'The raison d’être of any art project in public space is to create a contrast'
Interview with Fulya Erdemci (SKOR)

Issue no5
okt - nov 2022

—Ingrid CommandeurThroughout your carrier you have worked as a curator within an international context and framework. Making an exhibition obviously is very different from working within an organization like SKOR, were you always have to deal with the limitations or possibilities of a commission of art in public space and a tension between art, politics, local society and public space. In practice these artworks take a lot of time to realize and require much political negotiation. How do you view this rather big change?

—Fulya Erdemci ‘Although I am also responsible of the managerial and administrative tasks of running SKOR, I think that I was selected because of my curatorial approach, not because of my managerial skills. I have worked a lot in public space, but always for temporary projects. Temporariness and permanency are two different strategies. In the context of contemporary art we have to rethink and re-evaluate permanency. We have to ask ourselves the question: what does it mean for an artwork in public space to be permanent ? How can we negotiate permanency with contemporary languages in art? Most of the contemporary artworks are not meant to be there forever, the artists want to relate their works to a situation, a moment, the people, to a specific context which is changing in time. That’s a challenge for the artist, but it’s also challenging to see what kind of experiments can be done in this respect. Within the conceptual framework of an exhibition you can make a selection and create a narrative to articulate different levels of the same theme, which is a multilayered framework. With a commission you can create one work thus one statement. Although this is totally different from the context I used to work in, I’m also thinking about the productive tensions of working under these conditions. What is our aim to do a project in public space? Artworks are not meant to be just embellishment or decoration, they communicate ideas. So, maybe we can think of developing a bigger plan to communicate the ideas with a larger public. For instance, instead of creating one permanent work for a specific institution, we can make an exhibition with different proposals, in which one of the artworks would be permanent; that can be a strong and lasting statement, while at the same time we can communicate a larger framework to the public. We can try to create a more hybrid practice.’

Paloma Polo, 'The Precarious State #2', installatie in De Inkijk

—Ingrid CommandeurCan you elaborate a little bit further on how you would like to relate your curatorial practice to your new job as director of SKOR? One of the starting points of the SCAPE Christchurch Biennial of Art in Public Space in New Zealand was ‘researching drivers behind global conditions of change in cities’ and ‘suggest opportunities for more relevant public space, to counter the effects of privatization and liberal economic policies on social space.’

—Fulya Erdemci‘As you already stated, to work in public space means to work within constraints, in terms of getting permissions, et cetera. At the same time it offers an opportunity to communicate with the public on different levels. Together with the transformation of the cities under the neo-liberal policies, the public space is also under negotiation. I think art can take in a meaningful position within this change. Art cannot change the world from one day to another, but it can propose a creative research in terms of marking the given situations. It can mediate between the community, the ground and the planners, between the micro and macro milieu. SKOR offers an opportunity to develop practice and research in this respect. I first got to know SKOR in 2007, when I was in Amsterdam to do research for the Scape Biennial and talk with artists. [Fulya Erdemci and her co-curator Danae Mossman invited Atelier van Lieshout, John Körmeling and ZUS – Zones Urbaines Sensibles from the Netherlands to take part at the Scape Biennial of Art in Public Space –ed.] I was very impressed with the activities of SKOR and OPEN, the periodical. The archive of SKOR alone is fascinating, it offers almost a complete history of art in public space in the Netherlands . For me this is very exciting. I think SKOR is ready for a new kind of hybridity and that’s why I’m here. Although SKOR has been working already within an international context worked with artists like Ilya Kabakov or Marjetica Potr. I certainly would like to make an effort to highlight SKOR’s activities internationally. There is serious expertise both in terms of practice and research in the field of art in public space that we can share internationally. For instance, it is exciting to establish new strategies to create an international platform to start a discussion on the new momentum that art in public space gained together with the transformation of the cities.’

Paloma Polo, 'The Precarious State #2', installatie voor De Inkijk

—Ingrid CommandeurWhat would this ‘new momentum’ imply for art in public space in general, and SKOR specifically?

—Fulya Erdemci‘In most cases, the transformation of the cities in Europe means the regeneration of the city centers which are mostly reserved for entertainment, business, tourism and commerce, and this transformation is mostly driven by private developers. Through gentrification, the low income residents are pushed out more and more to the suburbs and this creates socio-economic divides in the cities. Although, in Holland, there is a strong tradition and research on urbanism and public space, it is also true for it, yet on a smaller scale. I would like to conduct this research attitude for the Netherlands as well. But I see this in terms of creating a kind of working context for the artists. Such exhibitions do not only function as researches on the transformation of the cities and politics of space but also as experiments on different forms of engagement with public space. In this respect, art in public space has undergone an experimental stage and gained a new momentum. SKOR has already developed projects related to urban transformation like the BEYOND exhibitions and I see my contribution is to extend the limits to create such proposals.’

—Ingrid CommandeurI recently read an article by the Dutch artist Sjaak Langenberg in which he states that nowadays it’s almost impossible for artists to intervene in public space with art projects, because the field seems to be ‘over organized’: every local municipal has some kind of social community art-like project running. What according to you is the main importance of art in public space nowadays?

—Fulya Erdemci‘I think this is a very important point. I enjoy when I see an historical abstract sculpture, but art in public space should be more than aesthetics of form or pleasure for the eye. Every era or period has its own particular understanding of art in public space. Right now we are witnessing the other extreme: there are many community projects. Public art as community art is a strong trend that stems from the ‘90’s relational aesthetics, but it’s only one form of art in public space. Contemporary artists seem to be able to find a combination of the relational ideas and strong forms to communicate the content with the public. So, it is not a stable situation, it is changing. However, in every period, some artists force to break the existing canons and others recreate these existing languages that can even become a part of the establishment and, as you rightly stated, can become a tool in the hand of the politicians. In this respect, we have to question the necessity, the raison d’être of each project. For me, the raison d’être of any art project in public space is to create a contrast, unfold a conflict and even add more conflict to make it visible.’


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Metropolis M Tijdschrift over hedendaagse kunst Nr 5 — 2022