Deutsche Telekom - erleben was verbindet
Telekom Electronic Beats

Read the Transcript of the Electronic Beats Podcast With Johanna Jaskowska

French AR artist Johanna Jaskowska explores new technical possibilities and how they can change and improve our perception of reality.

Gesine Kühne:

Welcome to our Telekom Electronic Beats Podcast. My name is Gesine Kühne and this episode is in English because our guest is a non-German speaker. She’s from France, from Paris, to be precise. Her name is Johanna Jaskowska. The 28-year-old female broke the internet. That’s what I always say because she invented a face filter that went through the roof. Over half a million people used it.

It’s called Beauty3000, a very cyborg-esque futuristic Instagram filter, which is a major part of our conversation, how she became a face filter designer, and what has changed in her life since she became famous for it. Just to mention one big name, even Billie Eilish knocked on her door to work with her. But let’s get started.

Gesine Kühne:

We are talking via Zoom because you are in Spain. What are you doing in Spain?

Johanna Jaskowska:

I’m living here. Yeah, it’s my actual destination. I really like Spain. I really like the people. I think it’s a great place to live. I always lived in places where it was really gray and rainy and actually, Spain is very good weather. I don’t know.

Gesine Kühne:

Whereabouts in Spain are you?

Johanna Jaskowska:

I’m in Madrid.

Gesine Kühne:

Okay. Okay. Full lockdown at the moment?

Johanna Jaskowska:

No, no, no. I think from today, there is a curfew. But it’s only from midnight to 6:00., so it’s okay. Life is regular, more or less regular life. I was in Paris last week and the curfew is from 21:00 to 6:00 in the morning and it’s a different story. You don’t have nightlife at all.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah, yeah. This is the reason why we’re talking via Zoom is, I was supposed to visit you, but I said I don’t want to fly at the moment. I don’t want to go into quarantine and it’s a lot to think about if I want to do a work journey even. So that’s why Zoom works for me. It’s always nice to see the peoples through the camera, even though it would be nicer to see you in person, of course.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, we have to keep up one day.

Gesine Kühne:

Yes, your accent gives it away. And my poor French attempt in the beginning, because that’s what I know. You’re French, you grew up in Paris, and in 2016, you made your way to Berlin, first to work in an agency and second to break the internet through an Instagram filter pretty much.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, more or less. So basically, my background in Paris, I grew up there. My mother came when she was 25. She did Beaux-Arts and then she was doing art restoration. There were no jobs. I don’t know. I grew up in a suburb of Paris like an immigrant family in the suburb of Paris was a lot of fun. But life is super hard in Paris, you know?

Gesine Kühne:

It’s very expensive, especially if you want to live in the inner circle of Paris.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I was lucky to choose young that I wanted to do art and design studies. So my bachelor’s in art and design. I saved one year and I had really good marks, so I could make it in like a very good, good school in Paris for free. I had bourses. So it was okay.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But all my life, I was working. I had to work. I was working in a bar. I was working parties. I was doing tattoos. I was doing anything to make money to have a life.

Gesine Kühne:

It’s interesting. Also, your name gives it away, you have Polish roots. So your parents emigrated from Poland to France?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah.

Gesine Kühne:

Both of them are Polish?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly. My mom is from Krakow and my older family from my mom’s side. And then my mom came to do the fine arts school in Paris. And she was pretty young. But back in the days, the situation in Poland was really bad. My grandfather called my mom and said, “You should stay in Paris. It’s much better if you stay.” So she stayed and she made her life there. She had my sister, she had me, and voila.

Johanna Jaskowska:

My father is a different story because I met him last year.

Gesine Kühne:

So your parents were separated quite young after having the kids?

Johanna Jaskowska:

No, actually, so my sister and I, we have a different father. And it’s another story. But basically, when my mom and my father met, they were dancing together, they had a short story. And my father back in the days was a hard worker, he was traveling a lot. And he moved.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And after that, my mother realized that she was pregnant with me. There was no Facebook, there was no Instagram, there was no way to contact people. So they lost each other.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I don’t know, I think it was the end of 2018, I was really… I wanted to know. I’m very curious as a person. I started to do my researches. I had a wrong name, like a wrong spelling name. So it was really hard to find anything. But somehow, I dug the internet and I found him and I was like, “Fuck it, I’m going to send a message. If it’s him, it’s cool. I’m going to meet him. And if it’s not him, I tried.”

Johanna Jaskowska:

So I tried and it was him. And last year in August, we met and he remembers everything. He’s so happy to have a daughter. He feels sad that he missed all my youth, because it’s the best of children. Like when you grow up, see you’re growing. I’m already achieved, I’m an adult, I know what I’m doing, where I’m going, et cetera.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But he’s very happy. He recognized me by the law. I have officially a father, which is crazy.

Gesine Kühne:

That’s amazing. Yeah. Congratulations. I really didn’t know what kind of wasp nest I’m going to poke which is to ask about your parents, but that’s a really nice story. I can tell everyone who was listening that you’re glowing when you are talking about that story. It’s really, really nice to see that it was such a happy end.

Gesine Kühne:

You said it before, your mom is already an artist. She’s very artsy. So that was in your household. Art was a part of your upbringing, I figure. But can you recall if there was also an early interest in robots, like a toy, for example?

Gesine Kühne:

Because I see you as someone who was so interested in cyborgs, you have this fascination. Maybe there was a robot story somewhere in your youth.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Not at all. We grew up in a really modest family and I had the regular Barbie toys, but never had super technical… And back in the days, I don’t know in the early 2000 year, robots were really expensive. So it’s not the kind of stuff I would have.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I was more into video games. I was more into computers, hacking things, finding games for free, downloading illegally things to have all the games. That’s how I started with computers. Back in the days, we had one computer and one… I think we had a Dreamcast, which is the only game console. How to say that?

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah, console, you can say that. The console is the German word, so everyone will understand, I guess.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So it was the only thing I had. I remember that we found a way to download games online and then put them on a CD and with the Dreamcast, there was a hack to do so, we could have all the games we wanted. So it was really nice. And computers. It was so much fun back in the days, it was the best time of the internet.

Gesine Kühne:

And besides that, were there also shows or movies that you watched that were also very nerdy? I don’t know. I can’t say which one now. I have a couple in my mind, but I don’t recall their names anymore. Something sci-fi, something computer, something very nerdy, something futuristic. What we were thinking as a utopia when we watched it, but it’s actually, now it’s reality. Maybe you had something like that as well.

Johanna Jaskowska:

The shows I was watching when I was young was more like a family, it was a family meeting. It was like every Friday, or every Tuesday evening at this time, and we were cooking something and watching the show. So it was for the whole family. It was not really something I was really obsessed with.

Johanna Jaskowska:

It was different times, back in the days, there was no Netflix, there was no… you didn’t have access to everything. You were just following what is on the TV and what is the program this day. So with the family, we were watching, for example, Stargate. That was really sci-fi, super futuristic, but we were watching whatever fits to the family. I don’t know, Dr. House or…

Johanna Jaskowska:

My favorite shows when I was really, really young was Tomb Raider, Xena, the adventurer, or this kind of thing.

Gesine Kühne:

So strong female, futuristic fighters pretty much?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Not really futuristic, but strong female fighters. I really liked that when I was young, or Buffy. This is a lot of nostalgia but it was fun. Or Charmed.

Gesine Kühne:

With the great intro by The Smiths. I loved the score so much. Yes.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Me too.

Gesine Kühne:

How old were you when you got your first computer or laptop? You said you did so much hacking to get games for free.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, I guess 12. I don’t know. The boyfriend of my sister was working, he was fixing computers. So we had some computers that you could have different parts and build a computer like this. I think he introduced me to computers and video games. I was playing with him video games when I was, I don’t know, 10, 12. And this is how I learned.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And then when you learn, then you do it yourself. And then you grow by knowing how to do it without even knowing how you learn.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah. You’re 28 now, right?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah.

Gesine Kühne:

So 10 years ago, Instagram started. It was just the 10 years anniversary of Instagram.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Sure.

Gesine Kühne:

So you were 18. Did you get right into Instagram? Or didn’t you have a smartphone yet?

Johanna Jaskowska:

No, I had a smartphone, for sure. But no, back in the days when Instagram started, we were mostly, Facebook was more popular. So we were using Facebook for everything, for events, mostly for groups, for things like this, like friends.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Instagram, I think I had one, but I was not really active on it. It was not very popular at the beginning in France, Instagram.

Gesine Kühne:

I remember that people we were using it, but not until 2012 or 2013 that a couple of people really got into it, using the photo platform to get away from Facebook, where it was getting more and more opinionated and posting articles and so on. It was just about pictures and nothing else.

Gesine Kühne:

Now, Instagram has completely changed again, where it’s also a very political platform, which is great that it’s not only looking beautiful, but you can actually use your followers, your strength to change political stuff or get people to acknowledge things.

Johanna Jaskowska:

It changed so much. It’s a real deal now. It’s so big, it’s crazy. And it changed society as well, I think.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah, definitely, I think so too. Let’s think like shit storms, for example, you really, as someone who is an influencer or has a great number of followers, you actually think twice about the stuff you post, about your wording, about pretty much anything, not to be politically correct, so you don’t get a shit storm.

Gesine Kühne:

But for example, I do think a lot about my post that I don’t hurt anyone with the stuff I say. Which is nice, if you are so aware and reflecting that you actually start asking yourself, “Is that still the right thing to say? Is this abusive language,” is this this, is this that? That’s really, really cool. But it gets also overwhelming, I guess, for a lot of people, because there’s so much information flowing through Instagram every single day.

Johanna Jaskowska:

It is super overwhelming. And when my work went viral on Instagram, and I’ve seen all of these followers and people interacting with me and becoming a thing, I was super, mega overwhelmed and super alone. Super, mega alone.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Everybody’s saying, “Oh, this is great. This is success. Everybody wants that.” But, man, it’s tough. It’s not easy. It’s not easy. And it needs time. Like every transition, you need time to reflect, to understand, to understand how things works, because this is a new reality. It’s not your previous reality.

Johanna Jaskowska:

You don’t use Instagram the same way. You don’t talk about the same things. I had to learn how to, don’t talk to people, because I’m super nice.

Gesine Kühne:

Don’t be too nice. Otherwise people will take advantage of you.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly.

Gesine Kühne:

It’s very important. It’s the internet, it’s virtual reality, it’s not real life. Most people probably wouldn’t be your friends in real life. That’s a thing, especially teenagers need to learn these days. If you say you’re 28, and your success started two years ago, when you say it as a mid 20, a strong female, smart, strong female, you said you were overwhelmed. Just think about a 15-year-old, something we have to learn, we have to integrate into our lives.

Gesine Kühne:

I’m of the opinion that, for example, in schools, there should be something like a media class, where you learn about appropriate handling of social media, for example.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, I totally agree. But it’s so new, and it goes so fast, and establishing things like this takes some time. We might want to establish something this today, but in two years, it’s going to be a different thing again.

Gesine Kühne:

Outdated already.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly. It’s pretty strange. I think there is a gap in generation, my sister is nine years older than me. I can see that we don’t use these social tools, like the new technologies, we don’t use them in the same way. We have a completely different lifestyle and a completely different way to communicate with each other. And it’s just nine years, it’s nothing, it’s not so much, but there is a gap of generation.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I think teachers if they want to teach this to the younger generation, they wouldn’t even understand how this generation works. I’m 28. I’m part of the generation in between. I grew up without all of these social media tools and technologies, and I’ve seen it from the beginning to now.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But the generation that is growing up already with those tools and the social media, that are super addictive, they are a different generation. I always think it’s important to respect the new generation because the human being has this capability to adapt itself to its environment and to the reality of the world.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I don’t want to be a conservative and say, “Oh, it was better before.” Our grandparents didn’t like it when our parents were listening to punk music. It was completely unacceptable. But today, we respect that this is a very strong and interesting culture. This is how the world is. And you can’t condemn someone to listen to punk music or to use social media in one way or another. It’s a different generation, a different perspective, a different reality.

Gesine Kühne:

So do you think we need to talk more between the generations to make the younger mind accessible to an older mind, for example, to completely understand? How are we going to close the gap? Because this is important that we talk to each other, that we learn from each other. Otherwise, we’ll be ending up in a huge fight of generations clashing. It’s already happening if you follow social media properly, you can totally tell what’s going on. How are we going to close this gap? How are we going to talk?

Johanna Jaskowska:

I think communication is key, real communication. I think the way I talk to my mother, she understands me. There are things she doesn’t understand, but I’m honest and I’m communicating. I’m explaining my point of view on things and you accept it. And if you have a good communication with the people that surround you, it’s okay, I guess.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah, it’s very, very interesting. I really liked how we completely left my path that I’ve written down for our interview here. It’s all written down where I wanted to go and we’re definitely going to go back to it. But I love how we ended up so quickly on a very important social topic.

This is about our culture, about our social upbringing, about living together. It’s so much and it’s nice to hear it from you. I know that you are very critical about the social part of social media. So you pretty much showed it right away, that’s something you really think about that it’s not about just creating a great filter that makes you look like plastic, and everything is fine. But there’s actually a great mind behind it.

I think your point of view, I would say right now is communication, proper real-time communication, and not virtual reality.

Johanna Jaskowska:

In real life.

Gesine Kühne:

Let’s talk about you and your way slowly towards Berlin. I also read that you worked as a VJ. Was it in clubs or at concerts? Where did you work as a VJ?

Johanna Jaskowska:

So that was when I was living in Paris. I was studying and I was working in bars, we had a bar crew called Jagger Crew. I was working in clubs. I was working in all the biggest techno festivals in Paris back in the day, the Weather Festival, there was the Peacock Society and there was all the Blanks. It was amazing parties, and we had this crew of bar people.

I got connected to the nightlife very quickly in Paris. During the day, I was studying or doing cultural work or internships. During the night, I was working in bars or doing VJ. I was really connected when there were big parties. I was doing VJ for one artist, so it was more live shows. I was doing the video of it. I did video mapping as well. I was not attached to one club. It was more for one specific event. I’m working with one artist that fits my visual universe, we’re fitting to the music.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Also, my ex-boyfriend is a light engineer. So he was turning a lot to do live shows and we were doing lights and I was doing visuals. So we were really in the scene, we knew a lot of people in Paris. And also, a friend of mine built a musical level. There were five to six artists that we were following and touring. I did a live show, for example, when one artist was touring, I did the live show, the full live show setup with the technical projection and we were going in, I don’t know, in France, in Lyon and stuff. It’s a different lifestyle. It’s not an office, it’s-

Gesine Kühne:

Why did you leave the scene? Why did you decide to leave VJing behind?

Johanna Jaskowska:

I was not feeling great in Paris. Paris is less open-minded. I remembered, so I worked a lot and I took my first holidays. I took one week or two in Berlin as my first holiday trip by myself. I arrived in Berlin and it was on the 1st of May. So imagine the huge festival in the street and meeting everybody, everybody’s so happy. It’s like La Fiesta in Berlin on the day of work.

So after this holiday trip in Berlin, I realized that actually in Europe, people were way more open-minded, way less critical, and the lifestyle is way easier on an everyday life basis. You’re going to a restaurant or you’re going to a bar, the size of the flat itself is way bigger. You breathe, you breathe, because Paris is, the lifestyle in Paris is like being a survivor. It’s a survival mode.

Gesine Kühne:

It’s a very condensed kind of living because you have to have real money to live in a proper apartment, where you can breathe. Otherwise, it’s quite tiny and it’s also quite hectic in Paris, I would say. Everyone is on the run.

Johanna Jaskowska:

It’s super hectic. All the time you’re on the run, you never rest, you never think, you always have a little pressure on your shoulders. And you always have to go here and there, you take the subway, you have to run, you have techniques to get a seat in the subway, you have techniques to get faster and this way to get out of the tourist kind of places.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Also, there is a lot of, you can be arrest on the street. If you’re a woman and you don’t know how to talk to people in one way, then they’re going to arrest you. So it’s survival mode, you’re here with your bag, and you’re like, “I’m going here, I do this,” but you never have time to really relax and think and reflect to yourself.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And in Berlin, I found this. So after this trip, I just moved. I was like why I will lose my time in Paris, where I can have a better life in Berlin? I can work on myself, take some time for myself, meet new people, meet new arts scene, meet new things, discover, I don’t know.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So I moved. I met people, I worked on my portfolio. I did some projects here and there. I did some workshops because I was still very connected to the digital arts scene. So I was doing, I don’t know, video mapping here, a workshop in Kazakhstan, invited here and there. But my main goal was to find a real job, just to make my… how to say? So my mother can feel relaxed.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Because having a freelance lifestyle and being in the art world and you don’t really have money, and you’re always to the next thing to survive. But it’s really stressful for my mother. I’ve always been the black sheep. I was doing experimental things and things that she has no clue about.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And so I found a job in an advertising agency. First of all, I did my website, and it was very experimental website. It was an underwater portfolio in a 3D universe. It went viral. So it was my first thing that went viral.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I was posting in all the designer and web websites and this kind of scene, like design and digital art and things. So every time I did an interview to find a job, in-studio or in an advertising agency, or here and there, every time, people were like, “Oh, I saw your website.” So it really helped me to get into showing my portfolio and all the other works I was doing.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But I was not doing only… I always been into new technologies and experimental stuff. I think it’s way more interesting. I like to do things that I haven’t seen before. So then I found this job and I got…

Johanna Jaskowska:

I remember I had two creative directors, one was more design, so he really appreciated my technical side of things. And the other creative director was conceptual. And he saw the potential of conceptual work and storytelling I had in my work that I even didn’t know.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And because of him, I learned so much about, okay, actually, making things that make sense is way more important for me than making things that look good. And before, when I was in Paris, when I was doing VJ, I was in the visual art field.

Gesine Kühne:

So it was the other way around. It was about looking good and not making sense. It was just maybe speaking to the heart, but not so much to the conceptual part of the brain.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly. Yeah, yeah. The story. The thing that, what does it talk about? I really believe that we can contribute to inspire the future as well. We can do works today and we have the possibility to do works, that can seed new ideas and maybe shift the future to something that is more interesting or can trigger other concepts and trigger discussion.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I think it’s really important to do works that trigger discussion. So everybody talks about it, and then it gets into the mind of the people, and then it can bring an idea to someone else that will do something else, et cetera. That’s why my work is very, sometimes when you look at the big picture, it’s very eclectic. But I think it’s important to do things that make sense right now and that makes people think or talk about it.

Gesine Kühne:

Your work is a virtual reality work. So it’s not here, we can’t hold on to it. But I do want to get a bit more hands-on. Because I want to know about your work situations and how you actually create.

Gesine Kühne:

I read that Spark AR Studio started in 2017. And from 2018, designers like you were able to design a face filter to be released on Instagram, for example. And you did that. And also, I read that in a dark apartment in Moabit, a little district-

Johanna Jaskowska:

Not so dark. I had access to the rooftops. It was amazing. No, no, it was amazing.

Gesine Kühne:

But you did light did the dark to see the screen properly, so you could work.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Of course. But today I’m reaching for light.

Gesine Kühne:

Okay, what was the first face filter, and just for someone like me, who is more into analog creating face filters by maybe drawing and painting on a piece of paper, how does the work look like when you create a face filter? Maybe very simple so people like me can understand.

Johanna Jaskowska:

No, yeah, yeah, totally. So how it started, so I was working in an advertising agency and my work as a digital creative is what I’m always doing, is always finding new technology, things that make sense to communicate or to tell a story. I digged into Spark AR because I thought it was interesting to start using it because back in the days, face filter was like just dog faces and something very gimmicky and it was not really introduced in the society but there was way more potential. I could see that there was way more potential than just dog faces and stuff.

Johanna Jaskowska:

What I liked about Spark AR, for me, it’s a reduced tool like Unity 3D. Unity 3D is a gaming giant. So you can do augmented reality, virtual reality, you can do video game, you can build world and stuff. And I was using a lot this software before.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So when I jumped into Spark AR, it was familiar for me. I kind of understood how it was working. I’m not the most technical person. I know how to write a small script but it’s not my thing. I’m more the creative side.

Johanna Jaskowska:

What I liked about Spark AR is that I’m really into the photography world. I work with photography, I do photography myself, and photography is about playing with light. You place lights on the scene, or you play with lights to highlight the model, when there is a model.

Johanna Jaskowska:

For me, I used augmented reality at the beginning to do a virtual studio. So the model is myself, or is you, or is everyone. I started to place lights as I would love to place lights on photography studio. So I put a light here, I put a light there. And then suddenly, the face of the user is highlighted in one way. You can play with colors, you can make them rotate. It’s an interactive photography studio.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So this is how I started, but then depending on how complicated is the filter, it can go as far as some complex nodes that I’m connecting together, which is more programming and it’s a different story. But the base of the base of the base of my work was just like a virtual studio. Play with lights and colors.

Gesine Kühne:

And the outcome, for example, Beauty 3000 is your probably most famous face filter, which got used over half a million at least, if not many times more. It has a very cyborgy aesthetic. And you said it before, it was cute with dog and rabbit ears, and nothing else. And there it was this shiny, plasticky skin as if you were wrapped in foil. It looks very unnatural, at the same time, very beautiful.

Gesine Kühne:

And I have my headline here, it says, “Let’s talk cyborgs.” The next question is a bit longer because I have to tell you a little story. I once had an interview with a female artist who studied computational art here in Berlin. She said it was a very male course, very binary, focused only on the technical side of generating a design, for example.

Gesine Kühne:

But her work was based on biology. She’s a very great nerd as well, very biology nerd. And her classmates didn’t understand or didn’t want to understand the biology side of computational art.

Gesine Kühne:

That’s why and now I get into the point and question, she read Donna Haraway’s essay, A Cyborg Manifesto. It’s a feminist, socialist essay to show how being stuck in binaries creates power, which we know because when you have just two genders, for example, one must be the stronger one. And cyborg destroys the idea of binaries because it’s a hybrid of a biology being and a robot.

Johanna Jaskowska:

There is no gender.

Gesine Kühne:

There is no gender. And there is also, you can’t really say is that just a technical thing or does it have blood and breath going on, like the biology side of it? Was that also your understanding of creating the cyborg aesthetic? Was that breaking the binaries?

Johanna Jaskowska:

No, that was not my goal into working with cyborgs. I just think we are all cyborgs today, and we don’t really realize it, but it’s a thing. We all, with our devices, we all using social media, Google Map, everything to do anything. It’s like a part of ourself, it’s just not connected to our body yet. I think it will be.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And it’s just the fact to realize this, and also I’m a freak, I love cyborgs. I love Blade Runner. I love this type of movie like Ghost in the Shell, where the artificial intelligence or the technical side of things are emerging with a body. I think it’s our future. I really do think.

Gesine Kühne:

That’s your point of view and you’re super nerdy. But still, your cyborg beauty filter appears to so many people. It’s so successful. Why do you think? Do you have an idea why it’s more successful than a regular beauty filter?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Of course. First of all, it was the first filter that went viral. Before, at this time, there was the dog face and the cat face and all of this kind of thing, but there was nothing really fashion, really the beauty related. Instagram is huge for fashion and for beauty. It’s huge.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And so I think it made sense at this time where so many people are using Instagram to show themself to be fashionable, to be beautiful, but it was the perfect balance. So first of all, people use social media to storytell themself. I’m using Instagram to tell my story, to show my life, to show a part of myself or a facet of myself, or to build a character, but it’s about me.

Johanna Jaskowska:

The Beauty 3000 effect that I did doesn’t transform your face, it’s still you. It’s transparent enough, it’s minimal enough that you still recognize yourself. You can still tell your own story with it. It’s not going to hide your face, et cetera. So it was really balanced.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And the fashionable aspects of it made a lot of sense, at this time, in the beginning of 2019, where there was nothing like this. And it was like a different way to use face filters. I think that’s why it went so popular.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And also, I don’t know, I like this kind of work where you use it and suddenly you have a visceral reaction with your body. It’s fascinating.

Gesine Kühne:

It’s very editorial. I think the whole time of editorial fashion shoots, for example, where they want to do something different from what we know, from the typical, I don’t know, using Photoshop to make the legs look smaller, longer, whatsoever. It’s quite interesting.

Gesine Kühne:

Because it was the beginning of 2019, and now we’re almost at the end of 2022, two years in Instagram is actually a lot of movement. Something, when we think more analog, would be a growth between 2001 and 2020. Because the internet and Instagram especially is very fast. I understand that.

Gesine Kühne:

Talking about how fast Instagram is, face filter went viral, and your follower number went through the roof. From four digits to six digits, and you currently have over 600,000. How did it make you feel especially because you’re this in between generation that grew up with none of that and now you’re a star of this new generation?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Man, I don’t know. I freaked out, I freaked out. I don’t know. As I said, it was really, really overwhelming. Most of the people don’t see this side of things. I had to learn a lot and understand how things works.

Johanna Jaskowska:

It changed my life. It gave me a new perspective. But I had no choice to go back to before. And I tried, but I’m really happy. Today, I’m really happy about this and I’m working on it. I want to build my company and I love the work I’m doing.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But I am not doing only face filters, of course, but my work with face filters, I really enjoyed it. But it was very overwhelming. I did a burn out, I accepted too many jobs. I had to find my balance with all of this.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I think the worst thing was when you became successful, suddenly some friends or some people that you don’t heard about since years, they’re like, “Hey,” like being your best friend. But your best friends, you know who are your best friend. You can’t fake it.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So the reaction from my social surrounding was like the most surprising side, not in a good way. But you learn all of this.

Gesine Kühne:

It seems like you had a really fast track life experience to that. The last few years, you experienced what a lot of people don’t experience in their whole life, actually, like finding out who your real friends are, work-life balance, very important to build your own company. But you were prepared for your success. You said to your sister, “This will make me famous.”

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yes, that’s true. But I wasn’t prepared. I just knew that was a good work. I had this visceral feeling and this is what I’m trying to find when it’s triggered something you can’t even explain with words. And it talks about a lot of things and it makes sense and you understand the story of it. Like it refers to the future, it’s talking about beauty and it’s on you. It provokes something in your body that, fuck, this is good.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I told my sister, “Nat, you will see, this is going to blow, I know.” But I didn’t expect it that it would blow like this. I was not prepared at all, I was not prepared.

Gesine Kühne:

And all of the sudden, someone like Billie Eilish knocks on your virtual door and wants to work with you.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yes, and so many others. And I remember, I have a Apple Watch, and I was wearing it and my Apple Watch was telling me, giving me some warnings because my heartbeat was so high. It was like, calm down, because I was receiving emails all the time. And the biggest brands. I was like, “Oh my god, what am I going to do, how to deal with this?” Super scary, because of course I want to do, but it’s-

Gesine Kühne:

Your life changed tremendously from the beginning of 2019 till now, because you said the biggest brands and I just have Nike in my head, because you moved to Portland and the headquarters of Nike is in Portland.

Johanna Jaskowska:

My move to Portland was, so when Nike reached out to me, it was before I went viral. They were already interested with my profile, because of the virality of my digital work that made sense. And they were looking for profiles like mine. And the process into all of this is very long anyway.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And then I went viral. And I was like, “Okay, I’m not sure, I don’t know what to do.” I’m like, “I don’t know.” So I did a lot of freelance. I stopped working in advertising agency, and I did the things I wanted to do.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Also, the cool thing with having so much reach is that you have the opportunity to speak out and do a project that makes sense. So I did a lot of talks. I did projects like the digital dress. And for me, those projects are topics that are necessary to talk about today. Not two years ago and not last year, and not today, because it’s actual, it makes sense. And so I did it because I can. I can do it. So I will do it. But in the middle of the year, I was really overwhelmed. I didn’t like my lifestyle at all. Because everything changed and I was… I accepted the job at Nike and I wanted to go back to a regular lifestyle kind of life. So going to the office, having a team, working with a team, thinking about…

It was cool. It was an amazing experience, but also I was missing the… I wanted to go back to my personal work and then the coronavirus outbreak happened. I was like, “Okay, I’m going back to Europe.” I moved to Spain the first day of the confinement, of the lockdown. I was so lucky and I don’t know how all of this happened, but it happened and I’m here.

I got really lucky too, I don’t know, to think about moving and just doing it and coming back to Europe. But now I learned all of this and now I know what I want to do, and how to develop myself personally. My thoughts are way more clear than I had in the middle of the year, 2019. And also I met my father. So many things happen to me in 2019. It was a really, really strong, and full of changes, life changes, 2019, for me.

Gesine Kühne:

So you just said you now know what you want to do. What do you want to do?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Now, I want to continue to do what I’m doing. I want to build a company. I start to have the people I’m working with. I have my manager, I have a girl from Paris that is doing video, that we have a really similar universe and I love what she’s doing. I can do more highly produced work with her. I have a super cool creative technologist that I love to work with.

With time, you meet the people that you realize the communication is good, we have a good workflow. I want to work with you. I want to establish this. So step by step, you start realizing that, okay, so things start to looks like a team, things start to looks like something concrete. And I want to continue to do this. I want to continue to do face filters and push the boundary of what’s possible with it and create storytelling, and express myself with face filter. But I also still want to do speculative design and talk more about the future.

Gesine Kühne:

I’m sorry to interrupt you there, the speculative designs, I have to think of your augmented, fictional, technical jewelry collection. Something like that you mean?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, exactly. These types of projects are, for me, way more interesting. Not way more, it’s different, it’s something I like to do is to talk about possible futures.

Gesine Kühne:

How does the dress you did last year fit in there? Does it still fit in there? Or is it last year?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Of course. Yeah. For me, it’s like another project that triggers discussion, that talks about a possible future. Because today, we all using digital tools, digital techniques, and we are using them to make art, but there is no regulation. It’s so different. And we have to establish and ask the right question to try to fix it. Because you go to a gallery, when you’re an artist and you do a sculpture or a painting, something tangible, it’s already established. You know how to sell it, you know how to prove that it’s the real one. You have certifications, et cetera. When it’s something non-tangible, the work suddenly, we don’t know how to do this. And the blockchain part of it was something that made sense for it. Because blockchains is like a digital wallet where you have all of the data. And if you compare it to a certification, which is a paper signed, it’s the same, it’s just two different forms. There is only one wallet for this digital dress. It’s on the blockchain and one owner and then the second owner and the third owner will be written in this wallet. So it’s the way to prove that it is the real work.

Gesine Kühne:

I just have to give the listeners a quick background because we jumped right into this dress. You designed a dress last year, which didn’t exist in reality, only in digital. And it’s non-textile. There is no cloth. It’s only a virtual dress and it was sold in an auction for $9,500. So just that people know.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So this project was made with Dapper Labs, which is an incubator, or I don’t really know. They’re the ones that founded CryptoKitties, for example, they’re really into cryptocurrencies and they do amazing work that establishes new things with blockchain technologies. And Dapper Labs, which is a digital fashion studio, do a digital collection, digital clothes, and they designed the dress.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And so we got in conversation, all of us three together, and we thought about making this project because it makes sense and it triggers the right topic of discussion. Talking about sustainability, talking about digital ownership, talking about the future, but it’s today and the way people use social media as well because everybody shows themself on the picture with amazing clothes. But if you use these clothes just one day, then it’s a waste somehow.

Johanna Jaskowska:

The haute couture is not something that you’re going to use, it’s going to be most of the time in your, in your closet.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah, and it’s a status symbol to own it because it costs a car or something.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But at the end of the day, if you can have it digital, it’s the same, because you’re going to have it on your Instagram anyway. So it’s going to exist, it’s going to be real. But if it exists in real life or not, what does it change?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Also, the thing I like with my work and digital fashion is that you can push the boundaries of design and creativity. You can do things that are not possible in the real life. And this is what I love to do is to do things that you can’t have in real life. If you can design a dress, why not the dress has no gravity? Why not the dress isn’t made by… it can be water, it can be wood, it can be a dress in concrete, it can be things that I would love to see in reality, but it’s not possible. I can do it in digital.

And now, I think for me, this is what makes sense. I don’t like to use digital technology and digital tools to do things that already exist in real life. It’s not fun.

Gesine Kühne:

Okay, now I understand your approach to the future of fashion because I was also thinking when I read so many interviews with you and articles about you, especially also about the dress that I was imagining, because you said something similar, I was imagining us just wearing a nude overall body. Then we have virtual reality or augmented reality glasses on and then just scan the person and see what the virtual dressing is like.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly. This is already happening.

Gesine Kühne:

That sounds so far off.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I’m totally with it. I love this too. Because I think maybe one day we’re going to be like this. But if you think about video game today, video games is a 3D world where you can embody a character which is you or not, and you can wear digital glasses, you can wear whatever you want. If you play Fortnite, for example, you can buy skins, so you look like the way you want to look. I think it’s already happening today, but not in the physical world.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But if augmented reality develop more and more and we have, I don’t know, digital lenses or digital glasses, that makes us able to see augmented reality in the real life and mixed these two worlds, I think it might happen. I think it’s a cool vision to wear a bodysuit and then see everybody with the digital layer of crazy outfits. But I don’t think it will happen in the next 40 years. I think I might be dead already. But I am fascinated by this kind of vision.

Gesine Kühne:

I now understand why you always say in your interviews that your future is no dark Black Mirror future, it’s something happy and delighted, maybe more female than this male tech scene darkness that’s a project onto our screens in films and series is.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I love this vision of very dark and super foggy and post-apocalyptic kind of mood, I love it. But if we can do something a little bit more fresh and a little bit more elegant, why not? I haven’t seen many… there is few artists that does this, but I haven’t seen in the digital art scene, the real established digital arts scene, I haven’t seen something very elegant that mix fashion and photography and something a little bit less detached to our society.

Gesine Kühne:

But more really taking part of it right now. So we can also relate to it a bit more, to the dystopian views that we’re getting on Netflix, for example.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Exactly.

Gesine Kühne:

Understand that. You already said it, you had a burn out. You’re now in the midst of creating your own company. You’re a freelancer. I know for myself as a freelancer, you work with hours, it’s Saturday today, but Saturday afternoon. We could be out shopping for clothes or whatever or just food. But we’re sitting here and talking. It’s work. I really enjoy it, but it’s work.

Johanna Jaskowska:

For me, it’s not work.

Gesine Kühne:

So we’re mixing work and pleasure. Do you have a structure or rituals that you don’t lose yourself again?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Of course. I have a structure, meaning, I know that from 9:00 to 6:00 is office hours. And if I have to work with people, I’m more or less available. If I have to deliver something, I will be available. But I’m more like, I follow my flow. I realize that I’m working way more… The workflow is way more easy if I do it when I feel it. And if I feel designing Saturday evening, in front of the TV, I do it. And if I don’t feel it, because I want to go out with my friend and have a beer, I go out with my friend and have a beer.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I learned how to listen to myself. Because you become way more productive if you do things the way it feels right to do it.

Gesine Kühne:

Yeah. Having your own company and being successful now, I’m just thinking of your sister again, who was like a role model in a proper adult lifestyle.

Johanna Jaskowska:

She’s still my role model forever. She’s my older sister. So this is how it is.

Gesine Kühne:

But do you feel more accomplished now, how you are now, how you’re set up now?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Of course. Of course. Yeah, right now I feel, I know myself. I had to learn how to know myself. And to know that maybe I can be disorganized, but I know how to deal with it. And it’s fine. I know that I’m not good with writing text. But I’m really good at discussing with people. I know my strength and I know my weaknesses. And if I have to deliver something that implies my weaknesses, I had to learn that, okay, maybe it’s better to work with a writer, because the process of writing for me, I can do it, but it will take more time and it will be more painful.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But having a discussion with a writer that can understand my thoughts and my feelings and put them in words is way more interesting for me. So it’s a lifetime learning and process to know how to learn yourself and know how you work, what works for you, what doesn’t work for you. And life and work for me is the same principle.

Gesine Kühne:

That’s a very big, important part of staying healthy to have your mindset analyzed and proper, self-reflecting and feeling yourself, finally feeling yourself, what’s good and what’s not so good for you. How do you stay healthy otherwise? Do you have certain sporting routines or adventure walks?

Johanna Jaskowska:

I do a lot of sports. I do a lot of sport. I love it. It makes me feel good. During the lockdown, I learned everything about diet. So now I’m not a freak, but I really take care about what I’m eating. I did a DNA test as well. I learned a lot about my type of, even though I knew it, but it just put in words that, so for example, I’m more like a carnivore person, I need a lot of protein. I have a lot of strength. And that’s probably why I like to do sports so much. I don’t know, I can build muscle very easily somehow. It’s me, I don’t know, I’m like this.

Johanna Jaskowska:

But learning about diet and knowing that I like to do sport and all of this is important for me. I always been super active anyway. So as you understood, my life goes really fast. I think it never stopped to be so fast.

Gesine Kühne:

Do you take track of your screen time?

Johanna Jaskowska:

My screen time is terrible.

Gesine Kühne:

So we don’t talk about it. We just put a blind eye on that.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I’m all over the screens. I have two phones. I’m always working on my laptop. My laptop is my second, I don’t know, is a part of me. My phone is a part of me, like everybody, but my laptop is even more. It’s my tool to live, to work, to create, to do anything. I just need my laptop, I can go everywhere in the world. I’m traveling a lot and discovering places, I’m going in a road trip, whatever. But if I have my laptop, I can work.

Gesine Kühne:

I have one last question. You said you made it to Spain just before the lockdown when COVID-19 started. Has it affected you and your work otherwise as well? Because I’m thinking, of course, you’re remote, you can work any time from anywhere. It’s a lot of digital stuff, but you do need clients to work for I guess. Are your clients affected and your work is less than it was before because of that?

Johanna Jaskowska:

Not really, to be honest. And even if I don’t have work, I still work. Even if it’s not for money, I still do some projects like the augmented senses project was an idea that came to my mind during the lockdown. And for me, it’s work, but it does not really work. Yeah, okay, it’s work, but I’m not doing it for money, but it brings clients and interest anyway. It’s okay. For now, it’s okay. But I don’t know as well… I think it’s affecting everybody.

Johanna Jaskowska:

And if the economy goes down, it’s going down for everybody. So for now, it’s okay and maybe the budget are less high than before. But this COVID-19 thing is a bitch anyway. So the cool thing is that, again, the world is changing all the time, new technologies are appearing all the time. Us, as human being, we have to adapt ourself anyway.

Johanna Jaskowska:

So even if it doesn’t work, one type of work doesn’t work anymore, at some point, then you need to evolve, you need to adapt. You need to find what works today. And if something was working well last year, it might not work next year. So you need to adapt it to make it work tomorrow.

Gesine Kühne:

No stagnating. We really have to keep on moving. Also, to keep our brain fit. Because if we get locked into one pattern, we will not only get bored, but I think very unhappy as well.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Yeah, for sure. I know that I’m against doing over and over the same thing. I’ve never done over and over the same thing, and I’m not going to do it. I just know that life will bring me things that I’m going to be interested to work with. I’m going to do it if it makes sense right now and tomorrow is going to be something else, and it’s going to be super exciting.

Johanna Jaskowska:

I’m super excited about what’s coming new and how we can use new tools and new technologies and anything in different ways. I like to merge different, if we can merge one technique and one tool with a culture or subcultures and make them meet, this is when amazing things happen. Experimentation.

Gesine Kühne:

Thank you so much, Johanna, for giving a very, very deep insight into your own life. That was a lot. You didn’t have to share, but you did. And also a very interesting and bright perspective into the future. Thanks a lot. Thanks a lot for your time. That was fun.

Johanna Jaskowska:

Thank you too. I’m a very honest person. I can’t talk in a different way. We can do that anytime. I’m going to be talking about what I think and my life and because we’re all this is together.

Gesine Kühne:

Johanna Jaskowska, the Instagram face filter queen, a very interesting person, and also a very nice one. I hope you enjoyed the interview as much as I did. And if you did, maybe you leave us some feedback at Apple or Instagram.

Gesine Kühne:

And by the way, this is the last episode of 2020. Our podcast team is taking a little break over Christmas and New Year’s. That means we will hear from each other next year. So long, stay healthy, and bye.

Follow @electronicbeats

Published December 10, 2020.