An interview with Oli Koren of our ‘In Plain Sight’ group collective. Oli’s featured work – entitled ‘Constructed Organisms’ – is a project she undertook over the course of the lockdown in the UK, documenting the organic plant life within her garden and manipulating it to mimic life as we know it. Here, Oli reflects on the development and creation of this series amid the current lockdown climate.
How has your usual practice been affected by isolation?
As a multi-disciplinary artist, my practice and methodology changes with each new project I take on, from analogue photography to 3D modelling. Typically, I make full use of university facilities and as a result of the lockdown, my options became drastically smaller, moving away from any analogue processes to digital exclusively. Not having the ability to physically work on pieces of art, whether sculptural or otherwise, meant that I had to switch the way I approach a task and fully immerse myself in all things digital that my PC set-up could handle – presenting itself primarily in digital manipulation.
More specifically, how have your original plans and ideas for responding to the theme of ‘In Plain Sight’ been affected by isolation?
Prior to the lockdown, I was looking into exploring personal childhood memories as well as looking into how subjective and easily influenced memories can be. Since the lockdown, I decided to change my project entirely – this time with a stronger connection to our theme of In Plain Sight by photographing my garden at a macroscale and creating surreal and dream-like creatures. Constructed Organisms is a project that wouldn’t have happened in a different scenario, but I wanted to create work with resources available to me at home and challenge my abilities in world building.
How have you thus adapted to working solely from home?
As mentioned in the previous answer, I completely restarted my project, making sure that the current idea would be fully attainable with no external resources other than what is available to me at home. I decided to work in a digitally exclusive manner, as we knew that our exhibition would be taking place on an online platform and this way I could work knowing that everything I produce can be installed in the space.
In turn with this, how have you found ways to stay inspired and motivated when working from home?
Working from home has been incredibly difficult for me over the lockdown especially when it came to staying motivated and inspired. Suddenly bound to the confines of my 1 bedroom flat, I was unable to proceed with work as I normally did – when feeling a lack of motivation, I would usually go to a cafe, bar or the library to focus and eliminate all distractions. Over this period, I found that keeping to a schedule, 9-5 Monday to Friday was an immense help and going on walks during sunny days inspired me to do work. Having that chance to re-charge is important and crucial for your mental health – when approaching work again afterwards, I usually play some instrumental music to get ‘in the zone’. In terms of inspiration, even when I’d finished for the day, I would play art documentaries – it’s a surprisingly easy way to learn something with little effort.
Have you discovered anything new, interesting or surprising as a result of working within isolation, in terms of your personal practices and approaches to your work?
I think this time has given me a deeper perspective into the curation of my work. Having all the time available to me at all points, I would constantly review images I worked on – changing little bits, tweaking different aspects and at times introducing frame animation through photoshop into my work. I believe that now, I look at my pieces as if they’re all interlinked – everything just snaps into place, and I can tell when certain pieces don’t look well in the grouping. So on the whole, I think the biggest surprise was just how objectively I view my own work now.
How has being creative/working on this project been helping you to cope with the lockdown situation?
It has definitely helped me in terms of a routine – I am actively doing something every day in relation to our exhibition, so no day is the same and I can keep myself entertained in a way that isn’t detrimental to my practice. Additionally, it has given me a different viewpoint, in a literal sense, as before this I never looked at my garden space in such detail and nature is incredible and strange in ways I never realised. I think through this, I’ve been able to relax more and not worry as much about the current events.
Do you have any tips or working methods you’ve developed over this project that you’d like to share?
I think my biggest tip is in scheduling and keeping a routine – at the beginning of the project in lockdown, I worked too much and didn’t give myself enough time to rest, but by introducing simple guides similar to a standard day at university, I am on the whole much happier. Another tip I would like to share is to enjoy and relish the experimentation phase of any project – I never go into a project with an exact idea of what the final outcome will be. This is because if I do that I end up restricting myself and my idea of this finished piece – whereas thoroughly embracing experimentation adds a lot of depth to my work.
See Oli’s work at olikoren.com and @oli.koren on IG + more from the collective over on inplainsight.cargo.site and @inplainsightshow on IG. The virtual exhibition will be live online from the 22nd of May – 5th June.