The Venice Questionnaire #3 – Cevdet Erek

On representing Turkey at the Venice Biennale

Rooms of Rhythms, 2010–12 (installation view, Documenta 13, Kassel). Photo: Rosa Maria Ruhling. Courtesy the artist Ruler Documenta, 2012, pinewood, pencil, table, dimensions variable. Photo: Peter Cox VKV Collection. Courtesy ISKV Foundation, Istanbul Jingle, 2012, glass, sound player, text, dimensions variable. Photo: Coskumn Asar. Courtesy the artist

ArtReview sent a questionnaire to artists and curators exhibiting in and curating the various national pavilions of the 2017 Venice Biennale, the responses to which will be published daily in the lead-up to the Venice Biennale opening (13 May – 26 November).

Cevdet Erek is representing Turkey. The pavilion is in the Arsenale.

What can you tell us about your exhibition plans for Venice?

As I write this in the final week of March, we are doing the last preparations for starting installing the work, ÇIN. We are going to start building the planned part of installation, then I will start adding the unplanned part. The process is open to improvisation by all means, after the opening as well. ÇIN is imagined as a sound signal that foretells the work, rather than being a title. It’s like ding in English, an onomatopoeia, and a root from which reverberation and tinnitus (in Turkish) is derived as well.

How is making a show for the Venice Biennale different to preparing a ‘normal’ exhibition? Or another biennial?

I have been preparing a work to be shown in the pavilion of a country, and that country is the one that I’ve been most related to. It’s very different, institutionally, from the Biennials I participated in only as an individual. There are some general expectations from the international community such as what the artist will do in such a year, in such a country. But in another sense, there’s a site, with its physical or conceptual specificities in a particular geography, and I am making a work in it. That’s the similarity with other biennials.

There are a huge number of biennial exhibitions across the world nowadays. Do you think the Venice Biennale still has a special status, and why?

Yes, I think it has. Even though the idea of the pavilion of a state or a region is old and it comes with a set of problems, there’s possibly going be to a wide spectrum of attitudes and interesting solutions to those problems. For me this is the reason why the Biennale has a special status.

What does it mean to ‘represent’ your country? Do you find it an honour or is it problematic?

Representing a country — or some aspects of it — by unlimited means of art has been a more interesting issue for me (a concrete example, my past work Ruler Coup: based on the past coup d’états and their rather periodic occurrence in the Republic of Turkey) rather than being busy with “artist as representative” of that country.

For me, one of the main problems would be: In such a time of conflict and oppression, what would this effort add to the culture of free art and speech in Turkey and beyond.

The Venice audience is a diverse group. Who is most important to you? The artist peers, the gallerists, curators and critics concentrated around the opening, or the general public which visits in the months that follow?

The work is done for everybody. The curious person is a target for sure.

Did you visit the last Venice Biennale? What’s your earliest or best memory from Venice?

I did visit, although it was not long enough to see all. I have some good memories, but want to write about the one in relation to the pavilion of Turkey: I was trying to slow down to feel Sarkis’ work in the Pavilion, then realised for a moment that the exhibition guard was away, then I sat on the reception table replacing the guard and started watching people and how they moved in that rectangular hall. Meanwhile I made some sketches and some of those sketches had an effect on what we are working on now.

How does a having a pavilion in Venice make a difference to the art scene in your home country?

It becomes a good excuse for discussion on various ideas and positions.

You’ll no doubt be very busy, but what else are you looking forward to seeing?

Our neighbouring pavilions and works’ interrelations, Macel’s show in general, then the execution of ÇIN, which is just imagined and represented virtually, so far.

Click here to read all of our questionnaires published so far

3 April 2017