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Interview

Vera Ryklova: My practice is about the concept of the self and its social construction

text:
Futures Photography
Date:
December 2, 2020
“Self-portraiture is not necessarily a genre I am interested in; it is rather the way I explore my subject.” In this interview, meet the artist Vera Ryklova, nominated for Futures this year by the PhotoIreland Festival.

Vera (originally from the Czech Republic) is a lens-based media artist who lives and works in Ireland, Dublin. Her current practice concerns socially formed traits and exposes the emotional conflict impelled by role expectations and embedded social practices. Vera employs her own body and her own experience to intimate women’s reality to the public eye, which makes her the subject of her own work. ⁠

We talked to her about her career and inspirations:

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Images from the project 'Aesthetic Distance', 2015
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Can you tell us a little bit about your inspirations? Which themes do you often work with?

My current practice is very much about the concept of the self and its social construction. Depending on the project, I address a variety of themes, such as performance of social roles, emotional conflict between designed expectations and lived reality, sense of belonging, identity, alienation, longing, loss… These all feed into the key subject – the self.

When it comes to the creative process, I am mainly influenced by Jo Spence’s politics of photographic artform – my ideas originate from as well as reflect on my life experience and I use my own body (female) to explore them. I deliberately look for inspiration outside photography – music, literature, film, and of course visual art are massive contributors to how I go about what I desire to convey in my own work.

How do you see your relationship with the medium? How do you use photography to express your art?

My practice gives me space for exploration. Self-portraiture is not necessarily a genre I am interested in; it is rather the way I explore my subject.

I perform to the lens. I use the camera to confront – it has the function of a distancing device that I utilise for me to experience a state of catharsis. I tend to express in a thought-provoking manner – asking to observe what is seen in the image beyond its frame. I aim for the audience to realise that a photographic image refers to and represents reality. What has been framed in the image is what has been created – the choices about what to include or to exclude from the frame, from the audience’s view, form the basis of any artwork. In this sense, I construct the image – it is like a collage. But my ‘collages’ are created during the process of execution, as I go through multiple experiences, while exploring my subject. The act of composing happens outside the frame. The places where I execute the work act as props, they assist me in communicating.

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Image from the project 'Optimal Distance', 2017
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Do you have any ongoing (or more recent) project that you would like to share with us?

There are a few, actually. Although they evolved independently they complement each other. As the nature of each project requires a specific approach, I switch between them to keep the work progressing. But most recently I have occupied myself with research for my video work.

The idea is to produce a number of video self-portraits that present one same concept where I question the role of faith while I confront my search for contentment, togetherness – a state when need and desire are united. My biggest aim is to begin producing series of videos with the equal importance as I have done with series of photographs.

Image from the project 'Child [working title]', 2017
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We have been facing a lot of challenges this year. How do you see this moment for art? Is it changing your practice?

The invention of photography has changed art and art has challenged photography. The true challenge that my practice and in fact many photographic practices, still face, is the secondary place that photography occupies in the art-world systems.

As the key concept of my practice is confrontation, challenges will always give me food for thoughts which will provoke new ideas to explore. I would say, the only challenge that would prevent me from making work is finding myself having a zero motivation.

What do you expect from this experience as a Futures talent?

I hope to present my practice to new audience and art professionals and to other artists as the nature of my work seeks confrontation and as I seek critical discussions about the subject I explore and the creative approach I employ.

I also want to further inspire and challenge the projects I have been developing and to advance their concepts through discussions and shared experience.

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