Vancouver to Berlin: Interdisciplinary Art Practice with Kira Buro + Zeynep Samioglu
Written by Tyler Glenn
Kira Buro: Kira Buro (they/them) is a visual artist and writer currently based in so-called Vancouver, Canada. Their work is primarily a surreal, dream-like exploration of our shared emotional landscapes -- the feelings and worlds we create through being in relation to one another and all we are embedded within. Kira graduated from the Bachelor of Illustration program at Sheridan College in 2019, and is currently a member of the studio SPACE. You can find them on their website and on Instagram.
Zeynep Samioglu (She/They) is an interdisciplinary artist who sees art through the lens of poetry. For them, existence in itself is poetic, therefore every piece of art created is a poem. After briefly studying Visual and Critical Studies at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, Zeynep now lives in Berlin where they study Fine Arts at the Universität der Künste Berlin in Berlin, Germany. Their hometown is Istanbul, Turkey. You can find them on their personal Instagram, art Instagram and on their website.
Tyler Nicole Glenn (they/them) is a visual artist and writer based in Tampa, Florida. They are a recent graduate of the School of Visual Arts, where they received their BFA in Fine Arts with Honors. They've invited Buro and Samioglu to conduct an interview-style “studio visit” to introduce them as artists working outside of the traditional art world. Their goals are to expand the notion of what is classified as “art” and connect other people to like-minded creators. You can find them online through their Instagram or their website.
Tyler Nicole Glenn: What experiences and realizations have influenced your artistic trajectory?
Zeynep Samigolu: I’ve found that the only way for me to get out of the cycle of overthinking and just life my life is by making Art. What has brought me to where I am today was the realization that I could not live doing anything else, the realization that creation is survival. Making, and even just thinking about and conceptualizing art is what gives my life meaning. It’s important in these times where it feels like we’re approaching the finish mark;the end of time for humanity (That is, unless global and simultaneous revolution ends capitalism and saves the green earth we walk upon). Until then, I want to put as much human experience into the world as is possible and to do so in a beautiful manner. It doesn't even have to be all pretty-there's beauty to be found in pain and suffering.
Kira Buro: That's a succinct way of putting that. It's true- acting as a channel for the experiences that you harvest from the world, and then finding a way to formulate and share those experiences and feelings with the folks around you as a way to connect with them. (Creating is) integrating your personal experience with that of the world. I don't know what I would be doing otherwise. Whenever there's a longer stretch of time where I'm away from the work that I'm doing, I feel a tension in my body.
ZS: I agree- I get this pain in my stomach. It feels like a breakup to me. Like I am abandoning my Art; the one true love that I have in my life.
KB: Part of feeling well-grounded in the practice is having a positive relationship with yourself and with your emotions. When I feel like my art is informing other parts of my life, it feels so good. Professional and collaborative work can disrupt that mode of creating and that method of self-soothing, but ultimately creating work is so integral to my stability. Art is like engaging with those innermost truths, and truths outside of me, as well. It sounds like I’m saying, “no big deal, but this is the only thing that connects me to the world,” even though of course there are other things, but creation is the site where all of these seemingly disparate areas of my life connect and become something new. Even if I chose not to do this professionally, it would continue to feel essential to my existence, which is nice to know.
ZS: With Art, you can put everything about yourself in one medium, then take a step back and figure out what's actually going on. It's the whole micro, macro, and macro, micro cliché; You look at something so closely that you start seeing something bigger than yourself. Then, you look at something from far away and say, “well that’s me.” In a way, that ties into meme culture, which has, in my opinion, become one of the most popular and relatable Artforms of our day. Everybody can actually say “oh yeah, me” in the face of existential questions raised by a simple meme, because that is what the culture has become. We are all in different bodies, we have our individual problems, but in the end we all want jokes about things that are depressing. “Oh, the world is ending and I'm just here trying to pay my taxes!”
KB: We’re all desperately looking for something out in the world that we recognize ourselves in, and we’re constantly looking for affirmation that we are real, and that the things that we're experiencing are real, or shared by other people. I love that memes are often an absurd expression of the need to be connected and to share your existence, your joy and your suffering, with other people. It's funny because it's easy to get really complex when talking about work methodology, intent, and relation to the self. So much of that complexity is just stripped bare and turned into a meme!
TNG: As interdisciplinary artists, how have you developed such a wide skill set?
ZS: Short attention span. I can’t focus on one thing for a long time. I feel like it's the internet's fault that our attention spans are relatively shorter than that of older generations.
In short, I want to be a master of all trades, the whole renaissance man thing. When I come up with a concept, the material, the approach that I take, and the way that I present it develops accordingly. One idea may require me to do a sculpture. Another one would require me to do a painting because that would be the best medium. It all depends and I feel like I should have the skills to do whatever necessary. If I don’t have it I can always learn it.
KB: I agree with you that the fact that our attention spans are so short Is a culturally created thing. I can't focus on something for a long period of time. When I do manage to focus, I hyperfocus, which is part of why so much of my work is a really detailed clusterfuck. There's no negative space; everything is filled. It's reflective of my inner-experience and the way that I relate to the details around me. I really love being able to just flow intuitively. That process is interrupted when I'm trying to learn a new skill, which feels frightening but also worth investing in. Baptism by fire.
ZS: I kind of understand the whole baptism by fire thing. I started knitting a house while not knowing how to knit. It was so horrible! There were so many mistakes! I kept skipping lines, but it was all part of the process of making this house, which seems to add so much more to the concept which it began from. There were a lot of injuries and frustrations, and you keep doing the work but you never find an end to it.
For me, the clusterfuck happens in my head more so than in the end product. I am trying to filter it in order for it to make sense to other people. If I were to just show what was in my head, people would be really confused.
TNG: How has your style progressed over the years?
ZS: (My style now) is symbolic, it’s a reflection of how I think. During quarantine, I got very into Anatolian traditions and old religions. I've noticed that everything there is magic related or ceremonial. In history, when people would try to conjure things into reality, they just created symbols and performance around it. I feel like artwork comes into reality in the same way, and I know what my reality looks like now, before it wasn’t too sharp. My hands work better now, they intuitively know what to do.
KB: Both of our work does a lot of internal reflection. That's part of the reason why the work that I've made has shifted so dramatically - because I have also changed quite dramatically. There's more built into the work that I create now than there was back, when I was constructing these very specific worlds. I was almost condemning myself to live within them. Now, more of the doors are open. I'm allowing myself to go out into the world, experience beauty, bring that back, and not have to cloak everything in the same sad story. There's room for complexity and different kinds of feelings in the work that I create now, it's not coming from a place of stuckness. I don't feel condemned to create the same things for the rest of my life.
ZS: One of the things about growing up doing Art is that you have a record of the feelings that you have felt. (In my old work) there was a shorter range of emotions, feelings and experiences than what I have today.
KB: So much of what I used to struggle with closed the door to any further discussion or development. I was like, nope, this is how it is! I will suffer forever! Now I recognize, there are so many different things to look at and listen to, even within myself. Allowing more space for all of those different voices and perspectives has led to a lot of healing. It's a shift in my relationship to myself and to others.
TNG: How do you incorporate metaphor into your work?
KB: There are a lot of metaphors that exist inside of my work, but it's something that comes later. I work with what is presented to me in the piece that I'm creating, then work around that and try to understand it. It's this process of interpreting my own work as I go. It's all happening for some reason. There's intention in the things that I'm doing. It reveals itself more through the process of creating than what I could ever hope to know at its outset.
ZS: I have a dictionary of symbols in my head; colors, objects, names, letters all with some kind of meaning assigned. I like when I happen to see those symbols in my regular life. I'll see something red and go, “oh, passion.” Very recently, learned the language of Tarot, which helps me with the connections I make with symbols. I believe that esoteric teachings can be universal and help with the conversation one has with the universe. So now in my daily life when I see something that catches my eye I can say, “Oh, that's a tree, baby. What do I do with this information?” The creation process is like giving birth to something. You get pregnant with an idea, and then you grow that idea inside you. You read books, you get ideas in your head, and then the idea may mature. After that, the idea becomes the Art piece. It's physical and free to do whatever it wants, like the way you can't really control your child that much. You can play make-believe with Art, do things that you can't actually do in real life. I feel like when I write a very intense poem for someone, I obviously might not even give it to (them), but I did say what I wanted to say. Now I'm not burdened with it anymore.
TNG: Both of you are based and from outside the United States, but have experienced living and working in New York City. Did you enjoy living in the city?
ZS: Yes and no. The biggest stressor was (not having) money. Going into the United States, I was in a more capitalist mindset. Then I realized that making money is horrible. I don't want to do it! I don't want to work five jobs! Art scene-wise, amazing place. I love the energy NYC has. It was a very nice experience living on my own outside of Turkey, which happens to not be a great place to live as an artist and as a queer person. I identify as a non-binary, pansexual person. In Turkey, (I am) a lesbian woman. It's very hostile here. Turkey is such a shit place geopolitically. You just can't win. Whatever happens in the world, it goes around and blows up in Turkey's ass. If America is going through a recession, political (issues) and racism, those are problems that America has to deal with on its own. Turkey has to deal with its own problems plus the effect that (America’s issues) have on the world dynamics and economy.In my experience, it isn’t easy being Turkish in America. I had seen how people treated immigrants and people not of their own skin, I just didn’t know it went so far. I never saw actual white privilege before going to the United States. Then I saw that I could get away with things easier than most of my friends could and it was just a thing! You guys live like this! The reaction of people going, “Oh my god, you're Turkish? your English is so good. You speak English?You're blonde? Are you really Middle Eastern? Are you sure your family from the Middle East?Are you sure about that?”
KB: Living in Canada most of my life and then spending some time in the States, there isn't an enormous difference. In what (Zeynep was) saying about the advent of white supremacy, colonialism and how obviously that affects the way that people feel capable of relating to one another, all of that is definitely at play in Canada. (New York City) is a very intoxicating place to be. It's a place where I wonder whether I would ever feel comfortable being anything but anonymous within. I was there three years ago, feeling very small, excited, and eager to connect and see everything but not really wanting to contribute my own voice very much. One of the things that feels comfortable to me in Vancouver is that the communities are small enough for me to feel capable of existing within them. I can carve out a little space for myself rather than constantly being surrounded by this barrage of energy, intensity, and workaholic-ism. ] After having lived and studied just outside of Toronto, I feel that there is a marked difference in the urgency that people feel. People move at a slower pace where I live now, and that feels really necessary. I'm not someone who's constantly on the go with my energy split between a million different things. It's nice to be somewhere inspiring but not overwhelming.
ZS: Berlin sounds like it is a healthier medium to me. Obviously, there's a lot more Art happening in Berlin than in Istanbul, and the chaos of the city is not at the level of my hometown. What I loved about New York was having Art everywhere all the time. The galleries were a very positive experience. A lot of people went to them, compared to (Istanbul) where there's not many people that are like-minded. Even if there are people, it's going to be the same people all the time. It's a smaller community here.I love Art made by queer people. I love that in New York, you could do that and not get penalized for it. (In Turkey) you just can’t do that. If you do a very sensational groundbreaking artwork in which you voiced an opinion you are not allowed to, you could go to prison. They had an artist that went to prison for doing political pieces. There is no free speech in Turkey.
TNG: How do you feel about centralized art world hubs like New York and Berlin, in general?
KB: I kind of wish they didn’t exist. It makes sense that they exist, but I wish that they were everywhere rather than just having these intense, localized, and often inaccessible spaces.
ZS: IIt's good that you can go to a space and be with people that think likewise. I wish it was like that everywhere. I think about Turkey and how we've idealized the West to the point that all we deem worthy and important is what the West says. Now (Turkey) has this problem. There needs to be artists in our country that have the education, the will, the passion and the skills to revolutionize and make a new Turkish Art culture. In order to do that, you need to leave the place where you are, get the education and connections of the more legitimized Art world, and then find a way to bring it back to where you came from. But once you leave, it's hard to come back. Now you have a life over there. I'm moving to Berlin because I want to go to school there and be in the Berlin Art scene. I want to be able to support myself as an artist so I don't have to do anything else in order to live. I know I can't do that back (in Turkey). One good thing about Berlin compared to New York, is that they actually support you in doing that. It’s not hard to get an artist's visa. If you want to go to America to be an artist, they don't want you in their country and you can feel it. I never felt it with the people that I spent my time with, but the policies made me feel that. The hubs are not the problem, the problem is that there aren’t t policies that help ensure artists have an easier time.
KB: The support must come not only from your peers, who are potentially also facing the same barriers as you, but also on a state level. That's what prevents people from accessing these spaces. Something as simple as not being let into the country.
Edited by Lauryn-Ashley Vandyke