An award-winning writer and photographer, Kim Yaged is passionate about…well a lot things. But, where art and activism meet is of particular interest to her and she takes dedicated action in that regard. One could classify Kim Yaged as an artivist, but that might annoy her. But, certainly she sees — and creates — art through a lens that encompasses a social justice perspective and social justice programs that incorporate art. Her work is quirky and edgy, and her artistic range is impressive.
Stephanie Schroeder asked Kim Yaged for some insight into her art and activism as well as her relationships with both New York City and Berlin.
S2S: Tell me how you ended up living in Berlin? What kind of work were you doing there?
Kim Yaged: I was posted to Berlin by the Department of State. Some of my projects included readings with English Theatre Berlin. I was also part of This Berlin Life. I had a solo photo exhibition (curated by Barbara Fragogna) called “World Watching” at Tacheles. I also worked on an animated promo for Let’s Be One Hand with animator and illustrator Sonja Rohleder.
S2S: What mediums do you work in, artistically speaking?
Kim Yaged: I consider myself a writer first and foremost–scripts, poetry, essays. However, I’ve also delved into the world of photography. Currently, I’m developing an animated web series based on my play “Hypocrites & Strippers.”
S2S: Tell me about your love-hate thing with NYC and why you love Berlin so much?
Kim Yaged: I don’t think I have a love-hate thing with NYC. I was born in Brooklyn and grew up in New Jersey, but left the East Coast when I was 18. Since then I’ve only been back to visit. If anything, I have a love/hate thing with Berlin. I love my friends there and the vibe, the politics, but it’s also very gray weather wise. And I write in English, which presents its challenges. My heart tells me to go back, but my head tells me that’s probably not the most logical choice.
S2S: What are the best things about Berlin? About New York City?
Kim Yaged: In addition to my friends, it’s the intangibles that make Berlin so captivating. There’s no other city like it in the world. There’s a certain degree of social consciousness built into the fabric of the city, at least in the communities I was part of, that’s really appealing to me. I love wandering aimlessly through the streets, especially Neukölln and Kreuzberg.
My niece is definitely the best thing about NYC, and I’m a total theater nerd, so Broadway still excites me.
S2S: Tell me more about your work and how it fits within the frame of New York City, Berlin, or anywhere else.
Kim Yaged: I don’t entirely understand where my work comes from. Why write an animation series if you’re not an animator, a one-person show if you’re not an actor, or a dance piece if you’re not a choreographer? I think ideas come to me and part of the process is figuring out the best format to communicate them. I’m definitely affected by my environment when I write, but I think I’m in denial about it. I was lucky enough to meet Sherry Hormann (the director of “Desert Flower” [“Wüstenblume” auf Deutsch]) when I lived in Berlin. She told me I needed to write my Berlin play. I totally blew off the idea when she said it, but she was absolutely right. I’m pretty sure my most recent play, “The Vast Mystery of Who You Are,” is my Berlin play. I’ve also been working on a video series called “Wer Bist Du” (auf English “Who Are You” or “Tell me a little something about you”) that consists of interviews about German identity. There’s no way I would have come up with that idea if I weren’t living in Germany. I also wrote a lot of poetry when I was traveling and am compiling that into a book called “Because I Wander.”
S2S: What projects are you currently working on?
Kim Yaged: I’m largely focused on developing my animated web series “Hypocrites & Strippers,” a comedy about selling sex and selling out, based on my one-person show. The stage play version of “Hypocrites & Strippers” is available on Kindle, but I’d like to make a hard copy version as well. The play will be performed at Richmond Triangle players in May. It would be fun to line up other productions as well.
I’m also working on “Because I Wander,” a book of poetry inspired by my travels, and rewrites of two TV pilots: “The Embassy,” think “30 Rock” meets the world of diplomacy, and “Jersey City,” a comedy about a mafia boss’ daughter who runs off with a woman the night before her wedding.
I’m always open to collaborating with other artists, either on my plays or projects they come up with. Recently, I’ve been reaching out to choreographers about collaborating on my play “America,” a movement piece about stereotyping in the US.
S2S: What languages do you speak and how has being (bi/tri/?) lingual helped
Kim Yaged: English is my first language. I like to joke that I speak Spanish like a Costa Rican teenager and enough German to get myself into trouble.
I love traveling and being a part of other cultures, so it’s always a thrill for me to be able to connect with other people, especially in their own language. I would say knowing other languages has helped me get close to people I might not have been able to connect with otherwise. For example, one of my dearest friends is from Tunisia, but we met in Barcelona. Our shared language is Spanish (Castellano). My first trip to Tunisia ended up with me developing Let’s Be One Hand, a nonprofit project that uses the arts and technology to dispel stereotypes and increase understanding across differences. Then, I was invited back to present “World Watching” at a conference. None of that ever would have happened if I didn’t speak Spanish.
Stephanie Schroeder is a writer and activist based in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has been anthologized in various collections of political essays, erotic fiction, and personal essays. She is keen cultural observer and her appetite for odd juxtapositions and interesting contradictions informs all of her work. Schroeder is the author of Beautiful Wreck: Sex, Lies & Suicide, a memoir.