Danni Shen, Curatorial Fellow in Visual Arts, organizes and interprets exhibitions at Wave Hill.
Ira Eduardovna reconstructs narratives related to her personal history, examining issues of migration and identity in flux through non-linear story telling. Her works examine the intersections of video, performance, architecture and the influence of architecture on the experience of time and memory. Often embedding herself and family members in filmic narratives, Eduardovna’s work presents the familial structure as a model for society as a whole, while examining the changes that occur in the family once it has been displaced into a different societal structure—or once that structure collapses. Eduardovna will be in Glyndor Gallery this Saturday, February 13, starting at noon when the Open Studios for Winter Workspace 2016 Session I take place.
Danni Shen: What led you to begin working in film?
Ira Eduardovna: I began working in film towards the end of my undergraduate studies in Israel, around 2003, but I also continued to work in sculpture and photography. No matter what mediums I used, I was always interested in narrative and storytelling. At some point, I started experimenting with spatial and temporal deconstructions of narrative, and eventually that led me to the work that I make today.
DS: Your filmic narratives sometimes include family members or yourself. How do you choose people to be in your films? Is there necessarily a personal relationship?
IE: At the beginning, I only filmed myself, members of my family and the people around me. It felt like the most honest casting choice that I could make. I eventually and slowly started experimenting with actors. Today, I work with both actors and family members. I also perform in my own work. It really depends on the piece and what the role is about. As my work is usually conscious of the cinematic manipulations, I’m not necessarily interested in having an actor play a role that I wrote, without reflecting on the fact that it is an actor who is playing the role. For example, in my piece That.There.Then., I cast professional actors to play members of my family, and they appear alongside my family in the piece. So if it’s an actress, I will probably expose the apparatus behind the direction, or the cinematic manipulation. If it’s a family member, then the part is written specifically for that family member, and can only be performed by that person.
DS: There seems to be an aspect of displacement in your video pieces, whether metaphorical, conceptual, chronological, cultural, social, personal or even physical. Is that a reoccurring theme that you find yourself drawn to in narrative?
IE: There are specificities that I often examine in my work that are autobiographical. I am interested in migration and its political and personal aspects, its causes and effects. I grew up in Uzbekistan and migrated to Israel in 1990, right during the collapse of USSR. A collapse of such a huge ideological regime and the waves that it created in the world are fascinating to me. I examine the remaining influence of this ideology, this regime, as well as the education that I still carry in me. I’m very interested in the inevitable influences of the political on the personal. So in my work I present a dual experience that expresses both a longing for the past and criticism of it.
DS: There’s often an architectural and installation component to your works. Are you interested in architecture specifically, or more in creating a built environment for your video pieces?
IE: I would say both, in that I am drawn to architecture and the borders of architecture and video. I often deconstruct my narratives architecturally and through repetition. The built environments in my work, whether they appear only in the video or exist as physical objects in an installation, are usually sets that try to look like domestic environments. It’s sort of a failed attempt to recreate a space or place.
DS: Is all the script-writing is done by you? How do you go about writing a script? Have you ever collaborated? And are the stories ever based on existing narratives?
IE: All the scripts are mine. I don’t collaborate on that part of the work. I feel that this is where the core of my work lies: writing and directing. My scripts can be influenced by literature or a certain existing text can be a point of departure for my script. An example would be Princess or Tiger, a piece that is based on a book of mathematical riddles by Robert Smullyan, The Lady or the Tiger. It is also influenced by motives found in Russian folk tales. But the script itself is something that I invest a lot of time in through research and sketches. I do a lot of meditation, take long walks and think, think, think about the script, until something starts happening and then it’s a ride that’s almost out of my control. The characters navigate the plot and I just let them do it.
DS: What spaces have you filmed at Wave Hill? Have any spaces/objects offered particular inspiration?
IE: During my time in Wave Hill, I started experimenting with photography and hand drawn animation. I was sure I was going to make a film, but something pushed me to start a new project, specifically in photographs and drawing. So far, I’ve done tests in my studio and the Conservatory. I’ll be filming and printing in Armor Hall throughout this week.
Pictured above, from the top:
• Ira Eduardovna on the set for A thousand years, 2014. Three-channel video installation. Courtesy of the artist. Photo credit: Nir Shaanani.
• That.There.Then. 2012, Six-channel video installation in Russian with English subtitles. Image courtesy of the artist.
• Ira Eduardovna filming in Armor Hall in Wave Hill House. Photo courtesy of Wave Hill.