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Anja Majer und Esther Ernst im Gespräch mit Ayşe Erkmen
Für ihre Gesprächsreihe „Mit Schnitte“ laden die Künstlerinnen Anja Majer und Esther Ernst Kollegen und Kolleginnen am Tag nach ihrer Vernissage zu einer selbstgemachten Schnitte und zum Gespräch über das Phänomen der Eröffnung im Allgemeinen und den vergangenen Abend im Speziellen ein.
Mit Schnitte #4 ist ein Interview mit der Künstlerin Ayşe Erkmen über die Vernissage ihrer Ausstellung „Editionen 1995 – 2014“ am 15.9.2014 in der Edition Block.
Anja Majer / Yes, we are glad that you are here to talk about your opening yesterday. I would like to start by explaining shortly what we are interested in concerning these interviews. It’s about one year ago that we started thinking about this moment of separation of the artist from his or her work at the opening. Because in this special situation the artist is not really needed as the work is there.
So we ask different artists about their experiences, if they feel maybe the same about it and what’s different. And we always have to mention that we do not go to the opening because we want to have your first-hand impressions without mixing them up with our own experiences.
Esther Ernst / And it’s also because openings are always a mysterious…
Ayşe Erkmen / Serious?
Ernst / A mystery, I mean a special event…
Erkmen / Oh… I don’t like openings. I really don’t like openings but I don’t have the courage to say no either. There are few artists who don’t do openings. But I also don’t want to say that I don’t want an opening because it’s also good to see some old friends or people whom I haven’t seen for a long time there. I am undecisive. I actually hate to be at my openings because one becomes the centrepiece as I don’t like any birthday celebrations either or anything like that. Therefore I don’t want anybody to know my birthday and try to keep it secret. I really don’t want to be the center of attraction.
And there’s also another problem that when I have done a new work and just finished it, there is this thing that I don’t like the work, I am not sure… After a while it may be that I can start liking it but in the beginning I’m very, very suspicious of myself.
It’s really rarely that I’m very content with a work. This is one more reason why I don’t like openings as I don’t want to see the work too much as well.
Ernst / Are you hiding yourself at the opening?
Erkmen / I don’t know. It’s just that I don’t want to take this responsibility of being there as the main figure. It can be hiding or running away from responsibility.
Ernst / Do you make arrangements with your gallerist or curator before the opening? And do you tell them that you don’t want to take the responsibility?
Erkmen / No, I don’t tell them. I’m telling you now. It’s ok, I do it.
I mean I have openings and I go to my openings. And when it’s a group show I also go to the opening but I try to escape as early as possible.
Majer / So you don’t like talking about your work?
Erkmen / No, I don’t like talking about my work. But at the same time I can talk about my work very well actually. For example, if I’m invited to a talk or to a symposium or if I have to give a lecture about my work, I believe – and people tell me – that I do it extremely well.
Ernst / That means, you only have a problem when you are in the same place as your work?
Erkmen / Yes, when I’m in the same place as my work. In fact at openings people don’t ask you to talk about your work. They compliment you.
Ernst / Do you get criticism at the opening?
Erkmen / Not so much, really, very rarely. If I get criticism it’s a little bit better, I think, I open up then. Then I can say something. But when they compliment, I don’t know what to say. Generally speaking, visitors don’t criticize at openings. They come to socialize and they come to see people…
To be able to see the artwork, one has to come on a normal day when there aren’t so many people around.
Majer / And do you have a special dress you wear at your openings, I mean, do you dress up?
Erkmen / I dress up, yes. I dress up, but I dress better when I go to other people’s openings. [Alle lachen.] I think I underdress. I make it imperfect.
Ernst / And you accept yourself in not doing this vernissage-business all the time?
Erkmen / What is vernissage-business?
Ernst / I think networking could be a vernissage-business…
Erkmen / I’m very bad with networking although I would appreciate if I were a bit better.
Majer / Sometimes it seems to me that young artists are really well-prepared for this kind of event. You know, really professional, really clear in talking about their work and doing a lot of networking…
Erkmen / I have experience enough to know that nothing helps you but a good work. Of course, networking helps you for a certain amount of time. It helps you to get new exhibitions maybe, it helps you that people think about you, remember you. But no gallery takes an artist just because of networking. But nevertheless if an artist is networking it’s good for the gallery because they sell more. Oh, it’s a very complicated subject, it became very complicated now.
Ernst / You don’t want to get into it?
Erkmen / No, I want to get into it because it’s good to talk about it. Some artists are doing more networking than thinking about their works. But it’s too much work for me. I’m a little bit lazy, too. Sometimes I even don’t want to see anybody. No really, networking is too much work for me. I’m even not able to answer my messages most of the time, so how can I do the networking? That’s completely another occupation. I don’t find the time for that or I don’t try to find time. Of course some other artists can invest this time and it is probably a good investment. I travel a lot, I work very much and I would rather do something else in a limited free time…
Majer / But do you think this subject changed in the last twenty years? I mean, is it getting more important?
Erkmen / Yes, networking is very important for artists now. Sometimes when you just talk with an artist or a curator in a social event like an opening for example – they do networking also – they don’t look at you when they’re speaking. They look at your back to see who’s coming. I hate this and when I feel that it is going to be like this I’d rather not talk to that person.
Ernst / That sounds like you don’t visit openings in general?
Erkmen / Yes, if I like the artist or if I’m curious about the artist then I go. For example tomorrow I will go because it’s an artist I know. And she is good and I would like to see her work.
Majer / And is it important for you that friends come to your openings?
Erkmen / Yes, of course it’s nice. Then I have something to talk about, where I can anchor myself.
Ernst / How are the openings in Istanbul?
Erkmen / They are very nice because they serve a lot of nice food. They are very good with service and hospitality in Istanbul. And, there’s not much networking. That’s also nice. That’s why the openings are maybe more fun in Istanbul because people don’t look at your back. They look at you because they are not expecting that somebody more important is coming through the door. Maybe if there was the same situation as here, that there would be many important people showing up, they would react in a similar way. But there it is more friendship and fun and small talk.
Ernst / Could you describe the audience from the opening yesterday?
Erkmen / There were some friends of René Block, some of my students, some curators I have worked with before and some artist friends of mine. So it was a mixed opening. Every opening has a different audience. Every gallery has a different crowd.
Majer / And the difference to an institution like a museum? Do you like more the openings at a museum compared to a gallery?
Erkmen / I like it more at a gallery. It depends. If the show in the museum is very nice, then it’s okay. But I think galleries are more private, less hectic.
Ernst / And did your absence at an opening ever had any consequences? Because I think you have many openings and you can’t go to all of them.
Erkmen / When it’s in China or Korea or faraway where I can’t find the time to go or because of visa problems, sometimes I cannot go. But actually it’s nice to travel to other places. One sees a totally different public and a different ambience, it’s interesting to go far, far away. But I naturally don’t go to an opening that’s so far if I have just a small work there. I only go if I have an important position in that exhibition.
Ernst / Do you get a lot of business cards at openings?
Erkmen / Yes, although I got only three yesterday.
Ernst / And what are you doing with them?
Erkmen / I have a box where I can place them in. When it’s an important person that I want to call in the next few days, I put it in my bag. But then, sometimes, you get so many business cards that you open your bag and you ask yourself – who was that person? – That’s very bad. I think it is similar for all of us. We meet too many people these days. And we talk to too many people and we go to so many places… That’s why everybody is so tired. Everyone, not just the artists.
Majer / And when you just finished a work and the opening is done, do you just go back to your studio and start with a new work immediately?
Erkmen / Yes, that happened to me yesterday. I had Pilates in the morning, I was tired afterwards but I said to myself – oh, great, I have the whole day for myself – I was so much fixed on that idea that I have the whole day for myself for working, that I forgot about our appointment! That is really relaxing, to have finished everything and to start with a new work.
Ernst / Aren’t you sometimes sad, if you do site specific work and you notice at the opening, that your work is finished and completed now?
Erkmen / No, I’m only sad when the site specific work has to be thrown away, because there is no way to be able to keep it and it just has to be put away somewhere. In these cases, sometimes, luckily I can recycle the work or give the material back .
Majer / So how runs the day of the opening when you have a big and important work. Do you work until the last second?
Erkmen / Yes, I work until the end because I hate it when something is not working. That’s why I work until everything is almost perfect. I even add things last minute when I finally see the work in space and feel it needs some companion.
Ernst / Do you think that people recognize that you don’t like all this klimbim at openings?
Erkmen / No, I don’t think so. Maybe a little bit. I try to look and act better than I feel, answer the questions and so on.
Ernst / Can you remember the feelings of your first vernissage?
Erkmen / It was in Istanbul and I won a prize. My first exhibition was at the Akademie. We had an exhibition every year where all classes were participating, like the “Rundgang” here. I don’t know how I felt. I guess I was surprised. It was my first opening and I had won the big prize. I think it must have been nice for me at that time.
Ernst / And finally, if you could wish something for your next opening… Imagine there would be a pixie saying that you have one wish: what would it be?
Erkmen / I would like to have people I like and a nice outfit for myself that fits to the exhibition colors!
Foto: Anja Majer, Esther Ernst