Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With, Yağmur Uyanık, 2020, installation photo by Julia Szalewicz

Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With,

Yağmur Uyanık


yagmuruyanik.com

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A 3D printed sandstone sculpture of a hybrid character created by fusing the digital models of two ‘original’ sculptures at the British Museum of: Alexander III of Macedon (commonly known as Alexander the Great); and Pericles of ancient Greek. Selfmaking combines sound and sculpture highlighting how creation, circulation and preservation of cultural information underlies geographical contexts, patterns of displacement, and statelessness. It reflects on how individual narrative and collective memory are shaped through cultural property, cultural currency, and their inherent symbolic meanings.

About the Artist

Yağmur Uyanık is a Turkish artist based in San Francisco with backgrounds in architecture, new media and music. Her work explores repetition, process and intangibility through creating instruments of displacement using light, sound and space with an aim to extend the digital media to a point that it becomes a physical experience. Uyanık has received her MFA in Art & Technology from San Francisco Art Institute as a Fulbright scholar. Her work was shown internationally at institutions including Ars Electronica, Sonar D+, Signal Light Festival, MUTEK, Exploratorium, California Academy of Sciences and Diego Rivera Gallery.

Huma Kabakcı in conversation with Yağmur Uyanık for Translocal Co-operation Exhibition

Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With by Yağmur Uyanık, from TransLocal Cooperation, Furtherfield Gallery, London, March 2020. With wall graphics designed by Studio Hyte. Photo by Julia Szalewicz.

Due to universal restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic, like many public spaces the Furtherfield Gallery has had to close and because of this, the Translocal Co-operation Exhibition is on hold until further notice. However, we can still communicate through the Internet, so this is a good opportunity for one of the co-curators Huma Kabakcı to interview artist Yağmur Uyanık. Uyanık is a Turkish artist based in San Francisco (currently residing in Turkey due to the pandemic) with backgrounds in architecture, new media and music residing in Bios, Greece before her outcome in London. This curator and artist dialogue is about the importance of translocality in the context of now and about Uyanık’s artistic practice and work selected in the exhibition.

Huma Kabakcı: 12th of March was not so long ago, yet so much has changed since then. We live in uncertain times within our confined spaces, yet the need for translocal solidarity has become all the more pertinent. Can you talk about your practice in the context of the exhibition and virtual hyper-connectedness?
Yağmur Uyanık: As a Turkish born artist coming from a Greek immigrant family, I now live and work in San Francisco. Translocality is a concept that has been present in my life for a long time. I was already well aware of its importance yet, in the current crisis it definitely has taken on a different scale. My practice is enriched by the connection between the different spaces I occupy, transcending their limits – currently only virtually.

HK: Your work in the exhibition titled Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With was a 3D printed sandstone sculpture of a hybrid character created by fusing the digital models of two ‘original’ sculptures at the British Museum. Your choice of material is quite interesting.

YU: Sandstone is a delicate and fragile material, as opposed to those commonly used in 3D printing – plastics. With time, this sculpture will lose its details, form and perhaps even, meaning. It was chosen to emphasise ideas of ephemerality and temporality that are manifested within form and sound. Also to make a further commentary on how we create limited edition objects to keep virtually forever, how we attribute certain values to them, and how that effort is really in vain.

HK: The 3D sculpture also questions how individual narrative and collective memory are shaped through cultural property, cultural currency, and their inherent symbolic meanings. We are all going through a collective trauma and how we perceive memory right now is different to before, since our understanding of time has shifted as well. Can you expand a bit more on how Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With, is it even more relevant now?

YU: Cultural references play a big role in determining our identity and the ways in which we construct collective memory and individual narrative. They affect the perception of ourselves, the way we encounter others, and the way we interact with the world. I see Selfmaking as a signifier of the ever-changing culture, and expressing and questioning of those customs and values. Going through these times of a global pandemic, our cognitive and emotional factors are changing, our cultural values and references are shifting. Human interactions, as well as those with cultural artifacts are being redefined. I think what I was trying to suggest with the piece is what is currently happening to culture, which perhaps makes it even more relevant now.

HK: Sound is an element in your sculpture as well. Have you always been interested in sound in your practice?

YU: Yes, I actually come from a music background. Sound is always present in my work and thinking. I believe the presence of sound allows the work to state its presence, to stand out and be capable of speaking in radically different and augmented ways.

HK: Yes, it now makes sense. In a way, sound also allows for us to travel through time… Speaking of time, going back to your residency in Bios, Athens, how did you benefit from your residency and how did your research there transition to the outcome in Furtherfield Gallery located in Finsbury, bringing Turkish, Greek and Serbian communities together?

YU: My piece emerged as a response to the place I was in, while in Athens – in that sense it can be considered as a site-specific work. Being in Athens pushed me to think about culture, its different representations derived from cultural codes and meanings in geolocational contexts. I was immersed in a culture that prides itself on this tradition of ceremonial orthodoxy, similar to where I grew up, Turkey. I wanted to play with that notion and see how I could represent the incontinuity of heroically written history. Presenting in both Athens and London, I realised the work went to the place I was aiming for – lots of discussions arose around whether it looks like Alexander or Perikles, and whether it’s acceptable to create a hybridity using these characters. I think what the visitors found was that their own histories quickly intersected with everybody else's, and realised there was no longer a history of a particular culture or nation, but a story of plurality. The object was familiar enough, yet something was ‘off’ about it – people were collectively curious about its origin, it was great to trigger curiosity.

HK: I agree, the work does gain more meaning now as it has been shown both in Athens and London. Also in the context of ephemerality and temporality, it is quite interesting how you chose to combine the two characters: Alexander and Perikles, calling upon the audience’s memory and perception. The work itself also critiques the authenticity and colonial history of sculptures we come across in, let's say the British Museum in London, or the Acropolis Museum in Athens. The fact that these museums are currently closed and have their collections shown online gives an interesting twist to your work. Perhaps you would like to expand on that.

YU: The physical marble sculptures of Alexander and Perikles (ca. 495 - 429 BC) were removed from their original location, in Athens, and then sent to the British Museum. They were scanned and archived digitally on the British Museum’s website, which is where I took the 3D models from. Colonialism finds its roots in digital culture like it did here, but the meaning of these might be shifting in the current global crisis. Maybe this process will democratise the art viewing experience and perception around such topics, as ownership and originality will be discussed more, which is what my work aims to do.
Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With by Yağmur Uyanık, from TransLocal Cooperation, Furtherfield Gallery, London, March 2020. With wall graphics designed by Studio Hyte. Photo by Julia Szalewicz.

HK: Lastly, since you have been to the opening of the exhibition can you talk a bit about how you see your work in relation to the other selected artworks at Furtherfield Gallery?

YU: In my opinion, overall the exhibition was really successful at viewing translocality from multiple angles. Georgios Makkas’ video work Four stops to Kurtuluş spoke to me in a personal way. It explores the neighborhood of Kurtuluş in Istanbul which has historically been known as ‘little Athens’, home to many minority communities in the city today. I’m really familiar with the neighborhood and its unique feeling having lived in Teşvikiye, adjacent to Kurtuluş for five years. Listening to the interviews he conducted with the Greek residents of Kurtuluş, I found similarities to the stories I used to hear from my grandma when I was younger and once again realised the importance of making that mark in history.
Another work that moved me was Tamara Kametani’s installation Set In Stone. With these hand etched slabs of marble, she not only materialises something seemingly immaterial –– privacy and freedom of speech online and right to be forgotten –– in a poetic way, but also makes further commentary on the subject of translocality by using Athenian marble. The deliberate choice of material is present in my work as well, and I believe that it is something that strongly empowers the work.

Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With, Yağmur Uyanık, 2020, installation photo by Julia Szalewicz

Selfmaking: Layers of Becoming With, Yağmur Uyanık, 2020, installation photo by Julia Szalewicz

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