The last rays of evening sun steep in the greenery of Hush Hostel’s outdoor lounge; Berk Çakmakçı, a video artist, photographer, and musician sits down with me and deepens my perspective on technology and art. The 28 year old, a recent MFA graduate from Parsons School of Design in New York, measures his words with a researcher’s deliberation, but he is far from pretentious. “You don’t have to be educated to talk about art. I think people should be brave about articulating their reactions. That’s how we make progress.”

The self-described archivist sees his work as a sociological exploration. He outsources clips from Youtube videos, and documents the neuroses of our gadget-obsessed culture by creating montages of peoples’ reactions to technology. “Unboxing” is one video that compiles Youtubers’ uncannily similar reactions to un-boxing their new iPhone 5s. He acknowledges, “What surprised me is that I’m no different. It was sad but enlightening.”

Berk mines for authenticity: “Trying to find a way where you can be honest in a hyper real world is what drives my art. How to have your avatar, post pictures, create your online persona, spend time with technology, and still be yourself. If that’s possible.”

Berk argues against narrow-minded interpretations of art: “There’s a lot of medium fascism going on in Turkey. Galleries and collectors value the time spent, and whether the result looks nice on a wall. That’s not how I look at art.” His greatest joy is, “To see the work take its own life in other people’s eyes and reactions.” He aims to “create conversations.” He does this through photography as well: “I’m drawn to photographing spaces or inanimate objects because I want to let the viewer complete the picture. You have to give as much as you take.”

When discussing the music scene in Istanbul, Çakmakçı taps his knuckles on the surface of the table, punctuating the pacific quality of his voice with an impatient staccato. He says, “People go, ‘oh, he’s playing there, she’s playing there, you can catch them here…’ but there is no actual writing or conversation about the music itself. It’s a vacuum.”

In May, he jointly curated the exhibition “Art around Moda.” His exhibit “Infinity Now” was a testament to his belief in art as an exchange, and a tribute to a close friend he lost — Murat Üf Yaa. Berk describes his friend as an “important figure in the small but tight-knit Turkish independent music scene.” An artist who “knew how to make a simple idea work in fantastic ways.”

The exhibit consisted of a walkman attached to head- phones. It was playing a song he created for Murat, on repeat, outside a flower shop. He says, “The piece became a living thing on its own, aging and changing on the spot.” Berk recalls the eponymous quote Murat scanned from a self help book and emailed to him: “’Sonsuz Şimdi.’ [Infinity is Now] I liked how funny that sounded. As if a company was trying to sell the idea of immortality/ infinity as a product. Like INFINITY, NOW!”

Reflecting on music, the artist is reticent. He is almost shy when he explains: “Music is my emotional outlet. I defined myself with it when I was a kid. I guess that’s why I’m protective of it. I used to pick my own cassettes. I still remember the day I got my first Michael Jackson cassette,” he laughs.

It’s not difficult to imagine him as a budding archivist, inseparable from his headphones, rifling through cassette tapes, sampling songs, and prickling with discovery. But Berk is cautious about being sentimental or dwelling in past influences and in past work. “I have a ton of music I’ve never played to anyone,” he says. “It’s more important for me to make new stuff.”

“Is art a way to negotiate letting go?” I wonder. He pauses: “Yeah. I’m leaving behind little time capsules. When I finish the work and look back at it I see that holding on to the past is a crucial part of the work. At least grounding your own experiences by referencing the past. That makes me feel like a real person.” He shrugs, “I don’t know why but I’ve never seen myself as a good storyteller. I’m definitely a collector. Recontextualizing stuff done before my time. I find that really interesting. Saying something new with something old. Changing the mechanics of it. Rearranging it.”

Berk recently produced an album called “The Bird Cage” and spent the last six months working on the soundtrack of an upcoming play called “I Shut Down my Heart Until the Apocalypse.”

For music: Soundcloud/agereform

For videos: Vimeo/berkcakmakci

Interview: Mehr Chahine