I first met April six years ago through snail mail. We exchanged postcards and letters for two years before we met in person. She’s a huge part of the reason I love Chicago so much, and I think this interview will show you why. She’s a brilliant woman, and I’m grateful to call her a friend.
April Noga is an interdisciplinary artist based in Chicago. She has shown work in such places as The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and The Chicago Cultural Center. She also runs a bi-monthly performance event, called New Room. Beyond her conceptual artwork, April works as a surface designer. In the beginning of 2014 she launched her own design studio, called Prillamena.
You’re one of the most multifaceted creative people I know. You not only dabble, but excel, at a large number of mediums. At this point in your life, what area of creative expression are you the most in touch with? How does it influence your daily life?
Thank you! Right now, I am focusing on figuring out how to balance all my activities. When people ask me what I do, I feel as though I have too many answers.
With pattern design, starting a business, my butoh practice, performance art, plus curating and event planning- there is always so much to juggle. But I care deeply about all of it. I don’t want to limit myself but I also don’t want anything to suffer either. Lately, I have been finding ways for all of these things coexist.
The trick is in being flexible enough to follow what inspires you on a daily basis but have enough self-discipline to schedule workdays and meetings. Its also important to keep looking at the big picture of the week/month/year.
It’s really rewarding to have days where everything fits in just right. For example, the other day I spent my morning auditioning dancers for a new performance piece, designed patterns for Prillamena all afternoon and in the evening I attended an artist-run meditation group. I went to bed smiling.
Something really interesting about you is your dedication and relationship to the art of Butoh. Can you give Uncustomary readers a run-down of what Butoh is and any suggestions of how one could incorporate Butoh related practices into their lives, even if they don’t have access to a class?
I don’t know if I can speak to the entire Butoh tradition. It is an intricate art form. But I can certainly speak from my own Butohian perspective…· Butoh is basically an avant garde style of performative dance. But behind every Butoh performer is their own, personal Butoh practice.
· In Butoh practice, the dancer works to shed socialized ways of moving and instead let their body be moved by other forces. Those forces come from outside elements or deep, subconscious impulses.
· The Butoh body has the power to take on qualities beyond what is human. It is a wildly freeing, a type of body revolution. It has completely changed my life.
· Though, Butoh requires disciplined practice. It took me two years of workshops and weekly classes before I felt I was actually starting to “get it”.
· But there are a lot of simple Butoh concepts that I feel add vibrancy to daily life that can be cultivated by everyone.
I actually just gave a lecture, called “On the Everyday”, at a gallery in Chicago about the simple ways Butoh can enrich daily life. I will be adding excerpts of my talk to my website. If you check it out, there will be lots of examples and simple exercises that you can try in your own space.
You’re in the process of making a lot of opportunities happen for yourself, like opening up your own business and hosting a bi-monthly event. What have you learned throughout this? Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting to take on things themselves?
I’ve learned to trust myself a lot more than I used to. I think the biggest thing about making things happen for yourself and your community is valuing your own voice. It is important to trust that your ideas have value.
After you figure out what you want to be doing, just say yes! And keep reaffirming your commitment to make this thing happen. Eventually, you are able to see setbacks as part of the process and they wont freak you out as much.
You also have to be brave. Be determined but also be gentle with yourself. If something didn’t quite work out the first time around that doesn’t mean what you are doing isn’t important. I want people to know that they can change their whole life just by realizing that those weird or unusual ideas they have are what make them special.
But the thing is- no one else is going to do these things for you. It’s your life- own it!
As a fellow mermaid, I’d love for you to share your draw and appeal to mermaiding, the spiritual world, and general mysticism. What is mermaiding to you? What areas would you like to have it affect you more?
I first started using the term ‘mermaiding’ to describe the act of embracing mysticism and internal impulses. To me, mermaiding is the act of honoring your intuition. It’s letting your spirit guide you.
Anais Nin described mermaids as not having a fear to ‘go deep’ (In life, within yourself, in whatever you are doing). This is my truest mantra- go deeper, always deeper. When you think you have fully immersed yourself, go even deeper.
This is something I have been living with for a long time, but I think it is something I will always be working at.
I am a deeply spiritual person. I don’t think I was ever drawn to spirituality or mysticism. I am just intrinsically this way. This is why when I found others who were practicing rituals, artful living, and other intentional practices, it was like I was meeting family members I never knew I had. I think all mermaids share this type of fundamental bond.
You don’t get to be good at so many things without drawing inspiration from as many places. Would you share a list of things that inspires you, either by concept or simple aesthetics?
Wanderlust, Roadtrips, Patterns of all kind, Ana Mendieta, Sketchbooks & studio spaces, Flower crowns, Street fashion, Forests, National Parks, Rain, Alters/shrines, Making up rituals, Wet-plate photography, Movement workshops, Eccentrics, Multiples (of anything), The act of collecting & archiving, Arranging things, Bookcases, My Friends- who make up an amazing community of artists and makers, Kazuo Ohno, Vangeline France, Snapshot photography, Taking notes, The ocean, and on days that feel too ordinary- Blue Lipstick.
As a very visual person, what advice would you give to someone who is looking to create a studio space (whether it’s a whole room or just a small area for them to work on their passion)? What things do you find essential for your own work space?
Work spaces are magical! It’s where your ideas are law. Where you sacrifice yourself for your work and in turn, you witness the things inside you being born into the world.
It’s a space where anything can happen! Therefore, I think when you are making a workspace of your own; you should start with the things that completely inspire you and feel natural. Don’t force anything.
I love taping things all over my studio walls and piling books in every corner. So I just go with it, even though I’m up to 5 bookcases and my walls are totally covered with images.
A studio isn’t just a room in your house, it’s a living archive of your creative practice. As soon as you acknowledge it as a sacred space, good things will happen there.