Like in the whole world, physicians and health workers in Turkey are putting their all to try to struggle with pandemic for nearly about a year since the first Covid-19 case being declared in our country. And here, ceramic artist and academician Assoc. Prof. Buket Acarturk dedicated her exhibition named “Blood & Sweat” to health workers who are giving the greatest fight of the century.
FATMA BATUKAN BELGE
We’re living with Covid-19 for over a year and we don’t know when this will end. How this pandemic period has affected you as an artist and academician?
Getting used to and orienting the conditions of pandemic ending up its’ first year now and necessity to set out life according to this new situation, have been a tough period for me as well as for everyone else. What I mean by saying tough is planning education in an applied study field and maintaining it as productive as possible. But as this period extended, we have tried to develop methods fitting this new situation. We see that this extraordinary course of pandemic is causing a sophisticated change, difficulties and metamorphosis on human beings, environment and nature. I believe that all these have also impacts which support artistic creativity. In these tough times where we cannot meet our kins, family and friends, study face-to-face with our students, I try to put to good use of mentally and intellectually experienced difficulties by reading, studying and producing.
From where did this idea of exhibition come out, which you dedicate to health workers ?
Covid-19 virus and all the difficulties and changes we have experienced herewith it, have impacted us as both individuals and certain groups of profession. It has caused dead serious difficulties and even losses of life on some groups of profession and their working conditions. Prominently coming at first among these groups of profession is health workers as you know. We know that health workers are working intensively for long hours. But unfortunately, we have also seen that their workload and problems related to this have also grew bigger and bigger during this pandemic period. We have witnessed the great efforts put forth by health workers in emergency and intensive care services, at the risk of their life for the sake of rescuing others’. For instance, we have seen in national television channels that their coverall suits, masks, gloves and boots were soaking wet of sweat by the end of a just 3 hours of shift. This scene has teared my heartstrings personally, I can honestly say that I couldn’t believe my eyes and watched this news over and over again. Because for me this sweat was the essence and summary of their efforts and devotion and where the words fail. This was the time to do my best to support them from where I’m. Taking form with these feelings and thoughts, I wanted to dedicate my exhibition titled “Blood & Sweat” to health workers who have been working devotedly and passed away.
You cannot stand idle by social issues. For example, in your exhibition titled “Tested and Tested” which you held after Gezi Resistance, you focused on that matter. Is your force of creation always triggered by social happenings? Do you also puzzle your brains on personal and inner issues?
As a person producing art, I’m influenced by many things and canals during the intellectual preparation times of my productions. My own personal and inner world comes at first among these. But I don’t interpret this world as a separate being in a separate place from my social surrounding, the geography I live in and social, economic and political matters and happenings being lived there. This does not mean that I don’t have a personal journey and I don’t puzzle my brains for these of course, but I live with a percept that the end and conclusion of these journeys is a part of social conclusions. Because I don’t see human and artist as a sole being existing independent and pure from everything and every fact else and I position myself thus and so. I believe human and specifically artist as a social being, is changing its’ pulse together with social pulse and it needs to act with an awareness that can take this pulse like a barometer so to speak and I think I produce believing this.
You made the positioning in “Blood & Sweat” by producing 166 porcelain gloves. Is there a specific reason to prefer porcelain?
Following the phase where I specified the idea and the form of the “Blood & Sweat” exhibition, I preferred porcelain to contribute the content of the exhibition. As well known by ceramicists, porcelain is a bit more hard and demanding material compared to other types of clay. But when you know the material well and approach with correct treatments you can end up with a different aesthetical result both visually and tactile. I have made numerous experiments with porcelain clay and its’ firing temperatures and used three different types of porcelain clays and five different firing temperatures in order to achieve the result I desired. Using the difficulties and possibilities of porcelain material I meant to address the characteristic aspects of the pandemic period in a conceptual extent. The element which I describe as conceptual extents is the glove form which I used to express the efforts of health workers. But I wanted the forms to be thin and transmit light. Because I need to express the moments, the fragility of their contacts with patients with again a fragile yet resistant material. I again used three different sizes for the sizes of gloves and shaped them by performing out the positionings often used in patient examinations in a realistic approach. And as a manifestation of the pertinacity of health workers working relentlessly throughout this long and difficult journey, I emphasized the resistancy of porcelain as well as its’ thinness and elegance. Within the context of the exhibition, my purpose was to position the thinness, transparency and light transmission of porcelain in effort, endeavour, life and death dialectics.
In current art, we come across works consisting of numerously repetitive objects too often. Is that the reason you prefer plural positionings?
In 2004, I held my first personal exhibition consisting of 280 pieces of ceramic figures in Istanbul. Since back then, I have held 8 personal exhibitions, with one in New York, others in Istanbul, Kocaeli and Izmir and two in Sakarya including this last one. I generally work thematically and make multi-pieced installations in my exhibitions. Themes are mainly focused on a common or social situation or issue and this focusing is symbolized with an ant figure in my artistic productions. I have made over 3 thousand ant figures of different colors, textures and shapes since my first exhibition in 2004. Working with this much pieces of ceramics is my personal way of I build up to support and enrich the issues mentioned in my exhibitions as to form and substance. It’s an important thing for me to exhibit pertinent to the theme and the content so I try to ensure lots of ceramic pieces to be positioned in relation with the theme. This way of positioning is made up in my mind at the beginning phase of each exhibition. In fact, I take the result into account just at the beginning, calculate how to position the ceramic pieces based on their shapes, sizes, numbers and the space and the production period is planned in this way. This systematics determines the way of my desire to best express the theme of the exhibition that I want to focus on. In brief, I can say that I never had a motivation of engaging to any art movement or discipline apart from these frameworks I work in.
Beyond the conceptual content of the work there’s also the artisanal labor you put in. And this puts the difference of the “ceramicist’s hand”. For instance, the gloves in “Blood & Sweat”, do you think would they have the same effect if they were to be plastic instead of porcelain?
We know that using ready-made objects is a common thing in today’s art. Although I have no objections to this, I can say that it’s not a close thing for me personally. I could use ready-made plastic gloves in the “Blood & Sweat” exhibition but I think they wouldn’t be as strong as porcelain forms and at that point, would drift apart from the concepts I desired to express. Besides, ceramics is a self-governing field that offers endless possibilities to us. Discovering and experiencing the endless and limitless possibilities of the ceramic material takes maybe that long to outreach a lifetime. This being the case, working with ceramic material becomes the most basic way of expressing myself. I try to ensure a clean and detailed craftsmanship while shaping my works. At the end of the day, my ceramics meeting their audience have a mission of narrating their stories well, meaning they have to represent them good. I would like to point out my desire to response with labor, in other words to make the best of it when telling about a course and a situation full of such labor with ceramics.