Turkey : Ayde Erkmen


"Here's one thing that has become abundantly clear to me concerning Ayse Erkmen's art: she doesn't really work with signature materials, not even with a kind of signature aesthetic, but instead uses whatever it takes to realize a piece, according to its own precise, yet quirky and idiosyncratic, logic. This approach demands from her a considerable flexibility, and for the viewer it results in a palpable sense of freshness and discovery. Even, or rather especially, if you've followed Erkmen's work closely for some time, each new piece tends to arrive as a surprise, indeed as a particularly pent-up and evocative surprise. Still, there is something in common to all her various projects, which has more to do with a unifying sensibility than with materials or shared aesthetics. Erkmen frequently works with specific sites or architectural locations, which she slightly alters or otherwise transforms to elicit constellations between the 'made' work, its site, and a host of corresponding cultural, historical, and psychological associations. Erkmen's method of teasing out such a constellation is cerebral and analytical, but it's also intensely sensitive - to a remarkable degree she opens herself to the project or location, and approaches everything with a keyed-up, much-discovering alertness. With the finished projects, there is a combination of the conceptual, an austere but acute visuality, and a rich, if understated, poetics that suggests many levels of possible meaning simultaneously. Almost always there is a coolly sensual element that engages one comprehensively. Moreover, for all its exquisite formal and conceptual precision, Erkmen's art is also humanly eventful - it's filled with a profound sense not only of aesthetics, but of life. [...] She is fiercely stubborn in terms of her work because she has extremely rigorous standards for her work, a very clear and honed sense of what the work should be exactly, and an unflappable will to carry it through to completion without compromise.

Another thing that flows into Erkmen's work is a pronounced alertness to social realities and dimensions. In 1994, as one part of a three-part project in Berlin, she fastened a grid-like array of Turkish word fragments to the outside of an apartment building in Kreuzberg, where many Turkish people live. These words were based on a peculiar grammatical construction that occurs in Turkish, and just about nowhere else. It has to do with verb endings that communicate events from the past, not just events experienced directly by the speaker, but rather told to him or her by another person. There is an elusive quality built into the language, having to do with versions of events that get filtered through another unnamed person, as well as the speaker - an accrual of stories, a layering of perspectives. From the streets, looking up, you could see these words on the sides of the buildings, which is a pretty interesting way of marking an urban territory, and especially one filled with immigrants: their pure language, their unusual grammar, something utterly specific to the structure of their mother tongue, which they would have understood, but which the surrounding majority community would have not got at all (except for the very few of them that speak Turkish.) [Here is] a complex world view in which rumours, guesswork, the slippage between different perspectives, and third-person stories are of fundamental importance." (Reading an excerpt from Gregory Volk, At the Juncture of Things, Kassel, Documenta 9 / Museum Fridericianum, 1998)


With these words I knew I was convinced. I had witnessed Ayse Erkmen's project at Münster in 1997 - the Renaissance sculptures arriving at the Westf lisches Landesmuseum by helicopter for the exhibition opening; I had seen some of her video, perused documentation of many works in different media and varying contexts. But Volk's words somehow clarified and specified the general sense of deep desire I felt in the presence of Ayse Erkmen's works, despite my own fragmentary knowledge of their genesis or, in many cases, their actual physical realization.

In April 2000 she came to Montreal, her first visit to Canada. We spent several days talking, visiting the raw (and still occupied) spaces that would eventually house Tout le temps / Every Time. We walked around the city, shared ideas. She found a place to reserve for her work.

Since then we have waited. In September the piece will be completed. We are certain that it will fulfill every expectation aroused by Gregory Volk's brief text.


Peggy Gale



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