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Interview

ING Unseen Talent Award 2019: Meet Ulla Deventer

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
September 4, 2019
Every year, ING, Unseen, and Futures work together for the ING Unseen Talent Awards. For this edition, it was selected five finalists from Futures: Elena Aya Bundurakis, Ulla Deventer, Irene Fenara, Kevin Osepa and Karolina Wojtas. The winners will be announced on the 19th of September.

Coached by Adam Broomberg, from the artistic duo Broomberg & Chanarin, the five finalists are currently producing the exhibition 'Nature of Change', that will be opened during the Unseen Amsterdam, between the 20th and 22nd of September.

In this interview, meet one of the finalists, Ulla Deventer. From Germany, Deventer questions the interdependencies of women on social norms. She explores the female body, ideas of beauty, taboos, and sexuality.

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Can you explain to us a little about your practice? What inspires you?

Conversations with diverse people are my main inspiration. I am collaborating with women who live outside the conventional, always in the long term, in order to build a close connection. I am interested in how they deal with the fact of not fitting into the norm and how they sometimes need to live a double life for this reason. All my work is based on stories that they tell me.

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My collaboration with sex workers for over 6 years taught me a lot about society and human relationships, our desires and taboos. I became more and more interested in how society creates norms, influenced by religion, culture, and education. When does society start to judge and to build a stigma and what is suddenly considered normal? The list of prejudices about sex workers is long. People tend to see them as victims, believe that all of them would be forced to do this profession but they rarely consider a sex worker as an empowered women. While relationships that are based on economical dependency of the women are often considered as normal, few people would victimize here. These observations made me more and more interested in the power balance of gender in relationships: Who controls the other? How are we creating a dependency? What is stronger - economical or emotional power? What kind of relationship are we longing for in a fluent world, when women suddenly don’t need a provider anymore and we are disconnected from places? Does gender still matter? Sexuality tells a lot about us human beings, you can narrow everything down to it. Society finely controls the female body – looking at abortion laws and the lack of support for sex workers, just to give examples. I wonder to what extent we live as the person we really are or the person that society wants us to be. All this fascinates me and more questions, that are in the end very personal ones but very universal ones at the same time.

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As one of the finalists of the ING Unseen Talent Award, you're going to participate in an exhibition during the Unseen Amsterdam. What have you been working on for the exhibition ‘Nature of Change’?

For my project, I continued my ongoing research in Cuba, mainly in Havana. To the outside, Cuba is often represented as the seducing country, where the women are the dependent ones and available to male desires. I am interested in how Cuban women experience their role in a society that is male dominated, and what they describe as a ‘machista’ society. The role of women is still very conservative. I collaborated with Cuban women who live a self-determined independent life and for this reason break with the stereotype. I record their individual stories on their ideas of relationships and independency. In a later progress, I will embed them into a video installation.

For Unseen, I will present a piece that narrows my entire research down to the essence – it raises questions on dependency, control, desires, and gender. This work is universal, the place doesn’t matter anymore. There are the elements of the wind and the birds that combine in all three pieces – two videos and one huge wallpaper print. I see this piece as a complex playground that invites reflection on our most primitive human need: love.

In this process, you have been tutored by Adam Broomberg. How has this experience been for you?

The whole schedule was extremely demanding, I am not used to working under such time pressure, especially in public. I had to make decisions without being able to sleep on them. Adam thinks fast and complex and he sees the essence in your work and pushes you to get there. That helped me a lot. I feel honored to have been part of the whole group's progress and to see all of us growing, I am really glad to have been with such amazing people where I never had the feeling of competition, which is very unique.

Support your favorite artist for the ING Unseen Talent Award 2019. The online public voting is now open! You can choose between the five Futures Talents who are finalists of the award.

Vote here

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