Azade Köker, “Aleppo II” 2016, Mixed media on canvas, 130×400 cm
What are the sources that inspire your work, in terms of their content? What do you prefer to emphasize in your works?
Do you like soft-boiled eggs?
I love them. I feel very happy as I peel one at breakfast every morning. Its color, its superb shape affects me. I trace it with my eyes. You would not ask why the inside is yellow and soft, why the shell is firm. It never occurs to you to question its existence. Why would you anyway? At most, you might question whether it is a farmed egg or whether it is fresh. No one ever wonders about the raison d’être of the egg. It is art that takes it upon itself to question issues that are never articulated. When one encounters Karen Sander’s egg-themed work at an exhibition years ago, the egg on the breakfast table makes you reach for an art dictionary; however, this is a futile attempt as no such dictionary exists. You try to translate the meaning. When doing so, all cognitive mechanisms come into play. Thousands of brain cells that have never existed evoke complex associations between you and the artist. And when you find yourself facing the difficult task of sharing these with others, only then shall you be on the path of creativity. This is a difficult path, and its destination is unknown. It may be troublesome. I think if there is any truth, we could only find it on this path.
Sixteenth century painter Hieronymus Bosch has used the egg image many times. Two instances are particularly intriguing for me: in one he depicts a human figure walking with an egg larger than himself on his back and in the other, another human figure flying on an egg with wings attached to it. Since we know that surrealist art movement was not around at that time and Hieronymus Bosch did not suffer from a mental problem, we cannot help but wonder why he used the egg motive very often.
If we think consider the egg in terms of the image of the source of life, do we face these two questions? The source our identity belongs to, namely the question of where we come from might be a heavy burden for us, or on the contrary, it might become a chance that uplifts us. I wander whether this is what Hieronymus Bosch meant.
I think that comprehension is the most important foundation of art. Whatever the source that affects artist might be the artist is neither a militant nor someone who is trying to learn something.
We live with the urgencies that iron the wrinkled fabric on an ironing table and make it a good fabric. Since we live in an age that does not like to see wrinkles and fabric folds, these gradually multiply and deepen. It becomes a mare’s nest. It is no longer possible to iron and belie any truth in our times.
Is Hieronymus Bosch’s image of a human figure carrying an egg as a huge burden on his shoulder equivalent to the question “where do you come from” that millions of people ask?
Answering a question such as, “What are the sources that inspire your work, in terms of content? What do you prefer to emphasize in your works?” is that complicated and intricate. Or one can come up with answers as newspapers, television, art discourse, gallery, museum, curators, etc.
Making your own personal emphasis is such a thing. Like the principle of computational fluids… The pressure is always the same, no matter how different the shape or cross-section of forms are, the liquid level remains the same. Balance variation occurs when very special pistons are installed. Like lever arm principle… Art is also something like that, something lever-like. We can only understand where, how and what it attempts to lift depending on time and space.
However, considering global realities, art and artists, just like the dust floating in the air, can only be seen when the sunlight falls on them, within time and space concepts.
Let us talk a little bit about your current show. In your exhibition, “Everywhere and Nowhere” at Gallery Zilberman, you generally dwell upon the concept of border through the representations of nature. What is the significance of this issue from your point of view?
In 2001, in the aftermath of the earthquake and ensuing nuclear disaster of Fukushima, 150.000 people left their habitats and emigrated elsewhere. Since then, I have been thinking that migration following natural disasters would force the doors of Europe. This is why there are hundreds of people amassed on top of each other on the backgrounds of my collages that look like landscapes or cityscapes. Using my own methods, I made this the content of my image; not an exaggerated fashion but a bit more subdued and requiring a bit of finesse.
The purpose of borders is always the same: they are meant to control the circulation of people, goods, culture and ideology. They are opened or closed whenever they need to be. In other words, the concept of boundary not only generates the physical security lines among countries, but also the safeguard measures against mental, cultural and recently religious differences among people. The cold war was the excellent example of it. “We will introduce liberty and freedom between borders against communism” was a concept Truman presented. Interventions into many countries took place by creating ideological boundaries.
Sometimes a sentence, sometimes a glance, sometimes a fence, sometimes a broad way and sometimes a line can determine boundaries. However, human beings can overcome all the boundaries at will. Hence, we see that masses of people force the borders of west at the expense of their death. We watch this as a TV series and realize that we face with a new information age.
My argument takes off right here. There are some European countries trying to protect their borders with fences. All can cross these borders if they want. If these people are stopped by police force and people die because of that, it means that values of enlightenment and Europe itself have been completely destroyed. This is because the European Union defines itself through the “liberty, equality, and fraternity” values of enlightenment period.
As far as I am concerned, rather than dividing countries the concept of border is about excluding spaces and alienating countries.
So, does living simultaneously in two big cities such as Istanbul and Berlin where migration and class struggles are intense, directly influence your choice of subjects for your artworks? How does this life experience affect your point of view, and implicitly your production?
When I went to Germany on a scholarship in 1971–1972, thanks to the closed walls, barbed wire fences that walled Berlin in like an island, I grasped the concept of border as an East-West Germany problem. I can even give a very tangible example: In the eighties my rented studio was at the bank of Spree River. The bank on our side defined the border. So, actually the building itself was the border. So, we the artists, as the first tenants of this building that was built as the wheat silo of Berlin in the 18th century, had to restore the space we entered. When a window pane fell into the river during construction efforts, it had not been possible to retrieve it right away. Since the water belonged to the other side, special authorization was required. At the time, we could only see two things through the windows of this industrial building: swimming ducks and the boots of policemen watching us with binoculars. After the wall collapsed, they were replaced by touristic boats and we started hearing the voices of tour guides showing the historical buildings that now became the objects of speculation: “The artists work in these buildings! Let’s see how long can they survive?”
I made sculptures depicting the migrants in Germany. At the time, Turkish workers who originated from the various regions of Turkey would wear different kinds of clothes. We would experience an atmosphere of village life with multicolored baggy trousers. During the 1980s, in an extremely politicized city such as Berlin, it was impossible for me not to be touched by the fact that these workers were pressurized by a militaristically minded Turkey and exploited as currency source, and on the other side exploited the cheapest labor force in a postwar Germany; their poverty and terrible living conditions with the bathrooms outside of their homes and their shops where potato and charcoal are sold next to one another. I started working day and night.
My fist solo exhibition in1984 received a lot of reaction. I got rewarded over and over. I was invited to important exhibitions along with renowned sculptors.
The artistic procedure for seeing and displaying reality is different for every artist. However, while searching about in a creative path, each artist has to keep their brain, heart and body fresh.
Everything may, in the end, an ephemeral nothingness but what is permanent and always remains is the state of searching and proving existence. I think that the reason of our existence and to be able to breathe is only possible through creative quests.