Liz Ikiriko | WORK IN PROCESS




L.C. Why do you make the work that you do, what compels you to make it as personal as it is? Is there anything that would stop you from making work in this manner?

L.I. I make the work I do because it is the clearest form I have for exploring interior worlds. Making work is a processing tool that allows me to gain perspective on experiences I've had, their personal impact and how these experiences connect me to others. This process can be painful and revealing, and at times it can feel too exposing, which takes a toll. That would be the only impetus for stopping. But, more often, the process just forces me to take my time and move slowly, in order to give space to each part.


Can you expand on the idea of interior worlds and its significance to you?

By interior worlds, I am considering the emotional, spiritual and intimate relationships I have with family, friends and myself. I am also considering the ways in which I navigate connections to community, memory and maintaining a healthy life. My work for the last few years has cycled around my relationship to my father who died 11 years ago. It’s taken a while to unpack that interior world, but it’s been a powerful process. Through the use of photography I’ve been able to unpack my once fragmented relationship to my father and nurture a different understanding of, and relationship with him. Language was not capable of articulating the actions and movement that I required to understand the many layers of feelings I had regarding our relationship. I’ve always loved photography, particularly the elements of the process that allow you to choose what to present or hide from view. This aspect of the process has given me a great amount of space and time to connect with my father.



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When the process does become painful, what makes you continue working, and what are the methods you employ to move past it and further into the work?

There is some work that will just take time, and there’s no way to rush it. I gave myself a lot of space and I kept my process private when I was in the difficult part. I didn’t speak to anyone about the work until I was on the other side and could gain a new perspective on the work. Well, actually, I did show the work before I was ready and I learned that’s a terrible thing to do. I thought I was ready for feedback and I really, really wasn’t. Sometimes it’s important to luxuriate in those interior worlds and let them gestate. At the next stage, you’ll have a new understanding and you’ll be able to welcome feedback. In terms of moving through painful aspects of the process, I really just put the work away for a while and came back to it when I feel mentally stronger.
How much of yourself do you put into your work? How do you set boundaries, if any, between your personal experiences and what you choose to share with the public in your work?

My process begins very unguarded. Intuitively, I start gathering experiences, ideas, fragments of stories as well as tactile materials that are often very personal. This stage is not for the public. I draw from within, and avoid creating barriers or prescribed ways of presenting this work, I set aside worries of it feeling too raw or exposed. I spend time with these elements and then I begin to build, connect and tie the components together. At this stage I like to bring in a few close, trusted people to engage in discussion. I need interaction and engagement to help frame my direction, which is followed by more stewing and making before I'm ready to share with a public. At that time, though, I do gain so much from discussing work with people that may not know what I do or may not be invested in the same way my friends or family are. I've only just begun understanding my process. I have learned to be gentle or protective of early work simply because I wasn't in the past, and it was a painful realization that often discouraged me from continuing. The personal work I show is work that I am close to but that is from a place of knowing and acceptance. There are projects that I know I'll want to work on in the future but my experiences now are too clouded and active to gain a solid perspective on them just yet.







The people who you trust the most – what qualities do they have? Put another way, what makes you feel safe being vulnerable to those whom you choose to share your work with? I’d also like to know what it feels like to share your work with someone who isn’t familiar with you and your intentions?

Such an important question! The people I trust implicitly are (unfortunately) few. I would say that there are different people that I reveal different elements of my work to, and there are different ways I request feedback on my work. There are friends that will absolutely have your back and support your work because they know what it is to you but they may not be the best for critical responses. There are folks that are generous and open with their critical and technical feedback and there are very, very few folks that I trust with conceptual critique. That is an incredibly sensitive type of trust that is required and since my work comes from being a biracial Nigerian woman, I really need that to be understood and responded to. It’s so often not the case that you receive true critical questions surrounding work when you’re repositioning whiteness. There is definitely a protective coating that I’ve learned to wear when I’m sharing my work with new people, but that only happens when I’m very confident in my work – in terms of it being in a place that I’m satisfied with. In this way, feedback from unfamiliar curators, collectors, etc. can be helpful but it’s also not necessary. I can take it or leave it, and that’s a good feeling.
 
 

How has your life changed since you started making personal work and sharing it with the public?

Sometimes showing personal work functions like group therapy. I gain so much from sharing with others and seeing the ways I am connected to numerous people navigating issues around displacement, biracial identity, diaspora, decolonial actions, etc. Sharing work publicly functions as a practice of care which disrupts those lines of exterior and interior life. I am now connected with more people & communities and that fuels me to continue.


L.C. Why do you make the work that you do, what compels you to make it as personal as it is? Is there anything that would stop you from making work in this manner?

L.I. I make the work I do because it is the clearest form I have for exploring interior worlds. Making work is a processing tool that allows me to gain perspective on experiences I've had, their personal impact and how these experiences connect me to others. This process can be painful and revealing, and at times it can feel too exposing, which takes a toll. That would be the only impetus for stopping. But, more often, the process just forces me to take my time and move slowly, in order to give space to each part.

Can you expand on the idea of interior worlds and its significance to you?

By interior worlds, I am considering the emotional, spiritual and intimate relationships I have with family, friends and myself. I am also considering the ways in which I navigate connections to community, memory and maintaining a healthy life. My work for the last few years has cycled around my relationship to my father who died 11 years ago. It’s taken a while to unpack that interior world, but it’s been a powerful process. Through the use of photography I’ve been able to unpack my once fragmented relationship to my father and nurture a different understanding of, and relationship with him. Language was not capable of articulating the actions and movement that I required to understand the many layers of feelings I had regarding our relationship. I’ve always loved photography, particularly the elements of the process that allow you to choose what to present or hide from view. This aspect of the process has given me a great amount of space and time to connect with my father.
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When the process does become painful, what makes you continue working, and what are the methods you employ to move past it and further into the work?

There is some work that will just take time, and there’s no way to rush it. I gave myself a lot of space and I kept my process private when I was in the difficult part. I didn’t speak to anyone about the work until I was on the other side and could gain a new perspective on the work. Well, actually, I did show the work before I was ready and I learned that’s a terrible thing to do. I thought I was ready for feedback and I really, really wasn’t. Sometimes it’s important to luxuriate in those interior worlds and let them gestate. At the next stage, you’ll have a new understanding and you’ll be able to welcome feedback. In terms of moving through painful aspects of the process, I really just put the work away for a while and came back to it when I feel mentally stronger.

How much of yourself do you put into your work? How do you set boundaries, if any, between your personal experiences and what you choose to share with the public in your work?

My process begins very unguarded. Intuitively, I start gathering experiences, ideas, fragments of stories as well as tactile materials that are often very personal. This stage is not for the public. I draw from within, and avoid creating barriers or prescribed ways of presenting this work, I set aside worries of it feeling too raw or exposed. I spend time with these elements and then I begin to build, connect and tie the components together. At this stage I like to bring in a few close, trusted people to engage in discussion. I need interaction and engagement to help frame my direction, which is followed by more stewing and making before I'm ready to share with a public. At that time, though, I do gain so much from discussing work with people that may not know what I do or may not be invested in the same way my friends or family are. I've only just begun understanding my process. I have learned to be gentle or protective of early work simply because I wasn't in the past, and it was a painful realization that often discouraged me from continuing. The personal work I show is work that I am close to but that is from a place of knowing and acceptance. There are projects that I know I'll want to work on in the future but my experiences now are too clouded and active to gain a solid perspective on them just yet.

The people who you trust the most – what qualities do they have? Put another way, what makes you feel safe being vulnerable to those whom you choose to share your work with? I’d also like to know what it feels like to share your work with someone who isn’t familiar with you and your intentions?

Such an important question! The people I trust implicitly are (unfortunately) few. I would say that there are different people that I reveal different elements of my work to, and there are different ways I request feedback on my work. There are friends that will absolutely have your back and support your work because they know what it is to you but they may not be the best for critical responses. There are folks that are generous and open with their critical and technical feedback and there are very, very few folks that I trust with conceptual critique. That is an incredibly sensitive type of trust that is required and since my work comes from being a biracial Nigerian woman, I really need that to be understood and responded to. It’s so often not the case that you receive true critical questions surrounding work when you’re repositioning whiteness. There is definitely a protective coating that I’ve learned to wear when I’m sharing my work with new people, but that only happens when I’m very confident in my work – in terms of it being in a place that I’m satisfied with. In this way, feedback from unfamiliar curators, collectors, etc. can be helpful but it’s also not necessary. I can take it or leave it, and that’s a good feeling.

How has your life changed since you started making personal work and sharing it with the public?

Sometimes showing personal work functions like group therapy. I gain so much from sharing with others and seeing the ways I am connected to numerous people navigating issues around displacement, biracial identity, diaspora, decolonial actions, etc. Sharing work publicly functions as a practice of care which disrupts those lines of exterior and interior life. I am now connected with more people & communities and that fuels me to continue.




LIZ IKIRIKO | Liz is a biracial Nigerian Canadian independent photo editor and curator. She is an MFA candidate in the Criticism and Curatorial Practice graduate program at OCAD University. Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan - she now lives and works in Toronto with her husband and 2 kids. As a photo editor - Liz has worked on a number of publications including The Ethnic Aisle, Toronto Life, Maclean's, Canadian Business, Today's Parent and AWAY magazines. She's juried awards and reviewed portfolios at OCAD University, Ryerson University, Scotiabank CONTACT Photo Festival and the Flash Forward Annual Competition.

As a curator she has worked with Wedge Curatorial Projects, The National Music Centre and Sheridan College. Her curatorial work is centred on the practice of care, addressing hidden histories and foregrounding platforms for underprivileged artists. | lizikiriko.com

ILLUSTRATIONS | Wenting Li
LIZ IKIRIKO | Liz is a biracial Nigerian Canadian independent photo editor and curator. She is an MFA candidate in the Criticism and Curatorial Practice graduate program at OCAD University. Born and raised in Regina, Saskatchewan - she now lives and works in Toronto with her husband and 2 kids. As a photo editor - Liz has worked on a number of publications including The Ethnic Aisle, Toronto Life, Maclean's, Canadian Business, Today's Parent and AWAY magazines. She's juried awards and reviewed portfolios at OCAD University, Ryerson University, Scotiabank CONTACT Photo Festival and the Flash Forward Annual Competition.

As a curator she has worked with Wedge Curatorial Projects, The National Music Centre and Sheridan College. Her curatorial work is centred on the practice of care, addressing hidden histories and foregrounding platforms for underprivileged artists. | lizikiriko.com

ILLUSTRATIONS | Wenting Li
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