What Am I Reading: Valérie Barkowski

STIR looks into the reading habits of leading creatives – Belgian textile designer Barkowski delves into Walk Through Walls: A Memoir by Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović.

by STIRworldPublished on : Jul 20, 2021

What is the name of the book you are currently reading?

Valérie Barkowski (VB): Traverser les murs (Walk Through Walls: A Memoir).

Who is the author?

VB: Marina Abramović.

What is the genre?

VB: Autobiography, memoir.

Pages from the memoir  | What Am I Reading: Valérie Barkowski | STIRworld
Pages from the memoir Image: Courtesy of Valérie Barkowski

Do you judge a book by its cover?

VB: I look at the general aspect of the book and its message, and the cover is only a part of it. I will not say I am driven by the cover entirely when I choose a book to delve into. I am, however, sensitive to the paper quality, the size, the binding... I view the book as content to immerse myself in and as an object - the materiality aspect is part of the reading experience but is not central to it.

What made you pick it up? Can you highlight any notable aspect of the book’s design aesthetics, typography, images…?

VB: I picked it up purely for the content of the book - Marina Abramović is a Serbian conceptual and performance artist, philanthropist, writer, and filmmaker who has created a strong world. I was curious to dive into her life and understand more about her art, life, and being.

Barkowski delves into Traverser les murs in her favourite place to read at home, her bedroom | What Am I Reading: Valérie Barkowski | STIRworld
Barkowski delves into Traverser les murs in her favourite place to read at home, her bedroom Image: Courtesy of Valérie Barkowski

Your most favourite part(s) of it?

VB: I liked reading about her early years, her relationship with her mother, the impact of that childhood and education on her character and her multilayered, mind-blowing portfolio. There are also comprehensions about how her projects have come to life and cross time, and on becoming the 'godmother of performance art'.

Did you gain any insight, or did it help you unwind?

VB: I feel like I got to know her better, or the version of herself that she allowed and presented in the pages of the book.

Your favourite lines to quote from the book.

VB: Because in the end you are really alone, whatever you do.

More than this quote, my favourite part of the entire memoir was getting to comprehend her mindset and follow her admirable, bold creative process that spanned five decades. It was interesting to read how she perceives herself and her work and how her experiences and education translated into her famous work.

I would like to share this video that encapsulates her revelatory sense and work, where words are not needed.

04 mins watch Marina Abramović and Ulay - MoMA 2010, The Artist is Present | What Am I Reading: Valérie Barkowski | STIRworld
Marina Abramović and Ulay - MoMA 2010, The Artist is Present Video: Courtesy of G Mazz

At what time of the day do you read?

VB: Early morning, as soon as I wake up and before I go to sleep, with a preference for the former. I enjoy reading in bed with a cup of tea, with chirping birds keeping me company.

Hard books, e-books or audio/video books?

VB:The feel of hard books is incomparable, but e-books are convenient when travelling. So, I would choose both. I love paper but I also like technology.

One book or book adaptation as a film that you always want to go back to.

VB: Il Postino. Based on the book Burning Patience by Antonio Skarmeta, the classic is set on an island off the coast of Italy, where the world of a young postman transforms when he starts delivering letters to the exiled poet Pablo Neruda. It is heart-warming, romantic and funny at places and reminds me of a simpler time.

Barkowski's bedside table with her stacked reading list | What Am I Reading: Valérie Barkowski | STIRworld
Barkowski's bedside table with her stacked reading list Image: Courtesy of Valérie Barkowski

Look up more such interesting reads from the series ‘What Am I Reading’ and watch out for more.

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