Her work is easily recognisable: misty hues, a dreamlike atmosphere, deliberate composition. Evelyn conjures a uniquely immersive reality that is barely contained within the four sides of a photograph or the bounds of one’s vision, in the case of her VR series. She takes an unforgiving approach to each new project by removing any visual clutter that might deter the narrative. She perfects each tableau until, like a well-aged memory, only what matters is preserved.
She reminisces about her childhood in a public housing compound in Bratislava, about her recurring cast of neighbours whose lives took place within the frame of a window across a courtyard; about the architecture itself, and how its specific style and typology embodied socialist aspirations. Some of these early ruminations led her to pursue photography, trying to capture the whole truth of a life through a window. They also prompted her to pursue research-led projects such as Asymptote, where she explores a nation’s emotional connection to its now mostly unused Soviet-era official buildings. She interviewed experts, from whom she gained a deeper understanding of the climate that birthed this display of exuberance and the impact of such a legacy on contemporary Slovakian society. In this visual metaphor of the regime, she draws parallels between brutalism and socialism, as movements that both over-promise and under-deliver. The buildings’ symmetry and repetition are mimicked by groups of faceless characters who contort themselves into dictated patterns. They dance around the vastness of vaulted spaces, one uniform entity. The oversized rooms convey the grandiosity of communist ideals and stand in contrast with minute human characters whose individual desires are erased by the collective quest for utopia. Certain works in the series feature a burst of highly symbolic red, engulfing them in a hazy aura reminiscent of Twin Peaks’ red room.
Perfection as an illusion (and the psychological toll it takes on those who attempt it) is the leitmotiv at the heart of pieces such as Alice and Artificial Tears. The aesthetic in both is obsessively clean, but Evelyn leaves clues for the observant viewer of the tension that lurks beneath the placid façade, cracks on an otherwise perfect surface that betray violent truths. Alice gives visibility to issues such as anxiety, depression or anorexia; and the split between outward appearance and inner destructive tendency. In Artificial Tears, a photographic series that was relaunched in 2019 as a VR experience, she focuses on societal pressures on women. In it, an idealised, anonymous version of a woman (inspired by the Youtube phenomenon Tara the Android and played by some of the artist’s close friends) inhabits a sterile, pastel-coloured maze performing tasks seemingly devoid of meaning.
It is suggested that these tasks are part of a function set for her by some unknown external agent, and it is a search for agency that articulates the narrative arc. The architecture behaves as both a projection of the character’s psyche and a labyrinth through which she wanders through small doors and checkerboard floors. In the VR version, she finds her true self in the shape of an exit from the maze. It is inspired by Evelyn’s feeling of disconnect in social situations where she may find herself unwittingly performing the role of the female artist persona. When she revisited the piece to turn it into a VR experience, she found new readings after attending a dissertation on virtual assistants with a female voice, a tech industry habit that perpetuates sexist notions of women as accessories to men’s more meaningful pursuits. The MEDIANOCHE0 collection includes two photographic works from this series.
While much of her practice focuses on bodies, human presence is sometimes present indirectly in series like SimulacRAUM, which features manicured landscapes that bear the trace of human intervention or reframing. Other works dealing with environmental activism include Anti-Atlantis, a VR piece where the artist uncovers metaphorically and literally the toxic truths hidden in the depths of our oceans; or Nine-sum Sorcery, an audiovisual allegory of fossil fuel exploitation inspired by Cyclonopedia by Reza Negarestani. The last two projects have been created in collaboration with studio Labour, Enes Guc and Zeynep Schilling.
Ever the student, Evelyn brings as much as she takes away from every project (be it personal or commissioned work), with each new interaction bringing renewed sensibility and perspective to her fine art practice. As she seeks the narrative potential of digital mediums, she predicts a shift in her practice towards immersive technologies. View artworks ︎︎︎
Evelyn was born and raised in Bratislava, where she attended a Catholic bilingual school. She earned a Master’s degree in Fine Art and New Media Studies from the University for Applied Arts in Vienna. She has participated in solo and group shows at Fotografiska Stockholm, Tallinn and New York, Slovak National Gallery, Taylor Wessing Portrait Photography Prize at National Portrait Gallery in London, Museumsquartier Vienna, OFF, Photo Vogue Festival, Atonal, STRP and MIRA festival to mention a few. She was awarded the Hasselblad Masters, Prix Picto de la Mode, Portrait of Britain, VR Kunstpreis, Broncolor Gen Next and Berlin Masters 2020. She has produced commissioned work for institutions such as the Royal Opera House, Frieze, Kunsthalle Basel, the Czech and Slovak National Theatre and Berghain; as well as brands like Dior, Gucci, Cartier; and publications like Vogue, Dazed, ID, Vice, Numéro, ZEIT, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Weltkunst, Monopol and Frieze Magazine. You can learn more about her practice at http://evelynbencicova.com.