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INTWERVIEW WITH SIMBART PROJECTS ON THE EXHIBITION OF MEHMET ÖĞÜT

We met with Aslı Hatipoğlu, the founder of Simbart Projects, Mina, Dilber Communications and Project Manager and Mehmet Öğüt who was involved in the latest solo exhibition of the project; in order to talk about their latest exhibition “Anâsır-ı Erbaa” 
 
Yonca Keremoğlu:  Could you talk a little bit about the purpose of formation of Simbart Project?
 
Aslı Hatipoğlu: We created Simbart Projects as a platform focused on promoting artists and increasing their visibility. We try to express the artist and his/her production practice through social media for 1 month. We aim to give the audience the full story of the artist including his/her life, previous works, studio and production process. In doing so, we usually present the artist’s one-day long exhibition and we get use of the exhibition as a preview of this story. We believe that, apart from social media, it is also necessary that the audience sees the artist’s work practice in person, up-close at the physical space. We try to present the audience an artist-focused special experience by constructing a selection of artist’s works in a way special to the space. As we are not a project of exhibition, our intention is not realizing a gallery exhibition. The exhibition at the physical space represents the beginning of that project, the rest continues in our social media accounts. 
 
YK: Which criteria you take into consideration while choosing the artists with whom you will work for Simbart projects?
 
AH: With Çağrı Saray and Fırat Arapoğlu, we evaluate a selection of ideas that we come up with and decide on an artist to send a proposal. As a result of the democratic voting among us, an artist comes forward and we meet him/her to ask for the presentation of a proposal. We are interested in what the artist dreams of doing rather than who he/she is. If we think that we can fulfil the dream of the artist, the dialogue starts.

When choosing an artist to work together, we want his/her production to have a certain style. For instance, working with an artist who is connected to a gallery, creates a contradiction. We have a criterion to evaluate artists who do not work with an art gallery. We might be considered as a small project for a mature artist though. Since we have decided on these criteria in advance, receiving the artists’ applications by open call, does not fit us. The artists whose work we consider to emphasize, should have a similar production process and follow a certain practice. Since it is our priority to share and promote the content of the artist's production process and his/ her work, we pay attention to the artist having reached a certain level. 

A certain portion of the artist's production is being funded by Simbart Projects. Since we do not have a sales-focused outlet, sales are spontaneous with people's interests and demands. In this regard, we follow a different path compared to galleries and we apply an artist-focused distribution of share. 
 
YK: While sharing the profile of the artist who takes place in Simbart Projects through social media for one month, you organize a short-term exhibition as a part of this process. How is the exhibition venue determined?

AH: After evaluating the artist’s project proposal, we search for places suitable for the project and available for short-term use and we try to choose the best place for the project, in cooperation with the artist. We're investigating where we could realize his/her dream in the best way. In this process, an important dialogue happens both among us and with the artist. 

Since the control of the space is out of our hands, there may emerge new restrictions as well as new opportunities. Çukurcuma Hammam where Mehmet Öğüt’s exhibition took place, was not open to intervention due to its secondary degree historical monument status. Although we had permission to hang works on the wall, we have been informed that we could not hang works on some walls, at the very last minute. This was an unexpected situation and we have created new solutions accordingly. 

On the other hand, at the first time we had visited the Çukurcuma Hammam, I had not thought that we would use the room of the central massage platform. The use of space on this instance developed with the inspiration that the artist had from building a connection with the space. The installation in this room has been a work completely specific to the space. The element of fire which is in the center of Mehmet’s ‘Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ Works and the venue being associated with the element of water, constituted harmonious connection between the venue and the works. We were very pleased to hear that we had also attained this harmony in Didem Erbaş’s exhibition at Tomtom Kırmızı, which was the first exhibition of Simbart Projects.It's very important that the viewer has felt this. We hope to attain this harmony in the projects that we will realize in September. 
 
Mehmet Öğüt: I was very pleased that there was an ambiguity in the process of venue search. This creates a field that ignites excitement for both the artist and Aslı. There is no specified wall, no specified venue. We need to talk and decide to realize it. It leaves a great curiosity for the upcoming projects at the part of the audience. At the same time, as the venue is different each time, the audience is not forming a pattern about the artists. We made a venue-specific selection from the works of ‘Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ and I produced the three works and installations specifically for the venue. In gallery exhibitions, you can get stuck to the physical boundaries of the space. A variable space offers the viewer variable experiences. 
 
AH: The most challenging part of the project is that the venue is shaped based on the project. One feels a little uneasy until finding the appropriate venue for the project. Not having the clarity of a gallery in terms of space, is bot the biggest challenge and biggest advantage of this project. After finding the right place, the knots are untied.
 
YK: Do you make a personal planning for each artist as you produce the social media content of Simbart Projects? 
 
AH: First of all, we create the content of the project and a selection of works to share in social media, with the artist. We wish to include inspirational elements of the artist beside selected works from his/her portfolio. We share the sources of his/her inspired books, works, quotations or artists too. As we reach from the pieces to the “whole” of the artist through induction, we also form a digital archive in social media. Usually, in the first week, we share posts related to press release, visuals, videos and 3-D modelling of the exhibition venue of the artist’s short-term, venue-specific exhibition. Later on, promotion of the artist’s studio, before & after videos showing the construction phase of the exhibition and artist interviews take place. The platform that we most actively use, is Instagram. We first announce the exhibition date in Instagram. I think that Instagram is an important platform to reach and interact with an audience that is interested in art and artist from the same platform. The artists that take place in the project, also take over the story function of Instagram for a while. The fact that the artist has an area to express himself/herself in online media, liberates him/her. 

Especially, we give great importance to videos. We make four different videos for each artist. I believe that video is necessary for every social media medium. Short versions of these videos are placed in Instagram and our website; we publish the long versions on Youtube. 

YK: What kind of experience was it to be a part of this project as an artist?
 
MÖ: It was a very pleasant and mind opening process for me. Simbart Projects is exciting especially because it provides the artist with alternative spaces. At the same, sharing the production process both mentally and physically with all of the pieces, makes Simbart Projects special. Producing a whole feels more powerful than a usual gallery work. This way, I can demonstrate my perspective entirely. We also evolve with visual culture. As an artist, now, I also use Instagram, I even give it more importance than my own website. 

I think that the viewing habits of the audience and our habits of touring an exhibition or a venue have changed. This situation has both advantages and disadvantages, the important thing is to minimize the disadvantages. Watching a performance from a phone and watching it in person are not the same thing. Especially, if this is a sound performance, listening to it at the area of performance and listening to it via headphones are very different experiences. I believe that Simbart Projects sets an example in the field of visual arts. These kinds of initiatives might motivate the galleries to develop projects in which the venue could be changed. When the venue is variable, the possibility of the audience forming a pattern about the artist diminishes. Otherwise, a connection between the venue and the artist is formed. The galleries can also choose to work with artists who are appropriate for the physical structure of their spaces. With regard to art viewer, It's getting harder to reach even people interested in art. Sometimes nobody wants to go from one place to another unless they are very interested. During my involvement with Simbart Projects, I was also pleased to send the link to the 3-D modelling of the building, instead of a printed catalogue, to those who didn’t see the exhibition. I also believe that it communicates a better perception in terms of the dimensions of works and the venue. 
 
Q: Have you been involved in any other exhibitions or projects this year ?
 
MÖ: We have been wishing to realize projects with Seyhan Musa since last year. As Seyhan didn’t prefer to use Space Debris with his identity as an artist and wanted that space to remain independent, he proposed me to open an exhibition. In return, I proposed to do projects that we could find room for common productions instead of a personal exhibition. In this direction, we have been thinking about what we can produce in the form of a collective work since November and we have determined three performances. 
We created a series of performances titled 'Karatsis (Catharsis)' consisting of three parts as movement, sound and image just like as a novel's introduction, development and conclusion parts. When there are too many people in the room, it can be hard to focus on the performance. We shared the performances with live broadcasts and invited audience representatives to record live performances so that people can watch over social media. At the time, I had taken over the Instagram account of the Mamut Art Project for a short period of time. Thanks to this, more than 3000 people have watched. Although watching a performance from Instagram is not the same as experiencing that performance in person, it still was a good experience for us. We shared that process with a wide audience. Realizing such a project in cooperation with Seyhan was both experimental and enjoyable. I got involved in Simbart Projects during this process. 
 
YK: We had the chance to see from up close the works of 'Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ in the one-day exhibition that was held at the Çukurcuma Hammam as a part of Simbart Projects. Did these works had a connection to your previous works?

MÖ: I can argue that 'Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ is my personal quest rather than just a project. The people with whom I communicated, were very important and each contributed to this process in shaping the works. The emergence of these works was based on psychological and philosophical details rather than artistic criteria. I entered into a thinking process through questions like; “What makes people ‘human’? What am I as a person?”. I questioned how I positioned myself as a human being. We live in this world, are we living here by adapting ourselves to it or are we adapting it to ourselves? This process based on these questions and the dialogues that I have established with people still continues. The questions I asked myself, the works and each of these processes initiated each other. Although they seem to be independent from the perspective of an outsider, all of the works inspire each other. I wanted to do a joint project with them during the training I gave to adults at İSMEK. For my project titled ‘Self’, I asked them to find a photograph and a quotation to summarize their lives. I wanted to question how they could describe themselves by reducing themselves to a quotation. During my master’s studies at Marmara University in 2013, Ahu Antmen had a subject about self-awareness in one of her classes. I can say that the process of self-exploration and self-recognition, which has constructed my studies started first in those classes. It's not easy to summarize their life with a photograph for people around 50 years of age. We are a different person when we are 20 years old, 30 years old, 40 years old; we are constantly changing. It's really hard to find a single frame. This form of intellectual action really impressed me too. Most of them focused on a period that was a turning point for themselves. We have conducted a selection process from the photos they brought and then, listening to their stories, I combined the photos in to a video installation as an artist. I either took out that person from the photograph or changed him/her with another person. The person become active while the photograph was static. I made experiments to turn a moment into eternity, to a cycle. Photograph is a tool that describes a very short time period, I tried to turn it into an object that describes a lifetime. Seeing summarized lives and experiences like in this project, makes one revisit his/her own life; it is also very much connected to the concept of time. 
 
YK: 'Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ is a term used to describe fire, water, air and earth in the context of essential elements of the World and the relationship of all these elements. What is the reason for focusing on fire in particular? How did the formation process of the works develop?
 
MÖ: In the process that I just mentioned as a personal quest, ‘Self’ project that I realized in 2014, was followed by my work titled ‘arche(arkhe)’ in 2015. It all happened in connection with each other. I focused on fire among the elements when forming ‘Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ because fire has been the element that was aimed to be controlled the most since its invention by humans. 
I think that the relation of human-nature is important. Fire is a difficult element to manipulate when you leave control of it, it can dissolve and destroy everything. It has a more rebellious structure. Works in the ‘Anâsır-ı Erbaa’ series have been proof of the fact that even though I seem to intervene to the nature, the reality is that I cannot. I can control the action of setting fire with a match, I can also make it leave a mark on the paper but every time there is a different trace, according to the laws of nature and this is not something I can control. On the one hand, fire and tree are opposite constructs, fire devours the tree but we, as humans, make the fire come out of the tree, keeping opposites together. I see this contradiction as a deterioration that only man can do. We can also call it arrogance. I experienced this contradiction that we created, once again as an artist. I demonstrated human’s struggle and inability to control the nature, on paper. 

One of the important features of these works is that all the parts of it carry the same name. There is a distinction that you will not be distinguished by the name tag. It may be a technical feature that distinguishes one work from the other. Its size or material may be different. If both the size and the material are the same, the only element that separates one from another is its content. Just like the trace left by the match that I lighted under my control cannot be the same; something seeming to be the same with regard to material and size cannot be the same. There is a distinction that you will not be distinguished by the name tag. In this sense, part-whole relation is also important to me. 
 
YK: How did you formed the Simbart Projects team?
 
AH: After the period that I worked at Galerist, first seeds of Simbart Projects had formed. We had worked with Fırat Arapoğlu in another project before. His experiences as a curator and art historian contributed a lot. As Çağrı Saray is also an academician, he is very knowledgeable of the works of young artists and his technical knowledge is very strong because he realized many exhibitions. In the exhibition part of the project, time is limited, therefore the process needs to develop fast. We came together for this project and formed a team where everybody could contribute from their own experiences. I pay a lot of attention to the communication with press as I do to social media communication. In Turkey, art doesn’t have a relationship with a specific public group in the scope of art communication. I notice a lack of it. Although the project is very good, expressing it to the right target group in a good way, is a whole other job. We try to cooperate with channels that we think are a good fit for our vision; Mina Dilber contributes a lot to the projects in this sense. Different ways are followed for printed press and social media. Mina has a strategic schedule on this subject. In addition, we work with Hande Öney as our architectural consultant and Polin Kuyumciyan as our graphic designer.  

YK: When communicating the project, did you experience any challenges in expressing what Simbart Projects does and its purpose? 
 
Mina Dilber: As there is no other similar project in Turkey, a detailed expression is needed for Simbart Projects. It has started as a project to know and introduce the artist in a journey. It is very important to communicate this to the people in the right way. Each project is about one artist; therefore, it is needed to state that the short-term exhibition is held as a venue-specific and solo one. We need to underline that we are not an exhibition project. The exhibition is just a small part of the journey that starts at the social media account. With this exhibition, we aim to direct the viewers to the social media account, by providing a passage from the artist’s story to be continued online. We invite people from Instagram to the inner journey, the past and the future of the artist for one month. We try to reflect the artist’s production practice, purpose and inspirations to the viewers. We aim to investigate the artist from every possible angle. Getting to know the artist is an important part of loving art, based on these principals, Simbart Projects aims to create an artist-oriented experience for the viewers. 


Translation: Verda Sigura
June 2018

 

 

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