Deville Cohen

Sep 5th, 2012


Fall means back to school, buckling down and studying up.  We asked some of our favorite creative people about what they’ve learned as students, and what they could teach us now.


U: How did what you studied in school affect where you ended up today and what you’re doing now?

DC: Grad school was the first time I really went to school; for undergrad I went to the sculpture department in KHB in Berlin but I was not really involved in the program, so I dropped out to go to Bard for my MFA. At Bard I ended up at the film/video department. I originally applied for the sculpture department but they showed my portfolio to the film/video department and they invited me to the interview. I am very happy that happened this way. The film/video department was a much more relevant place for me to be at; it made me think of my practice beyond its sculptural aspects. I also got access to a soundstage during my summers there that helped me understand the relationship between my artist-studio-practice and the locations I actually shoot at; be it an empty parking lot, or a fully constructed set in a black box theater. 

U: What’s in your toolbox?  What are the items you need in your workspace to get things done?

DC: Paper, office supplies, Xerox machine. I start working on my projects on my desk and at the early stages the cutting mat is my stage. When my models evolved into sets for my videos or photographs I still use the same materials; I only change their scale and their quantity. Scale is a fundamental element in my work. As you watch my videos objects and images change their size from one edit to another. The consistency of the material and methods of those depictions are the building stones of my visual language. Scale is tool I am using to play with the sense of orientation as I bring things in and out of proportions.

U: What’s in your pocket? Do you have anything that’s always with you so you can sketch/take photos/make notes anytime?

DC: A notebook, a pen, and my Staples rewards card.

U: Who was your most memorable teacher… of all time, not just in a classroom.  What did they teach you?

DC: The desert. Between 2006 and 2007 I lived for a year in the desert in Israel.  At the time I lived in Berlin and I drove my van down to Israel with the intention to build a water fountain in the middle of the desert; my version of an oasis. The overwhelming beauty and power of the desert and the intensity of living in it, created a conflict in me. I was getting more and more inspired and motivated but my desire for the sculpture became a selfish and a limited act. As a result my ideas evolved from site-specific sculpture to a non-specific event. I ended up letting go of the idea of the oasis and I became much more attracted to the idea of a mirage. That way I could focus and meditate on the effects that I wanted the sculpture to have, rather then on it’s being. This specific project became a video documentation of the erection and destruction of the “fountain” with three live music sessions, but the ideas I have about sculpture, theater, and video started to be formed there and then. Thank you, desert.


U: If you taught a class that you could base on some expertise or obsession you have, what would it be?
DC: Alfred Hitchcock.


Deville Cohen is a Brooklyn based artist.  Deville has an MFA from Bard college and has studied in Berlin. His video and photo work explore the ways the individual interacts with their surrounding environment, both imagined and physically present. Using sharp shifts in scale and medium, Deville’s work jumps between flatness and jarring physicality.