The interview with Genco Gülan has been prepared by Kontrast Magazine in 2017:
You have portraits of Andy Warhol and Leonardo Da Vinci. You also commented on the iconic picture of Jackson Pollock working in his famous studio. In some of your works, we see that you re-interpret the works of art. Can we learn your thoughts on this subject as artistic production?
I feel like I’m in a time machine while I’m travelling in art history. It is a very enjoyable adventure to wander through the movements in art history. Re-interpretation (appropriation) method, which is one of the most important tools of today’s art, lets you do that. In the series titled ‘Self-Portrait?, I’m trying to take this one step further, and I’m trying to put myself in their place, not only to interpret the works of great masters who lived in different periods. My point of departure is very simple: the many years of experiments I’ve done were immediately tagged with a lot of labels. This is nothing new. Period. I decided to touch on stereotypes when I couldn’t find any other way out for a long time. Now I’m looking for my differences in the similarities. I think this approach liberated me quite a lot.
It’s a great experience to interpret the masters. It’s like you seem to have met them. The world looks different when you put yourself in their shoes. I started the series with Van Gogh’s famous ear cut in the early 2000s and continued with Osman Hamdi Bey. About ten years later, after reproducing Andy Warhol’s portrait, it was much easier for me to interpret it psychologically.
What do you say about postmodern art which draws attention to the distinctions between production and consumption, creation and reproduction, interpretation and original work?
The sense of originality (and freedom) under the current media bombardment has turned into a purely temporary hallucination. Consumption society is waiting for you to remain loyal by reinforcing the feeling that you have a choice. For example, all the young people I ask why they wear colorless, black or grey clothing say they prefer it.
Personally, I prefer to use the term ‘post-post-modern’ rather than ‘post-modern’. Classical post-modernism has ended, but it has not been replaced yet. In many films, the interplanetary journeys we see in the series are still not possible. It doesn’t look like it could happen very soon. On the other hand, the world’s resources are running out fast!
Instead of looking for absolute authenticity – like every Alchemist’s search for a different golden formula – I think he has to describe much more clearly and accurately how much and what aspect of his work is authentic.
Can we learn your views on the use of photographs today compared to the art of yesterday?
Today everyone takes pictures and shares them immediately. The perception of photography as a medium has changed radically. This is both good and bad, of course. Personally, I am not giving up on photography by saying that everyone is taking pictures. Photography is an indispensable medium. I still take pictures, share them, but I’m showing less and less. I’m a little more careful when I choose my exhibits. And I now describe my production process as ‘making photos’ rather than ‘taking photos’.
As I just mentioned, the backbone of the interdisciplinary (over)production process, which I call intellectual art, is photography. I see with it, I make notes, I sketch, I produce drafts, I share ideas… and I see that the number of media I use as a means of expression increases every passing day. Even though the finished work is sometimes a drawing, sculpture or painting, when describing it, I call it an image.
It can be easy to understand art by separating the works of art into periods and movements. What are the difficulties and conveniences for the audience to update works of art when re-interpreting them considering different styles and movements?
When you look carefully at a unique, good artist, like Picasso, you can see that he tried to include more than one art movement when he drew one woman – Dora Maar – than many different movements in art in Turkey so far. Therefore, I find the classification and description of art history modernist and, honestly saying, scant. The historical periods are more important compared to the movements, but the artist’s duty should be to be ahead of them.
This may make it difficult for the audience, but not everyone has to buy fast food because it’s easy to eat. If you want to produce a good piece of artwork, you have to work for it.
Is art more important or the artist?
It’s a classical egg and hen question, but I’m not going to give you a classical answer. The work of art is definitely important to the artist. The subject of art is art work. So simple… However, under certain circumstances, the artist may turn himself into a work of art. This is another story.…
Can you tell us about your recent work? How do you describe your own work?
In the coming days, I think, ‘self-portrait?’ the series will continue to develop a little more. Recently, I started researching and working on Giuseppe Arcimboldo. I’m going to make new portraits with vegetables, fruits and plants. I also want to shoot the series’ I love you’ with the gymnasts on the Bosphorus. And it still continues to be my dream to go to the Bahamas and make underwater shots for the series “Deeply in love”.
It all starts with a small idea that comes to my mind, and then I go on researching how to transfer it to the audience in the most accurate / easy / direct way. Now I share even my drafts instantly because I care about the comments of the audience (the feedback). Sometimes these comments even change the names of the works.
You are an artist and theorist who works in the field of conceptual art and new media. You collectively call it the art of ideas. You are one of the most active artists on the digital platform and on-line media. With the “web biennial” you created in 2003, you moved the exhibitions to the virtual platform by transferring the artworks to on-line media. If you do have any, can we hear your futuristic thoughts on the future of art?
I’ve been working with artificial intelligence (AI) and robots that are the physical reflection of these. Robots and drones are expensive and enjoyable toys. Synthetic Intelligence, whether we realize it or not, is rapidly infiltrating our lives, and it will continue to do so. I think, the competition between autonomous -machine human relationship in the field of art will be a new challenge that will carry art to the next level.
Please click here to reach Genco Gulan’s portfolio named “Self-portrait?”.