KAIR Artist Interviews 2018 – Irem Tok

Aritst interview 2019.2.14



Thank you very much for your time!

The following interview was recorded and transcribed as faithfully as possible and with minimal editing so as to preserve the fragile emotional states of all the Artists.  Spoken English rather than written English is the aim..  

Irem: Sometimes you can.. sometimes you can write, well, because my English isn't enough so you can do a little.. yeah?

Why did you apply for the Kamiyama Artist in Residence program?
I always wanted to come to Japan especially I wanted to see the village side. I looked at the webpage and I saw the (past) works and Kamiyama. It was very incredible for me and I thought I should go there. Yeah, that's it! Now I'm here!

How do you feel in Kamiyama?
Too… no not too. So calm and I feel like I belong here. It's interesting because in just two months I really feel like I belong here! It's interesting and normally, you know, you can feel.. I don't know the words. What's the opposite of familiar? (Unfamiliar?) No! But like that. Sometimes in the city you can feel strange, like a stranger. In Japan, well, maybe we can't say all of Japan, maybe just Kamiyama. I never feel strange like a stranger. I think it is a very important thing to feel like you belong to somewhere.
I feel like I belong to nature, and I feel it more clearly in Kamiyama. And every living thing belongs to nature, you can feel it and watch it in, you know, your daily life. It's an important thing for me I guess.

Describe your work in one word.
Hmm? I will describe. One word. (A Turkish word is OK) No! No? I think dreamy. Mysterious a little bit, maybe. Dreamy. Yeah it feels a little bit dreamy.

What is the most frightening experience you have ever had?
In my life? Not in Kamiyama? I think the earthquake in 1999. It started at night and was long yeah. I was really afraid. It was the biggest earthquake but it wasn't in the city in Istanbul but it was close. A lot of people died. It was 7.9. I was young, it was.. I was really afraid.

What is your favourite Japanese food?

How did you realise you wanted to be an artist?
I like to be alone and I like to do something alone. When I was 17 I did theatre and at that time I felt like I didn't belong to the theatre lifestyle. It was too much organisation. Too much. I was around 17 and I thought yeah, I can be an artist and I can do my art.
I don't like this answer. I can't explain more clearly! …
When I was 16 or 17 I decided.. because I really like to do something alone and I really like working and thinking and creating based on my feelings. At that age you are full of hormones and full of emotion and it's hard to control it so probably at that time I started drawing or making something.

Do you have a particular technique/style?
Err…Tiny things! Make tiny things. Yeah my work is about tiny and small-scale.

What is the most difficult thing about making art?
When sometimes people don't understand you you still continue your art. I don't think it is the right answer! Hmm.. OK! Without money it is difficult to continue because you know, we need money! OK, I don't like this answer. I will change it. You don't write everything do you? (Yes) Really?!

If you were the size of an ant for one month, what would you do?
You know, in a garden there are some holes or, you know, in the rocks. Every time I really wonder what is inside. You know, I would just go and visit all of the holes! I sometimes imagine it! It is my dream!

What is the worst thing you’ve ever made?
In my life? Hmm… Worst.. Really bad things that I made? You know, I don't remember anything bad.. Yeah, I lied. I'm not a lier but I lied to my friends. One of my friends.

What do you think about this ham?

Hmm.. Teddy bear ham. Hmm. I think 'Who's fingers are those!!' Stupid! How can I say. The overdose happy face. Stupidly happy face!

What do you dislike about your work?
Lots of things. Sometimes I want to make too much and it gets worse. Sometimes I want to make too many things. I'm not sure about that and maybe it's better to focus on one thing but I just can't stop trying new things.. Maybe it's good or maybe it's good and bad.

What is the worst piece of advice you have ever been given?
My father wanted me to work in a bank! It was the worst advice for me!!

What is the best smell?
I really love bread. New cooked bread. I miss it here you know. Maybe not in Istanbul because I smell it every day but here… When you pass by a bakery you get this smell.. the fresh baked bread.. I like that smell.

Who inspires you?
Not just one person. I'm inspired when I see someone and they continue making art but their life is so hard. They continue being creative even when their life is so hard. It's also inspiring when, for example, a child who doesn't have a good life but still does good things and is a good person. It also inspires me.

If you lived in Kamiyama forever what would you do?
I would just continue my life of the past two months. I have been waking up and going out before 7:00 a.m., walking around and I would collect leaves, dead insects, stones. A lot of things. Then I came home and ate breakfast looking at the mountains. Then I went to the studio and started working. I'd meet my friends, Eri and Keiko for coffee and sometimes lunch or breakfast, and then.. It's a nice life!! Maybe if I can live here I can have a farm and sudachi trees and I can have a small rice farm and work on the farm.
I want to say some other people who inspire me also. The people here are farmers but they are still interested in art. Yesterday I joined a workshop and the guy is a farmer but he is also a writer and he's making traditional notebooks. He's doing really ecological farming and he never uses chemicals. It inspired me. I thought maybe I could do it. It's a full-time job but in the winter you are more free and you can do what you want.
I like the direct relationship with nature.
Or maybe, if I live here maybe I can do ceramics and be Mr Takeshima's assistant and I can learn lots of things from him.
Or we can do some school. I can work with kids.

What is your weakness?
I feel tired. What was the question?! My weakness… hmm. Sometimes I can be so depressed. I have a dark side. When it comes I can't see anything good about life. Is it a weakness? Also, my weakness is drinking alcohol. Maybe. I never say 'No'! Also.. Also..Ah also when people say bad things to me I can feel… I am too, how can I say, fragile!

By the way, can you do something with this hula hoop please?


Thank you again!  And see you again soon!

Other Artist Interviews

Laura Castillo & Jonathan Turner-Bishop
Pat van Boeckel and Karin van der Molen

Nozomi Watanabe
Pablo Mercado
Ivan Juarez
Strijdom van der Merwe
Sayaka Abe
Nik Christensen
Susken Rosenthal
Yui Inoue
Kevin Yates
Marina Carvalho
Midori Hirota
Ilgvars Zalans
Adam Avikainen
Yukie Hori
Poh Wang



Itoi-san - Kanuma soil. Likes salmon sashimi, dislikes entrails of sea cucumber. Ru-san - Lancashire hotpot. Creative type. Likes being outdoors. Dislikes status. Together we are ITOI ARTS a project in divergent creativity in the mountains of Shikoku, Japan. 四国の山奥、多様な創作、アートとは。 //イベント時のみオープン// \\ふだんはただの家//

Articles by itoi+ru-san


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