Artist llana Kozlov Talks Internet Protests, Embarrassing Tattoos And The Future
Ilana Kozlov is really good at being an edgy babe on Instagram, modelling IRL and making artwork. Her upbringing, beginning in Israel and currently drifting between LA and New York, provides a pretty good foundation for useful thinking and challenging ideas that've been presented to her as commonplace. When talking about the future, Ilana's most accessible platform, the internet, feels both a blessing and a curse to her — culminating as revolutionary. We chatted to her about these things, plus her current works, political leanings and what she wants tomorrow:
Lucy Jones: Where did you grow up and where are you living now?
Ilana Kozlov: I grew up in Israel and moved to LA when I was 7. Now I'm between there and New York.
How did those places shape you and/or your work?
Growing up in Israel was strange — most of everyone was xenophobic and attacked Russians and Beta Israel (Ethiopian Jews), which there were a lot of in school. That kind of bullying made me face a lot of challenges with my Russian heritage. This experience made me understand my body as dislodged from a young age, and that language continues to resurface through modeling and through my artwork — as something I explore, and as something that just happens to me.
What were you like in high school?
I was a mess.
In what ways have you changed since then?
I'm still a mess but with a job.
What kind of values/beliefs did your parents install in you?
They love memes.
What are the best and worst things about growing up "on the internet"?
The internet is wild place because it alienates us through connectedness... which is a crazy thing to think about. It gives us a platform to experience protest without organising, which is really cool. Like, 8 million different people will type Trayvon Martin's name in the same hour... that's a protest. Where has that ever existed? It's revolutionary.
What opportunities have been presented to you by being active in that online space?
I have forged so many relationships with people that otherwise wouldn't exist. So many of my friendships were found on the internet, so that's really cool. Also, I have the opportunity to participate in a kind of dislodged protest, where if I communicate an issue and someone else does too, then somehow we can find a common thread in that language without needing to squarely organise around it. People can just talk about things and those things move through the ether forever. It offers me a platform to be fluid about anything.
What's your most embarrassing tattoo?
I think they are probably all pretty embarrassing? If all of my tattoos were on random people's bodies then most of them would probably get removed or covered up, but I like all of them.
Are you a spiritual person?
Yes! I think that this world is so fucking crazy and to think that everything occurs at the turn of some random token is stupid and narcissistic. The world is so big and we experience it through so many sensations! Everything is so complex and beautiful and I embrace my smallness, because the less I think the universe is some crazy magic, the bigger my own head gets.
Do you identify as a feminist? Please explain.
Yes, I identify as a feminist and I don't need to explain.
How did you get "discovered"?
I was with my friend, looking for tapes, and representatives from NEXT told me they liked my look and gave me a card.
If you could change one thing about the modelling industry what would it be and why?
I think the most important thing to think about when it comes to this question is intersectionality and how that could reshape an industry that has a hand in managing images of the body. The modeling industry SHOULD welcome the responsibility of making images more inclusive. One area of this that becomes problematic is when certain designers choose to tokenise minority groups, instead of uplifting them. We need less homogeny, less tokenisation and more representation.
Can you tell us a bit about your art/object making stuff?
Recently I have been thinking a lot about sites of exhibition and what it means for an artist to divorce themselves from the gallery. Last year a friend and I collected work from a bunch of local artists and went to Japan. We went into the ice caves of Kawaguchiko, which is a public space where many kinds of touring groups come through. We arranged all the art around the cave and a touring class of 3rd graders crawled through, then, something really interesting happened. One of my sculptures was placed in this ice nook that was being lit by an artificial funnel of light. A few of the third graders would pass by and look confused, questioning what they're looking at without arriving at the object as something that should be indefinitely understood as "art". The art object then became this kind of interruption, or tear, in the experience that these children were having. But, in the same breath, it completely created their experience because of the kind of pause that it offered. This happened, I think, because the environment didn't inform the artwork as something that needs to be sensationalised or thought about. The sculpture just kind of existed, and through that simplicity we found power, thinking, questioning and excitement. So, right now, I'm mostly exploring that, and how I can manifest this experience because the gallery as a site of exhibition is static and doesn't offer what I'm looking for. Frankly, it only exists as an economic powerhouse because money needs to be made (which is fine) but I'm not interested in it. To talk about my practice wholly would be pretty crazy, so I'll leave it at my most recent thoughts.
What messages do you hope to communicate through your work?
I don't know! Some of my work means nothing, and some of it is didactic. I guess the only thing I hope to work on as an artist is how to make the experience of my artwork more inclusive, which means that I have to be really aware of the spaces that I choose to exhibit my work in and the people that I choose to push my work through. The art world is controlled by a bunch of white billionaires with relationships to banks and other scary corporations, which inevitably means that we're going to experience homogeneity and exclusivity in the gallery space. So the goal is to turn that on its head and not participate in it completely.
What themes do you usually work within?
Sometimes I don't really work within any themes. I mostly just pay attention to material and how the bridging of different materials can potentially manifest meaning or language. But I suppose I'm always thinking about women, economics and language.
What are your thoughts on the current political climate?
There is not enough transparency in the media and the corporations that control these outlets are playing house with the general masses by pushing two party dogma. This kind of game networked with large scale oppression offers people the platform to take great conceit in identity politics. People need to worry more about how they can help each other, but the opposite is taking effect and it's all a game of oneupmanship, power, control and money; among people who both have the resources to effect change, and those who don't. People think that if they involve themselves in conservatism or liberalism then they somehow matter? Or something? So, I refuse to make any grand statements about the election, hoping that in the future maybe things will be better than they are now.
What do we need more/less of tomorrow?
More inclusivity! More love! More honesty! Less of the opposite.
Photography: Daria Kobayashi Ritch