Light, the source of life, will be construed again through modern art at Zorlu Performing Arts Center (PSM). The international modern art event is a candidate for one of the most important art events in Turkey with its innovative vision and increased recognition around the world.
The event is curated by Rebeca Mendez, professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Department of Art, an award-winning artist and the instructor of renowned artist Refik Anadol. The works of nearly 25 international artists will be exhibited for three weeks during the event, which will be coordinated by Adam Eeuwens. The event, which was inspired by the most significant activities around the world, blended with a creative and inspirational international aspect, iconic look and artistic, social and interactive content, will take place at Zorlu Center PSM from Nov. 13-29. Daily Sabah sat down for an interview with Mendez to learn more about the project.
DAILY SABAH: What is special about the lighting event?
REBECA MENDEZ: In the context of the entire world, there are very important Turkish artists. But the question we should ask is "What is unique to Turkish artists?" For example, I was always asked what "Mexicanity" in my work is. What does it really mean? The Mexicanity in my work can only be my different understanding of time. Let's think about the mapping of light on Zorlu Center. As a professor, I see that the ancient works of Turkey were a direct influence on the architecture of this place, and the light was used like this consciously. And I find it very successful.
DS: Can we say "The impact of culture is more related to trade and investment than tourism." If so, what do you expect from this lighting festival project, and how many people do you expect come to see this modern art event?
MENDEZ: An event like this is free and open to the public. One of the major works that we are showing - "The Pool" by American artist Jen Lewin - literally invites the audience to touch the art. And not just to touch it, but stand on it, dance and jump on it. It is a very different experience from being in a museum, and both young and old will be enchanted by the light works. Culture at its best creates a sense of belonging; people wish to identify with a certain set of values and aspirations. As such, we stand for a forward-looking culture, based on innovation, invention and new perspectives. Ever since Prometheus stole the fire from the gods, light has stood for the progress of humankind. It is for this reason that 2015 is the United Nations Year of Light.
DS: Digital art, lighting festivals and video mapping are becoming more and more popular each year. Is this the new trend in contemporary art?
MENDEZ: It is absolutely a worldwide phenomenon of temporary public art that is widely popular among the general public. What is surprising is that it is not only artists, but also designers, engineers, filmmakers, performers and programmers that are finding an opportunity to express their skills in this discipline. Certainly technology being more widely available makes it possible for more people from different backgrounds to experience and create it.
25 ARTISTS COMING FROM EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD
DS: How many artists will participate in this project? And can you give us some names and examples of interesting projects?
MENDEZ: We are currently in the process of securing 25 different artists who will come from almost every corner of the world. From Japan, the VJ/DJ Daito Manabe will perform with a dancer and drones; from the Australian island of Tasmania come the giant inflatable rabbits from Amanda Parer; the Dutch artist couple VOLLAERSZWART will turn the metro tunnel into a tunnel of love; while three Turkish artists have also been asked to exhibit significant works.
DS: Do you expect people from outside of country to come to Istanbul just to see this lighting event?
The city of Lyon in France was one of the first cities to organize a light art festival. More than 20 years later, they attract 4 million visitors, making it one of the largest public art events in the world. We have every intention of creating an event that excites people worldwide.
DS: Can you tell us more about the lighting event? Are you going to put LED screens around the shopping center?
Right now we are in the position that we have to demonstrate to all the different parties involved, from the municipality and the performing arts center to the stakeholders in the Zorlu Center, that we have an offer to make that they will want to be part of. We will have to be the trailblazers this year that will introduce all parties involved to the opportunities that this event will create for new ways of expression.
DS: What was the first thing that came to your mind when you heard the light festival will take place in Turkey for the first time?
I could not sleep the night I stayed in Istanbul. I got up in the middle of the night, opened the curtains and watched the sun rise. The way that light works in this city is incredibly beautiful. I believe this event is an opportunity to speak of the light we take for granted and do not appreciate because it is always there every day - as it should be. However, we can speak of the existing light and help people pay attention only when we leave our experience with the location aside. This city is so alive through the day and night, and it reminds me of Mexico City because it has "that light."
When I was looking down outside my room in Raffles, I was not looking only for light. I was looking down into the beautiful environment created at Zorlu Center. The grass and roof look very beautiful. I say it not only because I love it, but also the work here is bringing nature into a very urban space and making it a part of that space. When I was looking down from my window, I saw these beautiful white birds. They were landing on a branch, taking off, drawing circles and coming back. It has restored the ecology and brought life here. I am sure those birds believe in this project as well because they keep coming back. What is more poetic than watching birds going around a building? Perhaps this is helping us restore our hope.
As an international artist and a jury member of many different art and design competitions, I've traveled a lot, met many artists and young students and evaluated them. One of my favorite students whose work I admire is Pınar Yoldaş. She went to UCLA to work on her PhD immediately after she graduated from the Art Department; she has wonderful works. Another one of my favorite students is Refik Anadol. The whole faculty was behind him as well. He graduated only a year ago, but he has inspired Los Angeles with his projects. He's so young, but I believe he's already a star.
I led one of my college classes in conjunction with a professor of architecture. The project was to create a space colony. He was in charge of the architecture students and was designing space colonies in which to settle people when Earth cannot shelter us anymore. My students worked on what parts of nature should be taken to such a space colony. What I was interested in was light because it may be the only thing you can take to that place. Nature is light; it's the force of life. The picture I saw when I looked down from my window reminded me of those colonies that could be created. It was the integration of nature and architecture: The integration of the manmade with nature. This is something that many architects have tried. But when you think of the colonies and integrating nature and light, this place can truly be the cradle of civilization. Perhaps, future civilizations lie here as well.
DS: How do you describe Istanbul as a culture and arts city? What would you like to say about galleries and art fairs in Istanbul? Are there any particular ones you like and why?
A visit to the Istanbul Biennial in 2005 is still one of the most profound art experiences I ever had. I also loved discovering the city of Istanbul while exploring neighborhoods and buildings I would never have seen if it were not for the biennial.
DS: Do you think Istanbul is on the map of the emerging art scene with its interesting artwork and art fairs?
What is interesting is that although we had little time to curate this event, very few of the artists said no to the invitation; everybody is expressing an immediate desire to want to show their work in Istanbul. There is an almost magnetic pull coming from this city that is stronger than the effort it takes to overcome the barriers that separate us.