BERLINARTPROJECTS is proud to present the work of emerging Turkish artist Joana Kohen in her first solo show in Berlin. With all but one piece being produced this year, To The Infected Audience, is a current snapshot of Kohen’s artistic process in which she uses her own body as the main site of investigation.
Kohen’s incisive work grapples with digital narcissism and the cult of individuality, self-image and the beauty myth. With an emphasis on viewing and being viewed, pieces like Free Transform and Look Of Now engage with the commonplace nature of Photoshop retouching as well as the hypervisuality of the post-internet generation, the audience to which the title of the show might refer. In line with the contemporary fragmentation of self and photo editing’s cropping functions, Kohen divides her naked body into multiple parts and cuts out individual facial features in works such as Piece of Me, As You Wanted Me To Be and Life for Rent whilst this same impulse also leads her to split single works into triptych formations in a multiplication of motifs.
A sense of symbolic violence, not of digital cropping but of physical cutting, permeates Kohen’s more abstract pieces on show. Playground is the last in a line of gold-plated objects, cages attached to chokers and an object seamlessly combining a comb with a knife preceding it. Made entirely of barbed wire, the swing is impossible to sit on, drawing the viewer in with its golden allure as much as it threatens to rip their skin if touched. Like Kohen’s cages without doors, Playground denies its original function in glittering protest. Similarly, Future Female Part II, Re-Amazon Edit features the artist throwing a spear, the target remaining unseen and the impact unheard. The threat is thus present, yet unrealised. Accompanying the three-screen video piece is the weapon itself, gold-tipped and dangerous-looking.
From her early images of pregnancy tests and male underwear dipped in sticky black liquid polyester to the more current works showcased in the exhibition, Kohen’s engagement in gendered discourse and fetishism is clear. As the artist notes, “I want to awaken people through my objects, which may appear quite violent.” Be it by metaphorically chopping up her own body to gold-plating barbed wire, Kohen takes a destructive approach to her art in order to mobilize the viewer and navigate the shifting waters of digital transformation.
Born in 1988, Kohen lives and works in Istanbul, where she has founded the Un-Known Art Initiative – an art space that also publishes the Un-Known/zine and Prospektus Artist’s Books. Kohen completed her studies in textile design and fine art at the Istituto Marangoni, Milan, and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts Antwerp. She exhibits widely in Turkey and her work has recently been featured at the Benetton Foundation Art Collection, Treviso, Italy, and at Abrazo Interno Gallery, New York. Kohen has also participated in several international art fairs, notably Contemporary Istanbul, Spectrum Miami Contemporary and Contra London.