Karen Paulina Biswell

Foto Feminas

April 22 2016

Karen Paulina Biswell was born in 1983 to Colombian parents who emigrated to Paris to escape the extreme political violence of the early 90’s. Biswell’s varied oeuvre, which consistently defies definition, explores subjects based on vulnerability, morality and human fate.

She is committed to capturing the lesser-known aspects of contemporary life, the invisible and defiant elements of society, taking a deep interest in the extreme states and depths of the human mind and experience.
She is currently working on a project centred around the subject of femininity, entitled Ellas, which allows her to use her artistic originality to explore the various aspects of desire, prohibition, nature and female sexuality.

Nama Bu, in native Embera means, We Exist, and reveals a collaboration with the Native American Embera Chamis community. This is an intensely personal voyage that explores themes revolving around personal and collective identity against a backdrop of extreme beauty and violence in Colombia.
NAMA BU explores different aspects of the artist’s relationship with this unknown world. From voyeur to hostages, we adopt a way of seeing things from a comedic perspective, from fascination at first to misunderstanding, and finally to what can only be called a true revelation.
Why do you choose to explore your life through photography?
I am really exploring the lives of others through my own experiences. Just like an author or film director who explores different characters would, because they feel an affinity towards them. I find that most of the ‘characters’ I work with are outsiders or outcasts who have a lot of self-confidence and assume their identity without also judging others. The purity that comes from flawed characters fascinates me. Just like the jesters in the paintings of Velazquez, the ‘freaks’, were the only ones who could get away with speaking the truth. I believe this also comes through in the portrayal of my ‘characters’ who are often the natives, prostitutes and people in generally vulnerable situations.
Regarding the previous question. Do you think that being born in Aruba and growing up between Paris and Bogota influenced your level of curiosity in exploring the world?
I prefer to avoid a linear biographical story and place myself within my current context. I did not control where I was born, where I was raised, but I definitely responded to it and still do so. The questions put forth by Gauguin such as, “who are we?”, “where do we come from” and “where are we going” are relevant to my life. I am addressing these questions through my work though I don’t have all the answers. I create a silent space, a mirror, allowing these questions to be explored by the audience or the viewer.
I see from a large section of your work that you have an interest in portraying femininity in different cultures and practices. Could you explain to us a little about how you investigate what appears to be a visual study of women?
I am attracted to the willingness expressed by certain women in regards to their own bodies and their varied and complex natures. This mysteriousness is what I am interested in, their power and its manifestation.