Alserkal Programming has appointed Hale Tenger for a commissioned public intervention guest curated by Mari Spirito, to be launched at Alserkal Avenue during Dubai Art Week in March 2018. Spirito is Founder and Curator of Protocinema, a non-profit organisation based between Istanbul and New York, and is the first guest curator to be invited to work on Alserkal Programming’s artist commissions.
Mari Spirito: Your installation at Alserkal Avenue is experiential, like so many of your works. Tell us more about the reasons behind this.
Hale Tenger: I’m moved by artworks that rely on the experience of the viewer and are open ended in such a way. These fabricated environments push ajar the door of one’s imagination. It is as if the artwork constitutes a stage for the viewer, each viewer is there to experience the work with his/her own imagination and individual agenda at that moment. Just like we construct the world of novels in our minds when reading, installations like “Under” operate with the qualities of mood, sound, and texture and are opening up potential spaces for the viewer to contemplate, to dwell upon. I also admire works that generate such experiences and stay with you for a long time, for example after watching a movie, reading a novel, a poem or encountering an artwork.
MS: Could you tell me a little more about your relationship with Dubai?
HT: My first time in Dubai was in 2011. I had an exhibition at Green Art Gallery. Yasmin Atassi contacted me for a solo show and that’s how it all started. “Balloons on the Sea“ was presented initially at Green Art Gallery and both Yasmin and I were very happy about the process and the outcome. Since then we have continued collaborating together. So, I was very excited when you asked me if I’d be interested in the Alserkal Programming commission and I’m very much looking forward to presenting an outdoor piece in The Yard in Alserkal Avenue. We had to postpone a solo show we intended to do at Green Art Gallery last year and this came at the ideal time.
MS: The audio component of this work is subtle yet quite dynamic. Why did you add sound and how was it created?
HT: I have been incorporating sound or music into my works since 1993. Audio is often integrated into my works either in video installations or through environments that I create. I have been collaborating with Serdar Ateşer, a musician friend of mine, for a long time. When I use audio, I see it as a crucial element of the piece, so it’s not being added later at all, or used as a background component. It comes in at the very beginning when the idea springs up. In some works, audio comes in as an archival recording, in some as an audio effect like a strong wind sound etc., or as a musical piece composed especially for the piece or as a re-arrangement of an existing one. With this work here at Alserkal Avenue, I wanted to deliver a story I came across in a political essay I once read somewhere long ago. I couldn’t trace it back though, it is unknown to me whether it is fiction or not. In any case, I realised afterwards it was not important to confirm if it was a fact or not. I just wanted to write text incorporating this story into the work, and to do it in a such way that it reads like a verse or lyrics narrated by a woman. I also intended to include an effect as if there were birds flying right above your head and an audio ambience into the work to deepen the impact of the story narrated. So, Serdar came into it, to create the audio in building up the atmosphere that I was seeking.
MS: How do you see the global political situation in relation to what is going on currently in Turkey?
HT: Cold war has never ended and Turkey has always been in the hotspot. And because democracy has always failed now the situation is even worse, I don’t think we will see the light in the tunnel soon. Besides, the world politics is in such a stage that governments are increasingly focused mainly on local politics. In general, the stance is towards salvaging the day, unfortunately.
MS: The animal kingdom has a reoccurring presence in your practice. Could you tell me about your relationship to birds?
HT: I’m attracted to birds, I love them as they are, in their way of being, like other animals. I’ve found myself a few times helping semiconscious birds, usually after they have crashed into windows. You cannot believe how heartwarming it is to hold a tiny bird in your palm, even if just for a short time, and to see how they can relax after a while and even drink water from your hands until they are ready to fly off. I used parrots in an earlier video work titled “Dream H(a)unter“ back in 2002. It was based on the state of emergency rule being in effect in the Kurdish cities in the southeast of Turkey for 22 years. The coup d’état was back in 1980 and it was lifted in all other regions except in the southeast. Parrots started showing up in the city for the first time at the beginning of the 80s. We didn’t have parrots in Istanbul out in nature until then. It was rumoured that an illegal transport pack was caught at Ataturk Airport and state officials set them free. We have colonies of them now. The story narrated by a vicious fictive character in the video, in an ironic manner, reflected upon the injustices delivered onto people as ordered by the authorities and how she had nightmares about losing her job if she was told to stop doing so. Now, I see parrots all around and in my garden every day. Oddly enough, we now have been living under a state of emergency since July 20, 2016 up until this day as I’m writing these lines.