The guest of the April issue of Narratives Interview Series is the artist Güneş Terkol. During the interview, we talked about the issues she addresses in her art production, her banner workshops, and her relationship with music. We had the opportunity to trace sometimes the possibilities of collective thought and collective production, and sometimes the power in the individual narrative in Terkol’s production process.
“I often examine the ways women find to resist stereotyped gender and class distinctions and to defend their identity.”
The content in your works rises against gender norms and class stereotypes. It seems like a comic book story with strong images about women in particular. Therefore, we also think that there is a humorous and ironic side in these productions, especially in terms of form. Whose stories are these? Can you tell us about your production style?
I often examine the ways women find to resist stereotyped gender and class distinctions and to defend their identity. I am interested in gender issues. At the same time, I use tales, mythological stories, my own past, and dreams in my work.
Güneş Terkol, “The Main Forces That Stir Up Action”, View from the installation, NON, İstanbul, 10.02-17.03.2012. Photo by Serkan Tunç
“How fabric is a light, portable and economical material gave me great freedom.”
Textile is among the prominent materials in your production. We think that this is the greenhouse fabric in particular. Could you explain the meaning of this material, your reason for preference, and your process of coloring this material with juices of vegetables and fruits?
I have been working with textile for about 17 years. When I was a student at Mimar Sinan University Department of Painting, I searched for materials to express myself and I chose the applied tapestry studio. I weaved a tapestry in the workshop environment where we discussed contemporary art for 2 years. Creating work by weaving has made all the difference in my practice. In the same period, I started to create my own palette and to make collage works by collecting fabric scraps from sewing workshops and factories in Istanbul.
How fabric is a light, portable and economical material gave me great freedom.
The fabric which I love to use in recent years is made of cotton and transparent material. It is a material used to function as a protective shade for plants as well as to heal people’s wounds. I transform the white fabric used as greenhouse fabric, gauze or shade by coloring it myself. By using beets, onion peel, and tobacco leaves, I sometimes make natural dyes, boil and dry them in the sun. The material reminds me of the second skin. Although it is a fragile material, it has the power to carry my stories. They can change their forms according to space and light.
Güneş Terkol, “The Dictionary of Distance”, Stitch on fabric, 72×92 cm, From the exhibition “Crystal Clear”, Pera Museum, İstanbul, 22.12.2020-07.03.2021.
“I invite viewers to wander through the fabrics, get lost, and find themselves while wandering.”
There is a floating form in exhibiting your works which are hung above eye level that changes the view with its position on the ceiling of the space, over the audience. Like in your work “The Dictionary of Distance” displayed in the exhibition “Crystal Clear” at Pera Museum in 2020 or in your works at The 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016 or your work “Couldn’t Believe What She Heard” in “Istanbul: Passion, Joy, Fury” exhibition in 2015 at Maxxi Museum in Rome. An atmosphere that is divine as well as epic and fantastic… A rebellious form just like its content. Could you mention the possibilities of this form of exhibition, your perspective on this atmosphere?
I have been producing serial artworks in recent years. Very thin, transparent fabrics I embroider follow each other consecutively or overlap and by this way colors and memories, stories and dreams are united. I use windows, voids, and ceilings when placing my works. Since the works are floating and transparent, the images on them are seen through each other. The stories they carry are intertwined. The audience can walk through them and create their own stories. I invite viewers to wander through the fabrics, get lost, and find themselves while wandering.
“It is very nourishing to create sounds together and then return to my studio and produce artworks in my own backyard, that is, maintaining two channels simultaneously.”
You are the founding members of the HA ZA VU ZU collective with Güçlü Öztekin. We also know that you are a member of another group working on music which is called Guguou consisting of Güçlü Öztekin, Oğuz Erdin, and you. Could you touch on this collective spirit here and what kind of a means of expression is music for you in your production process?
Yes, HA ZA VU ZU was founded in 2005. Besides Istanbul, we organized exhibitions, performances, and concerts in different countries such as Germany, France, Lithuania, England, and China. The motivation that brought us together in our group, which is an art and performance collective, was the sound. We aimed to design situations with a simple and practical working model, and we were emphasizing working with others. For more than ten years, we have been continuing our work in various disciplines such as music, video, and performance. The foundations of Guguou, a group that prioritizes music more, was laid in 2017 when I was invited to The Bienal de São Paulo and we performed there with Oğuz Erdin and Güçlü Öztekin from the HA ZA VU ZU team. Two years ago, we released our album, “Pas Matri”, which has a style that can be called experimental pop music. Bora Çeliker also joined us in the album. We are currently working on a second album and a video project. It is very nourishing to create sounds together and then return to my studio and produce artworks in my own backyard, that is, maintaining two channels simultaneously.
Güneş Terkol, “Women’s Song”, Stitch over cloth, 190×300 cm, 2nd International Antakya Biennial, 15.10-20.11.2010.
The banner projects are one of the forms of your collective productions like the banners you made with women in Antakya whose husbands were working in Saudi Arabia or the “Home is My Heart” banner project with the immigrants in Middlesex Street Estate in London. Could you tell us about these two projects and your ideas and opinions on both individual and collective production with the participants during the production phase?
Since 2010, I have been conducting banner workshops with women participants of different profiles in different countries. I concluded eight banner projects carrying stories, rebellions, dreams of women with different pasts in Turkey, China, Germany, Austria, Italy, and the United Kingdom.
The workshops create a face-to-face working environment on seeing, accepting, learning different situations. Each banner work aims at a joint work process by preserving individual expressions with a collective thought process. We try to see non-sexist, non-racist, non-classist visuals with the participants.
I predesign the background for each banner according to the city and subject. Generally, in the background, there is a panorama of the city and in the front, there are anonymous female figures, and empty spaces in the form of banners or speech bubbles they carry. It is completed with the ideas of the participants.
The workshops are free of charge for all women who are considering attending through an open call. Meetings usually last a week or a month. During the workshops, participants are first invited to a pre-conversation on a particular topic. Then they find the opportunity to talk about their own lives and the difficulties they face while engaging in production like sewing, drawing, talking, etc. Thus, these workshops, which enable women to socialize among themselves, open up space where we can comfortably talk about the issues we care about.
I conducted my first banner workshop during the 2nd Antakya Biennial, curated by Arzu Yayıntaş and Dessislava Dimova.
Güneş Terkol, “Women’s Song”, (Detail), Stitch over fabric, 190×300 cm, 2nd International, Antakya Biennial, 15.10-20.11.2010.
“This banner is actually a song of the dreams of migrant workers and their families left behind, which is resulted from the global economy and industrialization.”
The banner titled “Women’s Song” is a product of the workshop held in Antakya in 2010 with women whose husbands work in the Middle East countries. It is also important because they were a group that did not have much of a chance to express themselves in public. We discussed with the women, who could only see their husbands for a month a year, about their views on this regionally normalized situation, how they feel, and their future dreams. This banner is actually a song of the dreams of migrant workers and their families left behind, which is resulted from the global economy and industrialization. On the banner, there is an idyllic scene on a lion figure I made inspired by the city of Antakya. The women who attended the workshop prepared the flags in the hands of the anonymous female figures standing on this landscape, to write their dreams or messages. Visuals of vehicles such as buses and trucks and flying male figures around this image also emphasize the expectations of women.
After the first workshop, I had different experiences in different countries. Therefore, when I received an invitation from London, I created a more comprehensive project. It took a longer-lasting shape that spread to the public sphere.
The banner titled “Home Is My Heart” was actualized at London Art Night in May 2017 curated by Fatoş Üstek in collaboration with Whitechapel Gallery. I worked with a group of residents of Middlesex Street Estate during an artist-in-residence program in London I attended for a month. Middlesex Street Estate, one of the two housings assigned to immigrants in London, consists of a 23-floor tower block built by the Royal Institute of British Architects between 1965 and 1970, surrounding a courtyard with playgrounds, garage, and landscaped with the contribution of residents. We organized a workshop for a month in the studio of this residence. About the stories on the banner, there is a housing image in the center. There is a background with the city’s river and architectural elements in the sky where there is night and day at the same time. Those who look out of the apartments’ windows are anonymous characters. All of them have their own speech bubbles and they all come side by side telling us about their dreams and thoughts. We made a banner including the issues on Brexit, urban transformation, changing economic conditions, the hopes and dreams of the residents, the deficiencies and needs of the city. We put the name “Home is My Heart” together. The resulting work was displayed in the street-facing exhibition hall of the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass) building, one of the six schools of London Metropolitan University. On the opening night, we delivered a performance on the streets of east London, accompanied by the Bird Band with the participation of residents carrying banners.
Another exciting part of the project was the enlargement of the banner to 4 m x 12 m as a permanent mural on the outer wall of the building with the contribution of the City of London Cooperation.
Our thanks are due to Güneş Terkol.
- For more information about the artist, you may visit her website.
- Besides the photos and visual images by Güncel Sanat Arşivi, all the other photos in this interview are used from the website of the artist and courtesy of her.
- The rights of all the visual and textual concepts in this interview are reserved. Quotation shall be allowed provided that the source shall be mentioned in the work where the quotation is cited. For the photos please contact the artist.
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