Nieves Mingueza · The malady of Suzanne

Ago 09, 2019

Nieves is a Spanish artist currently based in London who creates fascinating visual narratives by mixing different media such as found imagery, collage, texts and her own photography. Inspired by old books, poetry, vintage cameras and mainly cinema, Nieves seeks to document the stories that her imagination conceives. In her series "The malady of Suzanne", Nieves explores the story of Suzanne, a Vietnamese woman who after marrying an Englishman moved to London, and some years later became mentally ill. When Nieves moved into her new flat in London, she learned that this place was a mental-health hospital, crossing in this way paths with Suzanne.

am - First of all thank you very much for your contribution to our project. Can you please introduce yourself for us?

NM - Thank you very much for your invitation.

I am a lens-based, mixed media artist working with experimental photography, collage and text. Born in Spain, based in London. The often cinematic themes in my projects have in common my fascination with old books, film stills, vintage cameras, poetry and minimal drawings. Ultimately, my work is about the foggy relationship between fiction and reality. In addition, I am currently exploring about immigration, mental health and human conflicts.

My work has been exhibited widely, including Copeland Gallery -Peckham 24-, "Les rencontres de la photographie" Arles, Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Retina Scottish International Photography Festival, The Royal Academy of Arts, PhotoEspaña, Saatchi Gallery and Tate Britain. Publications that have featured my work include Editorial 8mm, Fisheye magazine, Der Greif magazine, Low Light Magazine, Shots magazine, Eyemazing, Sarmad Magazine, YET Magazine and L'oeil de la photographie, among others. Lens Culture also featured a selection of my works.

Recently, in July 2019, my first monograph book was released by IIKKI Books Editorial.


am - What is “The malady of Suzanne” about?

NM - “The malady of Suzanne” is a poetic documentary project which started a few months ago, when I moved to my new flat in South London.

Once settled in my new home, I realised that the building had previously been a mental health hospital. In this hospital, people with mental health issues were treated and helped to reintegrate into society.

One night, I was relaxing, reading in my living room. There was a sepulchral silence, and suddenly I heard a noise coming from the ceiling. I was scared and I noticed that there was a small loft. The next day, a neighbour helped me open the loft. Unexpectedly, we found a suitcase that contained photos, letters and documents that had belonged to a woman named Suzanne.

Reading her letters, I learned that she was a Vietnamese woman who had been a teacher in her home country. There, she fell in love with an Englishman, and finally they decided to move to London together. This happened in 70s. Apparently, she began to experience signs of a rare disease: loss of speech and isolation behaviour.

I also found out from her documents that she had changed her name in London, because her real name was very difficult to pronounce for English people. She called herself Suzanne in honour of Leonard Cohen's song.

By combining found archives with my documentary photography work in situ in Vietnam, I am exploring the story of a Vietnamese female with mental issues in 70’s London. This is an on-going project about the complex relationship between memory, immigration, mental health and human conflicts.

Additionally, is there any reciprocation between Suzanne and myself? We have both lived in the same space. I am an immigrant in London, I work in a school, and I have modified my name because it was difficult for my students to pronounce. I also love silence.

am - How does combining different media in your projects help you transmitting your message?

NM - Absolutely, it helps. I am a visual storyteller. I have the power of creativity and storytelling, but the visual sequence that I imagine is never going to be the visual sequence that I have in my photographs, because my imagination is more powerful that anything I am able to create, and because meaning is not necessarily just logic. Regarding this idea I am pushing my creative practice. So yes, by combining different media such as documentary photography, collages, texts and drawings I am moving forward with my own visual and poetic narratives.


am - Who are your favourite photographers / artists?

NM - I’d say that my artistic connection is mostly with films more than with photography or other art expressions. I am especially interested in women film directors who work experimentally. It is very difficult to keep track of them, because we all know that they have been ignored by history. However, I have found some publishers that help me knowing more about the female experimental cinema, for example 'Another gaze' and 'Editorial 8mm', I am a real fan of both publishers. And also, through some websites, I can document myself and expand my knowledge about this particular cinema practice.


am - What’s your favourite movie?

NM - My list would be very long. I’d say Jonas Mekas and Chantal Akerman films, among others.


am - What is your favourite photo book?

NM - “Surrealism: desire unbound”. Jennifer Mundy. TATE, 2001.


am - Thank you very much for your time and your contribution to analog magazine.

NM - Thank you for having me! Delighted to be part of `analog magazine’.

All images © Nieves Mingueza


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