Archeology Museum coming from the Future
Hande Şekerciler in conversation with Marcus Graf
Marcus Graf: Dear Hande, could you please outline the formal and conceptual matters that you were interested in while developing your current series.
Hande Şekerciler: My statues are about those who are willing to take in anything for the sake of their ideas and beliefs. Most of the people have such confidence in their beliefs that they are ready to die or even to kill! The eyes of the characters in the series are shut in order to stress this situation. These figures’ gaze is inwards. And we, as the spectators, see them as they envision themselves. They might be living in the past or the future but they still embrace the most primitive impulses. In fact they are just experiencing the clash between the civilization and the primitiveness. And their primitive accessories and masks, which are at odds with their modern appearance, highlight this conflict. As a part of my research and design process I delved into the Shaman practices all around the world. To put it aptly, I redesigned what I have found during this research. And ancient Greek sculptures have been my aesthetic guide. I envisioned the installation process as if I was installing an imaginary museum of archeology. An archeology museum coming from the future…
Graf: Why did you focus on the culture of Shamanism, which I would consider rather positive? Is this relation rather formal or contentual as well?
Şekerciler: We are all primitive on a certain level. Who can claim that our impulses, feelings to be different from the primitive human beings’. We create and refine our civilization through the same path. No matter how civilized we think we are, our inner ‘caveman’ shows her/himself both in the way we defend our thoughts, beliefs and our choices. Futurist Michio Kaku claims that analyzing the past behaviors of the humankind would help us to see what future hides. If I’m right he coined this situation as ‘the caveman syndrome’. No matter how civilized humanity gets, s/he cannot detach her/himself from primitivity. All s/he can do is to educate this primitive core gradually. That’s why, taking my clues from the futurists, I look at the primitive to show people’s inner lives. My characters might be both from the future or the past. And I modernize Shaman masks, redesign the accessories and costumes worn in Shamanic rituals in order to visualize these primitive impulses, which will probably continue to exist in the following 100 years as well. Other than Shamanic patterns, I also employ the ornaments used in the rituals of native tribes of Australia and Africa. But my images are really different from the ones you can find on the Internet. I minimalize them to the point where you cannot tell whether they’re artifacts coming from the past or the future. Besides, think of how we cannot comprehend or grasp the reasons behind the certain events of the past -such as the rise of a figure like Hitler, the insanity of the inquisition or the voters’ behavior in the prior elections- when we situate ourselves within the present. It’s possible that we would be thought of in the same line in the future as well. My statues are of those people from the future who will possibly take a look at our age.
Graf: While discussing the paradox between (modern) civilization and primitivism, you use the aesthetic of the Greek antique. Is this not a paradox itself? Why did you choose this formal approach?
Şekerciler: Future is built on the past. Futurists look at the past in order to envision what will happen in the future. They project their thoughts on the people of the future through their analysis of the past. It’s more or less the same in art as well. Maybe Turkey is an exception but internationally, contemporary art is created through several touches applied to tradition. Hence my imagination of the future sculpture relies on the past. Sculpture of ancient Greece and Renaissance, the ages where human body was idealized, ideas, humans and beliefs were glorified inspire me.
Graf: According to what parameters did you chose the primitive accessories?
Şekerciler: I might say that I singled out the ones that stroked me aesthetically. And some of them are works of my own imagination. I envisaged how different things could be done in a primitive sense and created them myself.
Graf: Your sculptures are white. Nevertheless, you use paint on certain points, especially the face. What role does the colour play?
Şekerciler: Whenever I go to an archeology museum or Louvre, I always feel astonished by the powerful aesthetics of the pieces being exhibited. That’s what I want to achieve, that’s the statue I want to carve! And inevitably, as a result of the inspiration I take from Renaissance and ancient Greece, white is the dominant color in my statues. However, I don’t consider form to be the sole component of sculpture. Thus, in order to highlight my ideas and build a contemporary structure on the traditional ground, I also apply color. And they don’t have specific meanings for me.
Graf: You have chosen to create large busts. Why did you neglect the arms and legs?
Şekerciler: As a result of the inspiration I take from the ancient statues I see in the archeology museum and my fondness for their demolished looks I choose to cut the limbs of my figures. However, I don’t think that it’d be right to search for a deeper meaning in every aspect of these works. The main reason for this choice is my aesthetic views.
Graf: For every sculptor, the pedestal is an important issue. Some integrate it, some problematise it, and since 1960’s Minimalism, some neglect it. You have found an interesting model for some works. How did you come up with this form between pedestal and spatial environment.?
Şekerciler: Installing the incomplete statues in the metal frames and ilustrating their missing limbs through various means is a customary method of exhibition used in the museums. I take this method and instead of illustrating the missing limbs, I use the additional parts to form a different graphic language. Accordingly my characters find themselves stuck between virtuality and reality.
Graf: The frames mark and outline the space around the sculpture. I like the between the organic lines of the sculptures and the straight lines of the pedestal. In a way it reminded me of the way Francis Bacon was giving his figures with just a few lines a pretty concrete a spatial environment. Did you feel a need to give the pieces a certain space?
Şekerciler: Framing was essential for a certain aesthetic approach. But other than that it helps to show how these characters can’t think outside the box and limit their thoughts. And contrasts are of interest to me as well. They reinforce both the meaning and the expression. I hope to have created such a contrast between the organic and the straight lines in these works.
Graf: How do you work? Could you please describe your process of conceptualizing, designing, and producing?
Şekerciler: In an idealistic world I would first find the idea, and then sketch it. Later I would apply these sketches to mud. And finally I would start carving the statue. However it does not always work like that. The only thing that does not change in this line is the prominence of the idea. Afterwards the question of method arises. I sometimes start with working on a mud draft. And sometimes, especially for the busts, I directly start carving the statute. Most of the time I skip the sketching part. I prefer making little drafts with mud. Steps such as modeling, lapping and paint come afterwards.
Graf: Why did you choose Epoxy as material for your current work?
Şekerciler: I have worked with so many materials till now. However epoxy is healthier and stronger compared to other molt materials such as polyester. And it was necessary for me to work in a more independent atmosphere in order to avoid the irresponsible and unethical attitudes seen in molting practices, unfortunately which is not an exception when you think of other lines of business in Turkey. This material provides me a free space in which I require just help from my assistant. Another reason for me to use epoxy is that it makes it easier for me to play with the texture of the works. Also, it takes shape easily and I can effortlessly apply acrylic paint on this material.
Graf: As you work with epoxy and cast forms, you could work in edition series. Are the works editions? (If yes, what is the reason? If not why not)
Şekerciler: I had worked on edition series formerly. The reason that it was not the case for this one is mostly economical. When you work on editions, you divide the price to the number of the editions. And it gives an access to these works for the not-so-rich collectors. And when you think of the other side, it also reduces the production costs for the artist and keeps the earnings in balance. In theory of course! Because of the inconveniences I have just mentioned, it doesn’t work like that and the artist always ends up praying to make both ends meet. The artist him/herself has to cover for all the delays and problems seen in molting, lapping, paint, etc. Moreover there’s a pleasure in knowing that these works are unique. It’s almost the same feeling as knowing that you are unique in this world.
Graf: I have read in a previous interview of yours that you admire Alfred Hrdlicka, and Ron Mueck. One worked rather expressive while the other is hyper-realistic. What do you like in their works and are there influences?
Şekerciler: I love the intensity in Hdrlicka’s work. The way he conceives stone like a Renaissance man is another thing I admire in him. And let’s not forget the wilderness and dynamism in his etchings. Moreover the part labour and intellect plays in art are also an interest of me. I assume that is the reason I can admire both Hrdlicka and Mueck, who are coming from the different ends of the spectrum. Even though Hdrlicka’s method of carving the stone, using old fashioned tools such as hammer or chisel is a bit too ambitious for my taste, I cannot stop admiring his intense labour and the fact that he carves stone all day and later finds time to draw his etchings. I sense there is a connection of will between Muerck’s elaborate figures and Hrdlicka’s method of carving the stone. Moreover both of their works have this vivid and smooth feeling. For example using a material like silicone would make creating such details much easier, but it would definitely not feel the same. I think this is something to do with how much you invest yourself in your work. And consequently, all these inspire me to work and produce more.
Graf: I am following your work for a couple of years now. You have produced various series in which different notions of realism that vary between absurd or caricature-like versions to hyper-realistic approaches. How would you describe your interest in reality and realism?
Şekerciler: I love to take my time with the details and reach the borders of what’s possible in real life. And to see how the reality I created and the reality in life come and work together always amuses me.
Graf: Would you agree then in saying that you create your own versions of reality with you works, which critically comment on our current state of the world.
Şekerciler: We are going through one of the strangest moments in the history. Are we reaching the point where civilization will be destroyed altogether? Or is the civilization evolving to advance? While we are conducting this interview, a dead little girl’s body was found in the seashore. Even though we have witnessed thousands die till now, the photograph showing this little girl lying dead on the shore changed everything. People opened their houses to these immigrants who are trying to leave death and misery behind. They started to feel that there was something not going all right with the world and a discussion on the liability of the system ensued. However there is not much time left for us. It’s true that the technology we create enlighten us. But at the same we pollute the world as we go after inventing new technologies. And sadly the pollution is ahead at this race. It’s not the world coming to an end; it’s the human race. Either a revolution towards a new kind of civilization will take place as the futurists claim, or the world will go on turning without us. Among all these I feel like an onlooker, staring at the far beyond to see and understand what happens. I don’t offer a solution, though. You know the kooky type in the movies… The one who goes on screaming about how close the end of the world is and cannot convince anyone till the end where s/he happens to be right all along. I am that kooky character.
Graf: I believe that you work is critical. Though, what do you think: What effect could the sculptures have on the spectator? Is s/he of importance for you?
Şekerciler: Of course the spectators are of importance for me. I have something to say and I chose sculpture as my medium. I would be happy if even one of them becomes aware of these issues through my works. It may sound like a dreamy thought but I still believe that art has the power to change lives and consequently, the world.
Graf: In times of photography, video art, installation and media art, sculpture is often considered in contemporary art as classic, old-fashion, conservative or outmoded. What is fascinating you about this discipline?
Şekerciler: Well, sculpture is not old-fashioned or anything. What happens is this; times have changed and it has become easier to access the disciplines you have mentioned. Anyone who owns a cellphone can also take photos and videos, and reach softwares to process the datas s/he collects. Even the tools for graphic design are available on those phones! I consider this to be a positive. Anyone who has something to say has access to such utilities. However, the rise in the number of works produced using these mediums make classical methods seem old-fashioned. It’s no different than that clichéd phrase; “Art is dead”… Art is neither dead, nor has the sculpture become unfashionable. You just have to spend more time to grasp and use the language. Though nowadays people lose their patience so quickly. They want to be able to tell their stories, become rich and famous at once. I believe this is the reason behind the popularity of the disciplines you have mentioned. This is also the reason I love sculpture. The other thing is that sculpture is a challenge for me. You have to devote your mind and body. Just like life itself… Sculpture gives you opportunity to add spatial dimension when you think about issues. You take every side of the statue in account, which is not different from what you do in life. You inspect every inch of the issue. Then finally, what do you think will become unfashionable in a century or a thousand years?
Graf: Artists who work in series often have some kind of “learning outcome” at the end of the series. After a long time of conceptually and practically work, artists feel intellectual or spiritual enriched. What did you learn from your current series as professional artist and private person?
Şekerciler: I’m neither a fixated nor a fanatic person. However, being the skeptical person I am, to see how some are attached to certain ideas causes and ideologies made me think about myself as well. And I thought if there was anything wrong with me since I was not willing to die or kill for my thoughts like those people did. Be that as it may, right to live and bodily integrity is above any cause or ideology for me. In other words, as Bertrand Russell puts it “I would never die for my beliefs because I might be wrong”.
Graf: Thank you very much for this conversation.
Şekerciler: Thank you for not asking why I chose art as a profession. Well, all kidding aside I see interviews as a mean to convey my thoughts and ideas to an audience who have seen and liked my work but didn’t have a chance to think about the process behind them. Your questions were exemplary in that sense. Thank you very much.