“I value the language that mainstream media, cinema, and ads use and to abuse us, and I work to learn it and break it apart. By using this language in my works, I am after creating some sort of discomfort.” says Arda Yalkın. We met up with Yalkın and his growing interest with his digitally based works, before he begins his new exhibition at Gaia Gallery.
Your art has an inquisitive, critical, yet dark atmosphere that feeds from society. A part of your work is also always connected to digital. How did this process evolve?
I’ve been using computers ever since I knew myself. Though this is considered normal now, it wasn’t in the 80’s. I never saw the computer as a device to pass time on. Before, I was on the sound side of the business; I slowly started to get interested in doing videos in 2004. Working on animation, photography, visual effects, and modeling since 2011, I only became concerned with art. I can say that I was involved in anything to do with digital sound, video, and animation coming into this process. I follow social media in fear everyday checking if there is someone from my friends or someone who I follow has been killed or has been thrown into jail. I think twice before going out, for a bomb might explode. I can only do those under these circumstances.
What do you think were the turning points in your art career?
The first video art I made was selected for a screening in Contemporary Istanbul in 2011. I can say that it was a turning point in my life when this video was acquired by some collections. I don’t apply for any award or residency program as a principal. I can’t say I have accomplishments in that context. However since I started working with Gaia Gallery in 2014, my production budget increased and my works started getting invited abroad. I participated in the LOOP Festival in Barcelona this summer. We plan for my works to be shown in Paris, Berlin, and New York next year.
What changed and/or evolved in between your last solo exhibition which was two years ago at Gaia Gallery, Deep Fried Dreams, to this new exhibition?
While the subjects are quite similar, the techniques I used changed completely. Before, I did works in sort of a relief manner; printing and cutting various image processing programs and creating images from the scripts I’ve written in different layers. They were completed with glass and motifs drawn on glass with acrylic on the top layer. This time, the process is completely two dimensional. I did many paintings that were worked on a lot by open, clean, and digital image processing programs. They are like a simulation of high budget ad campaigns and fashion editorials. I did all the stuff like 3D modeling, VFX, lighting, photography, and print on my own. That is how I did it before as well, however there was a glitch aesthetic in my previous works so my job was easier. This time, I had a rough time for I needed to learn and control many new details. The slightest failure or error in judgment is felt directly on the paintings. But I am very happy about the result; it opened new doors for me. My future plans and projects grew in size. Also, I hadn’t been doing video since my first exhibition. I wanted to do videos with really tough productions; strong productions that would stick out amongst the bunch. I have two video installations in this exhibition: a seven channel video called The Circle Jerk, and a five channel video called Rorschach Project.
Your new exhibition at Gaia Gallery is called Everything is Awesome. You say “There is a contradiction here,” can we elaborate on that contradiction a bit more?
Yes, Everything is Awesome is quite a dark exhibition, and contradictory in name. Roughly, I can say that I chose consumer pornography and modern middle class iconography as my subject. As the result of being born into this area, notions like violence, lies, racism, corruption, war, homophobia, and death are always a part of my life. I don’t assume that in any other country, people check the list of the cases held that day first thing in the morning.
Technically, both my video and plastic works are tied closely to Orthodox iconography. The icon masters of the time used to say that they only were the tool there, and that God commanded them to picture these icons. I see the madness of the exposition and consumption pornography we live on social media as people painting their own icons. The icons don’t usually study the side of religions that lead to pain and destruction; they always show heroism, miracles, victories, or the blessing of pain. Just like how the images we expose on social media are of the hamburger we nibbled on the other night and not of the war, fascism, destruction, and destruction we live in… We are actually all picturing our own icons. We are all like Gods of our own worlds who deserve the best of everything, who are unbending, and uncompromising.
“As the result of being born into this geography, notions like violence, lies, racism, corruption, war, homophobia, and death are always a part of my life.”
Bu sergi özelinde ilk kez neler göreceğiz?
Geçtiğimiz Mayıs ayında Barselona LOOP Festival’da ilk sunumunu yaptım dediğim The Circle Jerk isimli video enstalasyonum ilk kez İstanbullu sanat takipçileriyle buluşacak. Yine geçen Ağustos ayında 12. Uluslararası D-Marin Klasik Müzik Festivali kapsamında Gaia Gallery’nin Gümüşlük Eklisia Kilisesi’nde düzenlediği sergide yer alan Rorschach Project isimli başka bir video enstelasyonum da görücüye çıkıyor. Bunların yanı sıra 10 tane de yepyeni dijital resim var.
What are we going to see for the first time in this exhibition?
My video installation The Circle Jerk that was first exhibited last May in Barcelona at the LOOP Festival will meet art enthusiasts of Istanbul for the first time. My other video installation which was shown at an exhibition at Gümüşlük Eklisia Church organized also by the Gaia Gallery for the 12th International D-Marin Classic Music Festival last August, the Rorschach Project will be public again. Aside from these, I have 10 brand new digital paintings.
Where does The Circle Jerk stand in the exhibition?
The Circle Jerk is a seven channel, 10 minute video installation that portrays a job interview. Basically, it’s about a job interview that probably everyone has gone through once in their lives. Everyone going to the interview actually knows the questions and it’s answers. All the characters are different, but are the same person. That’s why five characters were acted by two actors. In the installation, one screen represents one character. In the two outer screens, we tried to penetrate the inner worlds of both the employers and the candidate. The contradiction between the character’s new character which they build up for this job interview, and their inner world creates an ironic situation. There is always a commitment being made. It doesn’t matter if the answers or the questions are smart; what matters is that the commitments and the interests are met. You know and understand that after a while, the ones on the “chosen” side of the table are bound to cross to the other side and they will start to “choose.”
We made this video together with Akın Tek. After I came up with the idea, he wrote the script, and helped a lot in the editing. Starting from our close circle, we looked at how white-collars talked, blogs, documentaries, and social media posts. In fact, there are a bunch of visual materials that weren’t included in the installation, for it would have disrupted the flow if they were included. These footages we have from documentaries on war, scarcity, propaganda, deprivation, and environmental catastrophes, hundreds of ads, and the few movies that we think are concerned with this issue could be re-contextualized for another project. I want to say that our actors Aslı İçözü and Yiğit Kirazcı did a great job in building the personalities of their characters as well.
You also have another video installation called Rorschach Project, which is created edited with footage of violence and war. Can you tell us about this installation that focuses on sound?
This is an improvisation video. Although it looks like it focuses on sound, what guided me into making this video is in fact, the immediate reactions people give to social media notifications… That’s the reason why I turned the footage of violence and war that I compiled from news websites and social media into an animation, and applied a filter on it, just like we do to our posts in real life. In creating this video, I worked on each video shot one by one from a script I’ve written for the project. That makes 2000 video shots in total that’s been worked on individually. Four musicians who watched the footage for the first time improvised music over it. And I took these separate songs and edited them together to make it sound like one song.
Any plans for the near future?
The Circle Jerk is invited to many international organizations. I will try to participate in these as much as I can. Additionally, I will be taking on a video that has a very complicated production throughout the following year. Planning and shooting this video I guess will be the hardest and most fulfilling job I will ever take on in my life.