Sheyda A Khaymaz | Issue Seven Interview

Sheyda A Khaymaz | Istanbul

Tell us a bit about yourself, your background and your work

Although how I identify myself as a creative is constantly shifting, broadly I like to call myself an artist and curator. My background is in sculpture and I’ve recently completed a Masters degree in Curating. After having lived in the U.K. for over a decade, I am currently based in my hometown, Istanbul. For the past three years, I’ve been working as a part of a non-profit curatorial collective, Lungs Project. The breadth of our activities ranges from exhibition-making to publishing art and literature, from film programming to running web residencies, and so on. As an artist, I am deeply concerned with the epistemology of ordinary knowledge. My sculptures are related to the notion of ‘thingness’ and positioned at the intersection of art and philosophy. And of course, ‘things’ encompass spaces, language, notions, images, and objects around which we construct our corporeal reality. I believe much, if not all, of our value systems are created through our interactions with things. Society as a whole acting as a disseminating device help solidify the values we create through this interaction and root them in the everyday. My practice is exactly about exploring the temporal and precarious space between the production and solidification of knowledge, and wants to ask “what happens if we throw a spanner in the works?” I believe the everyday has an immense potential to enquire the nature of knowledge.

Tell us about the themes you pursue in your work

I am interested in the triviality of daily life and strive towards a sculptural language to express its deeper potential acting on a societal level. At university, I was fascinated by Joseph Beuys’ notion of ‘social sculpture’. The idea of sculpture as a social, cultural and political being still underlines much of my work, however, these days I try to interrogate it through the lens of intersectionality. We can say that my practice overall is a study of the everyday and its potential for political discourse and in that exist mini-themes such as domesticity, repetition, non-hierarchy, collecting, valorisation.

What art do you most identify with ? any specific influences or research areas?

I’m generally drawn to works that are informed by social sciences. Works that explore/create connections between philosophy, literature, sociology, linguistics, and cultural theory. Language, in particular, is a structure I’m incredibly fascinated by. I just find language really oppressive in that we can never think outside of it. It quite literally confines us within a structure that's not a part of us, not inherent to us. That this structure is used as a tool for oppression and subjugation. My interest in linguistics and epistemology is never-ending. I enjoy spending long hours thinking about where ideas come from, researching ancient culture’s forms of written/visual expression and the evolution of languages. I’m also a big fan of object-based assemblages and I’m always looking for new ways to transcend this form into a more emancipatory existence, infusing it with a socially conscious attitude.

How do you navigate the art world?

Much of my time after graduating is spent on unlearning what I was indoctrinated into within European educational institutions. In other words, I am working hard on decolonising my knowledge about the art world. Art history at an undergraduate level promotes a narrative which was born out of an ideology that historically oppressed, erased and rendered invisible certain cultures and their creative products. Everything I learnt in school about art comes from a skewed perspective. That type of art - shorthand for Western Modernity - is as fake as the art world itself. As broad as a picture “the art world” implies, you’d be surprised how small it is in terms of visibility and representation. Hence, I try to eschew art scenes that instil a state of competitiveness and disingenuousness. That's boring and tiresome. I suppose we could say I don’t try to navigate the art world anymore, I try to challenge it. Hence it seems the best way to do is to stay an outsider. Original ideas bloom in small artistic communities, not in the art world. So I usually gravitate towards building communities and creating & maintaining nourishing support systems. I think cultivating those spaces to empower one another is so important. Even as a solo artist, I believe I am as strong as I can elevate others around me. These days I try to only contribute to projects that share similar ethics, or in the core genuinely desire to support others. There are many wonderful independent organisations that diverge from the usual narrative. I do thrive in these types of partnerships.

Describe the trajectory of your career as an artist so far

My career has the most unique trajectory so far in that I don’t really draw I line between what I do as an artist or a curator. But in all honesty, I couldn’t have envisioned this type of a career for myself when I first graduated. I always thought I’d find a job at an art institution upon completing my Master’s and learn the craft there while also maintaining my sculptural practice. I did the internships and all the volunteering always seemed so necessary in the industry. But then I got a taste of what it feels like to have your platform and a group of people who are truly invested in amplifying the voices of those who had been invisible for a long time. I currently give all my time and attention to growing our collective and expanding our reach. Lungs Project not only gives me a path to learn new skills but it feeds me as an artist because I get to be in a dialogue with many artists and writers exchanging ideas, initiating new collaborations, publishing books. Four years ago, as a newly graduated sculptor, I didn’t see myself gradually becoming well versed in copyright laws or domain hosting. It’s a thrilling process!

Are there any upcoming exhibitions or projects in the works?

I am currently working on a long-term project revolving around the histories of capital punishment throughout colonial Europe and America. It’s titled Suprasegmented Objects and it will be a series of investigations which will hopefully take me to some interesting locations around the world for research and production. The series explore the separation of hegemonic state practices from the ways urban everyday life is organised and reproduced. I want to problematise simple daily rituals in public spaces in which the pain of the past normalised. So for me, this is a departure from looking at the everyday through the lens of objects and a shift towards examining it through the production of collective space. I believe our socio-spatial reality and our learnt historical reality share an overlapping coexistence. History is often thought about temporally, whereas everyday is often perceived only in a spatial context. However, I believe both exist intertwined with one another. Everyday urban spaces are characterised by overt hegemony, alienation and segmentation, just like our knowledge of objects we use daily. To exemplify, how many of us think about the spectacle of public executions when we visit a Christmas market in the town square? So this project wants to ask: How can we present a reading of the ordinary to establish an understanding of how mechanisms of oppression are engendered in daily life? For this project, I'm experimenting with ceramics, photography and archival image assemblages.

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