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Meet Jiselle Kamppila

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jiselle Kamppila.

So, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I became an artist the moment I felt a fire inside me. I became an artist when I couldn’t distinguish reality, felt fears of peers, grew ashamed of my existence. I developed a coping skill called “painting.” I spent my teenage years worshipping Patti Smith and Arthur Rimbaud, growing passion, and an ability to escape my reality.

Through art, I created a morbid outer world. Spliced bodies, skinny, isolated, figures that told a story of anguish. I felt separate from the world. Little did I know I was painting the same portrait of dread, over and over. I had become a furious poet by the time I was 18 years old. Without knowing it, I was on a journey to becoming a performer. I became an art student at the age of 19. Before I knew it, I was trapped in a harmful, toxic environment. I spent the first three years wholly lost until I became unafraid to share my chaotic truth explicitly. I spent my time on vast pieces of canvas stapled to the wall, sharing stories of my nightmares. I took over the whole painting studio with large chunks of ripped paper, painting to my symbolist-fueled poetry.

By the time I was a senior in art school, I had exploded with a manic energy that manifested itself into a poetic performance piece. At first, I started to create art books which featured various prose/poetry pieces, collage, my photography, and self-portraiture. These books were as visceral as my poetry is. To expand the physical presence of my poetry, I started to create installations I used to do performance pieces. I have performed at Otis College of Design’s “100th anniversary” open studio event. I scared many elderly visitors and children with my knife scraping my guitar on an altar-like table, with candles surrounding me. I performed at the event ironically (obviously). Soon after, I ran a show with my Belgium partner in crime, Antje Bots. It was called “Bliss in Nature.” This performance was a collaborative installation, overlayed with Antje’s video of footage from a transformative school trip we went on together. It also featured sculptures by Rosie Galanis, Hacer Sifanur, and Jose Cruz.

So it was a full-on art show. I performed on that same altar table, with scattered objects, including pages of my poetry. I recited my prose “Bliss,” which was a vivid, ruminative piece influenced by Rimbaud’s “A Season in Hell.” I did this paired with my knife scraping against my guitar, creating a distorted humming that filled the room with cognitive dissonance. I continued performing knife-guitar when Don Bolles invited me to play at Hyperion Tavern. That was my first show. Soon after, I played Peter Kalish’s “Queer Space” with my wonderful sister and loved performer: Celeste XXX. My hospitalization that took place in March created a hiatus. For now, I am creative in confines of a safe space, my room with a ton of books.

Has it been a smooth road?
I daily struggled with getting along with the art school environment. As a strong-willed, outspoken woman being vocal about my darkest emotions, of course, it was a challenge to be taken seriously. I was, at many times, being forced into characterization. Male professors mostly told me that I was “too aesthetically pleasing and constantly performing.” Whatever that could mean. I was forced to elaborate my work so thoroughly it was psychologically taunting. The incredible amount of pressure to fulfill an identity to please the “art world,” led to a severe manic episode.

Throughout my art career, I have struggled with my mental disorder. Combating the symptoms of my illness and coping with school and the ability to make art was extremely challenging. I was recently diagnosed with Bipolar. I didn’t finish school because of “mania.” I felt like I was on fire. I felt a light spark in my soul, and I was fearless in the most destructive of ways. I worked so hard, an incredible amount of energy filled me every day. My work indeed kept track of this irregular energy. Art school almost corroded my sanity. A few months ago, I felt so much rejection and crippling pressure, I was hospitalized. I had active suicidal ideation and was admitted on a 51/50 at Las Encinas Mental Hospital. I didn’t finish school and had to take a break. That is the biggest challenge of my career. Through this experience, I have acquired the strength to keep working on my art even more. I have an insightful story to tell.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I’m a poet, painter, and performer. I believe that my work is rooted in literature. I spend a hell of a lot of my time reading/studying to inform my work further and further. I started my studies based on symbolist poetry, the word experiments of 19th-century French poetry is my whole world. The sensational elements of symbolist poetry/prose furthered my investigation of a language: the alchemy of words. My work creates an emotional world that is a catalyst to a fever of words, images, and actions. I have a passion for words, words about words, creating a world out of words. I believe this is all rooted in obsessive thoughts and images I experience in my day to day life. I think I spent most of my life trying to encapsulate the meaning of my work, and most of it cannot beget an exact definition.

I do a lot of prose, poetry, and imagery my second Instagram @Pitch_a_fever. I spend time on that account experimenting with imagery and words. A lot of my artwork is on there. I also do scatter installation, which is usually a chaotic environment shrouded in books and broken items that I have had in my studio. I like to perform with my noisey knife guitar in that environment. I also, of course, perform the guitar/knife getup outside of my old studio at Otis when I have to opportunity. It’s setting me apart because I am not afraid to be uncomfortable and share a world of disgust and trauma. I am incredibly proud of where this has taken me and where it can take me.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I like how performing my ideas is even possible. I love that. I love that I have had to opportunity. I love the creative space I am allowed to have. I also really love the people I have met along the way. I guess what I do not like is the expectation of fulfilling specific roles and of being categorized. I hate how success is measured.

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Image Credit:

Kaylie Choi, Scott Free, Genevieve Marie, Danny Mirko Kadum

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