Flis Holland stirs space and depression

Flis Holland, installation view at Kosminen gallery, Helsinki, 2019. Photo: Helen Korpak.

Trained as an engineer specialising in asteroid defence, Flis Holland is an artist whose work tangles with science fiction, self-harm and the limits of empathy. Holland's residency from October to December 2019 at Triangle Art Association in Dumbo is part of the Finnish Cultural Foundation’s collaboration with international residency programs.

“I have major depression. It’s cyclical, it waxes and it wanes. When I’m ill I slip out of sync with the world. Life slows to a halt, my career stalls.  When I’m well enough to work again, I make work about depression.”

Flis Holland, installation view at Huuto gallery, Helsinki, 2015. Photo: Kristiina Männikkö.

Currently finishing her doctoral studies at Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Flis Holland was born in England and studied Fine arts at the University of Leeds being first trained as a space engineer.

“But due to certain pressures I quit the field, and for many years I pretended space didn’t exist.”

The change of careers is what Holland uses as a starting point for discussions about mental health and survival.

“There’s a shift in how we think of trauma and depression. They’re not just individual issues but collective ones, and they’re not simply a failure to cope but can be ways to adapt and survive.”

Flis Holland, performance at Kosminen gallery, Helsinki, 2019. Photo: Helen Korpak.

As an artist-in-residence at Triangle Holland is driven by two major ambitions: create new works and take field trips to Washington DC.

“I’ll develop new work to do with self-harm and the limits of empathy; I took my first tentative steps into this subject with a series of performances at Kosminen gallery in September 2019, tangling it into a sci-fi story. It’s linked to my ongoing research into unlearning and relearning survival skills.”

In Washington Holland is keen to meet scientists and disaster response teams who attended the Planetary Defense Conference 2019 – an event that included a week-long simulation of an asteroid collision with Earth.

However, in New York Holland is aiming ‘burst her academic bubble’ and get into conversations with a wide range of co-workers and publics.

“I am coming to the end of writing my doctoral thesis, which has been a rewarding but isolating experience. I can’t wait to being able to throw myself back into my studio practice.”