039. Susan Supercharged

There She Goes my Beautiful World. Billboard. (“This is the moment that life walks away from you, and you can hardly believe it”). 

Suzie Zabrowska, aka Susan Supercharged, talks Traction through the perks of living and working with an alter-ego. 


Your most recent exhibition ‘YOU DRIVE, I’LL DETONATE’ was at Stour Space Gallery, London. Can you give our readers a taste of what was on show there?

The viewer should be intrigued, pulled in and disorientated but able to pick up on a sign or a code that feels familiar yet questionable to each individual.

For my installation at Stour Space, I created a piece called 'You Drive, I’ll Detonate’. It was my response to a psychogeographic walk through Hackney Wick, incorporating my beliefs in portals. Starting with a two photographs of Warhol Superstars, and an Invitation from NASA, the journey begins with a film of Susan Supercharged in her space pod landing, there are maps , (the landing strips) that came from the 'Lifecodes’ which are large graphic collaged digital manipulated prints, and paintings of a dystopic future Hackney Wick, and concluding with destruction Billboards from the end of the World.

Film still from 'You Drive, I’ll Detonate’. Film still from 'You Drive, I’ll Detonate’. [“Here you can see the two photostats I mysteriously inherited. The top one is from Nasa , and is an invitation inside a Mylar Dome. (This becomes the inspiration for Susan Supercharged’s Space Pod and Helmet), and a time portal of Andy Warhol’s Superstars in London. The film on the TV set is a response to these two photos”].

For 'YOU DRIVE, I’LL DETONATE’, you created an experiential environment for the viewer to temporarily inhabit. How do our reactions to art change when we enter into an immersive situation such as this? 

The viewer should be intrigued, pulled in and disorientated but able to pick up on a sign or a code that feels familiar yet questionable to each individual. Each element has its own function and points to another element. The entire show is linked, but I found that each viewer had an attraction to a certain aspect, not the whole. I wanted there to be a bombardment of imagery to force the viewer to seek further, with equal parts of distress and fun, and piece them together like a big puzzle. Each section of the show references another section which adds to the fluidity of the installation whether the viewer knows it or not; they are being manipulated. Using the large space of Stour, the windows a looking out onto the canal and the Olympic Grounds also added to this chaos and confusion and the Space Pod footage was taken here, so the mix or the inside and outside worlds became skewed.

Tell us about Susan Supercharged. When did her character start to develop and why?

I needed help, so I invented an alter ego, Susan Supercharged, who could take over.

Susan Supercharged was born out of a situation in real life, in which I was involved with a trauma, on top of a trauma, on top of a trauma. These events occurred together and were extremely challenging both emotionally and psychically. I was faced with a huge list of Herculean tasks that I had no idea how to get through on my own. I needed help, so I invented an alter ego, Susan Supercharged, who could take over. Not a noble creation, but one of necessity arisen from complete fear. I quickly released that to keep Susan Supercharged alive, I had to time and space travel, seek out meaning, symbols, and portals, to try and make sense of the world. She needed to be indestructible, as I was very certain the world was trying to erase me.

One of the prototypes for the clone of Susan Supercharged, shown here in its space helmet, during the Space Pod landing in Hackney Wick.

I also felt that she was the vessel to grab back my power: be the proof of female strength and exhibit an idealized beauty.

The first pieces of artwork I did as Susan Supercharged were in a semi- trance-like state, (that arose from terror) waiting for surgery, where I spontaneously wrote and drew over the ads of Vogue magazine, which were a direct response to the hype of beauty, and the disappointment that ensues. They are too emotional for me to even look at but were the beginnings of Susan Supercharged’s work, which led to the collage work and cut-ups that is the main body of this show. I also have a history of some random encounters with Andy Warhol and being up at the Factory, so I think a lot of people like to think it’s my Superstar name given by Andy. Susan Supercharged continues to outshine me, I like her, she’s simply a clone.

You work across painting, collage, film and sound. What are the common threads that run through your diverse practice? 

Melancholia, isolation and constantly seeking hope. I continually feel displaced, as I am American and now, British, so I’m never quite sure where I belong, and the longing for each culture does not go away. It’s exciting and heartbreaking at the same time. I work across film, sound, painting, and print as these visual clues are literally thrown at me (us) daily, and should be kept for further safekeeping, and pulled out when needed. I use these artifacts as signposts. My work and life is an enormous collage, this is where the truth of my work lies, I use a Burroughs-esque cutup method to inform me and receive information, from wherever it comes from - paint, sound, film… I try to develop a type of artistic courage, I’m very comfortable with making mistakes, I am no perfectionist. It’s in all the haphazard mistakes that I find magic and meaning in all the components. I was struggling with a title for the show when literally a scrap from a comic book fell on the floor that said 'You drive, I’ll Detonate’… I trust the random sources; they have never let me down.

Lifecode 'Capricorn 15’. 70 x 100 cm. ['The 'Lifecodes’ are a series of compositions I created from my experimentation with the manipulation and collaging of someone else’s line. I was trying to dissect the power from comics and see if I cut it all up if the power would still exist. It did. I wanted to cut into the chaos using Morris code to calm the action down ( dash dash) which also became like musical notes"].

What is coming up next for you?

First of all a huge state of Reflection. This has been a year’s work and it’s obviously a cathartic piece. I hope to show in New York this year, and I will also revisit the self-portraits of Susan Supercharged. There was supposed to be a wall of over 100 portraits in the Space Pod, but only 14 were shown.I also would like to get sponsorship for my Billboards to install in a large outdoor space, I started these over 15 years ago as false advertising campaigns, so it’s about time to get some real Billboards at the end of the World.


'You Drive, I’ll Detonate’ ran from 2nd May – 2nd June 2014 at Stour Space, 7 Roach Road, Hackney Wick, London, E3 2PA. For more information on the practice of Suzie Zabrowska aka Susan Supercharged, visit susansupercharged.tumblr.com