A CONVERSATION WITH THE CURATORS SİMGE BURHANOĞLU & SEYHAN MUSAOĞLU (SPACE DEBRIS) ON THEIR MAMUT PROJECT PERFORMANCES “HOW ARE YOU / NASILSIN?”

Sinem Sayar, ‘Phosphorus collars, 2017

You undertook together the curatorship of a series of performances in the Mamut Art Project that took place between 27-30 April 2017. Could you tell us about the performances?

We determined a simple, mundane and yet vital question ‘How are you?’ as the theme of this year. We created a program in which we primarily ask the artists then the participants how they are, how they feel and make others feel, how they live and have make others live and ultimately how we altogether transform. We displayed 14 performances in a 4-day program under which we examined the connotations of a simple and yet complex question such as ‘how are you?’ by means of performance art. This number and Mamut’s allocating a private space for performances in the fair area have become very important and valuable both for performance art and for the visibility of the young artists who did their first works. Each performance evoked a different curiosity and an intense interest.

Indeed, we would like to talk about these 14 performances briefly. Alireza Amin, the artist that came from İran, narrated what he experienced in his country, the signs of war in his performance ‘War Has Become Your Other Name’ done by 3 performers where a performer pins war photographies by a hooked needle on another performer. Dila Yumurtacı presented an experience appealing to senses that consists of 10 minute and 10 special sessions with her and other 9 performers on energy coming from somewhere beyond our cognation with her performance ‘Transcendental Senses’. In her performance ‘Yeis/Desolation’, Sevil Kaynak vomited the cake she ate by referring literally to the things we feel raw about. In order to understand what we can do when it is our turn and the potential of humanity, Deniz İkizler waited for the participants to make an earth road for her to walk in her performance ‘Distance’. Akif Karayel kept saying “I am fine!’ until it became meaningless according to the beat of a metronome which’s rhythm has been changed by the spectators in his performance ‘Soul Crack’ questioning how much we can control the rhythm of our lives, how fine we really are and how we turned backs on the events. Merve Akyel’s mobile performance in the fair area was a work on a dialog that is based on the questions about migration, gender and coexistence asked to the artist and artist’s asking the same questions to the visitors in a role of a social worker. With ‘Luminous Collar’, Sinem Sayar carried rubble for two hours according to the tap outs of audiences by creating a working class that only exists by abiding what s/he does and tried to make the routine and the meaningless and painful repetitions of life possible by rhythm. With her performance ‘Reasoning’, Gizem Karakaş compared the things she wrote about herself and the things others wrote about her in order to understand how much our existence is really defined by others and confront people with their judgements by questioning ‘Are the person I think I am and the one you perceive the same?’ With her ‘Guten Morgen Myistero’ mobile performance, Hatice Çöklü walked around the fair area as a visitor by her Turkish woman identity coming from Germany with a critical approach to cultural centralism. And Leman Sevda Darıcıoğlu offered a collective space with a hammer and a nail by inviting the audience to draw a contour, a contour of themselves on an empty space in her performance ‘Kontür/Contour’. With ‘Zba Hağ’, Öykü Aras and Ece Bayram duo created a new space of interaction and sharing by their bodily performances freed from words and, emotional expressions in an era where expression practices become more and more difficult. In her three-hour long performance ‘Etiket İzi/Tag Imprint’, Gamze Özgür asked her participants to write what they think about her on her body after performing a personal dialog with each participants and then she cleaned herself as if she is  purified from such “tags”. In her ‘Tersyüz/Inside Out’ performance, Yağmur Taçar applied the practice of defo covering that we see at Japanese art ‘kintsugi’ by covering herself with gold foil and then asked audience to uncover her defos by peeling the gold foil.

Of course it is difficult to express these performances with words, one should indeed be there at that moment and experience it, however most of them happened to be the performances only possible with the audience. Thus, we offered a program that is intended to be participated not to be watched. Each performer was like a mirror of the audience, hence we altogether happened to scrutinise the response of the question ‘how are you?’ with the energy, the attitude and the state of everyone there. I suppose we achieved the transformation we targeted. We both observed the transformation of the artists after they finished their performances and the change in the energy of the audiences before and after the performances. The most joyous thing for us in the least was to have a chance to be able to touch something.

Dila Yumurtacı, ‘Transcending The Senses’, 2017

What kind of results did you gather from the performances realised at Mamut Art Project? From this point of view, what do you think about how the audience perceive the performance art?

It definitely brought an air, a different kind of energy to Mamut. Exhibiting an alive art at the rooms reserved for performances kept people’s interest for the fair alive and it was very exciting to see them waiting for the performance hours and wanting to see as much work as possible.

The audience of performance art is different. The communication from human to human is more emotional, a close communication is built. And the audience in İstanbul is quite involved and sensual. For example, we were all crying at the end of Alireza Mozafari’s performance. It was a powerful experience for both us and the audience that they came from İran and realised this performance. When they said that Turkey is still a lot more open and better than İran, it made us to see things from another perspective even though we deal with the inhibitions, our intense depressions and other things we complain about. In short, we are hopeful. And there is a different kind of interest in Turkey; people are interested and concerned. We think that performance art does us good.

Yağmur Tacar, ‘Inside Out’, 2017

Could you please tell us about the future plans of Performistanbul and Space Debris that you established?

As Performistanbul, we continue our performances by growing and maturing. We are going to concentrate on international projects and education in the future terms.

And Space Debris will continue with performative works and the exhibitions it has included since its  establishment. In fact, we reserved May for only performative activities. In the new period, we are preparing to meet with the audience by different international projects.

Needless to say, the collaboration of Performistanbul and Space Debris will continue as always. We believe that we should proceed by supporting each other and be constructive not destructive. And we also believe that the importance of collective work must be recognized.

Alireza Amin Mozafari, ‘War Has Become Your Other Name’, 2017
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