In a few sentences, can you introduce your practice and how you work?
I am a visual artist whose practice involves photography, collage, video, and installation. Although my practice is constantly developing, I mainly explore intimacy and build narrative series that blend straight documentary with an artistic and personal approach. My various works think about relationships, matters of identity, and origins. Family is often the cornerstone of my analysis. Working mostly around the archive – whether as the subject or the medium. – I aim to illustrate the idea of memory, its impact on the present and the future, its limits, and its fading. I also question the role of photography as a tool and its authenticity by blending reality and fiction in my narratives.
Could you introduce your collective, and how that came to be?
In 2014, I founded LIVE WILD, a collective of seven artists working with different-yet-complementary aesthetics. This collective is in fact a large-scale performance, through which I can freely experiment and develop different narratives. Working under my own name and six aliases, I have created very different characters and works. This process has enabled me to present the work exactly how I want to, to better understand how to introduce my work (and myself), and to investigate whether the self that I present affects how my work is received. Borrowing the names, dates, and stories of members of my family, I have created fake artists, and have attributed to them works that are relevant to the name they are attached to. Here again, I play with the porous border between reality and fiction. Even though I revealed the truth about the collective a couple of years ago, I keep working in this way and referring to the different members as if they are their own individuals, and will continue to do so until the project is completed by the publication of a book, hopefully in 2021.
What one thing has most helped to shape your practice?
Travelling constantly for the past fifteen years, and moving and working in different countries. By restlessly pushing against my comfort zone, I allow myself the room to crave experimentation, and, therefore, to potentially fail. Because I am self-taught, most of the time I have no idea how I am supposed to be doing things, and although that doesn’t always work in my favour, some times it confers a freshness to my approach.
Why photography? Why the still image?
The still image is the tip of the iceberg of my work, but is also at the core of it. I have always been fascinated by photographs. This might have something to do with the fact that, even though I was brought up in an environment in which pictures were taken all the time, I had access to almost none. I am also the grand-daughter of a refugee from the Armenian genocide by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century, a genocide that is still not recognised by Turkey, which argues that there is no tangible evidence of the massacre, despite the existence of many pictures showing what happened. Despite this continued denial by the Turkish government, these images illustrate the importance of documentation and the potential role of photography as proof of something tangible. My research plays a lot with this idea of authenticity, and I often – if not always – end up using images to deceive the viewer.
Where do your ideas begin?
Mostly in my life. My work is really close to who I am, and what my life is like. Stories from family and experiences that I’ve had are my main sources, but I am also very inspired by literature. Every time I hear or read something unusual or absurd, I write it down, and then think about ways to develop this information into an interesting visual narrative.
Great things I hope! A book project that is long overdue, and a really exciting multimedia project in Armenia that necessitates several trips there, which delights me.
For more from LIVE WILD collective click here.
For more from #4 Staged, click here.