Greif Alumni: Q&A with Teva Cosic


We periodically invite our alumni, artists we have featured in the past, to share their new work and projects with us. Teva Cosic’s work was first featured in our Guest Room curated by Alfred Weidinger, managing director of OÖ Landes-Kultur GmbH, in 2022. Cosic is interested in how we create and sustain social, cultural and emotional connections through images and image-making practices. Based in Australia between Naarm/Melbourne and Gimuy/Cairns, she is influenced by her cross-cultural (Swedish/Croatian) background. We caught up with Teva to ask her a few questions about her new series, “Wander Lines” which was shot in Västerås, a town situated about 100 km west of Stockholm.

Der Greif: Hi Teva, thanks for sharing your new series, “Wander Lines” with us. In your description of the work, you talk about the idea of home. Can you tell us what your definition of home is?

Teva Cosic: I think the notion of home can be a bit of a tricky concept to pin down especially when one factors in things such as migration and different cultural backgrounds. I guess there are the usual considerations such as language, family, and place that might give us a sense of 'home' (which is often rooted in ideas of identity and belonging) but of course, these are aspects that are also always in flux. If I were to attribute home to anything perhaps it would be a kind of state of being that is a combination of belonging and alienation and the constant push and pull between them. Home tends to shape itself in various ways especially when we feel distanced from it, but maybe its multifarious and elusive qualities are what give it meaning.

Der Greif: How was it working with your family? Can you tell us how your grandmother and mother felt about being photographed?

Teva Cosic: In general, both my mother and grandmother are very willing participants although the process itself was something of an experiment (in a good way). There was a lot of me just setting up shots and asking them to step in for brief moments to participate in making the image, which often ended in laughter as I like to incorporate props and other elements that make for less traditional portraits. Other times I would just set up my camera as they were doing things around the house and start making pictures, mapping out our interactions as they unfolded. By the end of the six weeks, my grandmother was even proudly telling some family members about how I photographed her wearing her colostomy bag, which was not something I expected she would say.

Teva Cosic, From “Wander Lines” by Teva Cosic.

Der Greif: Can you describe a piece of familial or cultural lore that inspired an image or some of these images?

Teva Cosic: Much of this work draws on personal memories from when I lived in Sweden as a child (now 22 years ago) as well as the trips we made in between after moving back to Australia. As for cultural lore, there is one image where I am pictured riding a broomstick which is based on the Swedish folk tradition where, as children, we would dress up as witches (påskkärringar) the Thursday before Easter and go looking for candy. It is said that these witches were on their way to an island named blåkulla where they would dance and feast with the devil. The tale dates back to the 17th-century witch trials in Sweden during which many women (and some men) were burned at the stake after being accused of witchcraft.

Der Greif: How did photography's relationship to family documentation, through concepts like the family album, influence this work?

Teva Cosic: Whenever I return to my grandmother’s home, I often revisit the old family albums. Spending countless hours wondering at how immensely filled with cracks and voids and people and places that I will never see or know or understand the albums are. She tells me the stories and the names of their faces, but it’s easy to forget when you have no personal recollections to anchor them to. These particular albums are also places where I am relatively absent which has the added feeling of having missed out on a particular life (the one in which we stayed). Despite this, I enjoy their incompleteness and I enjoy the idea of adding to this web of partial histories with my own work (albeit in a less traditional sense).

There is a strange kind of intimacy that comes with trying to document one’s own family and trying to make sense of one’s own place within it. For me, photography forms part of this sense-making process, of drawing and re-drawing lines in-between points with the hope that we might reveal something about ourselves or the world. As Tim Carpenter lovingly elucidates in his book-length essay To Photograph is to Learn How to Die (2022) photography, as a meaning-making device, allows us the possibility of assuaging (however provisionally) this incomprehensibility that exists between the self and the non-self, the real and the ineffable.

Der Greif: Can you share any discoveries you made about yourself or your role in your family through making this work?

Teva Cosic: I don’t think I had any poignant revelatory moments as such, but perhaps I became more aware of the passing of time and the slipping away of certain cultural and familial connections that come with leaving a place for extended periods and the need to maintain them somehow. I felt a particular compulsion not to document precisely but to kind of mythologise my own memories and lived experiences through the images I was making as a way of coming to terms with this disconnection.

Der Greif: Lastly, can you tell our community what's next for your practice?

Teva Cosic: If all goes well, I’m planning on doing a master’s in fine art next year!