Meet the artist who has just created the score for ‘Frenzy’, a story of political violence in Istanbul, and will represent Turkey at next year’s Venice Biennale
A re-imagining of rhythm, time and space characterises the work of the Turkish musician and visual artist Cevdet Erek. An artist with a background in architecture and sound engineering, and percussionist in the avant-garde rock band Nekropsi, Erek expertly draws together sound and space to create unique artworks and site-specific installations.
Erek’s interest lies in the ways in which we attempt to understand and organise the world around us through measurements of time and space. He explores how a viewer’s experience of their surroundings can be disrupted through experimentation with these constructs, drawing upon them in order to alter the ways in which are perceived. He cites the prolific 20th century novelist and essayist Ahmet Hamdi Tanpınar as a profound influence, a writer who satirised the laws and markers of time and modernisation in his 1954 novel The Time Regulation Institute.
In a recent exhibition Alt Üst at Bristol’s Spike Island gallery, Erek used rhythms to explore the nature of mechanised time and created an exhibition space that responded to the architecture of the gallery, the sounds already present within the building and the wider Bristol music scene. In his Rulers and Rhythms Studies, shown at the 14th Istanbul Biennale, he presented a series of rulers missing their numerical measurement. The objects served as a collective tool and a space for viewers to arrange their own life timelines, inviting the messiness of past and vagueness of the future to exist within the length of the neatly ordered line.
His sound works are primarily percussion based and Erek avoids recording in studios, preferring to draw from the city or the places in which his works are based. He recently composed the score for the Turkish political thriller Frenzy, crafting tense, textural sound and percussion to mirror the chaotic pace of Istanbul and backdrop of its political violence. In 2017 he will represent Turkey at the Venice Biennale.
POSTmatter: How have your architectural studies and background influenced your work as a sound artist?
Cevdet Erek: My degree has definitely influenced the sonic part of my work immensely. It helped form and transform them. Throughout my studies and after when I was practicing, I kept on making music with the band. Now most of my installation works are based on creating spaces - this has always been parallel to making music or creating “sound only” works.
PM: In Alt Üst, your exhibition recently on display at Spike Island, you use natural and electronic rhythms to explore the effect of mechanised time on us. How have you found that mechanised time conflicts with natural time on human minds and bodies?
CE: It is not only the mechanised times, but also natural ones and rhythms of the quotidian, as well as the historical. So, if we are talking about effects, then it must be a combination, a superimposition of all or most.
PM: Similarly, how have you found that mechanised sound affects us in contrast to natural sound?
CE: Sounds generally affect us. And it seems that they have different effects on each individual. So I should perhaps avoid generalisations.
I make recordings in a variety of environments. From studios and exhibition spaces of different kinds to tunnels, caves, car parks, and archeological sites.
PM: 'Room of Rhythms' is a piece that relentlessly repeats the days of the week on the beat at the speed of 120bpm. Is a linear, straightforward concept of time as linear something you see as important to challenge?
CE: Although it was a part of “Room of Rhythms”, what you describe is the work “Week”. One day is represented by the hit of the bass drum in each second in this “sonic timeline”, based on the repetition of the 7-days-measure (we can imagine it as a 7/8 time signature in music). I don’t really emphasise the linearity here. A cyclic imagination is possible, too. Have a look at these two representations here and here.
PM: Can you talk us through the process of recording, installing and maintaining your installations?
CE: I make recordings in a variety of environments. From studios and exhibition spaces of different kinds to tunnels, caves, car parks, and archeological sites. I’ve been recording less and less in proper recording studios. What I record mostly is percussion –drums – and sounds from events in the city. Then there is quite lot of beats programming and editing going on, for sure. Most of the installations are based on creating spaces, which means working on a spatial or architectural programme then building constructions, and lately the programming of particular events in a space – mostly with sound related events.
PM: Extracts from your compositions to 'Frenzy' have just been released on vinyl. As the nature of your work is entwined with architectural space, how does your work translate to being listened to remotely as opposed to in the gallery or physical space? What is lost and gained?
CE: I am coming from the tradition of listening “remotely” in the first place: listening to tapes or latter formats and radio as well as playing gigs or attending concerts. The real experience for me in the Frenzy project was creating music and sound design for a film shot in the city that I spent most of my life, depicting an unknown time – albeit in the last decades. Moreover, it was a quite heavy and detailed sound design work that was purely for the cinema experience. Then some tracks found their way to a digital release, and to a vinyl in the UK. I receive it after having reviews in UK. This is a great experience and therefore is a gain, not a loss.
PM: 'Frenzy' is a story of political violence in Istanbul. How does the political atmosphere in your hometown influence your work?
CE: Lately more than ever. Things have been changing here so quickly. It is not going well and is mostly painful. It is impossible not to be influenced.
PM: You’ve just been chosen to represent Turkey at the Venice Biennial in 2017. What can you tell us about some of the ideas you’re working on for the project?
CE: I am still trying to finalise the tasks that had been planned way before the Venice Biennial was announced, so I am trying to wrap them up firstly. Meanwhile I am just pondering and discussing with friends and colleagues on what should be done.