Talking Shop with Video Artist Nicole Cohen

Video Artist Nicole Cohen
Nicole Cohen, French Connection, 2009.

Nicole Cohen holds a BA from Hampshire College and an MFA from the University of Southern California. Trained in drawing, painting, and video art, she creates works that manipulate time, scale, and environment to engage and challenge her audience. She has exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Fabric Workshop and Museum (PA), the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and the New York Public Library and is represented by Morgan Lehman Gallery, NYC and Shoshana Wayne Gallery in Los Angeles. She teaches at Pace University and is the founder and director of the Berlin Collective, an artist-run international exchange program. For more information, visit: and

Helen Dwork: You have a BA in painting and drawing and an MFA in drawing and video. Can you tell me about the progression from one to the other?
Nicole Cohen: I started making abstract paintings and then moved into more representational works in graduate school. From there I felt that I wanted my paintings to become more theatrical with video projection and sound, as this was the time of the development of animations on the computer. I also wanted small movements in my canvas. I projected animations into my paintings and incorporated sound. This was the start of my video installation works.

HD: What constitutes “time-based media” and how would you characterize your use of it?
NC: I don’t reference my work as “time-based media” necessarily, but I understand that pre-recording work is considered time-based. Time-based seems to insinuate that it has a beginning and an end. I never related to this because my videos should be seen as a painting. You aren’t required to watch the whole video unless you decide to. In other words the videos don’t rely on the first part of the video.

Video Artist Nicole Cohen
Nicole Cohen, Studio Visits, 2012. Brooklyn Museum of Art.

HD: Since you began your work in video art, video technology has become ubiquitous. What effect has this had on your work and its reception?
NC: I have worked with DVDs, projectors, and more that are no longer in my practice. I try to get as many as I can for archival reasons, but you need to move on to new technologies and focus on the art and not the mechanics in my studio. I am very pleased now that flat screens and projectors are common in many homes. This makes it much easier for the public to better understand video art collecting.

HD: Your projects have been called “some of the most paradigmatic and successful examples” of art’s evolution toward reliance on the viewer as an active participant. What’s the viewer’s role in your art?
NC: In many cases, I feel that the viewer completes the project. Without a participant, especially in interactive works, the work is incomplete until there is a guest. My works ask for the guest to look closer by becoming a voyeur as they hover over a small scale video or rest on the wall to listen to the soundtrack in the drawing.

HD: How did Berlin Collective develop, with regard to what services are offered?
NC: I started Berlin Collective because there wasn’t an international artist network platform, and there seemed to be a great need for this to promote international discourse and advancement in the arts. I moved to Berlin and, in 2009, I decided to start organizing artist talks with curators. I had many professors ask to bring their students, private groups, etc. to Berlin. With my ten year background in teaching, I organized Study Abroad Workshops in artists’ studios for the groups and created custom-designed insider perspective in the arts. I don’t teach in BC, I work as the director of the program. I help support what the artists are planning to teach in workshops, but mainly organize events and locate internships with our BC Team. We offer a BC Internship Program connecting interns with galleries, artist studios, and art organizations; we have a BC Artist Residency Program, produce events, and organize visits. We now work in NYC, Berlin, Paris, London, and Los Angeles promoting artists who join BC and helping them advance their careers through social media, referrals, coaching, gallery exhibitions, etc.

Video Artist Nicole Cohen
Nicole Cohen, Studio Visits, 2012. Brooklyn Museum of Art.

The Art Students League of New York holds a number of weekend, evening, and weeklong workshops, in which League instructors and prominent visiting artists work with intimate groups of about a dozen students. Workshops focus on a particular aspect of art-making or specific medium or techniques. A current schedule of upcoming workshops can be found here.

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