit more about this? 

Yes, it’s a queer fantasy young adult book. I’ve always been a passionate fantasy reader, so it was very obvious that if I was gonna write this book, it would fit in the fantasy genre. The most exciting part was finishing it, strangely enough. It gave me such a feeling of freedom and pride to wake up one day and write the last page of my book. It’s scary as well, because you suddenly feel like it’s not perfect yet, or not thought through enough or complicated enough. But I’m trying to let that go. Writing this book really helped me process a lot of personal things and felt like a lifebuoy for me this past year. It kept me afloat when I felt like I was drowning, so even if nothing comes out of it professionally it has already made an impact on me. 

 

What is your post-grad summer going to look like? 

It will be a busy but exciting summer. I’ll finish my internships, travel a bit and work a lot! We're working on a dance project at the Opera that is going to premiere in September, so we’ll have rehearsals during summer as well. I might be going to Italy with my other internship, Bebe Books, but that’s not certain yet. And of course, work on my book. I really hope I will find a publisher, as I’m so excited to share it with the world. I’ll also take some time to reflect on these past years at KASK, it’ll be something I have to get used to, not being a student anymore.

 

What shaped you during your degree? 

Trying out different mediums is what truly shaped me artistically. I began my studies thinking I wanted to be an actress since that's what I did in high school, but I’m graduating feeling like a writer. I’ve met so many amazing people here who are skilled in different disciplines. Some of my favourite people I met studying here. It’s through KASK that I gave direction to my artistic practice, and it’s here that I learned to embrace the uncertainty of making art. Not the financial uncertainty: that’s fucked up and we need to fight to make art a healthy career choice. It shouldn't be a privilege to pursue your passion, but right now it is.

How can we make our institutions more inclusive and safer for marginalised groups? 

Making an environment safe is the first step, I think. A lot of institutions see inclusivity as a quick fix by hiring people from marginalised groups, but it takes a lot of effort to dismantle your environment. It’s not right to have queer, disabled or POC teachers or students at school when that school hasn’t dismantled their biases for the straight white default yet. It’s just violence. People need representation both in their peers and in their teachers or students. It’s all intersectional. When we fight for fair payment in the arts, we are also fighting for people who right now feel like they can’t afford to be artists because they need to support a family. We're also fighting for the people who got kicked out of their homes because of their sexuality and are now financially supporting themselves. School is already its own little ecosystem, so let’s make it a good one.

Subbacultcha and KASK & Conservatorium are teaming up for a series of artist portraits,
featuring some of the interesting alumni profiles.

KASK Graduation
From 01/06 until 04/07
schoolofartsgent.be

@fae.felis
@schoolofartsgent
@mariabyblondie
@valerie.debacker