Adarsha Benjamin has made quite a name for herself in the art world over the past few years. Breaking all boundaries, she redefines what it means to be an artist, weaving seamlessly between different mediums both in front and behind the camera. From Paris to Berlin, Big Sur to Seattle, New York to LA, the nomadic beauty exudes love and light in her quest for artistic discovery. I met with Adarsha to discuss her latest project KURT, which will debut December 6th during Art Basel Miami Beach. She was all smiles on this dreary day in Silverlake, California proving that when you are proud of your accomplishments, nothing can keep you down. Her film was accepted into Art Basel, and perfectly paired with Sonic Youth’s legendary frontman Thurston Moore, whose music was a huge influence on Kurt Cobain. The world premiere of her film will take place at the gorgeous Gusman Theatre and is already receiving tons of notoriety, including making it to Harper Bazaar’s Hot List. I mentioned how exciting it must be to have such buzz around a film that no one has seen. Laughing, “Esther Park called me after watching a funny little trailer and asked me to screen in Miami. I was not even finished with the film (I’m actually still not finished with the film) But I said: Hell Yeah!”
Her passion and determination as an artist, gives Adarsha enough fuel to continue this long personal journey with herself. Developing a love for art at the age of 11, a majority of her life has been spent on this meaningful quest. When speaking about her art, a fearless expression falls across her brow, painting a more serious side of her, who normally exudes a lighthearted, wide-eyed, teen-like nature. Watching the way she speaks about her work, I realize that this means everything to her. This is not a job, nor a silly statement that will get lost in the runoff drains of fake blood and broken televisions in the hipster dump. This is her living, breathing, heart and soul imprinted onto the images that she creates for us. These photographs, poems and films are the paper trails of her life, and without these monuments left behind every tinge of pain experienced will linger in vain. Adarsha Benjamin is an insightful and inspiring woman that will no doubt soon become a household name.
Ericka Clevenger: Can you describe the moment after you had learned that Kurt Cobain had died, and how it affected you?
Adarsha Benjamin: I was nine years old, in our apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn. It was raining outside and we were getting ready to leave the house to go somewhere, when my mother received a phone call from her friend. I saw the terrified look on her face, that seemed to bleed into the room casting shadows from the window behind her. Bright grey light that spilled through the window that overlooked the hospital. For my mom, Kurt’s death was a huge deal. She was young and Nirvana was one of the bands I grew up listening to, running around and freaking out to. I loved them, I loved Kurt Cobain. They spoke my nine year old language. After she learned that he died, the angel attached to the vile on my mothers necklace fell off and into the cracks of our hardwood floors. Then my mom and I cried together and walked through the rainy streets of Brooklyn. You remember so clearly the sad things in your life.
Ericka Clevenger: What was the inspiration behind KURT?
Adarsha Benjamin: The film came about out of a collaboration with Nina Ljeti and myself. We had a strong love for Kurt, and were working with James (Franco) a lot and this energy to make a project out of the things that inspired us. We went to start shooting some footage, with no real plan or script or story. But took that project and ran with it, as the ideas just started coming together. I mean it’s still coming together. This version showing in Miami, is not the end. What I tried to do with this, was emote the unspoken. There is so much that had been said, and everyone wants answers they will never have. I just wanted to translate, on film (shot entirely on 16mm) the feeling, the realm of the spirit, what it might look like if you were looking back upon your life as a dream. How abstract and surreal it can be, and how beautiful.
Ericka Clevenger: Where was the film shot?
Adarsha Benjamin:The film was shot in Seattle, Brooklyn, a little bit in Los Angeles, and then recently Brendhan Bowers and I drove from Olympia to Aberdeen and through the rainforest in Washington state to capture the scenery that so symbolizes this feeling, this Kurt kind of feeling.
Ericka Clevenger: How are you inspired as an artist?
Adarsha Benjamin: I am one-hundred percent inspired by feeling. I feel deeply like shocking, shaking waves that knock me down and lift me extremely high. When life hurts I have always found it to be the most cathartic to make something out of that energy. My direction has never been focused on one thing, I just need to translate the energy somehow. I suppose it is cycles, the ups and downs and in betweens that inspire me. The circlings of the mind, and again feeling. Seeing people feel. Feeling people feel and in that way, of course, Kurt inspires me. His decision to leave behind a life where there was so much he had yet to transcend, to not find a light that was stronger than the pain, this is a constant inspiration to me, because I get it. Life is fucking painfully intense sometimes. Just to love someone, and know one day they won’t exist is crazy. Even though, we all continue to exist in the ether and in the fog and in the rain and the trees. It hurts to love, but it also drives me to live as deeply and fully as humanly possible. More and more so everyday.
Ericka Clevenger: How has this inspired your future?
Adarsha Benjamin: I want to start making some money on all these crazy art projects of mine. And of course, keep making more.
Ericka Clevenger: What’s your favorite thing about living in Los Angeles?
Adarsha Benjamin: My favorite thing is that Big Sur is only six hours drive from here. And that most of my favorite people in the world live in this city and state.
Ericka Clevenger: Three words to describe yourself?
Adarsha Benjamin: Loving, Abstract, Inspired
Photography by Todd Weaver
Kurt will premiere Thursday, December 6, 2012 at The Olympia Theater at the Gusman Center, 174 East Flaglet Street in Downtown Miami.Purchase tickets here. Performances by Ryan Huffington with music by Guy Blakeslee, with a live performance by Thurston Moore. Doors open at 7 P.M. Event begins promptly at 8 P.M. Tickets $25.