An interview with artist Burçak Bingöl across two cities

04.07.2019

In Burçak Bingöl’s parallel shows in Berlin and Istanbul, the artist uses both found objects and new works to explore issues of alienation, psycho-geography, and history across the two cities. As much of her work depends on the transfer of ideas and objects through international migrations, we were interested in Burçak’s personal and artistic views on travel:

Where About Now: What are your three favorite items you carry with you while traveling and why?

Burçak Bingöl: Definitely my sketchbook along with various markers/pens to take notes and sketches on the go. Thoughts are fluid and it is good to keep them there. When I look back at the book after a while, I even get surprised to see things that I cannot even remember writing.
My noise-blocking headphones to stay in touch with my own world whenever I need it. I’m more and more using it even without listening to anything but just being in silence.
A very old cotton scarf, which I bought from a local craft market. It’s quite functional in every season and I even use it as a towel at the beach or to pack/handle things. Since I have so many travel memories with it already, I really like keeping it with me.

Timescape - Green, 2019 Glazed ceramics. Courtesy of the artist and Zilberman Gallery Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz
Descent - Flow, 2019 Glazed ceramics. Courtesy of the artist and Zilberman Gallery Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz

WAN: Where have you traveled for work lately? Was there anything that particularly touched you in one of these places, or do you have one image that stuck in your mind during a recent trip?

BB: I traveled for my talk at my Berlin show. I had visited the city many times in the past, but having a solo show definitely creates new ties with the city. On the last day I discovered this café/restaurant open for 23 hours! I’m still fascinated by the idea of such a place in Berlin.

WAN: Do you have a favorite book that you would suggest for long journeys?

BB: I have been reading a lot of work-related books depending on the project I am currently working on; however, during my journeys I prefer to read something that relates to my destination. A writer from there or subject or history… I really enjoy discovering cities through the lens of others and it prepares me [for the journey]… Also, on long journeys, I think it is a very good idea to keep a favorite book with us, one which we like to re-read.

Descent - Grow, 2019 Glazed ceramics. Courtesy of the artist and Zilberman Gallery Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz
Descent - Crescent, 2019 Glazed ceramics. Courtesy of the artist and Zilberman Gallery Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz

WAN: What do you do to be rested and energized after getting off a plane and heading straight to a meeting?

BB: Changing clothes definitely helps me to shift my mind and mood… At least with some minor touches if there is no time. Some make-up and coffee greatly help as well.

WAN: When you’re creating a new piece, is it important to you that the piece travels well?

BB: I usually create things in my mind first, that’s why a small sketchbook is always with me wherever I go. Somehow my mind moves so freely when I’m changing places. I see things differently [when I am travelling] and regular things could inspire me a lot. I also take many pictures and collect ordinary things as reminders–like a leaf or a stone to remember. Whenever I create in the studio, I always have special time with those notes, sketches, things, and pictures in the beginning, then things started to form and flow...

Inner Landscape, Detail, 2019 Glazed ceramics. Courtesy of the artist and Zilberman Gallery Photo credit: Kayhan Kaygusuz
Burçak Bingöl Interrupted Halfway Through Installation View. The courtesy: Zilberman Gallery and the artist Photo: CHROMA

WAN: Your solo show Interrupted Halfway Through at Zilberman Gallery Berlin (through July 27), “takes its name from Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar’s book Beş Şehir (Five Cities), in which he makes a metaphorical comparison of Beyoglu, a district of Istanbul, to Paris” (taken from the press release). How would you make a comparison between Istanbul and Berlin?

BB: I think the most striking difference between the two cultures crystallizes on forgetting and remembering. I could also easily mention spontaneity and order. I sometimes find it extremely ironic that such different cultures would have such strong ties. Maybe it is meant to be, so that both parties could learn from each other.

WAN: For your exhibition in the Berlin space, you carried various fragments from Istanbul to Berlin and made a visual experiment by colliding times and spaces. Could you please tell more about such a migration of objects and ideas between the two cities?

BB: I’ve been playing around with form and meaning shifts in my art for a long time by working around the theme alienation while between going back and forth between Ankara and New York. To me, there was a missing piece in the scenery and I was trying to overcome with this inner dialogue by making art.

Moving to Istanbul took this subject to a whole new level and I started to work around on psycho-geography and history, especially through the lens of other artist/writes who lived in and responded to the city before me. East and West affected and transformed each other on many levels. I’m interested on how immediate surroundings create our unique contexts, which ultimately affect all the definitions we make. When preparing the show for Berlin, I decided to carry all the things I’ve been digging for some time with me and see what happens with this new encounter.

Burçak Bingöl Interrupted Halfway Through Installation View. The courtesy: Zilberman Gallery and the artist Photo: CHROMA
Burçak Bingöl Interrupted Halfway Through Installation View. The courtesy: Zilberman Gallery and the artist Photo: CHROMA

These exhibitions came about through this inner dialogue of rejecting and embracing, so I had to really become involved with the spaces to see them with a different eye. Spending a lot of time in the Berlin residency of Zilberman Gallery during the preparation of Interrupted Halfway Through ultimately manifested in the other show, Living Inside A Tale And There Only, in Istanbul. Now, while my re-claimed forms and meanings wait halfway in the Berlin gallery, the Istanbul gallery becomes the space in Berlin itself with it’s distortedly-fit site-specific wall paper installation. While [the Istanbul show] experiments on superposing spatial form and image on two different spaces in two different cities, it is also a metaphor for longing for another place, Europe, a place where many still dream of working and living...

Interview by WAN

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