Elif Boyner, who had a breakthrough in the Turkish art scene, answered our questions that addresses the ways of working and thinking. We talked about her recent installations, the balance she is trying to establish in her work between the visual world and conceptual foundation, and the ‘horizon line’ she is chasing after..
In the chaos of the exhibition hall, we encounter an audience in front of a stand gazing at a ‘nature morte’ in a classical picture frame. A little bit later, we realize that the painting inside is a moving image instead of a still one. These works of Elif Boyner have the power to capture not only the artist’s personal presentations but also the audiences minds within the present atmosphere. These series, where art fans viewed the first examples in “Original Copy” at Öktem&Aykut in February this year, are followed by works that the artist produced with different media and presented within common grounds. Elif Boyner, whom we recently talked with about her latest celebrated works, tells us about the subjects she focuses on and the situations that inspire her.
Your video installations in classical picture frames have taken a lot of attention. We viewed your last series in ArtInternational. Can you tell us how this project began?
When I looked at my previous projects from a few years ago, I realized that I’ve been busy with the issue of playing with perception or questioning perception. I was usually applying this through space. My videos of Tunnel at the end of Bosphorus (Tunnel, 2011) and the girl sitting and standing up behind the door (Untitled, 2012) are examples to this perception. Had an idea to put into motion and record those lively works of our earlier masters’, especially one of my favorite artists. Cihat Burak’s Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi or Cunda Island paintings. I wanted to create images that copy these compositions exactly the same way as they are, as if they look like paintings from a distance but coming to life when you get closer. However, due to production costs, they were postponed. My mind sticks to repetition. Everything constantly repeats; in history many of the same stories are played by different actors over and over again. This is actually a sad situation; because then, there is no progress. On the other hand, it is always reflected as if we are in ‘progress’. I guess, when these thoughts and the previous project I mentioned, “Animate Naturmorts” were created. I relocate ‘nature morte,’ which occupies a very important role for art history into contemporary art. I bring the old into the new. Actually both have the same story, something is consumed; only the roles have changed, and the consumer is different.
When you record 3D images, actually it is as if you are painting. How do you consider these compositions that you create?
I never studied in the painting department, but before I used to only paint. I think with images instead of words; that is why I have difficulty to express myself with words.
The visuality of my works is very important to me, even as much as the concepts underlying them… Even the simplest dreams should be observed with an impressive, catchy but not in an exaggerated way. Beyond answering only to conceptual and intellectual expectations and questions, I value to get the attention of those eyes who have no expectations, and later to converse about concepts, perceptions and impressions.
There is a feeling that comes to oneself in regards to your individual exhibitions, drawing in the audience. How do you define this atmosphere?
In the intense tempo of everyday life, in this era where details such as the phenomena that surround the individual in an immense speed, agendas that constantly change or that are impossible to follow, are lost with limited possibility of distinguishing or being distinguished, visuals slow down the audience and push them to rediscover the possibilities in front of them or around them.
My mind sticks to repetition. Everything constantly repeats; in history many of the same stories are played by different actors over and over again. This is actually a sad situation; because then, there is no progress.
You have recorded in places such as solid waste centers and fish markets. How do you discover your locations and what do you see within these locations?
Actually I discover these places by chance. I do not look for locations for the projects that are formed in my mind; my not-complete dreams give birth to projects when I encounter these spaces. Also sometimes I see a location and my dreams evolve.
For example, when I went to buy the lobster for my ‘nature morte,’ I saw the seagulls waiting on the ceiling and I came up with the video “Patience” that I shot in Kumkapı Fish Market. I used to stop by the market before I jumped on the morning ferry to Ayvalık. Even though it stunk so bad, it is difficult to explain the sky before sunset and those colorful boats coming back from fishing. The fish market shut down this year, they are moving it to another location in September and I hope it will not lose its character.
When I am there before sunset, the number of seagulls increases with the boats along with the fish smell, and they start to fly to and fro. Some of them wait on the rails of the ceiling; some of them reach the market by following the boats. And they wait to eat the leftovers at the end of the day.
Your videos have perfectly striking visuals. Therefore, your production is a subject of curiosity. Can you tell us about it?
To be honest, I do not use a lot of media. Usually I borrow a Canon Mark II and try to shoot with it, but in the end I go back to my small, digital Sony camera. I don’t know about light and shooting processes, therefore I always capture what I want by tampering, trying and playing with it.
In some shootings I get help from my friends. For example, “Eternal Repetition” was shot by Direncan Öztemel. We had a speacial bond there, as if what is on my mind was in his mind. In the end, the results turned out to be exactly what I want.
Also while creating the ‘nature morte’ in my atelier, I built a small set on my table and took photographs until I got the right lighting conditions. Later I started to shoot videos. When I get the desired image, videos take at most 20 minutes to complete. And usually the job is done in one shot. Whenever I tried to work with a professional crew or equipment, it ended up as a disaster. What is on my mind has to come out without any manipulation; otherwise the work loses its purpose and it is not my dream anymore.
You also try different media other than video. How do you make the choices in order to exercise your ideas?
I do not know how to answer this. Sometimes I also think about the starting point of my ideas but I cannot find it. There is a book I’ve been reading for two months; its title is “Horizon Line.” I bought it because I liked the title and the cover. In the end this book turned out to establish a visual and ideal base that made me think a lot. It is like a gift from the heavens… The book tells mythological, philosophical and historical stories about the horizon line. This book has lines that matches the images in my mind and writes them down for me. Some stories formed themselves merging with today and with issues I’ve been questioning. They determined what forms they will take and how.
Other than their aesthetic approach, there are similarities of subject and context amongst your works from different periods. How does this continuity and relationship occur?
Everyone has different interests and media that they are fed by towards these interests. If different parts of an issue are handled with the right and coherent language, in the end those different parts can meet under the same roof. While we observe our surroundings, we start to perceive the real reasons and extensions of incidents only when we take a few steps back. I also try to see my surroundings like that, and question incidents by extending their borders from a few steps back.
Besides producing works of art, are you also interested in collecting? Which artists would you like to have works of in your own collection?
I can’t collect yet. Sometimes we exchange with friends. I do not have a name in mind. Sometimes I see an artwork and I go crazy. I think about it everyday. For example, I am very impressed by the works of Lara Ögel, I really like her “Turquois II”.
What are the things that nourish you most in regards to sources of inspiration?
To generalize, humanity and inhumane conditions, pages from books that open unexpectedly or by chance, coincidences, history, my own conflicts… Things that I think about most are those who can be mean in such a way that they embarrass the bad, high egos, symptoms of oppression that are reflections of faces, ‘but why’s, ‘but it should’ve been’s, cause and effect relationships…
What are the upcoming projects?
I still have dreams about the horizon line in my mind. I think about works on immortality, search for God, waiting, belonging and of course installations that are fictionalized based on repetition, projects consisting of photography and video.