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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you were a cocktail, what would your recipe be?
Motor oil and kerosene, garnished with a rag, and served burning hot.
Larissa Diakiw is our June 2015 writer.