“To challenge with the courage that I gather from the darkness or from joy and hope, to enter the room of life and existence that is filled with secrets which are hard to define, to be fragile while being strong…” This is how İnci Eviner, one of the best contemporary artists of Turkey, defines the process of creation. Eviner uses different kinds of elements, primarily patterns but also ranging from performance to installation art, dexterously. She creates a tension between imagination and the politicization of daily needs and human connections in her latest work “We, Elsewhere”. Through this work that she has created for the Pavilion of Turkey of the 58th International Art Exhibition of Venice Biennale, she presents, in her own words, ‘an experience that is hard to define and is contaminated with the feelings of what happened in this country’.
How do you define the scene that you created for the Pavillion Of Turkey of Venice Biennale?
İnci Eviner: It was so important for me that the spectators turn this physical and visual sensation into a personal experience and has all their emotions available while walking around the scene. That’s why the architectural installation I made was shaped with the desire to create an environment which enables multilayered interpretations. I wanted the narrow aisles, stairs, different height platforms, chairs nailed to the platforms and fences to prepare the audience for confrontations that I can’t foresee too, and I wanted them to leave here with an experience that is hard to define and is contaminated with the feeling of what happened in this country.
Which phases did your work “We, Elsewhere” go through to have its final form? What was on your mind while embarking on a journey to create this multilayer work of art that consists of architectural elements, videos, sound installations, objects and patterns?
İnci Eviner: When I was starting, the thing on my mind was the political agenda and the idea that the ways we try to cope with its pressures becoming a part of our daily life. I wanted to create a tension between imagination and the politicization of daily needs, human connections. Our politicized life and the existential problems that come with mass displacements came together in a Hannah Arendt text and a paragraph in this text summarizes this tension perfectly. One of the most important parts of installation art is sound and videos and they appeal to all the areas of mind and senses. When I was designing this space, I wanted to surprise and corrupt these senses. So, in a space that is hard to sense visually, you face the question of whether you trust the sound or not, the fear you will have when you lost the source of the sound or the shadowy figures that popped out of the myths of the past.
You say, “the responsibility of being a witness starts with questioning being ‘us’”. What do you see when you look at ‘us’ nowadays?
İnci Eviner: This is a feeling brought about by the dynamic figures stuck between the anonymous and the individual. This is how I wanted to reflect the basic paradox that I was thinking of creating in the installation from the beginning, that is, the dilemma of me and us. I searched for the various forms of this paradox in “We, Elsewhere” too. In a world where identities move beyond national boundaries, “us”, the memory, and the jins, fairies and myths that hunts it play unknown games with personal pleasure, desire and life experience in order to produce possible meanings. I wanted to create this feeling rather than giving a message. The question on my mind is this: Can the tensions we see as paradox pave the way for new daseins?
Even though you incorporate different tools in your creation process, I guess pattern has a special place for you. What kind of opportunities does pattern provide?
İnci Eviner: I think by drawing. Drawing ties me to the reality of what I am doing, makes the act of creating art a natural need. I believe that people who are really troubled with the age and the community they live in can make art. We search for a different possibility of existence with the questions and troubles inside our minds within the work of art. Patterns keep me balanced between the unknown realms of subconsciousness and visible reality. Moreover, drawing continues to carry a desire I had from my childhood.
You mentioned saying, “Sometimes I came across a more introverted artist, and other times an angrier one” while reviewing all your work you did for your retrospective in Istanbul Modern in one of your interviews. What kind of an artist do you come across when you look at your latest works?
İnci Eviner: At times, the creations process is filled with enthusiasm or fear but it is always exciting for me. To challenge with the courage that I gather from the darkness or from joy and hope, to enter the room of life and existence that is filled with secrets which are hard to define, to be fragile while being strong…
Is it accurate to say that your works are closely associated with literature? What kind of a driving force that fictional texts create for your creating process?
İnci Eviner: Reading literature especially after exhibitions has been a saving grace for me recently. Thinking in images can be less deep than thinking in words and sentences but I can say this; I constantly have to remind myself the richness and the deepness of words through reading literature. Only then the images can thrive and the subconscious can deepen.
Recently, you have collaborated with an important literary figure, Nobel Prize winner Orhan Pamuk. What do you want to say about the words of this collaborative work that is based upon your work in Venice Biennale?
İnci Eviner: Orhan Pamuk and I have developed a friendship by sharing the same workshop for drawing patterns for more than a year. He witnessed these compositions come to life while drawing patterns in the table I reserved for him and in the end, he decided to be the voice of these imaginary heroes. It was amazing for me for sure and extraordinary texts were shaped. I think that hadn’t been the voice of these characters, the work would be lacking something. Seeing our collaboration resulting like this makes me happy and proud.
Your works have been about the troubles women of this country had to face, for a very long time. How do you evaluate the current period in which there is a fight for women’s right?
İnci Eviner: The meaning of the feminist movement has been evolving and developing in time and in different cultures but considering the gender conditions in our country, it is urgent and it shakes our definition of freedom to the core. On the other hand, you get carried away by the endlessly rich world of images and freedom of art and this world is a necessity for being human. But when I open my eyes and see femicide news, I get convinced that this world is just an illusion. In reality, an artist is in pursuit of new definitions of freedom between their personal experiences, sense of self and other people’s pain. Sometimes, I can’t help but think that even when there will be no more femicide in this country, I will continue to carry on the memory of my mother and grandmother. I think that this topic is very complicated and deep.