BARD OF ALL SORTS: INTERVIEW WITH CONCEPTUAL ARTIST, ZEREN BADAR .
"The future has so much to offer despite today’s ugly politics. "
(Featured www.ello.co Artist: @zeren)
There is a little 'something something' of the infamous 1950’s/1960’s bard, William S Burroughs in artist, Zeren Badar’s work: it’s in the ‘cut-up’ technique. In a not too dissimilar way to how Burroughs used the aleatory literary technique to chop up written text and re-arrange to create new text, Zeren takes an existing art piece (often portraiture, often classical) and covers the hair of, say, an undisclosed royal, in multi-colored pasta shells, complemented by a shiny red clown nose, for example. The effect subverts and alters the original meaning, often to poignant and comic effect; like the best of Burrough’s back catalogue, incidentally.
Zeren Badar is a bard, not of pen, but of all sorts: liquorice allsorts, food, and a vast array found objects, mined from regular missions to thrift and vintage stores in NYC. He’s part conceptual artist, part conceptual photographer; re-photographing an existing artwork having been reassembled with the ‘all sorts’, but then discarding them once captured on camera; the photograph of the created piece being what remains in the gallery space and art marketplace.
He’s Turkish-born, but lives in New York City and he’s always been a creative in one way or another (he first picked up a Digital SLR camera in 2010 while working in the fashion industry, while looking for another creative outlet) and in a man meets his medium moment, progressed quickly from street photography to carve out his own distinctly conceptual path.
You describe yourself as self-taught, so what exactly did that involve i.e. how did Zeren teach Zeren about art?
I didn’t go to art school, but I have always been very interested in learning art history, seeing exhibitions and visiting museums.
I have drawn and painted on my notebooks in the past, and one day I decided to buy DSLR camera. I started with street photography and moved to conceptual photography and shortly after I started showing at galleries. It was very organic. It felt like I was born to do this.
There are downsides and upsides being self-taught. One of downsides is I have to figure out everything by myself; I watch so many YouTube videos and read so many books! In the beginning, I lacked a network and I didn’t know anyone in art world. It took me a long time to create my network and I still feel like I don’t know enough people in the art world to get ahead. However, one of upsides (of being self-taught) is that I wasn’t taught art 'rules'. When I started making art, I was breaking rules fearlessly and unknowingly, which made my work unique. I keep a DIY look in my work and it’s intentionally unpolished. It is simple but thoughtful and creative.
Social media: love it or loathe it? Does it impact positively or negatively on your creative process in particular?
I love social media. I think it is a great tool for artists to show their work without limits. I have done so many gallery shows, but there’s a limited circle of people who have access to galleries and exhibition openings; but the world sees my work on social media and the internet.
I don’t see the negative points of social media, but some people think it is addictive. I agree with that. Sometimes people should pull back and give (themselves) room from social media. It is like everything: extremes are always bad.
How would you describe your art to someone who could never see it i.e. to someone with a visual impairment, perhaps?
I describe my work as colorful, humoristic and smart. I’m a maximalist and I put so much information in my work.
I try to make people laugh and think at the same time.
In your Hybrid series you ask the question 'is the future promising us more or less', but if you were asked that question today, what would you say?
The future has so much to offer despite today’s ugly politics. I believe the future will be much better, faster and less painful. I’m optimistic. Technology is changing every day and I wonder how technology will be after I die – will I like the (advances in technology) better?
I try to make the most of today but the future interests and inspires me.
One of the pieces in your ‘Hybrid’ series looks at surveillance. How do you personally manage your data privacy (or how concerned are you about your own data privacy) and what do you think brands could do to alleviate concerns, whilst still providing us with a personalised service?
I think surveillance is disruption of privacy. I came to terms with the fact that I cannot get away from surveillance. I don’t want to be paranoid and act like everyone is watching me, but I control my image and brand by making sure every artwork, image and video on social media is represented the way I want it to be. The biggest concern is that Facebook and other social media outlets are using our personal information to get more advertisements etc. Personally, I do not need to see a shoe advertisement on my feed every 30 seconds and brands should avoid using this tool too often because it leads to the reverse effect; it makes me and so many other people not want to buy that product.
Aside from financial support, is there anything material-wise that could help you in your career as an artist; a piece of technology, an app etc.?
I would love to get into 3D printing and sculpture made by 3D printing fascinates me. I also would love to benefit from an app which helps me archive my work easier, faster and cheaper. There are some apps out there for archiving, but they are expensive and not advanced enough.
Could an artificial intelligence be an artist?
In my opinion, an artificial intelligence could not be an artist. Artists are intuitive and an AI cannot be and never will be intuitive. But AI creators are artists.
Your USP (unique selling point) is?
My art is unique and has its own language and I’m also driven to improve my art. Buying my art is a great investment for a collector!
How do you feel the current culture in the US is towards artists; do you feel embraced and supported? Is this culture different to how artists are perceived and treated in your Turkish homeland?
I live in New York and there is an enormous art culture here. I must say, it is very competitive and it is very difficult for an emerging artist to survive. Studio spaces are very expensive and most galleries are selling very little, if nothing at all. As an artist, I have to make the push for my work to go further.
The old gallery system, which supported artists and promoted an artist’s work to collectors and museums is gone, and only billion dollar galleries work that way. These days, artists are their own sales person and gallerist; small, privately owned galleries don’t do much, but artist-run galleries and non-profit spaces are much better. They are the ones who support artists and help them to improve their career paths; I try to do shows at these kind of places and I do my own promotion and sales, which works better for me.
I have no knowledge of the art market in Turkey and that’s something I’m trying to find out as well. Saying that, I would love to do a solo show in Turkey in very near future.
How do you keep a positive outlook as an artist? If you're working a day job as well, how do you stay motivated?
I’m an artist because that’s how I was born; I would never stop creating. I have a day job as well and sometimes my schedule is overwhelming and I feel like I work 24/7. My life is always hectic and I’m always on the run and on to the next big thing. I’m used that and I cannot complain.
This is the life I chose myself and I’m at peace with it.
Zeren Badar is a self-taught conceptual artist who lives currently in NYC. He is originally from Turkey. His works have been exhibited internationally, including: Aperture Foundation, New York; The Center for Fine Art Photography, Fort Collins, CO; Aljira Center of Contemporary Art, NJ. He is obsessed with art. He enjoys long walks around Manhattan and takes long breaks at art shows.
More from Zeren Badar on the web:
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