Interview with Serkan Özkaya

This interview with Serkan Özkaya was conducted on 20 February 2010 in İstanbul for To continue and complicate the conversation around  Özkaya’s work that started with this text, we are re-visiting this interview as well, to form a cursory archive, a foundation, a trigger.
Merve Ünsal

Serkan Özkaya, “Esinti,” 2008.

An increasing number of contemporary art practices seek to freeze moments that are imperceptible within the natural flow of time, making movement and the aesthetic of movement, visible. Jeff Wall’s cinematographic photographs, Cai Guo-Qing’s installation Head On and Serkan Özkaya’s A Sudden Gust of Wind are a few manifestations of such practices.

A Gust of Wind enables the viewers to realize the childhood dream of freezing time despite or maybe, through its simplicity; the work exposes the moments that are “lost.”

Serkan Özkaya and I talked about the production of A Sudden Gust of Wind.
—Elif Gül Tirben

Serkan Özkaya, A Sudden Gust of Wind, 2008. Installation, Boots Contemporary Arts Center, St. Louis, Missouri.

How was A Sudden Gust of Wind conceived?

At the beginning, I wanted to produce an impressive installation with brand new materials at a very low cost—an installation made with 10 TL. The A4 sheets of paper cost 4 TL, the glue is 1 TL and a friend of mine gave me the strings, so you can even eat a simit with the remaining money.

How is the work related to Jeff Wall’s A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai)? Did this image trigger you to work with abstraction?

No. I actually borrowed the idea from Hokusai, before Jeff Wall. For some time, I have been reproducing works that I did not get a chance to see in real life myself—my intention was never to imitate or mimic the artists. This idea was attractive to the people working at the gallery in St. Louis. The idea of having a copy of art works was tempting; the gallery itself is also on the periphery—like us. They are not at the centre of the art market where the famous works are displayed.

Jeff Wall, “A Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai),” 1993. Lightbox, 250 x 397 cm.
Katsushika Hokusai, “Ejiri in Suruga Province” (Sunshū Ejiri), 1830–33, from the “Thirty-Six Views of Mt. Fuji’ series (Fugaku sanjū-rokkei).

Was your initial intention to “freeze” the moment?  

Instead of freezing the moment, I was thinking of the moments following each other. You can think of the work as one paper being scattered in space at different moments in time.

In the video where you recorded the construction process of A Sudden Gust of Wind at Bilsar in 2009, you used music. Who did the piano piece belong to and why did you choose that particular piece?

The piece belongs to John Adams. It creates the effect of moments following each other. In that sense, it is minimalist in its aesthetic. That is what Oppenheim said when he saw the work, that it was minimalist. It is like the music of Steve Reich, you do not hear a melody but you hear the differences the lapses create. Distortions start to form a new construction.

“The Making of Serkan özkaya’s A Sudden Gust of Wind”, Barış Özçetin, 2009.

What about Breeze? How did A Sudden Gust of Wind turn into Breeze?

I initially had done the work as a sculpture with a few pieces of paper on an office desktop, where it seemed like the pages were floating in, flipping through the air. I wanted to produce something, which could be sold even in Ikea, so that everyone could own it. However, it was challenging to make a cast of that piece, so, the idea of creating the whole effect with a single piece of paper came about. Later, it became about space, multiplicity and objects.

Why is Breeze important to you?

First, I was thinking about the cheap and ordinary in stead of the “elite.” Furthermore, the ready-made is concrete but also very close to being abstract. When I do this [he takes an A4 sheet of paper and slightly moves one corner up], it suddenly turns into an object, which makes you think of the space, the whole negative space, the room as an effect of breeze. And sculpture is actually related to negative space.

This is similar to copying. Copying also creates a negative space. The work where I copied the Radikal newspaper by hand for instance—when you look at it, you see the labor and the preparation process behind the making of the newspaper. That is also a negative space.

Serkan Özkaya (b. 1973, Istanbul, Turkey) is a contemporary conceptual artist whose work deals with topics of appropriation and reproduction, and typically operates outside of traditional art spaces. Ozkaya lives in Istanbul, Turkey, and New York City, USA. He holds an M.F.A. from Bard College, New York, and a Ph.D in German Language and Literature from Istanbul University, where he also earned his B.A. and M.A.

(Courtesy of Wikipedia)

Elif Gül Tirben studied International Relations in Middle East Technical University, Ankara. She continued her masters in Sociology in the same university with a focus on Urban Sociology. Later, she had a masters degree in Visual Arts from Sabancı University, Istanbul, where she worked as a Teaching Assistant for two years. Her interests are Social Theory and Sociology of Visual Arts. Elif currently works in Gallery Apel, Istanbul. You can follow her visual diary here.