Challenging rules and keeping art curious with multidisciplinary artist Allegra Pacheco - Friends of Friends / Freunde von Freunden (FvF)

Challenging rules and keeping art curious with multidisciplinary artist Allegra Pacheco


Some use the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” as gospel for how to hone your talents and approach creative (or any) work. The oft-repeated advice is to find a niche, commit to a specific medium, and stay there. However, for Allegra Pacheco, creative work is an exercise in curiosity, and her inspiration allows her the courage to explore whatever ignites her interest. You could say that she proves that rules can always be challenged and that advice may be well-meaning but also arbitrary. 

A filmmaker and multi-disciplinary artist, Allegra has an inquisitive and agile mind. Emphasizing the importance of playfulness and a willingness to learn, she adopts the role of an eager, active student in both her daily life and professional practice. Anything that piques her interest is fertile ground for her practice. From the camaraderie of the world of contact sports to mythology and folklore, Allegra embraces every chance to excavate topics with an energy that doesn’t at all belie her dedication to her craft. In speaking with her, it’s clear that she values the immense potential of art in understanding herself and connecting with others—and holds a willingness to create without preconceived boundaries, which is unique and purposeful. Every project is undertaken with thoughtful consideration that seeks to understand and unravel an authentic and compassionate portrait of its subject. 

A pivotal moment in her career was her debut documentary film Salaryman’, released three years ago to wide critical and audience acclaim. The film was a study of the white-collar desk worker in Japanese culture, embodied by overriding loyalty to his corporation. Born from the time she spent in Tokyo, Allegra became fascinated with the archetype, and threw herself into directing a feature-length documentary before ever having produced a short or trailer previously. The seven years it took to make ‘Salaryman’ provided ample experience for her professionally, and strengthened her belief in embracing curiosity and collaboration. 

We caught up with Allegra one morning to discuss her journey into the world of art, and how she champions playfulness and humility in her work and personal life. 

For Allegra, art is both a window to the world and the way that she knows and expresses herself.
  • Tell us about your background. 

    I’m originally from Costa Rica, where I was born. My dad is Costa Rican and German,  and my mom is Cuban and Spanish. I’ve always had a mixed background and have been a traveler because of that. I left Costa Rica when I was around 19 and came to California briefly for university and to work on the environmental documentary film ‘The 11th Hour’ by Leonardo DiCaprio. I worked as an intern, doing tasks like bringing coffee and finding stock footage. It wasn’t a planned career move into the film industry, but it provided valuable experience for my own film, Salaryman.

  • Your creative style spans across various mediums like film, photography, sculpture, and painting. How do you navigate between these different forms of expression?

    I become interested in a specific subject matter, and then that will dictate the medium. I just get interested or obsessed with a subject, and I immerse myself in it. 

    For example,  there’s also a boxing series that I’m working on that is quite immersive. It’s almost a chicken and egg scenario: I became interested in boxing because I was boxing, but I was also interested in boxing because I thought it was an interesting subject matter. I often lean into things that maybe I initially don’t understand, and then being an artist is my excuse to be able to get a deep dive into these subjects.

“I often lean into things that maybe I initially don’t understand, and then being an artist is my excuse to be able to get a deep dive into these subjects.”
Allegra’s style is a dynamic mix of colors, mediums, and subjects.
  • What did you find artistically inspiring in boxing and contact sports? 

    The world of contact fighting I thought was super interesting, because overall, in the history of humanity, we’ve had a long trajectory with games of all kinds and athleticism for many reasons—for proving our strength and then being more important members of the community or stealth or strategy. Athletes were in a sense honoring the gods or trying to be as close to the gods as possible. And sometimes in the modern world, it can seem like a black-and-white or clear-cut archetype, but it’s not. Sometimes people see it as, “Oh, boxing is so violent. Why would you want to paint something so violent?” But it’s not that violent at all. There’s so much camaraderie, you know? 

  • How do you maintain joy and playfulness in your creative process, especially when tackling more serious or complex subjects?

    That’s something I absolutely prioritize, even though I’m someone who delves into quite serious subjects. I think I’m a bit of a silly, playful person at times. And I think especially when art becomes a little bit more institutionalized, either in a museum, a documentary, or a gallery setting, it can lose a lot of its playfulness, or that playfulness may not even be considered.

“There’s a lot of dimensions to the things I do, and sometimes the lightness or the fun is evident within the process, and other times it’s later.”

“I often lean into things that maybe I initially don’t understand, and then being an artist is my excuse to be able to get a deep dive into these subjects.”
  • Do you have any personal creative rituals? 

    As with the landscapes I mentioned, I have tools for playing with color or working under a rigorous set of rules to see how I can make new iterations within that set of boundaries. The restrictions can sometimes allow me to not have to worry about what I’m going to paint—I can just have a narrow perimeter to work with that is liberating. And sometimes if I’m not inspired by one medium, I switch to another—I’ll go to ceramics to make somebody a present or something, or to make a new tea set for myself. I don’t just view my projects as my work; they’re my lifeline, they’re my therapy, my play, how I interact with the world.

“Taking part in a physical piece of performance art can be likened to what it feels like to be an artist: throwing your emotions and yourself on the line and being very vulnerable in order to create something.”

  • Collaboration also seems to be an integral part of your creative process. How do you navigate collaboration?

    love collaboration. Art can be very solitary, and I also love being alone, but collaboration can make everything feel more dynamic. If you’re looking at something from your point of view, it may seem obvious or straightforward but someone else can show you a completely different perspective which can enhance your project. It’s important to be proven wrong sometimes, not stay in an echo chamber, and allow yourself to be humbled.

  • Your work involves a perpetual student mentality and a quest for knowledge. What has had a profound impact on your approach to creating art or your understanding of the world?

    We live in such a complex world. It’s so full of beauty, and so full of conflict. There are so many different points of view and so many cultures coexisting. And that’s even just speaking on a human level. That’s before we even open ourselves up to the animal kingdom, to science, to all of the other things. How could you not be curious about everything, all the time? 

    One paradigm shift I’ve had is how when I was younger I used to view creating art as having to be a constant struggle. A struggle to learn how to stand out from other people, to get noticed, and to appeal to many without being inauthentic or commercial. Finding your voice can be more difficult when you’re younger. More and more I’m finding that’s not the case anymore. I follow my intuition and I’m not afraid to fail. Some things evolve and grow into something more successful, and some projects naturally don’t. There’s less pressure from myself now, and it’s a playful, dynamic, exploratory approach. 

  • How do you think your artistic process will evolve in the future? 

    I mean, who knows? I would like to make more films. I think it would be fun to work on a shorter format—I don’t feel pressured into making features. There are some upcoming projects in the film realm; one has to do with some historical events in Costa Rica and the Caribbean, and the other revolves around muses and the mythology about them. 

    Recently I’ve been in California, so I’ve been geographically quite apart from my family. My family has a long history of immigration, and living through many different situations and experiences, and I find myself thinking of my family getting older, and the importance of keeping their stories alive for future generations. Maybe I could curate a global archive, or even create a film around that—my grandparents, my parents, all of the extended family and their stories.

Allegra Pacheco is a filmmaker, painter, and multidisciplinary artist whose practice is rooted in exploration and novelty. Her documentary Salaryman, which explores the world of Japanese work culture, is available on Apple TV, Google Play Videos, and Amazon, has been shown in festivals worldwide and has received multiple awards including ‘Best Director’ and ‘Best Composer’ for the DOC LA Awards.  Allegra’s ‘Blood Sugar’ series was recently shown at the Craig Krull gallery in Los Angeles, as part of the group exhibition Contemporary Art in Costa Rica, curated by Hannah Sloan.

The photography for this piece was taken by Allegra’s close friend Kate Bellm, whom we have previously featured

Text: Ellen McBride

Images: Kate Bellm & Juan Tribaldos