We had the good fortune of connecting with Ivana Dama and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ivana, how has your work-life balance changed over time?
When Covid-19 came, many artists, including myself, lost access to studios or creative environments, but most importantly, we lost a sense of community. Being locked in one space allowed me to reflect on the fragility of the body and mind— it is moments like this that forced me to prioritize what truly matters. I believe that artists are always working, and by work, I mean constantly observing everything that is around us. Not just by simply seeing something, but rather by carefully processing the overload of information. Our job is to absorb and respond to the current context, to feel and share experiences, to learn and research; or as one of my favorite filmmakers Andrei Tarkovsky once said, “An artist needs knowledge and the power of observation only so that he can tell from what he is abstaining, and being sure that his abstention will not appear artificial or false.” I found myself struggling to find a balance between work and life in this new reality. Overnight my home became my studio, my classroom, my coffee shop, and my gym. At the same moment, I realized how important it is to step back and take a break, but I was never able to achieve it simply because I felt that it was easy for me to jump from one project to another. I never draw the line of when the work stops, and I found myself exhausted quickly. While the entire world is in this together, I found it insightful that we somehow managed to be together even if physically separated. Instantly my mind naturally placed me into a mental state where I’m aware of the present moment. When everything is uncertain, the future almost disappears, and all we have is here and now. Through different mindfulness practices, I managed to calm and acknowledge my feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. I believe that now it is more important than ever to integrate meditation and physical activity into our daily art practice. Having healthy habits and using some extra time to reflect and rest was genuinely beneficial in my mission to find a balance between work and life.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Throughout my life, I have been blessed in so many ways. As a child, growing up in Serbia during the ex-Yugoslavian countries’ civil war, I learned the value of having a close-knit community, with loving parents and friends. However, I also learned the dangers of conflict, war, and ethnic genocide. The memories of living in a small shelter with other families, with the sounds of bombs and vibrations of mortars exploding outside, contributed to my interest in sound and space, ranging from microscopic, architectural, and satellite scale. As a child, these events, and their immediate aftermath, presented my family and me with unique challenges. In my work, I explore the fusion of technology with traditional art practices by utilizing a variety of mediums including audiovisual installations, metal and wood engraving, sound performances as well as a range of open-source software for creative coding. In one of my projects, I presented enlarged, 10-foot-tall scans of an ant farm to compare a human’s interpretation of time with that of insects’, demonstrating my interest in working with dimensions of space to present new perspectives. I have also performed multiple times using a microscope and brain tissue as a musical instrument. By manipulating parameters of the microscope’s camera, such as focus, brightness, and movement, I was able to trigger specific sound effects, like altered frequencies of different piano samples. Currently, I’m working on a new interactive installation where visitors would be able to move the parts of the installation every time they blink with their eyes. The initial idea for this project was to allow the viewers to be part of the work directly. Going through hard challenges at an early age empowered me to develop self-efficacy and work habits that helped me to expand my art practice, and strongly believe in my ideas.
Any great local spots you’d like to shoutout?
I love food, and I love exploring new restaurants, bars, and venues in Los Angeles. Some of my favorite bars and restaurants are definitely: Mh Zh [Silver Lake] L&E Oyster Bar [Silver Lake] Milo and Olive [WestLA] Scopa Italian Roots [Venice] Dama [DTLA] Industry Cafe & Jazz [Culver City] Blossom Vietnamese [WestLA] Sqirl [Virgil Village] Gjelina [Venice] Gjusta [Venice] Silverlake Ramen [Silver Lake] Stella [Silver Lake] The Semi-Tropic [Eco Park] Some of my favorite venues, museums, and galleries are: Zebulon [Frogtown] Hollywood Forever Cemetery [Hollywood] Lodge Room [Highland Park] Bergamot Station [Santa Monica] Hauser & Wirth [DTLA] The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA [DTLA] Hammer Museum [Westwood]
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
At the age of 19, I made the difficult decision to pursue my dreams and come to the United States. With this decision came numerous challenges, including leaving behind my family, language barriers, cultural differences, and financial restraints. My first month in the U.S. was the most difficult. I missed my family dearly, and my inability to fully communicate with others was difficult. Adding to these struggles was my incapacity to understand basic U.S. traditions and to have difficulty securing funding for my studies. During my freshman year, I was selected by my professor Christopher Badger to participate in the Art Mentor Program. The program is described as a self-directed studio practice in a critical environment. Working closely, along with an exclusive group of outstanding art students, allowed me to develop my art practice and critical thinking skills. Often the people who help us the most in life are not even aware of how much they have done for us. These early opportunities not only gave me the confidence to further pursue my dreams and career, but they also allowed me to feel a sense of community. Within the art community, I found support and encouragement to explore and experiment with my ideas. In 2019, I was invited by professor Victoria Vesna to join the Art | Sci Center collective at UCLA, where I actively participate in many public projects and activities together with other members of the collective. I’m forever grateful for the opportunity to work closely with both scientists and artists on numerous projects. It was at UCLA when I realized that sound is an invariably important part of my work and when I became aware of how much power sound had when combined with the quiet world of visual arts. Few readings completely changed the way I understand the sound and music including Micah Silver’s “Figures in Air: Essays Toward a Philosophy of Audio,” John Cage’s “The Future of Music: Credo,” and “Deep Listening: A Composer’s Sound Practice” by Pauline Oliveros.