Larissa Diakiw: Writer Interview

PapirmassINTERVIEWS

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Larissa Diakiw is a multi-talented writer and installation artist from Toronto. She has travelled widely, including cycling from Rome to Istanbul, busing from Vancouver to Nicaragua, and hitch-hiking from Tacoma to New Orleans. Currently, she is working on a series of outdoor collaborative, site-specific, guerrilla arts events called Phantasmagoria, staging her play When We Were Dead, and working on a collection of short fiction.

Her short story ‘Falling is Relational’ appears alongside the art of Kirsten McCrea in Issue 66.


larissa-diakiw

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Hi Larissa! Can you introduce yourself?

I grew up partly in Edmonton, and partly in the Kootenays with my Grandfather. His house is in the mountains, on a road that led to an old silver mining town called Riondel. Riondel was the end of the line, besides a network of logging roads. I am an only child and I was in the middle of nowhere so I spent a lot of time in the forest by myself. I moved to Montreal when I was 17. I studied Creative Writing at Concordia, travelled, and for now I am living in Toronto.

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You’re well-travelled, and your contribution to Papirmass takes place in Turkey. Tell us a travel story.

I was in Copan, in Honduras, and I snuck into a ruin. The door wasn’t supposed to be open, so I couldn’t help myself. I found some Mayan toilets in an upper tunnel, and ended up getting locked in by a maintenance worker.

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What inspired the story we are publishing? Is the character James based on a real person?

I wrote “Falling is Relational” after meeting a young Marine who was studying Turkish in Istanbul, and had been involved in different training exercises on the border of Syria (this was 3 years ago, so the political situation has changed). He was unusually open with me about what he did, almost confessional. I had never met someone like him, someone that was so clearly an actor in the military component of international politics. I had a lot of questions.

 

You are a storyteller at heart, but you create work in many mediums. Years ago the first issue of Papirmass was displayed in an art show you curated that took place in a tunnel under the Lachine Canal in Montreal. You’ve also made radio plays, created music and multi-media sound installations, poetry, and more that we’ve missed (fill us in!). What is the common thread running through your multifaceted practice?

This is a difficult question. I think my installation work and written work are distinct practices. As a writer I am interested in exploring power dynamics, dissent, and how people are socially imprisoned. My installation work, or my guerilla curatorial practice, attempts to create immersive environments that re-establish possession of places from which we are normally excluded so that we may experience the magic and sublime elements that are often hidden in our cities.

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What’s next on your plate for the next year?

I am working on a collection of short stories, and remounting a play I wrote in August called When We Are Dead.

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If you were a cocktail, what would your recipe be?

Motor oil and kerosene, garnished with a rag, and served burning hot.

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 Larissa Diakiw is our June 2015 writer.