Boğaziçi'nde "Çağdaş Sanat" Röportaj Dizisi, 2012

Ayşe Erkmen

Riella Morhayim, B.U. Department of Philosophy,

Translated by: Nazlı Cemile Karadeniz, Boğaziçi Üniversitesi


Ayşe Erkmen, who has produced artworks in the realms of installation, video and film, lives and works in Berlin and Istanbul. Besides national and international solo exhibitions, she has attended and is attending numerous ensemble exhibitions. Her notable public projects and refined architectural designs are always in relation with the the history and architectural characteristics of the space that she works with. The atist is very sensitive towards the spaces and she underlines this characteristic of hers that most of the time goes unnoticed.
Riella Morhayim: How did your bond with art develop?
Ayşe Erkmen: I don’t know that, I don’t know how it developed? All I know is that in primary school I had very good teachers, for example starting from the sixth grade, Seniye Fenmen Taylan has been my art teacher. She probably had an immense effect. Previously I was always doing teeny tiny sculptures and have always wanted to do so. It was an interest from my childhood.
R.M.: How were your family and your circle reacting?
A.E.: My family never really dealt with my interest because I was not a good student in the first place. And also art is a very difficult phenomenon for normal people to know. My grandmother was a tailor, so it’s only in this realm that there’s an inclination towards art. Then there are my cousins who are theater artists, maybe it’s from them. In general, my family wasn’t really interested in art, I mean they neither disapproved of it nor encouraged it.
R.M.: Art, as a product dependent on the artist is affected by the artist’s character and originality; then what is art for you?
A.E.: This is a very big question, libraries full of books are written to answer to this question, I cannot answer this briefly. It’s a complicated question.
R.M.: When your work is being evaluated, what kinds of criteria should be taken into consideration regarding its aesthetic judgment and comments?
A.E.: If I had such a criterion I wouldn’t have had my art. Art is out of criteria. If I follow a criterion, things wouldn’t work out. I need to form an interaction with the works that I encounter. There needs to be a surprise for me, it needs to go out of my own criteria.
R.M.: What should we take into consideration when we define something as contemporary art?
A.E.: The time and period in which the artwork has been produced should be taken into consideration. Contemporary art is the art that is produced today. Modern art on the other hand is from the past, the art that has been produced in the 1950’s.
R.M.: In the post-1950 era, among the current Turkish artists, who do you find is closer to you or your work?
A.E.: I don’t find them closer to me but there are artists that I like. Füsun onur for example; she is a very important artist for me, she is a pioneer of today’s contemporary art, I like her a lot. Among the young artists I like Cevdet Eray and Kutluğ Ataman. Actually this is not really about liking. I could enjoy the works of an artist that I do not like, there are many people that fall in this category.
R.M.: Does your art production always happen under the umbrella of a project, or do you produce individual/personal artwork as well?
A.E.: For me they are both the same thing, it doesn’t matter. You produce something as a result.
R.M.: If we accept art as a way of communication, what would be the language of your understanding of art or the works that you produce?
A.E.: The work that I produce doesn’t really have a language; I strive especially for the fact that it doesn’t have one. It’s a choice that I had made in the beginning, it gives me freedom. Of course it has a conceptual language, but not a visual language. This gives me the freedom to work with any kind of material. For instance, I can do film, sculpture; I work with wood, I can use photography or work with sound. There’s a wide range of materials, that’s also why there isn’t a particular language; my visual language can be composed in different forms which requires research to do so.
R.M.: You question the concepts of time and space in your artwork; how do you establish a parallel with this and life and art?
A.E.: Working with time and space intrigues me. Especially space; a space that contains many things becomes the rule, the base of an artwork when it’s placed in the space. I do not ignore the spaces in my exhibitions due to this reason. Even when moving the work from one space to another, I tailor the work according to the needs of the space. In short, space is important for me.
R.M.: In the evolution of your work, do the space, time, city, country that the exhibition will be held in affect you?
A.E.: Of course. I get affected by the country, by the space; even by the political events and situations. Sometimes my work changes according to someone that I stumble upon within the space.
R.M.: How do you, then, interpret, generally in life or in art, the importance of ambiguity, innovation and being extraordinary?
A.E.: These are important topics to me. I don’t want to give obvious messages through my artworks; I think it doesn’t make sense to convey messages that people already know or would understand pretty easily. I mean, even if the message that I am trying to convey has one meaning, I try to convey it in an indirect way. It’s because I think that it is meaningless to give what people already know. I try to avoid direct messages as much as possible so that the work I do would have layers. If I give only one thing through my work to people, I lose the depth of y work, the thing I give ends up being a message which is obvious. On the contrary, I try to avoid cause-effect relationships as much as possible.
R.M.: What kind of a reaction should seeing Ayşe Erkmen’s signature under an art project or an exhibition generate?

A.E.: I am against signatures. I have always told my students not to put a signature under their works. That’s why I think the focus should be the works, not the signature. Signatures are not that important. In looking at my work it is important that people know what I had produced in the past, because through that a different analysis could be generated. But the person to do this analysis would be a professional; for a normal spectator it’s not important if the work belongs to me or not. I especially try to exclude signature from my work, I give importance to this.