As a closure to writing about this cycle of WOMB, I interviewed Joui Turandot, the founder, and matriarch of the WOMB collective, and an embodiment of the philosophical, multiform creative. In an intimate dialogue I learned of the her artistic, and deeply personal process as an artist, as a woman, and her play with identity from the art she creates, to the social climate she has cultivated. It is her amalgamated understanding of spaces, and their instrumental vitality and authority in dictating sensation, and perception, mixed with a strong ethos she founded long before implementation.
All exploratory measures stem from a deep intrigue with the formation of identity; personally, politically, along with the movements of collective evolution. How does one arrive at their expression? What formations and processes take place in order to land in this specific manifestation of human articulation? For Turandot, it began with a very potent aesthetic relationship to expression, and a conspicuous love of clothing, and photography. At eight she started sewing classes, would regularly gather all her friends, dress them in grandiose costumes, and set up wild portraits, a la Cindy Sherman. When teenagehood hit, an agent said he wanted to represent her, which took her artist identity into regenerative territory. At that time she decided to spontaneously change her name, to align with a selfhood her given name could not meet. She chose Joui, because she had been studying french, and wanted a name similar to her birth name, Julie. Turandot came from an opera poster she had hung in her bedroom. Her grandma had gifted this fantastic, dramatic, and harrowingly beautiful piece, which she idolized in its exquisite romanticism and splendor. This marked a pivotal movement as a human claiming persona. It was a subtle, and yet drastically instrumental shift, whereby at eighteen, Turandot learned of the revolutionary act of self definition.
As she made her way through different iterations of being an artist, she learned in university that her love of photography translated to a love of video and film. She moved into a multimedia focus, and dived into documentary film. In early 2002, Turandot studied abroad in Chile, where she shot her thesis film, “Yo Soy Así,” about Chilean transgender prostitutes. She said her movements with art, and navigating different conceptions, and formations, had been a very intuitive process. It is an acute sensitivity to what is singing to her, and an emotional subtlety guiding her through. This meant that she could hold all the various iterations of being an artist,and did not need to stay stuck in one formation of being a visionary.
It was very early on that she understood the mixture of a soiree; the gathering with the art and sustainability. She started an up cycled art-to-wear clothing line by the name of “Vagadu,” along with showcasing the collections at the underground dinners, her friend conducted. She loved the act of curating cultural happenings, and throwing events, which found lineage to her grandmother. A through line theme throughout our conversation, was a somewhat punk progressive need to carve and dictate without any kind of outer authority or rule imposition. In this regular state of powerful clarity, Turandot was aware of her visions, and with lucid conviction, that the current iteration of civilization was something she needed to impress upon. In many ways, she found great parallels to artist family members who proceeded her, and their non-conformist, and radical nature. Her grandmother, an art therapist, was known in the community for throwing extravagant, avant garde parties. Her grandfather lived on a personally hand-built houseboat with Alan Watts, as a collage aficionado and mystic. He fashioned a distinctive manner to approaching life, which was a muse to many, purely by way of following his own guiding light and principles.
The last few years have been a restorative effort to return to the purity of the artistic endeavor; the balm to the human spirit. After her mother made her ascension, and she got a divorce, Turandot made her way to Cuba. It represented a space where she could disconnect entirely from her previous stories of existence, and be off the grid. It was the vibrancy she needed, and a earth locale where she could return to instinct, to her spiritual root, and to her creative senses with fashion, film, photography, and feeling.
This is how WOMB became manifest, and the spark in her own personal creative renaissance. It is the conviction of art as practice, and a desire to situate herself, and others in the milieu of this modus operandi. A liberation laboratory whereby a multitude of variations of inventiveness, novelty, and metamorphosis may find haven. The collective is representative of the exterior artist, entrepreneur, and activist, and on one hand, a business identity with integrity. A requisite for her, is to separate her income from her art, as to not be forceful with the gestation process, or to conform to any demands from spectators, culture and/or buyers.
She explicated the necessity of the internal and external artist as essential to her personal credo. The social craft, the social art, versus the soul artistry, and the practice for individual fruition. Through a long journey of being involved in the art, fashion, and film scene, she became hyper aware, and opposed to the monetary, and gross facades insisted upon there. It is in a deep marriage, to doing self, and art, justice, and no longer subjecting herself to a world of sell out culture. Here, was an open space to make the artistic act in an uncontaminated, and deconstructed way. She is very interested in engaging the feminine body, and nature's body, in beginning conversations about how we change, mutilate, and condemn our bodies, as a microcosmic metaphor for what humanity has done to Mother Earth. Her art is sensual and raw, and very much physically involved with putting her figure into the earth, and in front of the camera.
It was a sort of identification of selfhood among the indoctrination, and systemic means of operation that she dramatically opposed. Through these influences, and sirens to her spirit, she reveled at disrupting social order, however in her own distinct reclaiming of surrealism, beauty, and dreams. She was drawn to understanding the lyrical, and poetic as a tool, because aesthetics, curating spaces, and architecture are pivotal in social evolution. Here, she mentions Gaston Bachelard, a philosopher who speaks on the power of spaces to connect one to a higher power, to a holy state, and how this finds home in the institution of the church. This grandiose enterprise is a kind of transportation, and transcendence into the divine. This is where her activist bend could find residence and world building aspirations could occur. If she could find the place, with the right palatial aesthetics, the culture, and creations birthed, would naturally form into the necessary transformative iterations, all with harvest timing.