What Does Success in the Arts Look Like - Interview XI with Teresa Diehl

Teresa Diehl - Artist

Teresa Diehl can be considered a citizen of the world. She was born in Lebanon in 1961 and emigrated with her family to Venezuela when she was a child. Her artistic training took her to the United States, where she lives today. Her interest in people and places always lead her to themes that refer to sociopolitical conflicts and cultural traumas.

Teresa Diehl creates immersive environments that invite us to linger and wonder. Projections, light, music and handcrafted details create bitter-sweet spaces that are beautiful and, at the same time, deal with delicate political topics. Her pieces are profound stories of war, trauma and political conditions. While her pieces are political she doesn't demand a politicization of her viewer, instead she grants them with a space to feel save, think, dwell and actually understand that there is never a simple truth. Despite that her works deal with highly political topics she refuses to give into cynicism and and shows that our time doesn't acknowledge that complicated regions contain multitudes of stories, where delight and human suffering can take place at the same time.


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What are your thoughts on fame in the arts?

Honestly who would not like some fame, as long as it is for the right reasons, like making a positive difference. If fame is a sign of validation for what we already do, great… but if it is the only purpose and the sole guidance of the work, I think that is a false illusion a mirage. Fame is ephemeral and not in my control so I try to not worry too much about it.

What is your approach to rejection as a site of success?

Rejection is part of the whole experience, do not take personally, it hurts, sometimes a lot. I will not lie, but remember what art is, the materialization of our thoughts, concerns, questions, statements, love, hate, curiosity. It is the experience of being amazed, astonished, surprised….It is a search and in constant state of redefining itself…  so how could one think that rejection is not a part of it.  Yes!  It might hurt, understand it or not, but keep working. The main thing is to not let it run over you. 

Any thoughts on income and financial stability and success?

Assuming that we are still talking about the correlation of income and financial stability and success in the arts, all depends on your intent; on what you need versus what you want; what is the work about and how to deliver it; once you have an idea then we adapt. Art is an endless problem solving mess, our challenge it to make “it” work with what we have. The more resources and tools we have at our disposal, the greater the chances to find the balance, that been said income and financial stability are welcomed variables in this puzzle.

MadraseVideo and Sound Installation2016 Dimensions: Variable, 4 Single channel video projections, School desk, blackboards, 100 UN peace treaties polyester film, hand cut.

MadraseVideo and Sound Installation2016
Dimensions: Variable, 4 Single channel video projections, School desk, blackboards, 100 UN peace treaties polyester film, hand cut.

How do you define success in the arts?

HAPINESS, to be able to surpass all obstacles and challenges in order to get that pure feeling of bliss.  I am still working on it.

Do you have role models for success and who are they?

Diane Arbus an American photographer once replied to her daughter when she asked: “Mommy why do you put all these pictures of strangers around and not ours” ….and Diane replied, "these images are my trophies, they remind me that I had the courage to pursue my curiosity."  And like Diane there are so many others, Christian Boltanski, Anselm Kiefer, Robert Frank, Mona Hatoum… you learn from one another, you built from each other.

What advice on success will you give to your 18 year- old self?

Persistence, persistence,persistence…. And when you think that you have exhausted the possibilities walk away (just for a little bit) come back from another angle, and see what your blind spot did not allow you to see at first.

Surrender to your work and be open to all its possibilities. Be focused but do not be trapped.

Try to find balance between your work and your life, do not always share the same arena.

Be, be truly, be fearless, be humble, be assertive, be decisive, be involved, believe in what you do.

Your thoughts on success in the arts and race /gender?

If your question is about HISstory, the answer has pretty much been written, and it is not a just one. Of course who you are, where you come from, your collective will affect the making of the work, but then once all is done the work becomes an entity on its own and that should be the determining factor for its success…. I hate to say it, it is not.

“Justice has been blind” maybe it is time to depict her without the blindfold. 

I've been working with Teresa Diehl this year in Switzerland, where she has been artist in resident for 2 months. Listen to this short artist talk we've done inside her installation "El Nido".

Teresa Diehl in conversation with Anabel Roque Rodríguez, The View 2017 www.the-view-ch.com video: Ⓒ Luca Rüedi, The View.