Interview: İrem Çoban
Luca Curci talks with İrem Çoban during THE BODY LANGUAGE 2021 at THE ROOM Contemporary Art Space and at Palazzo Albrizzi-Capello.
İrem Çoban was born in Turkey in 1986. Throughout her life, she has always been fascinated by images and how the world is represented through the eyes of others. Therefore, she opted to take her Bachelor’s Degree at 1st rank in Cinema at Galatasaray University at İstanbul, Turkey. After completing her degree, she completed a Master’s Degree in Cinema at Galatasaray University as well. She worked as a designer at Galatasaray University Design Workshop Unit and designed a lot of posters, magazines, and books. She has participated in group exhibitions, festivals, and workshops in various countries such as the USA, Japan, UK, Canada, Italy, South Korea, Bulgaria, Germany, and Turkey. In the Art Woman 2020 Geo-Graphies exhibition organized by Primo Piano LivingGallery in Lecce, Italy, she was awarded the best technical practice award and the Silver Certificate for her video “Tell me my future”. Her short film “Hear”, which experimentally handles the story of a child bride, has been selected for the official screening selections of various international film and art festivals. She completed her doctoral thesis at Maltepe University Fine Arts Department, Department of Cinema, Proficiency in Art. Her thesis was awarded the Doctorate Thesis Research About Gender Scholarship Award in March 2020 at the festival organized by Festiva Istanbul Culture and Art Association and Shenema International Short Film Platform. She lives and works – as a lecturer in Cinema at Maltepe University – in İstanbul. In her works, she focuses on gender and identity problems and explores the representation of feminist art. Having used an interdisciplinary approach by using a combination of digital drawing, video, film, photography and motion graphics, she aims to convey the multidimensional character of the human that is inherent and to mirror all the dirty clothes stored in the most hidden parts of the mind. She thinks that it is important to visualize and materialize internal energies with abstract forms.
Luca Curci – What are you currently working on?
İrem Çoban – I am currently working on a multi-sensory video project on the theme of human-nature contrast. I want to show the consequence of our distancing from nature by using technology, with the aim to find our essence.
LC – What’s your background? What is the experience that has influenced your work the most?
IC – I opted to take my Bachelor’s Degree at 1st rank and also my Master’s Degree in Cinema at Galatasaray University at İstanbul, Turkey. I worked as a designer at Galatasaray University Design Workshop Unit and designed a lot of posters, magazines, and books. Then I completed my doctoral thesis at Maltepe University Fine Arts Department, Department of Cinema, Proficiency in Art. I have participated in a lot of group exhibitions, festivals, and workshops in various countries. The situations that we are in as humanity, mistakes made by us, the problems experienced in the society, the cases which I watch on the news and as well as the events around me, also my own experiences support the formation of my artworks. As an artist, I think it is impossible to remain indifferent to the events that humanity be faced with. Art is a reflection of the reality of societies and human beings and therefore I think it is necessary to be sensitive and art is the best tool to transfer this awareness of sensitivity from person to person.
LC – Which art themes do you pursue? What is your preferred subject, if there is any?
IC – Ever since I went to college and met people from different walks of life, I’ve understood that everyone, more precisely, every living thing should have the right to live equally. This awareness provided me to develop a sense of empathy and I wanted to tell people about gender and identity problems in the world. Women, transgender people, children, animals are subjected to sexual violence, are killed and I have to do something about all of this. But this act should not be ordinary and monotonous. Because I don’t look at life as an ordinary thing. This motivation made me decide to explain social problems by using art. The material life is very strict, it is structured by heteronormative rules, and no one is allowed out of it. But we can get out. We have to raise awareness. We must organize the heteronormative system in a way that makes it safe for everyone. Nevertheless, this should not be by violent means. That’s why I started to produce my artworks to raise awareness in people at the same time. Because these problems are the problems of all humanity. There are many names that I am happy to discover about combining social problems which I want to express with art and also contributing to the development of my feminist perspective.
LC – Do you use art to express something in particular? Is it like your medium of expression?
IC – I have always found the clamped lives and crises that individuals go through in today’s ready lives interesting. In a society ruled by the patriarchal social order, social screams of the suppressed, namely women and different gender identities, are ought to be brought out the bad as it is a means of purification as well as an expression of the inner world. For me, as long as reality is concerned, it is always important to make the known but ignored visible to everyone. That’s why meaning is so important. All opposing emotions, such as beauty-ugliness, happiness-unhappiness, are highly subjective. But the feeling of empathy and being able to put yourself in somebody’s shoes can eliminate the selfishness that subjectivity brings. In line with my own perceptions of beauty-ugliness, good-evil, hope-despair, I try to make people more empathetic with other people who have problems in the world.
LC – What is your creative process like?
IC – Generally, I do readings in order to form the theoretical background of my work and I sketch the figures that come to life in my mind while doing the readings. It is very important to me that my works provide the connotation of the texture formation and the meanings I want to convey. For this reason, I complete the production preparations, depending on whether moving or static work – which their drafts are completed. Finally, it ends when the work completes itself in a natural process.
LC – What do you think about the concept of this festival? How did it inspire you?
IC – The manifesto of this festival has a very important meaning these days. I think it is an occasion for us to realize that we are distanced from nature and our essence and that we are trapped in an artificial world, and it’s a chance to discover ourselves in every sense. That’s why I wanted to participate in the festival with my work titled “Tell me my future”, which I think is compatible with the theme. McArt.İst Art Incubator and its founder Dr. Cem Ünal have supported me in this process.
LC – Can you explain something about the artworks you have in our exhibition?
IC – My video performance work “Tell me my future” is screened in the exhibition. Knowing the future has always been a desirable and interesting element for human beings. In this context, even today, ages-long rituals continue to exist as a practice for those who are thought to have a modern life. The Turkish coffee fortune-telling, which consists of saying unspoken things and creating hope for the future, is one of the strongest rituals. It remains in the shady area between the faith and daily practice of tradition, and it is there to fuel the curious with the hope of the future. However, this ritual has a special place in women’s meetings since it provides women with an atmosphere of covering up their own frustrations by gossiping over and condemning some other women who don’t obey the rules of traditional patriarchal society. In the process of coffee cup fortune-telling, the reader is expected to comment on the abstract forms formed by the residues of the coffee powder that remained in the cup. In this work, those abstract forms that are needed to be interpreted are drawn on the face and the body of me and they transform into meanings that I should prepare for forecasted struggles in the coming stages of my life. Having based on the contrast between modern humans and traditional rituals, I’m focused on the desire of human beings to know the unknown future in this video work. But the surprise comes at the end when I wipe out all those coffee-stained forms on my body as I break away from all the prejudices and stereotypes put before me. I stand against everyone and everything that interferes with my life.
LC – What do you think about the organization of our event?
IC – It is a really successful and well-organized event. Thank you for preparing the exhibition in an accessible way during the pandemic period we are in. I wish I could come to Venice and see the exhibition and my work in person. But unfortunately, I could not come because of Covid-19.
LC – Did you enjoy cooperating with us?
IC – Yes, of course. I’m looking forward to continuing our cooperation in the future (without Covid-19).
LC – What are your suggestions about our services? Is there something more we can provide to artists?
IC – In the future, it would be great if you support us in combining the magnificent atmosphere of Venice with digital works in exhibition areas where works with more technological infrastructures can take place.