Irem Çoban was born in Turkey in 1986. Throughout her life, she has always been fascinated by images and how the world is represented through the eyes of others. Therefore, she opted to take her Bachelor’s Degree at 1st rank in Cinema at Galatasaray University at İstanbul, Turkey.
After completing her degree, she completed a Master’s Degree in Cinema at Galatasaray University as well. She worked as a designer at Galatasaray University Design Workshop Unit, and designed a lot of posters, magazines, and books. She has participated in group exhibitions, festivals, and workshops in various countries such as the USA, Italy, South Korea, Bulgaria, Germany, and Turkey. In the Art Woman 2020 Geo-Graphies exhibition organized by Primo Piano LivingGallery in Lecce, Italy, she was awarded the best technical practice award and the Silver Certificate for her video “Tell me my future”. Her short film “Hear”, which experimentally handles the story of a child bride, has been selected for the official screening selections of various international film and art festivals. Now she is in the thesis stage at Maltepe University Fine Arts Department, Department of Cinema, Proficiency in Art. Her thesis was awarded with the Doctorate Thesis Research About Gender Scholarship Award in March 2020 at the festival organized by Festiva Istanbul Culture and Art Association and Shenema International Short Film Platform. She lives and works –as a lecturer in Cinema at Maltepe University- in İstanbul.
In her works, she focuses on gender and identity problems and explores the representation of feminist art. Having used an interdisciplinary approach by using a combination of digital drawing, video, film, photography and motion graphics, she aims to convey the multidimensional character of the human that is inherent and to mirror all the dirty clothes stored in the most hidden parts of the mind. She thinks that it is important to visualize and materialize internal energies with abstract forms.
– A Creative Video Art Exhibition&Workshops (VR-Online), Creative Code Visual Art Showcase, “Inner
way of ambiguity”, Video, Never Knows Better & Creative Code Art, NewYork USA, 8 August 2020.
– Online Exclusive Group Exhibition, Echo, “Circle of Prejudice” , Illustration, HUB Design, NewYork
USA, July-August 2020.
– Online Group Exhibition, Hands Free Vol1., “Face Off”, “Unity”, “Construction”, Video and Digital
Illustration, Sanat365, İstanbul Turkey, July 2020.
– Online Group Exhibition (Jury), Virtual Reflections, “Reflections”, Digital Illustration, Yalova
University Art and Design Faculty, Yalova Turkey, June 2020.
– Group Exhibition, Art Woman 2020 Geo-Graphies, “Tell me my future”, Video, May 2020, Primo
Piano LivingGallery, Lecce, Italy.
– Group Exhibition (Jury), What we eat and wear?, “The Hunt”, Digital Illustration, June 2019, Cica
Museum, Seoul, South Korea.
– Group Exhibition (Jury), Young Activities 8 Homo Historicus/Homo Projectus , “I saw, I heard and I’m
screaming”, Digital Painting, UPSD, 20 April – 20 May 2019, Beşiktaş Contemporary Art Gallery,
– Group Exhibition (Jury), Asos Congress: 4th International Fine Arts Exhibition, “The dance at the
edge of the World”, Digital Illustration, 3-5 May 2018, Alanya, Turkey.
– Group Exhibition (Jury), International Akdeniz University Postgraduate Art and Design Symposium,
“The Flow”, Dijital Illustration-Collage, April 2018, Antalya, Turkey.
– Group Exhibition, Foreign Affairs EEA (European Exchange Academy), “Painting with a fan”,
“Wunder- kammern”, “Rhythm: Portrait of Scott” ve “Wish tree”, Painting-Installation, September
2013, Beelitz, Germany.
– Group Exhibition, Basic Design Atelier Exhibition, Galatasaray University Faculty of Communication,
“Face”, “Telephone – Point Art”, “Hour Glass- Line Art”, “Salvador Dali, The Persistance of Memory
Geometrical Abstraction”, Drawing- Painting , February 2009, İstanbul, Turkey.
– Director, “Hear”, 2020.
– Kosice International Film Festival – 2020
– Venice Film Awards- 2020
– Prag International Film Festival – 2020
– Montréal International Short Film Awards – 2020
– Venice Film Awards- 2020
– Kosice International Film Festival – 2020
– Prag International Film Festival – 2020
– LiftOff Global Network Film Festivali First-Time Filmmaker Sessions – 2020
– Five Continents International Film Festival FICCOC 40 – 2020
Online Premier Screening:
– Mcart.Ist Art Incubation Center Istanbul, Open Source Movie Nights, 18 July 2020
– Workshop, Semiology and Space, Is It Real?, Çankaya University- Faculty of Architecture. 7-11
October 2013, Ankara, Turkey.
– Jury Member- Early Bird European Student Film Festival, October 2012, Sofia, Bulgaria.
– Producer, “The Power” UR 2420. Region Örsçelik Balkan Rotary Short Film Competition on
“Violence Against Women”, Professional Category, Rank 3rd. 2020, Istanbul, Turkey.
– ” ‘Yaşamakat’ High School and Interuniversity Social Responsibility Advertising Designs
Competition”, Rank 1st- Category of TV Social Advertising Film, 2010, Istanbul, Turkey.
Hi Irem! How did it all start for you? Were you an artistic soul from an early age? When did you decide that this is what you want to do?
Irem: As far as I remember, I used to scribble on every piece of paper or cloth which I found, draw something, play the games that I made up and love watching movies. Also, I always had a very strong imagination. I guess the fact that my family has also some artistic characteristics, has an effect on all this. Although their main professions are different (engineering, academician, etc.), they all have a talent for a different branch of art and they are interested in art as a hobby.
I decided that I wanted to study in a department about cinema and visual arts in secondary school and I completed my Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree in the same field. When I was in the first year of the university, my professor of design guided me in the field of art as a profession. Now I’m in the doctoral thesis stage at Fine Arts Department. Although I don’t make money as an artist right now, the field in which I produce works as an academic person is visual arts too and I can actually do both together. Honestly, without worrying about making money, I really produce freely my artistic works and communicate with people in a much more intimate way.
Were there influences behind your aesthetic – other artists, directors, specific films?
Irem: There are many names that I am happy to discover about combining social problems that I want to express with art and also contributing to the development of my feminist perspective. But mostly I can state Judy Chicago, Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Kara Walker, Agnès Varda, Şükran Moral, and their artistic perspectives.
Also, German Expressionism and Dada are art movements that I love and get inspired as style.
Regarding the boundlessness of imagination; David Lynch’s style, Ingmar Bergman’s cinematographic aesthetics and the experimentality freely applied by Maya Deren constitute the points that I get inspiration from. In this context, although not have a high IMDB score J, I highly recommend Terry Gilliam’s film named Tideland, a magnificent combination of imagination and dramaturgical narration.
You focus on gender and identity problems and explore the representation of feminist art. What inspired you to pursue this issue?
Irem: Ever since I went to college and met people from different walks of life, I’ve understood that everyone, more precisely, every living thing should have the right to live equally. This awareness provided me to develop sense of empathy and I wanted to tell people about gender and identity problems in the world. Women, transgender people, children, animals are subjected to sexual violence, are killed and I have to do something for all of this. But this act should not be ordinary and monotonous. Because I don’t look at life as an ordinary thing. This motivation made me decide to explain social problems by using art. The material life is very strict, it is structured by heteronormative rules, and no one is allowed out of it. But we can get out. We have to raise awareness. We must organize the heteronormative system in a way that makes it safe for everyone. Nevertheless, this should not be by violent means. That’s why I started to produce my artistic works to raise awareness in people at the same time. Because these problems are the problems of all humanity.
Tell me more about your short film “Hear”. Where did you get inspiration for that film in particular?
Irem: It’s about Elif who is 14 years old girl. She is forced to get married. On her wedding day, she starts running in the Belgrad Forest to escape from her wedding ceremony. But the groom runs after her. As an audience, we wonder if people who run or rest in the Belgrad Forest hear, notice, and help her -the child bride Elif, who tries to escape.
The fact that humanity has established its life in a balance of power since its existence has realized the transfer of rules and rules from generation to generation. The representations used in identifying individuals also describe individuals on two gender axes: women and men! Individuals are regarded as harmonious and ideal individuals as long as they fulfill the roles and behaviors that are defined for them in the patriarchal system. In this context, women are seen as an object to be obtained whenever they are desired by men. Little girls are seen as women and their lives and hopes fall apart. This is a very serious problem in Turkey. Based on this fact, in the film, I criticized people for keeping silent to all this mistake and tried to convey the feelings of a girl who experienced this situation. I used experimental methods to visualize it. I wanted to convey the disturbing nature of the situation to the audience by using disturbing sounds, image transitions, and colors.
What is your daily routine when working? And can you tell us about the process of making your work?
Irem: First of all, I do readings in order to form the theoretical background of my work and I sketch the figures that come to life in my mind while doing the readings. It is very important to me that my works provide the connotation of the texture formation and the meanings I want to convey. For this reason, I complete the production preparations, depending on whether moving or static work- which their drafts are completed.
Sometimes, a story that I witnessed or heard, forms a series in my mind immediately; I start my working process according to the length and detail of the series by following the same path. Finally, it ends when the work completes itself in a natural process.
Do you have a real-life situation that inspired your artwork?
Irem: The situations that we are in as humanity, mistakes made by us, the problems experienced in the society, the cases which I watch on the news, and as well as the events around me, also my own experiences support the formation of my art works. As an artist, I think it is impossible to remain indifferent to the events that humanity be faced with. Art is a reflection of the reality of societies and human beings and therefore I think it is necessary to be sensitive and art is the best tool to transfer this awareness of sensitivity from person to person.
Your art is so unique and innovative. What motivates you as an artist? Is it curiosity, the search for beauty or meaning?
Irem: Thank you! I have always found the clamped lives and crises that individuals go through in today’s ready lives interesting. In a society ruled by the patriarchal social order, social screams of the suppressed, namely women and different gender identities, are ought to be brought out the bad as it is a means purification as well as an expression of the inner world of theirs. For me, as long as reality is concerned, it is always important to make the known but ignored visible to everyone.
That’s why meaning is so important. All opposing emotions, such as beauty-ugliness, happiness-unhappiness, are highly subjective. But the feeling of empathy and being able to put yourself in somebody’s shoes can eliminate the selfishness that the subjectivity brings. In line with my own perceptions of beauty-ugliness, good-evil, hope-despair, I try to make people more empathetic with other people who have problems in the world.
What was your main motivation for embarking on the “Tell me my future “video, which was awarded the best technical practice award and the Silver Certificate?
Irem: Knowing the future has always been a desirable and interesting element for human beings. In this context, even today, ages long rituals continue to exist as a practice for those who are thought to have a modern life. The Turkish coffee fortune-telling, which consists of saying unspoken things and creating hope for the future, is one of the strongest rituals. It remains in the shady area between the faith and daily practice of tradition, and it is there to fuel the curious with the hope of the future. However, this ritual has a special place in women’s meetings since it provides women with an atmosphere of covering up their own frustrations by gossiping over and condemning some other women who don’t obey the rules of traditional patriarchal society.
In the process of coffee cup fortune-telling, the reader is expected to comment on the abstract forms formed by the residues of the coffee powder remained in the cup. In this work, those abstract forms that are needed to be interpreted are drawn on the face and the body of me and they transform into meanings that I should prepare for forecasted struggles in the coming stages of my life. Having based on the contrast between modern humans and a traditional ritual, I’m focused on the desire of human beings to know the unknown future in this video work. But the surprise comes at the end when I wipe out all those coffee-stained forms on my body as I break away from all the prejudices and stereotypes put before me. I stand against everyone and everything that interferes with my life.
Are there any upcoming shows we should know about?
Irem: One of my video work and digital illustration work will be exhibited in two group exhibitions – McArt.İst Art Incubator and Luna Art Gallery- to be held in Istanbul in October.
In December, I will take part with one of my video work in the “Worldview” themed group exhibition organized by Primo Piano LivinGallery in Lecce, Italy.
I completed the shooting of my short film named “Last Performance”, which I have been working on since June. The project is currently in post-production phase. I hope that it will be ready for festivals in 1-2 months.
What’s next on the horizon for Irem?
Irem: During the pandemic period, I returned to myself like everyone else. I queried the material life and realized that my relationship with art motivated me very much in this process. Therefore, I will continue to explain the subjects that I have in mind and want to share with people, through my art. Besides, I am creating a digital illustration series, currently in progress, which I tackle with gender problems through women. I intend to exhibit this series with a different and participatory-supported exhibition technique, not a static two-dimensional one.