By: Kristina Kirkliauskaitė
Photos by: Diff Photographers
Malika Maria's artistic journey took root between Brussels and Amsterdam. Now, she delivers revolutionary visuals to the numerous underground parties and festivals in Europe. Sharing her personal story, Malika dives into the profound messages woven within her VJing – a blend of magnetic sensuality, sweet chaos and captivating darkness.
From her early years, Malika had a special feeling for creativity, which led her to art school and later to her genuine passion – crafting and blending live visuals. Still, she reflects on some moments from her childhood that shape her creativity to this very day:
“I've had many cultural, political and religious influences which really inspired me as a young child to always draw and make art. Growing up, I've also discovered a darker side of the world, such as evil people, unfair governments and my own inner demons.”
She continues, "I was sexually abused and assaulted in the past. Those experiences were painful. They left me scars and dark shadows. Yet, I believe that going through darkness makes you appreciate light more. The same as experiencing hate proves how beautiful it's to be loved. Through these traumatic events, I genuinely discovered the power of art, which showed me the way to healing and growth. I used art to analyse and express my emotions in a way words alone couldn't capture. And it allowed me to translate the unspeakable into a language others and myself could understand. This all played a huge role in shaping who I'm today, both as an artist and an individual. So, undoubtedly, visual art serves as my therapy and the way of expression, which I share with everyone on the dance floor."
Malika's VJ sets are known for their provocative essence. She frequently directs attention to her subjects, using her own face and body in performance-based videos. Discussing her inspirations for this visual art style, Malika shares a special admiration for conceptual and performance artist Marina Abramovic:
“Abramovic faced her fears by using her body as an art canvas. In one of her remarkable exhibitions, she put different objects, such as a flower, a candle, and even a gun, and invited participants to do her body whatever they wished. With this, she sent a message to every participant about how far people can go if they want. From what I think, visual art is something you can unite and communicate with your audience. These experiences inevitably shape individuals. So, I absolutely find her inspiring, both as an artist and a person.”
Continue talking about the source of inspiration, Malika mentions a Serbian movie that stands out as a prime example of darkness and a unique perspective for her:
“I remember watching it during my early days of work in the early 2010s when a friend recommended it to me. The movie's psychological depth, conveyed in the Slavic language, which I adore, gave me goosebumps. It dared to address sensitive issues with unflinching courage. I've seen it many times, and it made me think of how art can delve into harsh realities. Take, for example, human trafficking and child abuse. These topics really spark debate. While this movie is uncomfortable, it's a necessary mirror to society, reminding us that growth requires confronting unpleasant truths.”
While having a strong message or idea you wish to convey, it's essential to leave enough room for its deviation and 'kill your darlings'. Working alongside various artists, events, and festivals, Malika highlights the importance of stepping beyond your comfort zone:
“I'm truly grateful for some projects that pushed me beyond my limits. One time, I had the opportunity to perform my VJ set on national television in Belgium in front of massive crowds, even reaching 10,000 people. I crafted a performance that, despite avoiding nudity and sexuality, managed to captivate the audience's attention. Even though I was pretty stubborn about my vision, trying new things was rewarding. It taught me valuable lessons and helped me evolve.”
Although playing live videos at the parties has another level of magic. Malika explains that usually, it's impossible to prepare 100% of the right material for the party vibe in advance. So, connecting with the music helps to tap into a feeling and choose the perfect flow:
“When the music resonates, it aligns with the atmosphere, and that's where my visual art and VJing come into play. And just at the moment, you're in sync with the vibe, and you feel good about it that energy spreads naturally, connecting with people and creating a memorable experience.”
As some parties remind you of a rollercoaster – speeding so fast and blending so many emotions with adrenaline – you evaluate how well you connected with the audience just after the party finishes. And when you do it right, Malika describes this feeling as super humbling:
“Connecting with the audience is a big part of my VJing experience. Honestly, it's heartwarming how, after every show, people approach me with compliments and messages. I remember a particular event where, even an hour after the event ended, people were still there, applauding and cheering. These reactions make me feel that my work is valued and respected. From an artist's perspective, knowing that my work and vibe resonate so well is very fulfilling. I'm genuinely grateful for these moments. They're fantastic.”
Besides creative projects and VJing, Malika expresses the significance of finding your community and the right people in the underground scene.
“Being a part of this community and its support has driven me to explore different aspects of myself. It's a circle of people who share a common passion and drive, especially within the realm of music. The connection and sense of belonging I feel when attending these events are truly special.”
Naming her a 'partner in crime', Malika cherishes UK-born and Berlin-based DJ and music producer Rebekah. Both Malika and Rebekah share many years of collaboration, tight friendship as well as numerous crazy-good projects:
“Rebekah isn't just a colleague but a dear friend of mine, and I feel grateful for the strong support we've built over the years. A couple of years ago, Rebekah also initiated the 'MeToo For The Music' campaign, which empowers survivors to share their own stories, helping to raise awareness and fight the ignorance of violence as well as abuse in the music industry. I deeply appreciate her dedication to driving positive change in the underground scene and beyond. Her sobriety journey has also inspired me personally, and I'm truly excited to follow that path.”
She adds, “I'm fortunate to align my passion with my work. Rebekah's presence and this community are a constant source of inspiration that enrich my creative path and personal well-being. These connections are the cherry on top of this incredible journey.”
And another cherry on top in this interview is Malika sharing her thoughts about VJ scenes in Berlin and Amsterdam, where she is currently based:
“Comparing Amsterdam and Berlin, it's not about one being better than another. They're unique in their own ways. Let's say in Amsterdam, the scene inclines towards innovative concepts involving tactile sensations and LED lighting. Looking from Berlin's perspective, its scene is quite distinct and features a different style compared to Amsterdam. Despite the preference for darkness in visual arts, it's interesting how these aspects play out on screens and how we adapt our work accordingly. Some challenges arise, like blurry visuals due to adjusting to different streaming formats. Once, I played in Berlin with Rebekah and faced similar challenges of visuals, yet again, it ended up being one unbelievably amazing party. I believe this diversity is part of Berlin's club culture, embracing the old-school while pushing the boundaries. Both scenes continue to evolve, adapting to new technologies and trends.”
As we reach the end of the conversation, Malika marks some events and festivals as must-see spots for visual art fanatics or those who want to go to a full visual experience for the first time. She mentions experimental music festivals – Berlin Atonal (DE) and Amsterdam Dance Event (NL), as well as the Intercell event series (NL) – as her favourite and highly-worth-seeing places of underground visual art.