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“The Girl With The Sun In Her Head”
Jan van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, Netherlands, 2015

Interview with the curator Pádraic E. Moore for the exhibition catalogue

PADRAIC E. MOORE: A key strand in the narrative of du Maurier’s short story is one of the protagonists compulsion to renounce conventional society and seek spiritual satisfaction in the mountain sect on Monte Verità. She wishes to withdraw from society into a world of metaphysical abstraction. This reminds me of how you have previously mentioned that you wish to use your work to explore what is beyond the tangibility of material substance. Can you elaborate upon this idea?

EGEMEN DEMIRCI: You refer to the term “metaphysical abstraction” in your question. The short story of du Maurier is filled with vivid imagery. The room, the mansion, the mountain, the village, the sun and the moon, etc. They are all precisely (visually) described using a simple language one would not expect from a piece of literature. Yet the story functions precisely because of the fact that we do not know what the people in this cult are doing, who they are following or what their rituals really are. After I read the story I could easily paint a picture in my head or find a photograph on the Internet of the setting of the events and the mansion of the cult, but I don’t have a clear concept of what the rites or the beliefs of the cult are founded upon. I think this is exactly how the images work today, and why this story is so relevant to make an exhibition. On the one side today, as Vilém Flusser would argue, images hide rather than show the truth. On the other side, which is even more important, we produce images of things we don't actually know about.

As a side point to maybe conclude this short peek into the metaphysics and abstraction, the information gathered by an individual cannot be a measure to decipher this space of the unknown and therefore cannot decipher (a) reality. It needs to be publicly granted to the society as a whole -which is why hermeneutical efforts of individuals like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning and so on, are so important today- and here I believe lies one of the fundamental problems of art, that subjectivity still performs as the main engine of production of meaning.

P.E.M. The work that you are displaying in the exhibition combines elements that could be considered almost contradictory. The photographic image of the night sky has an almost romantic quality and yet the the reflective spheres in the foreground introduce a more scientific, analytical method. For these mysterious looking orbs can be used for in physics demonstrations to illustrate the rules of reflection. Is this contradiction or tension something that interests you throughout your practice?

E.D. Yes, but these contradictions are not really the main concern in my work. I am not looking for the contradiction between the conceptual, empirical statement and a mystic or romantic setting. While I understand what you mean by romantic I think that this is ultimately a subjective point of view. There are different levels of transparency of an image depending upon the information the one who is looking at this image has. An astronomer would easily read the season, the location, the time of the day, etc. from this image while a professional photographer would also be able to tell what kind of technique was used, which processes it went through and so on and this could be the most interesting information for this type of gaze, and also be the most interesting aspects of an image for a type of spectator. These are all against the mystical qualities of the image you are referring to. On the other hand conceptual art has to be transparent in the sense of material in order to allow the viewer to reach the idea, which supposedly holds the artistic meaning. So there is a clear distinction between the material, the information, and the idea. I try to see all these as ultimately consisting a physicality that are continuously borne from each other and I believe it is this distinction that all the contradictions stem from. Of course it makes sense to argue that the links between these notions are the most interesting and this would be acceptable since it is the subject that is forming these links.

P.E.M. Your current research has led you to explore archives of astronomy. You have been investigating early concepts of the constellations via an analysis of the works by individuals such as Tycho Brahe and Johannes Kepler. Much of the material that you have been researching evokes the period in Western History before science and spirituality had been entirely separated. Indeed, much of the astronomical material you are investigating emphasises the fact that all phenomenon was explained as divine. Is this idea of a science that is somehow restricted by religious rules or parameters something that interests you?

E.D. I think the best way to address this question is to think first about internet and cencorship. Where there is censorship it is almost sure that there is a direct access to reality in that which is being censored. But it is also important to note that censorship only operates on a vertical axis, for example on printed and/or broadcasted media, and cannot operate on a horizontal axis, for example network based communications like Internet. When one goes online, s/he can always reach to the content s/he is looking for, there is always a way around digital obstacles. It may seem that in this, a place like the Internet appears as a space of freedom, but we know this is not the case , and actually I don't believe it ever will be one. However, apart from the obvious condition that capital is controlling the Internet, I also like to look at it from another perspective, which is that censorship does not function on the Internet precisely because it does not provide any essential information to access reality. The Internet cannot tell one how to live on a metaphysical level. The search one would make with such an inquiry would allow her/him to encounter a multiplicity of promised truths about the meaning, value, nature, virtues, beginning and end, before and after, etc. of life and things, but at the end still cannot provide a - however abstract and non-linear it can be – form of life from which one can take as the absolute divine example. While this horizontality dominates our daily lives, the capital which controls the world wide web and the devices connected to it, performs on a vertical level, constantly and immediately archiving not only the content but every type of movement and action of the individuals. And I think this verticality, which provides a direct access to information, creates an imbalance that immediately offers a reality and a chance of metaphysical embodiment for the controlling mechanism. The individuals become prophets, and like every other prophet in history, the message (the generated code) is much more important than who she or he is – since the proof and the realisation of the self is encoded within the message - and anonymity actually becomes an inescapable condition for the individuals. So to come back to your question, we know there has been a succession of separations in the past, between the Western scientific method which incorporates – to put it simply - deduction through observation and experiments, and religious dogmatism, and these separations in the core were about the source and gathering of data. Today I think we are facing a much more different situation where each individual is taking part in constantly designing this universe of data.

P.E.M. You have previously mentioned that one of the concerns that informs your work is what you refer to as “societies increasing detachment from reality”. Do you think that this detachment from reality results from an increased dependence upon technology and mediated methods of communication? Do you think perhaps that visual art can serve as an antidote to this?

E.D. No, simply because today art is against the dominating ideology, and it is nó longer possible for it to engage fully in construction/aethetization of an ideology. Instead contemporary art is reduced to production of images and signs that represent/reproduce alternative political ideas within the dominant ideology. This is not necessarily a bad thing, since critique is a very important and powerful tool. By the way, before going further I would just like to clarify one thing when talking about “art”. It is very common today when one talks about what is happening in “contemporary art”, there is an instant reaction which claims that there is not “one” type of art, and that there are many different types of artistic practices and frames “art” is taking place in. However I would very much like to follow this wishful thinking, I see continuously patterns and statements that prove otherwise; we talk about trends, fashion, or even movements and immediacy and so on. Now, coming back to my point of ideological support in art, art is not directly utilized as a political tool in the way it was in the past as the labeling of Entartete Kunst or organizations such as USSR Union of Artists etc.. In this sense the function of art is to create and portray a type of reality relating to life which corresponds to the desires and ambitions of the people who have the access and control to the means of circulation. I think the crucial point here of how today in art antogonism is constitued is obviuous. To finish, I believe, if we are to talk of antidotes, we first need to address to structure of reality which is being reconfigured, and only then we can consider the possibility or impossiblity of dealing with abstraction.