MARCH 2022

Chronotop: An Evaluation with SAHA Studio's Fourth Term Artists

Serra Yentürk: What made time somewhat palpable or meaningful during the pandemic while it seemed to have flown by, were the things we have experienced, witnessed, or brought into being in various places. The amalgamation of time with space, – the latter providing a fertile ground for the representation of the former – and the way in which a given space shapes the feelings, ideas, actions, and stories it holds; basically, the state of coherence and potential from the unity of time and space called chronotope became much more perceptible in this extraordinary period. This particular time-space pairing and its outputs sum up the functioning and spirit of residency programs quite well…

The proliferation and diversification of these programs over the past decade is closely related to the need for a respite in the face of the increasingly chaotic world and profit-oriented structures of the contemporary artworld. In the words of Finnish curator Irmeli Kokko, programs like these allow artists to break free from the "productivist ethos of [supposedly] homogeneous linear time,"[1] while providing a space for interaction where different temporalities can coexist. Therefore, it seems even more essential today (in the post-pandemic world) to recognize the necessity of an open-ended retreat, where every moment is not seen as an opportunity for an economic production, allowing participants to evaluate their practices.

Approaching the subject from a similar perspective, academician and curator Florian Schneider also touches on the function of a residency program, expressing that it never exists merely for itself or on its own, but with respect to its capacity to create new links between different temporal layers. Bearing in mind that it is not possible to speak of a perfect synch between the participants of a program, I wanted to invite you to this virtual gathering on Google Doc, which everyone can access in their own space and time, to explore together the possible converging points at the sources of the works you’re developing, and to talk about the creative process itself without necessarily focusing on the results. Thank you all for agreeing and taking the time.

Perhaps we can start this written conversation by talking about the idea of ​​a "studio". The studio mentioned here is of course not as personal and private as the home-studio. It is a temporary space that you can insulate only to a degree with curtains. In that sense, at SAHA Studio, you were working in a "situation" rather than a space. How has this paradigm influenced your work? 

Ali Miharbi:
 In my case, instead of referencing the studio or the fact that the works are shaped by the situations arising from that very space, we can talk about an indirect effect in general, that is the dynamics of this place: SAHA Studio is a shared environment with an office, where occasional visitors are received, and meetings are held. Compared to the situation of working in an isolated studio, this situation inevitably makes a difference in one’s production. Although the artists are working on their own projects, I think that the atmosphere created by each artist witnessing the development of something outside of themselves and the occasional exchange of ideas in between affects the course of their works unintentionally. There were even cases where it directly affected it; for example, I was working and experimenting with 3D printing on simple instruments that imitated the sound of the heartbeat through the sound of friction. At that time, İz was working with ceramics. I wanted to try the sound that the ceramic would make, and with the help of İz, we produced the pieces I had in mind. Apart from the main project I was working on during this program, there were a few small projects that progressed as experiments in the background, which I did not force to reach a conclusion, and encountering a material that I was not particularly familiar with and doing something that would not be so comfortable if I was not in this environment was very nurturing for me.

İz Öztat:
 When I evaluate the "situation" at SAHA Studio from my own experience, I can first point out its differences from the aforesaid residency programs. You mention that residency programs "recognize the necessity of an open-ended retreat that allows participants to evaluate their practices." At SAHA Studio, besides the workspace, research, and production support provided to the invited artists, productions are expected to be exhibited at SAHA Studio Open events, which are held twice during the term. Although a finished work is not expected to be exhibited, situations where the focus shifts from the process to the exhibition, shape the overall experience. With this in mind, I made the expectation that the studio be both a workspace and an exhibition space as a part of my work and used my workspace as a stage.

The architectural features of the space, its functions, and the structure of the program enable interaction between both the artists who use the studios and the staff who use the space as an office. Since the invited artists share space/time with the staff, they can observe the principles of the institution as well as the effort shown for fulfilling its mission.Therefore, for me, it was a situation in which I got to know both the production processes of the invited artists and the labor relations that support artistic production. It was a time when I learned from and was influenced by everyone I shared the space with, forming relationships that would last. 

In terms of my practice, I had an experienced that provided me the opportunities I have been longing for. It was very valuable to be able to think and produce in a three-dimensional space where I could work for a long time. While doing this, I had the chance to realize what I dreamed of with the support of the "Production Associate", Timuçin Işıdı who shared his knowledge of equipment and materials, developing solutions with me during the production process. The emotional and mental support you provided day by day throughout the intimate and fragile production stages, provided a safe environment as I moved forward in the process. 

 SAHA Studio's physical circumstances as a common and open production area, which is periodically open to visitors, creates an interactive momentum for the participants of the program as well. Instead of an exhibition consisting of finalized works that have been selected as pieces complementing one another and turned into a paragraph for an audience, there is a shared process here for both the artist and the audience. I have always acted with this candor in my own production process; the idea I had in my mind when I came here and the project continued to evolve and take shape with the presence of other artist friends, the SAHA team, and visitors until the last moment.

Eser Epözdemir:
 I would like to expand my own perspective of what you describe as "situation" as follows: Producing in a shared and semi-visible space was undoubtedly one of the effects that shaped the content and form. During the residency period at SAHA Studio, I spent most of my working and research time with the curtains closed, except for the glass façade looking over the balcony, which is sort of the most social space. This semi-enclosed space created a transitional space that serves to perceive from a little afar the space itself as well as the light, sound, and other elements that brought it into being. Like a thin kind of cell membrane, the curtain surrounding my studio space allowed me to establish a kind of internal-external relationship given I knew I could open/close it, while being together with other participants of the term allowed me to engage in a more intensive exploration of both personal space and borders as well as shared time and space. I can say that this cell membrane effect allowed me to better experience the singular space that can be both closed off and distanced when necessary, and the common space that is shared due to the configuration of the space. The support of the staff in every possible process made this balance of close-distance more meaningful. Experiencing what has been defined as “physical distance”, which I think of as social distance in another way, meaning the opportunity to work in a common space such as this one in this challenging period has been a “breath of fresh air” for me. Another pleasant detail that I should add was watching the doves, which mostly perched on walnut trees in daylight hours right across from my studio space, observing their arrival/departure times, and their relations with each other. I spent my research process inviting the audience and myself to a kind of spatial experiment in which I could relate us to the concepts of time and water. 

Berat Işık:
 To this date, my workshop – not counting my study at home – has been casting, sculpture, carpentry, forging, turnery, lighting, mechatronics, basalt masonry, and artist workshops; or whatever the job has required, such as an asphalt construction site, a garage, a prison, a mountain, a hill, or a slope. In this regard, SAHA Studio is the first studio I had "of my own". The fact that I was working and producing pieces made of basalt stone until a certain stage in Diyarbakır, kept me from using the studio full time, which caused a delay in forming a bond with the space and a sense of belonging. I think the breaking point was that we were confined in the space following the cancellation of events in the studio due to heavy snowfall. Turning this situation into an opportunity to work– whereby I had to carry the stones out one by one and polish each surface with 9 different sandpapers – I ran inside when I got cold and warmed up with Ali's work, fed ourselves and the cats together, and shared with the space with artist friends which helped me to strongly connect with this whole thing; I'm glad that's how it worked out. The greatest witness of the unique process, that is the experience of the artists in every term, is you, the SAHA team. That’s why, after maybe 8-10 terms, your ideas will be very valuable, and they should be recorded in writing.

: Most of your preliminary research turns into concrete works with the transfer of knowledge İz and Ali talk about, and of course the growing solidarity among all of you as mentioned by Berat. Yet, contrary to the situation here, I think that a space that is completely isolated and used without a time limit should have an aspect that makes it easier to attempt trial-and-error, to go after the material without reservations, and even to risk failure. Therefore, it is obvious that the mental horizon here is quite different, as explained by Ali and Eser... Does anyone want to say anything about the odds of being mistaken and failing in such a process?

 Mistake and failure occur when trying to reach a predetermined conclusion. Instead of structuring my process by trying to reach a point I had envisioned, I gave myself a time to move forward instinctively. Since the opportunity provided with SAHA Studio came after a few years of full-time work, providing the production conditions I mentioned above, and I did not have to use my energy/time in a planned and efficient way, I had the chance to work in a way that I could flow through the cracks opened by an open-ended process. In this process, we embraced improvisation as a method in our collaboration with Ra and established a language of expression that feeds on the connotations brought about by re-enactments. Therefore, I cannot talk about mistakes and failures, but I can say that I have progressed by incorporating unpredictable forms that emerge in the relationality of working with the material and with another individual, which I do not know where it will end up. 

 I also thought a lot about being wrong and failing, as my project interacted with the concurrent events in the world throughout the program. My project created a risk area in itself and while it was shaped by the developing events, it also gave me the advantage of seeing my ideas from different perspectives.

 As I mentioned above, I went through a trial-and-error process. It was not a failure or a mistake for me to fail a technical issue, as there was no predetermined project pressure, and especially since I devoted the first part of the program specifically to branching experiments. For example, there were experiments that I started without thinking too much about the conceptual framework and said that it would go as far as it went. One of them was a project involving a mechanical seismograph. After a lot of technical mistakes and finally some resolutions, I realized that the idea was not yet mature, so I didn't force it after a certain point. Although it seems to have been shelved, this is a project that I think will probably come out of somewhere and show itself in a different way in the future. The last weeks of the program were a period for me to put aside the trials and enter a recovery process. Therefore, the things that did not work in this period began to block the very process leading to the result. In short, the feeling of trial-and-error and failure changes according to the definition made at the outset.

 Perhaps it is necessary to redefine the definitions of success/failure themselves in order to answer such a question. I believe that every single thing that is added or removed during this research-oriented process has meaning. Just like balancing out the void with what is full, I can say that in this studio space, which allows flexibility in the research process, being silent as much as saying something with the material, and maybe even being repined, were the factors that shaped the work in their own way. 

 Ninety-five percent of artistic production is disappointment, error, and "failure" anyways. Isn't that what makes the artworks powerful and unique?

To rephrase Eser, I would like to come to the affiliation between the place where the artist utters a word and conceives a work for the first time, which is comparable to giving birth, and the work itself that is created in that very place by expanding this question with an anecdote: In his essays titled The Function of the Studio, written in 1971 and revisited in 2007, Daniel Buren talks about the "unspeakable compromise of the portable work" and stated “it’s as if some energy essential to [the work’s] existence escapes as it passes through the studio door"; adding that a work can only be understood when we simultaneously observe what surrounds it in the process of its production. He says that the museum's "desire to classify" dampens this inner side of the work and reminds us that Brancusi has "short-circuited" the museum, which selects and classifies this organic space by opening it to the audience. With the public presentations held at SAHA Studio in the middle and end of the term, you show your works to the audience where they were born and developed. What is your critical approach to this work-space-audience relationship?

: Unfortunately, the museum has short-circuited Brancusi! While giving me a tour of Brancusi's workshop in 2010, Sarkis said: "The museum has put the entire workshop in a glass jar, supposedly to protect it. You can see it, but you can't touch it, you can't feel it. They supposedly safeguard the works, the workshop, but the works cannot breathe, they suffocate." I am one of those who believe that every work has a soul, but I think that "sustaining" or "killing" is not very much related to the place where it was born. Strictly speaking, I don't think the sanctity of the workshop takes affect very well, except in very rare places like Sarkis' workshop; the issue there is rather about the artist of the workshop and the spirit breathed into the work during its creation. The artist-space-audience correlation at SAHA Studio can create some advantages for the artist during an on-going production process. An idea that works perfectly in your mind might not work as well for viewers; I think this feedback guides the artist very much in transforming and developing his work. Traditionally, when you create and exhibit a work, you can see the "glitches" I mentioned above only during the exhibition, but you can no longer intervene. However, you have the chance to intervene until the last moment at the studio. Of course, it is necessary to ask this to the audience: how they experience this process, how it works for them to be involved in an on-going situation in the studio as opposed to a conventional exhibition visit…

 Buren's evaluation may not apply to every practice and can be re-evaluated depending on the relationship each artist establishes with their studio and process. For me, the experience I enjoy most in life is meeting artists and their work in the studio while they are in production. I find it very valuable to witness the process, to enter a world where the possibilities that have not yet taken shape are together and visible, and to encounter the artist while they are in the midst of questions they are searching answers for. Although I found it beneficial to open up my own practice and process to the people I know and invite at this stage, I realized that I resisted suspending the on-going process in order to present it to the audience at the midterm event. I eventually saw that I was open to this after some encounters that nurtured my work. Given that SAHA Studio Open at the end of the term is predefined as an exhibition, the expectations of the audience are shaped as such, and because each studio turns into an exhibition area, I think that the "desire to place" prevails and the studio function and process are withdrawn from the space, even if the works have not physically left the studio.

I am not usually an artist who works on current issues, but the project I was working on at SAHA Studio was caught in the grip of a very current situation. It was inevitable that the project would interact with a process that concerns the whole world. Maybe if I was dealing with this project in my workshop, I would have been hesitant about whether to exhibit it or not, but I had to live through, experience, and complete this process I entered at SAHA Studio. There was no conflict when I started this project, then project developed and was shared by my fellow artists, the SAHA team, as well as the visiting audience. In terms of the work-space-audience interplay, I think it is an extremely active project with its variables and constants.

Ali: Especially considering the mid-term visits in connection with the matter of trial-and-error that we talked about earlier, this was an opportunity for me not only to present what was done to the visitors and to crystallize the process by putting it into words, but also to observe the visitors. For example, when I received reactions that I did not foresee, I reconsidered them later and made some changes on work. Sometimes I came across comments and references that I did not expect but liked, at others, I thought about what or whether I should do something, feeling that the work could go in certain directions I did not think about or want. I'm not sure if it is ideal to work this way all the time, but for a limited period, it left a positive effect on me.

 The works we shared at the midterm were providing clues as to how the raw material that was taking shape would turn out. The degree of this clue varied for each of us as things were still materializing. Even then, beyond this shared three-dimensional realm, new possibilities, potentials, and forms were still blossoming infinitely in the minds of us creators; at least that’s what I can say for myself. Even after an artist’s work is done and the work reaches what they call "its final form" – and for some there is no such end – it is possible to consider this phase as a kind of reciprocal storytelling, since there may be completely different possibilities between the artist’s perspective and possibilities and the audience’s view and perception. On the other hand, both as a person who thinks about the relationship between the individual and the space, plus considering that the work I produce here premiered – on a small scale – in Tunisia[2] right before the SAHA Studio Open, and that another version will be shown in Vienna[3]immediately after the term ends, I believe in the importance of trying to read the relationship that these different spaces establish with one another and with the versions of the work. These additional layers on top of exhibiting a work where it’s conceived also change how it’s construed. This work called Gathered by Scattered has an underlying aspect that intends to yield a reading that associates time and water, and therefore space, with the concept of decentralization. In my regard, this is a work that has its theoretical antecessors and derivatives as new seeds sown on another work (Wash Your Soul, Not Just Your Face, But Your Soul) I completed before the SAHA Studio process; I consider it to be a part in a whole. It can be evaluated both independently from and with respect to these previous works, like “a slice" taken out of time. I think it would be correct to say that Gathered by Scattered is a spatial experiment that exists with its audience. The fact that this kind of experiment occurs in the very place of its production, which involves the audience as well as other people working there is a meaningful and enriching element for me.

 If we were to deepen the relationship between your work, your term, and the studio one step further... Eser, you define a center point in your studio and leave marks that spread across the space in waves from that center. In this sense, your process is a site referenced[4] one where the space directs the work/viewers towards the work, right? İz, you are developing a chapter of a work that has been going-on for a while now, just as Eser’s new project is the extension of an earlier work; moreover, this new chapter has a context that refers directly to the notion of “studio”. In this respect, do you think it is possible to see your work as a site-responsive[5] work? What does the connection between the early 20th century photography studio you revived and this artist studio that exists in the "now" evoke in you? Also, TUNCA: as you mentioned above, the project you carry out in the studio has taken on a completely different meaning during its rudimentary stage, due to the war Russia waged against Ukraine. This situation renders the dialogue between the age we live in and its art very apprehensible in your project. Could you elaborate a little on how this work has evolved? 

 Certainly, in such triangular work-space-audience structure, each end influences and shapes the other.Gathered by scattered is predicated on the idea of an invitation made by the rings on the ground to the center, where an obsidian stone is positioned, and that the viewers are led to stand around in a circle that surrounds it. Imagining the SAHA Studio as a space filled with water, these three elements indicate the ripples that this stone would form where they are hypothetically thrown, and which would disappear after a certain period of time. The idea that each stone would create another center plays upon the notions of centralization/decentralization. As a spatial experiment that invites us to read into the concepts of time and water by elaborating on this question of centralization/decentralization, the installation seems to require an audience who experiences it. Due to its nature and qualities owing to its relationship with water, hence its use as a mirror in prehistoric times, the obsidian at the center of the installation this space draws the viewer to the center and confronts them. The viewer, who is invited to a circle at the mid-term gathering, is steered to the very center of another circle at the SAHA Studio Open held at the end of the term. The pieces that spread on the floor of the space, like ripples formed by a stone thrown into the water are placed as signs that summon the audience to this experience.

 At SAHA Studio, I focused on the chapter Boo Boo of my ongoing work Every name in history is me and I am another with Zişan (1894-1970), who appears to me as a historical figure, ghost, and alter ego. During this period when I dreamed of the love between Zişan and Vita (Sackville-West), I configured my studio space as the photography studio where Zişan and Vita met and spent time. I've been dreaming of this story since 2012. When I learned that Vita was living in Istanbul in 1913, I began making research on the house where she stayed in Cihangir, her life, her literary works, and her love affair with Virginia Woolf (which inspired Woolf's novel, Orlando). How Zişan and Vita may have met and what they went through was slowly shaped by the influence of my own experiences. I thought that they might have met when Vita came to have a photo taken at the studio while Zişan was working there, falling in love at that instant. After the first two months at SAHA Studio, I came to see the curtain-lined studio as the photography studio where Zişan and Vita met. Meanwhile, I met Ra. Me and Ra, as ourselves and as Zişan and Vita, have structured the experience of love as a field of research, in which two subjects, whose assigned gender is female, establish their selves in relation to each other. We carried out this research by imagining that the artist studio temporarily given to me for that term was an early 20th-century photography studio that harbored a love story. Therefore, among the references we brought into the improvisational process were our experiences of desire and pleasure, as well as myths about the artist's studio and fantasies that motivated the orientalist representations produced at the beginning of the 20th century. Although I can't predict how visible it will be in the work that will emerge, our references include the connections of the creative action that takes place in the artist's studio with narcissism and auto-erotic pleasure; the studio as the womb in which the work is incubated; the historical presence of the female model in the studio as the muse and object of the male artist; the studio as a place of experimentation and research; the voyeuristic gaze towards the studio as an intimate space, and the role of this gaze in creating artist myths where there was only the studio as a space for the creative acts of the lone genius, as well as a space to live and socialize. Since the studio has turned into a stage where the myths about the artist's studio are negotiated, I can say that it is a space-sensitive work indeed.

 I was creating a fiction based on the Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, after which we witnessed that various boycott decisions were taken against Russia because of the war. This made me think more about censorship, self-censorship, and actions such as cultural boycotts and mass protests. I’ve called my project Raz, dva, tri!, which is a simple motto in Russian with a hint of irony: it’s a trilogy with militaristic usage on the one hand, and teaching Russian children to count on the other. This irony was the reason that I gave this name to the project, through which I revisited the memories of my own childhood. I was planning to share the visuals and audio recordings I accumulated from the inception of the project to its realization on social media. The first of these was a constructivist poster work. On the morning of the day I was planning on posting these materials, Russia began bombing Ukrainian territory; It was the first day of the armed-war. This made me think about the limits of self-censorship, as it became even more obvious that my posts would cause a reaction in the coming days. On the other hand, the removal of Yuri Gagarin's honors on the list of astronauts at the U.S.-based Space Foundation, and to see the multitude of people who affirmed such a crazy move without confirming the accuracy of this news, in other words, the decision to erase the first man in space from history so many years after, based on an act committed by Russia, seems inconceivable to me. We can multiply examples of sanctions similar to Russian achievements in history, from Russian writers to composers… Instead of implementing a cultural boycott or cancelling someone who has achieved a goal for humankind in the past, I think different responses can be developed, like the #MakeBorschtNotWar movement and call started by Ukrainian chef Ievgen Klopotenko. I find it more appropriate to answer this call and to contribute to this global and peaceful action with a complementary performance alluding to the relationship between gastronomy and art while finalizing my project.

 At this point, I would like to change the direction of the correspondence a little bit and try to discover together whether there are any implicit links between your works created at SAHA Studio in the same period: I suspect there’s a dialogue between the basalt cubes, which are one of the basic materials of Berat's work called Dancer in the Dark: Appearance, and the obsidian pieces that are central in Eser’s work, Gathered by Scattered. Both embody a frozen, solidified, crystallized time due to their volcanic nature. What does this inherent temporality make you think of?

 The youngest of the basalts I use is two million years old. This knowledge singlehandedly reveals the wretchedness of our presence on earth. Working with materials almost the same age as the world recalls dozens of questions about our existence; the "shortness" of our presence on earth, yet the fact that we consider ourselves as the center of everything, is the peak of our wretchedness... The experience of the pandemic for the last two and a half years, the fact that it has shown us a kind of the beginning of the end, yet that we have adapted to the whole thing in a short period of time and returned to our crazy ambitions and greed nonetheless, the wars that are still going on in many parts of the world, the injustice suffocating us... tragic! 

 Iz, during a conversation with you, you brought up a situation in the production process for which you have used the description, "the uncanny of the unstructured." This reminded me of the unstructured-dangerous proximity in the dictionary analysis that Ali was working on. How would you two interpret this analogy? 

 In the process at SAHA Studio, Ra and I elaborated a story in which we defined the plot (encounter, love at first sight, separation) in rough outlines with an improvised process. As we relate to each other through objects, we have called up and portrayed our intimate and personal experiences of desire and pleasure, our fantasies[6], our aspirations, our power dynamics, our traumas, the historical representations and assigned roles produced by the view of the other. While doing so, even though we have built a safe space by means of consent in our relationship, we have experienced many moments when the expressions that arise and the emotions that trigger force us. The "uncanniness of the unstructured" came up when we have talked about this experience. Ali, how does this concept resonate with the experience you have constructed through your analysis of the emotion/body relationship? 

 The first connotation of the concept, "uncanniness of the unstructured" was that of a moment, which precedes the transition to a new situation that we had not encountered before. In fact, I did two separate studies that may be more or less related to this topic. The first of these is the Air Looms, which I exhibited as the final project, where the emotion-body relationships that Iz also mentions manifest themselves through heat-emitting surfaces. In addition, there is the dictionary of sentiment analysis, which is a completely different starting point and has not turned into a project, but which I showed on the wall at the midterm studio gathering as the outputs of the data cloud maps. These maps include the dualities of structured-unstructured and dangerous-safe as two independent axes. If we start to think about the logic in this graph, it seems that these two axes are independent: the unstructured can move between safe or unsafe areas, and the unsafe one can be unstructured or structured. For example, playing games or joking is unstructured and close to the safe zone, while emotions such as panic or tension still appear in unstructured but unsafe zone. In fact, looking at these graphics can be mind-opening when talking and thinking about art, because it reminds us that we are flowing through a two-, three-, even multidimensional conceptual space, and so forming a critique on a single criterion is rather superficial. Going back to the first project I mentioned, Air Looms: even though the heater bulbs were set in very regular and predetermined positions, what I was aiming for was not a very clear experience, so I wasn't sure what it would feel like when the form of a certain emotion expressed as heat intensities would feel in front of the audience. Although this uncertainty was a predetermined structure, it was actually something I desired. 


[1] Elfving, T., Kokko, I., & Gielen, P. (2019). Contemporary artist residencies: Reclaiming time and space. Valiz. 



[4]-5 Kwon, M. (2004). One place after another: Site-specific art and locational identity. MIT Press

[6] The concept of fantasy is defined as "the subject's in Is and defense processes Less of a picture A lot Format by deteriorating Drawn of a desire, and moreover of a desire Unconscious the realization of desirĕi use the meaning of "imaginary scenario". J. Talat Parman, quoted from Laplanche and L-B Pontalis, Image and Word, Psychoanalytic Writings 32, p. 18.


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