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Creating in Context

Irina Kirchuk (b. 1983, Buenos Aires, Argentina) is an artist based in Buenos Aires, Argentina, creating a vibrant and humorous practice through the interplay of material reappropration and artistic concept. Using found and destitute objects, Irina’s work comprises functionality with a novel sense of objecthood and aesthetic sensibility. Her unique visual language of Latin Arte Povera uses irony, form and urban ecologies to present a playful economy of the city and its life. 

How did you start working with found objects and materials on the streets?

I started working with found objects the moment I saw already made shapes, geometries and sculptures in the street. From the very beginning I saw in these apparently discarded materials a certain charm, a free and unwanted record of our everyday landscape. For me it is about a waste which describes our environment and our actions. Working with found objects is not only about saving resources, but also about pointing a finger to our own economic veracity.

What prompted your very methodology and approach?

One of the reasons why I choose, for most of my creations, to work with found objects, is the possibility to produce immediately and with restricted costs. I do not have a very precise methodology and street collection varies on each occasion. Many times, objects appear on the street without me looking, because they are all over our cities. That idea of continuing something that has already begun, a structure that is already armed in advance, always stimulates me.
In turn, I consider that the specific case of working with an “objet trouvé” not only alludes to a practice of modern and contemporary art but has much to do with the context in which one produces. In Argentina, and specifically in the city of Buenos Aires, because of its economic and political context, it is not easy to produce art and as a result many artists work with what already exists, with what is found, with the unwanted or forgotten object.

What tools do you use? Do you bring these with you from Buenos Aires or use different tools in each site?

I use several tools, but in Argentina I have only one drill, a heat gun and pliers, screwdrivers, etc. In general, for each exhibition I ask for specific help according to the needs of particular and ad hoc scenarios. I never travel with tools, because I always need so many different things that I better procure these directly in each place, especially considering the long trips and the weight of the toolbox itself. In each site I assemble a small workshop where I order the tools as well as the objects, the conditions that are presented in their entirety will mark the future of the work.

Can we talk about the found materials as tools in themselves?

Considering the tool idea as in the previous question, the tools are needed to build sculptures and installations. Without them I cannot do anything with the found objects and materials. So, in that sense I do not consider the found objects as tools in themselves, I consider them material with which I can work and mold, similarly to a piece of clay. That’s why I classify them, in lines, planes, rectangular shapes, circular shapes, precise objects, metallic elements, wood, plastics, and so all that raw material is classified by shape and material. Subsequently with the tools I build.

How important is the sketch and initial planning in the development of the work? Do you start with an idea and then go on a quest for the objects or vice versa?

As a rule, I do not have a fixed methodology when it comes to sketching. L & XL projects frequently require a previous sketch, but in general I do not consider it something key for the final result but rather as excuses to start thinking and generating ideas. In cases where I have had to exhibit within an institution, sketches are important to communicate the concept, however in my case as a result of my method of working the result generally varies a lot from the initial sketch.
Sometimes there are certain ideas in the brain but then there is an arduous work of improvisation and effectivization.

When I work with found objects, it is these with which I then develop a sketch. If it is about objects, I never think of an idea and then look for the item, but vice versa. As such, once I have collected and assembled these I map them all on the same sheet so that I can start to think of them individually and in groups. In those sketches I often classify them as I classify them in my study.

When I make installations or sculptures with new materials, I often think of an idea, I think with what materials I could make it and consequently I develop a series of drawing.

My sketches are never digital photomontages, they are never professional renders, nor are they real materials. I privilege colored pencils or pen on paper.

How and to what extent does site affect your work? (ricordo la nostra conversazione quando mi dicevi che per esempio a Parigi avevi trovato un sacco di oggetti per strada dato il consumerismo delle persone mentre in argentina e molto più difficile?)

Each city has different characteristics and as a result so does the garbage in the streets and the amount of objects present within the urban fabric.

For example, when I went to do a show in Paris in 2017, the number of things and the quality I found in absolutely almost every Parisian neighborhood was impressive, suggesting a high level of consumption. There was furniture, appliances, pieces of metal, wood, rare objects, etc. In Paris a system where individuals are free to leave a piece of paper with a number on the garbage for the municipality to collect and take to a recycling center exists. The issue is that this does not happen immediately allowing for items to lie for several days free for anyone to take. Often entire streets are submerged by waste material.

In Argentina, garbage has another value, another use. In the first place, there is not a different collection system yet. Second, given the conditions of socioeconomic emergency in the country since 2001, all the most important waste is automatically taken by what are called “urban recyclers”, an informal network that since the crisis has been increasing in all the country. Many unemployed people find a resource to live in the trash. In turn, this constant crisis has forced people to consume less and preserve or repair personal belongings.

With these two examples the great difference of everyday economy scenes that one can see in varying cities and regions is quite apparent.

From the interior to that of the exterior how does the site where you exhibit define the work you create?

Similarly, to the cities, these spaces also affect my work. I am particularly interested in studying sites as well as objects. I am concerned in investigating the same idea of the everyday landscape embraced by the object within the space of the exhibition. As such I like to observe each venue to detect its original condition and function, asking the question “what landscape does this site represents in real life”. In this way I can often think of works or installations so that they are in a direct dialogue with the space, analyzing and working with the absurdity and the obviousness found in the places we inhabit.

To what extent can we talk about your latest installation as an architectural intervention? How did you relate to the skyline of the city of London as backdrop?

I do not believe that we can strictly speaking talk about an architectural intervention, but rather an installation that talks about architecture from a place that is characterized by its relationship to the city of London. The first intention was to in fact develop a mirror like operation in relation to the skyline of this metropolis, representing in a surreal and limited manner the forms and the composition by which a city is built, those urban and urgent forms. The skyline was the main stimulus of this project called “Cloudburst”.

On an ‘object’ scale when considering architectural elements themselves (building, house, bridge) each sculpture was thought in that sense, each being a “a building” of this city. I thought of each composition individually, with that geometry that characterizes architecture, the forms of a church, a skyscraper, an industrial structure.

I was interested in the idea of putting together a kind of “urban island”, from a terrace where you can see all of London.
Another point that attracted me was to build a city with the very material that it generates, constructing it at a smaller scale, with the parasites that it eliminates. I did not just want to concentrate on the idea of representation, but rather aimed to create a surreal, delirious, fantasy scene, as if all that we are really seeing is something very simple and very fragile, like a sculptural ensemble. Everything hangs by a thread and everywhere we can imagine a new world, precarious and happy. The idea of irony or cynicism rises in my head when it comes to producing. I do not know if this is clearly visualized in the installation, but I think that the recognition of the objects by the viewer, the relationship with that new space, the points of view indicated from where to see the city, can provoke a feeling of an absurd, decadent and happy universe. The colors help me make that universe like a great painting and that the installation has that freedom and that fantasy that gives us art and not reality. And he collaborates with the idea that the world is just as surreal as a totally surrealist sculpture.

If you could experiment with other tools what would these be? Do you have a dream project?

I would like to experiment more with metal, plastic and certain liquid resins.
I also want to put together more specific interior scenes where I can practice more emphatically those ideas of cynicism and surrealism that I named before.
I do not have a specific “dream project”, I have several, but I admit that from Cloudburst I saw a key sense to the fact of doing a work in a public space, almost as if it reached a place that gives it its total sense of existence. And that’s where ideas are spinning now.

Bold Tendencies 2018 Commissions. photography by Peter Landers. Image courtesy of Bold Tendencies
Bold Tendencies 2018 Commissions. photography by Peter Landers. Image courtesy of Bold Tendencies