A Conversation with Ayna: From Pop Alla Turca to Turkish History
How was your work Pop Alaturka born?
Why did I install neon lights on the alla turca toilet? We did the exhibition “NEON-NEON” at Plato Sanat with Marcus Graf. As you may know, as an artist I’m interested in pop, contemporary issues and consumed, outdated or iconic images. I began to reflect on Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain and how he installed it in a gallery for the first time in history and had great success. How would this have been if it had happened in Turkey? How can I add a different point of view to it? And I thought of the alla turca toilet. What does it mean to us? I think it refers to a sociological transition. In 70s or even 80s, it existed in everyone’s homes. Then it evolved into the European-style toilet; and we still use it in some contexts. A sociological look at Turkey’s modernization. I chose to use neon lights in doing so; it represents such a consumed, outdated past.
Actually there is also a nostalgia and a return to that past these days… Alla turca toilet has also begun to reappear in several places…
And its name fits so well… We call it “Alla turca toilet”.”
It also reminds me of music somehow… Alla turca music…
Of course. In fact they refer to each other in several ways. The metaphor itself interacts with other cultures as well. Pop alla turca: slightly arabesque but you occasionally hear the violin. It’s still one of the works I’m most satisfied with. I thought of it recently as I went to France and saw the Fountain at Centre Pompidou.
The work has a modular structure. For instance, at the exhibition “Up in the Air” you hung the work on the ceiling.
When I first made it I installed it on the toilet, but it was impossible to carry it everywhere; so I started to exhibit it in different forms. Here the idea is the crucial point. And I think the idea is good.
Do you have other works of neon?
I actually use light in general and I don’t confine it to neon, for I think neon has truly become pop in modern art. I currently use lightboxes more often. Their reflection and nighttime glow impress me. After 2014, my approach shifted to lightbox installations.
Both neon and lightbox are materials used for advertising and they are very important in its language… In fact, they immediately turn any message they carry into an advertising format…
Absoultely. Ayna itself sounds like a slogan, it’s a striking icon… This is why I define my works as modern or contemporary pop.
I feel like we are going towards concepts like Post-Pop and Post-Post-Pop… It’s hard to guess where pop starts and where it ends these days…
We will be looking at this period in the future and try to understand and describe it then, I suppose…
How about sculpture?
At home, I have experimentations made of clay. But my main sculptural works consist of plastic sculptures as street installations.
I guess you’re talking about lock-ons, works that you leave on the street and run away…
Exactly. There aren’t many people in the world who do them. I started doing them in 2012. I notice that the installation assumes a different value with plastic. I currently stopped doing them as works generally get dismantled and taken away. And they also contain abstract expressions. It’s not the right time for Ayna yet. Sculpture has to wait.
This notion of plastic is also crucial… although we perceive it as something temporary, it is one of the least soluble materials in nature…
And leaving the most powerful mark…
…and it’s not fragile, right?
Absolutely… For instance we talk about plastic lives; but it’s so durable! It doesn’t wear out. Once you look at life through these metaphors, you perceive it more easily.
Any ongoing or future series or projects?
I currently reflect a lot on the Transgender issue… I recently did Kerimcan Durmaz’s poster. Athena’s music video has impressed me deeply. The world is going through a change in this sense and this change itself has somehow become pop too. It’s good that people are interested in male and female gender concepts and everything else in between. But since we are a relatively new society that tends to follow dogma, we either react to it fiercely to or show too much love for it. We have to normalize it. For example, there are people who condemn Kerimcan Korkmaz for earning so much money. But this is perfectly normal in a capitalist society; it’s a question of demand and supply. It’s not right to compare him with Neşet Ertaş who left debts behind as he passed away. It’s like comparing apples with pears; they aren’t equivalent. The content is completely different. Perhaps Kerimcan will remain more plastic in the future, whereas the other will become a cult, an icon.
Everything should be evaluated within its own context… Your works are totally about context… Layers of meaning attributed to icons… Müzeyyen Senar, for example… From there you may jump to the Republican history, to women….
Even to rakı and freedom of alcohol consumption. She is an icon; no one is like her. That attitude, that character, it’s really unique.
She also remains outside the mission attributed to women… In our society, women are either mother figures or sexual objects… Müzeyyen Senar defies both stereotypes…
Exactly. She’s like rakı; those hand gestures… There’s an expression there. She is unique in our history. We have to read these icons from our recent history very carefully. Contemporary women may find very powerful messages there.
In fact, as you place these icons next to each other, they create a recent history album.
Definitely. Please examine the Zeki Müren exhibition that took place at Yapı Kredi very carefully. I looked at all the photographs there. Until Kenan Evren’s rule he’s more feminine but then he becomes more manly. He applies autocensorship; he probably received warnings at that time. Photographs are enough to illustrate it. We have to look closely to the people who left a mark in our history. And, as an artist, I try to reflect what I see. I’m a mirror for the society, for the man on the street. I’m someone who’s inspired by what he sees and enjoys reflecting it back.
For Ayna’s works click here.
For Ayna’s video interview click here.