Briefly describe the work you do.
I work with different mediums such as video, photography and street art in the form of sticker and paste – up. The videos and short films I’ve made are in the blurred line between documentary and video art. Even though I choose documentary genre for story telling, I adopt a more experimental style, which allows me to be completely free and creative in terms of form while still documenting a reality.
However, when it comes to my photos, I’m not interested in documentary photography or capturing the ‘decisive moment’. My works are usually in the field of conceptual photography where I can combine illustrations and words. My visual approach also gives a big place to negative spaces.
Creating new perceptions by pulling out things and ideas from their context serves as a general approach to all my works. A bit of black humor always accompanies them.
Tell us about your background and how that has had an influence on your work and on you as an artist.
Although I’m working with images, I’ve always been more comfortable with written words. Even now, when I start either a photo or a film project, first I write about it. It’s the only way for me to gather my thoughts. And I believe that it’s a heritage from my childhood. Back then, I read a lot and was writing stories based on the cartoons I watched. I was a quite child, more of an observer with a huge curiosity. I was born in a gigantic city like Istanbul and I spent a lot of time with grown ups when I was a kid, so there was nothing but an enchanting world out there, abundant with exciting details. I’m influenced by this environment both in personal and artistic level.
The concept of the artist studio has a broad range of meanings in contemporary practice. Artists may spend much of their time in the actual studio, or they may spend very little time in it. Tell us about your individual studio practice and how it differs from or is the same as traditional notions of “being in the studio.”
My practice is very solitary which includes just me and my computer. So I don’t generally need a studio space in a traditional sense. For now, my studio is my living room. It may sound kind of weird but I also have a closet in which I hang drafts about my projects and ideas. I think its shelter-like feeling gives me comfort. I feel more productive in a familiar environment so if I decide to have a studio one day, it’d be homey too.
What roles do you find yourself playing that you may not have envisioned yourself in when you first started making art?
At first, I was very naive about the art world and convinced that if I make great art, I’ll automatically have some kind of platform to show my work. But it took a while for me to understand that working is not enough to be seen or heard. You have to step up and demand your place. So I decided to be my own boss. In order to exist, I have to create my resources; I have to get lost in the infinite web to find the right places for what I create. Applications, submissions, proposals and all the opportunities that artists (at least the emerging ones) have to chase take so much time and energy that some days I wind up exhausted and frustrated. This survival mode is no fun but is crucial.
When do you find is the best time to make art? Do you set aside a specific time everyday or do you have to work whenever time allows?
I don’t think that people doing creative work can set aside a specific time for this but for the sake of discipline, I try to work everyday even if it wouldn’t provide a significant contribution to the project I work on. Otherwise it’s so easy to be drifted away by little dramas of daily life or other jobs that you have to do to earn your living.
Besides, reading, watching or following other artists’ works are also nurturing and inspiring activities, which cannot be separated from creating your own work. So I feel like I’m constantly in a state of observing and trying to see how I can make use of what I witness right that moment.
How has your work changed in the past five years? How is it the same?
My work hasn’t gone through dramatic changes in the past five years but I think my approach to my own practice is much different now. I start to take myself more seriously as I see my work being appreciated by others and it gives me some kind of confidence every time I have an idea. And naturally, this reflects on my works, making them more mature.
How have people such as family, friends, writers, philosophers, other artists or even pop icons had an impact on the work you do?
It’s a little redundant to say but my family has the strongest impact on my works. I mean, on a subconscious level. But the real inspiration comes from the strong, smart and witty women artists, especially Miranda July and Agnès Varda. I’m also kind of obsessed with the works of Georges Perec and Roy Andersson,
Other than that, I’ve been friends & working with a documentary filmmaker, Bingöl Elmas, for years. She’s like my mentor who makes me see clearly my goals every time I get confused.
Have you ever been pulled in the direction of a pursuit other than being an artist? What are your other interests?
After studying cinema, I got my master’s degree on artistic direction of cultural projects and I was interested in curation or direction. I still am actually but even though it’s a passionate thing to do just as everything related to art, it’s not fulfilling and satisfying like creating my own work. So for now, I’m sticking with this effort to be an artist.
Born in 1985 in Turkey, Sirin Bahar Demirel studied cinema in Istanbul and then she finished her MA in Artistic Direction of Cultural Projects at Université Paul Valéry, France. She’s a visual artist working on photography, video and street art projects. She has participated to group exhibitions in Finland, France, Germany and Turkey with her photo works. Her short films have been touring festivals around the world and have won several awards. She currently lives and works in Florida, USA.
All images copyright of the artist and used with their permission.