Winston Chmielinski is an American painter based out of Berlin, Germany. Winston is one of the main participants at #Regenerate14, a curated event by The Lab Magazine at Generator Hostels Berlin.
DARYA KOSILOVA—Hi Winston! How long have you been in Berlin?
WINSTON CHMIELINSKI—Since last May. No, August. Yes. That’s what the official documents say.
DK—What prompted your move from the US to Deutschland?
WC—I wanted something huge for my twenty-fifth birthday, and this is what I got.
DK—What do you think is the biggest difference in the art culture between North America and Europe?
WC—It’s like there’s no ocean between the two, considering the total overlap of shows and general globalized artish themes, which baffles me when exorbitant shipping costs and German customs agents are so prohibitive.
DK—Has living in a new environment impacted the way you’re creating work?
WC—Yes. I feel like I’m still learning how to take up space, I’ve never had this much.
DK—What are the main themes you’re exploring in your work now?
WC—Let’s see… Real magic, quantum entanglement, the desires of objects, and the black hole that hovers precariously over the hump of the next second! There’s all this collateral that I collect and put back in place. I don’t really feel an impulse to create from the ground up when I can assemble stories that are much bigger than myself; built from the minuscule details of our everyday and charged with residual symbolic value.
DK—You are one of our main artists at #Regenerate14. One of the key themes of this exhibit is the concept of “social sustainability.” How do you feel social sustainability can be achieved through art?
WC—The myth of the masses needs to be slayed. Art is about engagement, and its effects should last a lifetime. We all bring our own experience to whatever we see, touch, taste, or hear. Interactivity is as much about participation as it is self-reflection. How we structure those experiences to be positive and profound is where art comes in, as a necessity, and something that should be a baseline for everything we do, and not the profession of a few.
DK—Tell us a bit about the piece you’re making for #Regenerate14. What do you hope your piece will inspire among the viewers?
WC—I wanted to make the opposite of a spectacle, something that catches you off-guard and lures you in with a gesture. The bar and the bathroom spaces are safe spots, at least in terms of just letting your mind drift. That’s what I wanted to ride, that half-conscious state where a word, a phrase, or an image comes in and spurs on a train of thought.
DK—You are mostly recognized for being a painter. What has been your biggest challenge going from a canvas to more multi-media sensory installation?
WC—First, I’m grateful for the opportunity, so thank you. I was sitting on four years of material and just needed someone to say, “Go!” The accidentals of painting have their parallel in the technical fiddling of sound and video, so the pieces for #Regenerate14 came about in an organic way, and really feel like a natural extension of my body of work.
DK—I read that you suffer from sleep paralysis. I do as well, and you’re the first person that I’ve ever met that has it too. Do you feel fear when it happens or do you embrace those thirty seconds of physical vulnerability?
WC—So you also know that it never gets easier! I usually still struggle my way out of it, and then chastise myself for not exploring the sensations more.
DK—Tell me about your “SSPB” (Secret Single Person Behavior). Is there one thing that you would never do in front of your significant other?
WC—Yeah, sometimes bits of my head hair stick up straight and I basically have to mold them back in place. I do this by tying a towel or a T-shirt around my head. It looks really questionable.
DK—Is there something that you would never want to see from your significant other’s SSPB?
WC—I don’t wanna know!
DK—What do you do for fun?
WC—My vice is eating while watching TV. For fun I go to grocery stores. Markets are good too, but only if they have a healthy proportion of whole to broken.
DK—What’s the craziest thing that ever happened to you in Berlin? Tell me a story.
WC—Well, one was getting my apartment. Forty people wanted it and I got on my hands and knees and kind of cry laughed about how I felt like I had found my soul home and something about light and happiness and a death-bed playlist. Also another crazy story which has to do with the apartment, a gypsy forced a puppet house on me with little prayer bells inside and that night I had a lucid dream and was actually inside the puppet house, complaining about how I couldn’t see the sky through the ceiling.
DK—If you could pick two historically famous artists to be your parents, who would they be?
WC—Leonardo da Vinci and Björk. W.B. Yeats would be my uncle, and Erykah Badu would be my godmother. I hope by historically significant you don’t mean dead.
DK—If you were on death row, what would be your last meal?
WC—A massive bowl of porcini mushrooms fried in butter.