Tobias Bernstrup: a gender-bending pioneer Tobias Bernstrup: a gender-bending pioneer Vanity Teen 虚荣青年 Lifestyle & new faces magazine

Tobias Bernstrup: a gender-bending pioneer

Tobias Bernstrup
Tobias Bernstrup | Petrichor (2021) inner sleeve photo by Julia Peirone

Tobias Bernstrup is a Swedish artist who has been active for over two decades, pushing the boundaries between physical and digital experiences, taking visual arts to the next level, creating music that unites people, and promoting the gender spectrum even before that was a thing.

We had a conversation with this gender-bending pioneer. We talked about his life, his creative process, and Petrichor, his latest album available everywhere.

Therefore, we hope you enjoy this interview.

Tobias Bernstrup
Tobias Bernstrup | Petrichor (2021) sleeve back photo by Julia Peirone

A gender-bending pioneer

VT: How was your journey on becoming an artist?

TB: When I grew up, there was always music and art around. My grandfather was a sculptor. We had a piano at home that my mother would play, and my dad spun Jazz records every weekend. At school, I had a bit hard time trying to keep focused, but I discovered I had a talent for music and art. So I knew, at an early point, that I wanted to become some kind of artist. I just did not know-how.

During my teenage years, I played in several bands, and after high school, I applied for a preparing art school. Two years later, I got submitted to the Royal College University of Fine Arts in Stockholm, which was a big deal for me back then.

At school, we also had a great media department. I started to work with video art, computers, and electronic music. I figured out a way to combine my two interests; art and music. In my art, I had started to work with gender and identity subjects.

During my studies, my best mate and I went to New York for a few months, and that trip gave me the courage to develop my own gender-bending performance persona.

I got my first gallerist, still being a student, and started exhibiting my work and do performances. It was the late 90s, and there was a hype for new media and video art, especially from the Nordic countries; and all of a sudden, I got invited to do exhibitions all over Europe and in the US.

After college, I spent several years in Berlin and New York, where I met a group of artists who were into analog synthesizers. 

A new exciting scene started to develop with artists like Martial Canterel and Xeno & Oaklander. The vinyl record had returned, and a lot of artist-run indie labels for electronic music emerged.

By the time I moved back to Sweden, people were already listening to the new stuff. And my music started to get a lot of fans in Mexico.

VT: How would you define your aesthetic?

TB: Queer, futuristic, videogame-dystopic.

VT: When you think about your work and creations up until now, what makes you feel pleased?

TB: A couple of times, I have received messages from fans who tell me that my music and art inspired them to dare to be different. That makes me very glad and hopeful.

VT: Could you share with us a little about your music and the creative process behind it?

TB: When I write music, I often have cinematic images in my head. I play around with sounds and textures to find an interesting atmosphere.

I pick a lead sound to make the melody. I make a bunch of short song drafts. After that, I imagine a character for the song something to build up lyrics around. I get most of my inspiration from films, books, videogames, current or historical events.

VT: Which plans do you have for the future?

TB: Stay healthy, enjoy life, and make more music and art.

Tobias Bernstrup
Tobias Bernstrup | Re-Animate Me (2002) sleeve art photo by Lotta Antonsson

Try to love yourself

VT: Do you consider the current pandemic has changed the way people perceive art and interact with its different forms of expression?

TB: I hope it has made us aware of the quality of real life. Life is precious and should not be taken for granted. A lot of creative initiatives have been made during the pandemic, like streaming festivals, etc. But we are all longing for going to concerts, dancing, hugging each other again.

VT: What are your thoughts about gender identity and its media representation?

TB: A lot has changed over the last two decades, these issues have got more attention and acceptance, but at the same time, I see a backward movement in the world with less tolerance as the political climate is getting insecure, which is frightening. We need to stand up and defend it with love.

VT: What do you do to improve or preserve your mental health?

TB: I walk in the forest, ride my bicycle, read books, and try to eat and sleep well.

VT: Which message would you like to share with our readers who would like to use these times to find inspiration and develop their creativity?

TB: Try to love yourself, the person you are. Embrace your interests, find friends that inspire you, start something new.

VT: Anything else you would like to share with Vanity Teen?

TB: I have just released Petrichor, my new album. You can find it on most digital platforms or on vinyl (later in October).

Tobias Bernstrup | Petrichor album art front by Julia Peirone

Before we go

Tobias Bernstrup has invited us to love ourselves and show the world our true colors. We love that of him, always encouraging people to accept themselves and be kind to others.

We invite you to get your copy of Petrichor right now or. But if you are a true music-lover, set your calendar for October 2021 to have your vinyl edition because of Tobias Benrtrup’s art and music have been inspiring generations, and we know Petrichor will expand his legacy.

Just remember, let us be gentle and always share our love.

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