Contemporary Art @ Boğaziçi - Interview Project, 2010

Max Dean

Beste Yamalıoğlu, B.U.,


When I first saw Max Dean’s works, I said, this is absolutely what I have been looking for. His works seem so practical and corporeal but also include the deep philosophy in them. That is why they are so attractive. You are made to realize the power of control belongs to objects. The interactivity in his works immediately includes you in his art. So, his works’ relationships with people are as good as his own’. Unlike everybody expected from a famous artist, he is so friendly, sympathetic and also helpful. Although he never meets me face to face, he immediately accepts my interview invitation by saying that he would be very delightful. I am so pleased to make an interview with him.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: First of all, could you tell me a little bit about your background? How do you decide to start this job? Is it a childhood dream or is it shaped through with your life experience?

Max Dean: Max Dean is a visual artist and has been producing works of significance for over 35 years. He is primarily known for his interactive kinetic installations that explore the nature of trust and control. His work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Exhibition highlights include the 'dAPERTutto' at the Venice Biennale in 1999; 'Platea dell'umanita' at the Venice Biennale in 2001; 'Voici, 100 years of contemporary art', Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels; 'The Fifth Element', Kunsthalle Dusseldorf, 'Iconoclash' and 'Future Cinema' at ZKM, Karlsruhe. The Robotic Chair fulfills a twenty-year-long endeavour and continues Dean's exploration of robotics and art.  As a kid I always tinkered. The classic things, making boats and all that kind of stuff. We lived in West Vancouver a couple of hundred yards from the water, so I spent an inordinate amount of time on the beach, riding my bike. I didn’t really start making things until I was in my teens. I wasn’t the kind of kid who drew.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: How do you define the concept of art, and new media art? Do you think there are basic differences between two? In which you feel yourself closer?

Max Dean: I do not distinguish between the two, great media is great art; media art distinguishes itself by using digital technologies

My work is driven by ideas and I do not limit myself by media

I have an affinity to my work whatever media I employ

I am drawn to great artwork regardless of media; I remain a big fan of painting

Beste Yamalıoğlu: What would be your comments about defining the differences between sculpture and installation? Why do you choose installations, is there any specific reason for this?

Max Dean: Again I do not have a preference and have used both

Again the idea or intention drives the choice

Sometimes a work needs the more immersive strategy an installation can provide

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Do you think interactivity in art is important?

Max Dean: I think all good work reaches out and is interactive

I do like to engage the viewer in a more active way and seek some kind of more physical and intellectual response

I am drawn to make interactive work

I like the experience aspect of interactive work, and how I can possess ethical, moral, and emotional issues to the viewer in real time situations

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Before you start your works, do you depend on any specific ideas or do they just happen in a natural, instinctive way?

Max Dean: Both

Beste Yamalıoğlu: What was your goal in doing the ‘Robotic chair’?

Max Dean: I wanted to give an object the power to control its own degree of functionality, to give it a sense of self and to invest it with desire

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Is it just to show that these kinds of things can be done?

Max Dean: No, not at all, the doing part came later.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Or do you have any messages to give people by such a daily usable thing?

Max Dean: No, I am never presumptuous enough to think I can tell anyone anything

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Where this idea comes from and what processes do you pass while doing this installation?

Max Dean: Ideas come from everywhere, everyday life and my interactions, from looking at art, reading. Often the idea 'pops' into my head and other times I have to go into my head and seek it out, I do this seeking by writing.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Can you give me some technical information about ‘Robotic Chair’? How long does it take? What materials and technology do you use? What is the budget and how do you get it by a sponsor or yourself?

Max Dean: The Robotic Chair (1984 - 2006) is a generic-looking wooden chair with the capacity to fall apart and put itself back together. The Robotic Chair seat houses a custom robot charged with the ambitious task of locating the scattered parts (legs and back), reassembling itself, and then restoring itself to its former chair status

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Do you have any colleagues while doing this project? If so, how was your relation with them? Do you find easier to work with other people or do you think it is easier on your own?

Max Dean: The Robotic Chair is a collaborative project by artist Max Dean, professor/entrepreneur Raffaello D'Andrea and artist/industrial designer Matt Donovan.

I have a great working relationship with all my collaborators, if we are not learning and having fun it is not a success

Each piece requires a different set of parameters

The important thing is to stay loose and open and let the problem dictate the solution, one needs to be egoless

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Which one is your favorite?

Max Dean: The piece I am working on

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Which are the most difficult and which one is the most attractive one?

Max Dean: If I am not learning or being challenged I drop the work

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Apart from installation, what kind of projects do you have?

Max Dean: I will work anywhere and with anything, I have made film, video, I want to work with a choreographer. I am open.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Obviously, contemporary art changes the taboos in people’s mind.

Max Dean: I would never be so presumptuous to think such a though.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: What do you think the next step of new media art?

Max Dean: I do not know and I do not care

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Are you hopeful about its future?

Max Dean: Of course

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Are there any surprises we will be faced?

Max Dean: Undoubtedly.

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Or do you think it is consumed already?

Max Dean: We have not even started

Beste Yamalıoğlu: From now on, how many exhibitions do you have? Where are they exhibited?

Max Dean: We will be in Barcelona in June

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Apart from these, what do you do in your free time? For example, where do music and cinema stand in your life?

Max Dean: I live and love and spend a lot of time on, in, or near water

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Are there any artists who excited you from the world or Turkey?

Max Dean: I like many artists both historical and contemporary, Robert Irwin, Duchamp too many

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Do you know some Turkish artists, if so, how do you find their works?

Max Dean: I am sorry to say I cannot name one Turkish artist

Beste Yamalıoğlu: Do you have any idol or source of inspiration in this area?

Max Dean: No.