FICTIONS BASED ON TRUTH: AN INTERVIEW WITH EVELYN BENCICOVA
TIM VAN DIJK
Evelyn Bencicova (b. Bratislava, 1992) is a visual creative specialising in photography and art direction. Informed by her background in fine art and new media studies (University for Applied Arts, Vienna), Bencicova’s practice combines her interest in contemporary culture with academic research to create a unique aesthetic space in which the conceptual meets the visual. Her work is never quite what first appears to be and graces the cover of the FRESH EYES book. GUP asked her some questions about her ways of working and visual projects.
Your series are often quite conceptual and staged, how do you come up with these concepts?
Through projects I deal with what interests me, what touches me on the outside as well as on the inside. Even if I often pick broader topics the story is partly personal, if we speak of feeling rather than concrete actions. I observe the world and decide where I want to look deeper. Of course, often I feel like I want to see everything, but it is the choice of the concept which sharpens the focus. All I do is searching, wandering in time and space, in thoughts. I’m trying to understand, to get the essence, which I will be able to communicate. To question everyday reality, relationship to it and its interpretation. My concepts are not strictly given and often develop in the process. I represents the direction more than a goal, asking questions rather than giving answers. When your goal is searching you never know what can be found.
Your project ‘asymptote’ feels eery and almost dystopian. Could you tell us more about this project?
Interesting question, it is difficult to define dystopia as different people have different values and views of life and society. My personal dystopia is a shopping mall.
Asymptote uses architectonic sites that are authentic to the era of socialism. Places, former symbols of power and greatness, elevated in order to make the person feel small. Today they stand still, stripped of essential purpose, abandoned or forgotten like a gravestones of their former glory. Asymptote merges past and present, by reflecting on one at the time of the other.
At the basis of the project lies a historical foundation that collaborates with a fictional scenario to blur the lines between reality and memory. Like a fiction based on truth. Authentic testimonies and archive materials are reinterpreted by contemporary digital language. The goal is not only to reflect on the past, but most importantly to address the current state of society and its values.
All body form in the project is folded within the space to shape a coherent geometrical composition, a symbol of the regime itself. People create a pattern. Each one is stripped of their own individuality to become a unified form, creating a society where every difference is an anomaly in the system.
Asymptote of a curve is a line such, that coming ever closer they tend towards infinity but will never touch. It is endless desire and longing, belief in and fight for future which is not approachable in reality. Or is it simply a lie?
Coming back to your observation, we did not find straight-forward dystopia or utopia. Inherited memories from the past were in between nostalgia and grief, individual experiences moving on entire spectrum of this scale. Our aim was not to create the judgment of how it was. It is not the truth, as there is hardly one truth if we speak about emotions of an entire nation. Asymptote is a surreal interpretation of all these, often contradictory positions.
Is there a common theme in your projects?
I shift between different themes and genres, and the only common theme is connection to my life and psyche. I try to observe similarities and differences between projects and define who I am in fact, but usually it ends up being indescribable, in process and ever changing. Some topics which are reoccuring in my work are: memory (mostly blurred or partly lost), mental health, femininity, fragility, empowerment, social body and body that conforms versus the one that revolts. The goal is to confront preconceptions and prejudices, challenge social standards of representation, to offer another point of view on what already exists and how it could potentially develop and change in the future (both in a good and bad way, if there would be such a thing as objective good and bad).
Could you tell us about your inspiration and your references?
Inspiration is what my mind feeds on. I try to not just look, but to see things around, to keep my eyes and mind open, as “seeing” is not just visual. Some of my references are academic but often inspiration comes from everyday life and the current state of events, from things which are not important on global scale but for me they reflect the bigger picture. I am connection of everything I have observed, heard, read and experienced. All these ingredients connect into mixture which forms my imagination, opinions and taste. It can be an article from a book, scene on the street or conversation with a stranger, basically anything that makes me feel and that makes me think.
Is there a new project in the making?
I’m usually developing several ideas at the same time, uncertain which will come into focus next. Recently most of my projects and collaborations appear on 3D landscapes and speak to you in Virtual Reality. I’m exploring new techniques of how to bring more storytelling into photographs, how to make the frozen frame live, change and expand, this time not just in one’s imagination. I stopped seeing myself as photographer some time ago, even though my practice never changed drastically, the medium became more fluid. I believe that each project requires different ways of treating it and right now I’m searching for a bigger variety of possible approaches. Soon you will see where it will lead, I myself am curious as well.
The work of Evelyn Bencicova is included in the first edition of FRESH EYES: a catalogue initiated by GUP featuring 100 of the most talented European photographers currently in the first stage of their career.