.interview with Basak Senova was recorded at Platform´s Garanti residency studio Istanbul. may 2006.

mh: ...blabla. you just say stop.
bs: my only concern is that my spoken english is not really that good. my written english is much more better.
mh: ...ha...
bs: ...haha...when you´re writing you can entirely control the content, so as another control freak, not being able to control the text may trouble me easily.
mh: well. the first thing is... what i was thinking was, how to start a dialog, what to ask you, that it won’t be like some kind of stupid and
simple information about what are you reading, where do you come from , where are you going for your holidays. maybe my first question would be about the city, about the scene here, about the people, artist
with whom you work here? and on the one hand do you have a special or a general principle on how you work with people, on how you curate? and on the other hand do you see any specifics about the artist here, about the people with whom do you work?
bs: ok. it is quite complicated indeed, but...basically, it depends on the artist whom I plan to work with. of course, in every case, I have some obvious and also a bit hidden criteria from the beginning: for instance, I am entirely interested in working with the artists whose field of research covers socially and politically engaged issues and also who link the theoretical base of their work with life and especially with their personal experiences and the situations that they live in. Secondly, I am very critical about the techniques and the medium/media that an artist prefers to work with. It may have been rooted in my graphic design background. So, one of my first concerns is always to check how much the artist is aware of the possibilities and some ideological implications of the medium that s/he uses. It could be any medium: low-tech or high-tech, video, painting, photography, net…whatever… it is really important for me. Thirdly, I am really obsessed with the notion of “space”, therefore, spatial awareness is also a very important criteria for me.
As to the second part of your question: I was back to Turkey by the end of 2003. I had been away from the Turkish art scene for a while but I had the big opportunity to become one of the jury members and curators of a big scale competition exhibition in Istanbul in 2004. We were 3 curators and we evaluated more than 600 works from young Turkish artists. On the one hand, it was really insane for me as I was challenged to process an overloaded data at that moment but on the other hand, it was an instructive scanning process for me. I had the chance to review what had happened in those past years with young generation of artists. Especially, about their fields of research, interests, and approaches. And started from there, some collaborations with young artists have developed. Sometimes it is very freshening and exciting to work with young artist and naturally, sometimes it’s difficult because they haven’t been clear about their methodology of working yet. But for me, there is no difference between working with a foreign artist and a Turkish artist. May be the only difference is that as you share the same realities in the same country, you may be more mean to a Turkish artist while showing more tolerance to foreign artists due to your distance and knowledge to their local issues.
mh: this criteria part was really good, but I’m again with this first
part of a kind of stereotypes alias some Turkish-Istanbul specification,
some common things about the artists working here. you said you lived abroad and you came back, you work with foreign artist and maybe, i don´t know, maybe there is no difference...
bs: I do not believe in homogenous identity formations. For sure, I can make some categorizations within the art scene in Istanbul but when I’m thinking as a whole, what is really “Turkish”-Turkish, what is really representative of here is not the works and not the artists, but maybe the mode of production can be labelled as something Turkish. I mean, if I follow a development process of a work then I may say “this is the very Turkish way of dealing with something”. Secondly, I’m also interested in a kind of local material. For instance, "anabala". It is a group consists of two artists: Murat Ertel, musician and Ceren Oykut, visual artist. They create multi-disciplinary projects and especially perform by using a lot of local materials and input. They are a combination of many things , they are mixing a lot of things together by researching on original materials and sources from turkey as the geographical frame of their research: about the history of this land, Anatolia, Asia, about the things from here. For me, this attitude brings a kind of richness. Also "yogurt technologies", founded as a company by a group of artists and engineers in Istanbul in 1997. They are developing animations, animation tools, softwares and computer games. They produced the first 3D “first person shooter” exclusively in Turkish, with Turkish graphics and 3D models of the whole of Istanbul. This local input brings another kind of experience. Anyways, I think, I am out of context here and...
mh: what I would like to say that there is no context.
bs: ok. but you will suffer while decoding all these things. the founding members of the "yogurt technologies" have been abroad for a while, sometime in Europe, sometime in the States and then they all preferred to come back. this whole process was a voyage for them. you can clearly see the impacts of this voyage with their approach and also in their projects with a distinctive local input.
mh: well. I got here alias I wrote some questions for you about what you did last, what you’ll do next, something about your biography, how does your cv looks like, but maybe i could write them to yout email.
bs: ok. and what is your deadline with this interview?
mh: well, some five days after the presentation and performance that we
(son:DA and Basak Senova) are doing together.
bs: maybe after you transcript this interview, I can add some more lines.
mh: yes, of course. but i have one question. I’m basically not
interested in doing a kind of narcissistic-pr interview where there is a
description of a hero...
bs: i also prefer to talk about something else rather than just giving you some information about NOMAD and telling you what I’m doing; you can already find such info at NOMAD website.
mh: yes, because till now i gave you only 2 questions and i already now much more about you, your idea, way of working and about the artistic scene here in istanbul, you really gave me a lot of great information. but have now one personal, direct question alias what do you think about halil´s altindere´s work "fuck the curator"?
bs: when halil did it, the context and the timing was perfect. now everything has changed for him and also for the scene. in other words, it won’t have the same impact, if he does it now. it was the right time and a kind of right reaction and the gallery where he did it was the right space.
mh: halil becoming one of the curators at Istanbul biennale?
bs: it is not about halil becoming a curator himself. I think, it is about the context and the timing. now, I am also thinking through my experiences. I also collaborated and worked with many people -not only with artists also with some curators. and the only thing which is not changing is that we are all changing all the time. with every single experience, we are changing.
collaborating and developing a project with someone needs good synchrony, timing and right frequency. it may go well or may go totally wrong with the very same person. and the duration of such good collaborations can last shorter or longer than your estimation.
I remember, Rosa Martinez (in transsexual express, 2001 catalogue) stating that “exhibitions can also be an act of love”. in the same line of thought, I can say that all of these collaborations are like love affairs: some of them are really long and deep; some of them are short but passionate; sometimes they are self-destructing; sometimes are disappointing; and mostly they are energizing.
yet, there are obstacles for these collaborations all the time; there are trends; hidden agendas…
mh: sorry to stop you. but what do you think who is making the trends or who is following them? artists or curators?
bs: both but everything is relational. i think, these questions inhabit multiple layers. first of all, everybody is trying to locate him/herself but on top of everything, there is the bulk of televised political agenda of the world. it is a matter of how curators and artists perceive the realities that surround them and how attentive, intelligent and critical they can be with the content they produce.
I am also very critical about politically engaged projects with big budgets. well, I’ve been questioning activist approaches through these projects. I believe that despite of their initial intentions, they are all subject to serve the system by normalizing what they criticize.
but I’m also questioning myself: yes, I am criticizing these projects but what would I do if I had to curate one of them. the working strategy of NOMAD is doing projects by fragmenting them into parts and phases. like “under.ctrl” or “NOMAD-TV.network”, they are large scale on-going projects but have always realized in portions.
mh: the small scale projects are maybe having the better and more direct impact, because with the big scale things issues are something lost in the whole pr, money management and the story, the statement could be lost. like these big Balkan exhibitions are here and now...
bs: yes, consuming tragedies. but i must be honest about our working strategy and should say that working in small scale portions was not a conscious decision but rather an obligation because of budget-wise and time-wise limitations. especially, in the beginning I was not in the position of choosing larger scale productions.
mh: if you would be asked to do a big thing...
bs: I wouldn’t say no. I would try. but I do not have a definite and immediate answer for a strategy to follow. in the same way, that is why I consider the last Istanbul Biennial (9th) as a success, because both Vasif Kortun and Charles Esche approached to the whole biennial as if it was a kind of a small scale project. I find this position and approach very distinctive and also constructive along with the well-defined balance among the works.
mh: and...
basak´s mobile-phone is ringing... and after nice hello and...