Interview with Michaela Konrad, Austria

Michaela Konrad is coming from the illustration background, and we met through some contacts in our comics art network long ago, at the comics jam of Ligatura festival in Poznan, Poland. However, the way she treats the topics in her work and comics as a medium itself, is trespassing the borders of expectations we usually have from comics as intimate, one-on-one encounter with someone’s narrative approach and sensibility. Michaela is involved in big format exhibitions, electronic arts festivals, and is internationally present in contemporary art galleries, apart from being active member of wider European alternative comics art family. In this short interview, we will try to walk a curious magnifying glass closer over her work, processes and worldviews, in attempt to identify common points of inspiration between these various disciplines. Her painting style is very recognizable and communicative, once seen it becomes engraved in the spectator’s brain, and can illustrate the potential of comics art to become a form public art just like mural painting. We took this intersection as a starting point for this interview.
Questions and intro: Vladimir Palibrk

VP: One of the focal points that are quite common in your artworks, whether longer narratives or paintings/big format installations, is combination of gender-related and space-related topics..where does this come from? Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?

MC: The first artistic project I created was a small, self-published comic book I called Spacelove. It was an ironic soap opera about a love triangle in space. The name of the female protagonist was Olga. Within the following years, I created many different episodes of Spacelove – different in style, format etc. but the scenery was always in Space and there was always Olga, the blonde cosmonaut. Spacelove was inspired by the aesthetics of golden Age Comics like Flash Gordon by Alex Raymond and had been developing into something I could call my alter ego.

Q: Something echoes in your paintings a visual mixture of 1960-s futuristic space era aesthetics in USA, while it is still not very clear is it really past, or future, that is represented in your work..i did notice similar sensibility and atmosphere in few other Austrian artist’s work, such as Dorit Chrysler or Tonto Comics crew..would it be possible to contextualize this somehow? Did you all watch the same cartoons/read same books as kids during the cold war era?

MC: Yes maybe, I am not sure. Maybe we have the same influences. As a child and adolescent I was a very big fan of different television series like Space 2000, Star Trek or Die Mädchen aus dem Weltall, later I read novels of Phillip K. Dick, Aldous Huxley and so on. And I try to understand what the Quantum Theory, the String theory and the Theory of Relativity mean– I have read a lot of books and have been watching obsessively documentaries on these topics. I simply like the idea that time is just another spatial dimension, and that therefore, at least theoretically, everything exists simultaneously.

VP: Can you name your top 4 Austrian artists of today, in any field?

MC: Gottfried Helnwein – he is a star
Tommi Kuehberger (a great comic artist, who rejects to make exhibitions)
Deborah Sengl – great art and great content
Liddy Scheffknecht – I admire her work about time

VP: Your life is of an international/cosmopolitan artist, you spend your time between Tenerife and important or influential is that for your work and inspiration? Where do you find yourself at home on this planet?

MC: I feel at home in Vienna, because I spend a big part of my life there, many of my friends live here and it is the center of my professional life. I have been living in Vienna about 24 years.
My second home is in Tenerife, there is my printmaking studio, my husband, my dog and more friends. And finally there is Graz, where I was born, I grew up there and I have strong bonds there due to family and friends.
So Vienna – Tenerife and Graz are my home bases – this is inspiring because there are always changes. But sometimes it is exhausting, because even in Tenerife we are moving between two places. My aunt told me once that a great grandmother of mine was a Sinti, I don’t know whether this is true or not – but I definitely like to be on the road;-)

VP: If You were never had to do anything with illustration in your life, what would you be? Please describe Michaela Konrad from the parallel universe, if you want of course – what is she doing, where is she living, how does she look like?

MC: I have recently found out that I like interior design and real estates – strange enough. It probably has to do with the fact that I walk a lot with my dog and love to watch buildings – all different types of architecture. And I like to imagine how it is to live in a certain place. But whatever I would do in this Parallel Universe, it would not be from 9 to 5 and with only 5 weeks of vacation.

VP: If you were a planet or a celestial body, which one would you be?
MC: A Sun would be nice.
VP: Imagine you just woke up, and learned that the world ends in 24 hours. Which song is playing in the background?
MC: Always look on the bright side of life …and the Galaxy Song by Monty Python.

VP: Can you tell us about something you are working on at the moment?
MC: I am preparing two projects for the next year. Both have to do with past and present-day prognosis of the future. One project will be a book called Tomorrow and will be published at the Luftschacht Verlag in Austria in May 2022. It is something in between an art catalog and an experimental comic book with augmented reality interventions.
The other project is called Future Retro Ads – I design imaginary future advertising posters. The advertised products are inspired by my research on future trends in society, the new technologies and their socioeconomic effects. The presentation of Future Retro Ads will be on billboards in public spaces.

VP: There is quite challenging year and a half behind us. How do you see the future of the world, having that on mind?
MC: The future of our organized society has been in danger, long before covid appeared. We are overpopulated, uneducated, short term thinking, we use Earth’s resources as if there is no tomorrow…And those, who are designing the future in Silicon Valley and other High-Tech centers in the world must make profit out of their inventions. Regulatory forces are slow and mainly nation-bound, meanwhile transnational companies can act and react quickly. We seem to be stuck in a system which requires limitless growth. In the end we are apes, we have not made a lot of evolutionary progress in the last 70.000 years – but we have an advanced, potentially dangerous technology. And the technological progress is accelerating more and more. This is an explosive combination…You see: I am very

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