Mamut Limited Vol.1 pop-up, the first exhibition of the Mamut Art Project team's Mamut Limited (Artist Editions) project, which aims to meet all creative people working in different fields and techniques from visual arts to design, music to fashion, took place at Yapı Kredi bomontiada between September 16 - October 1, 2023. We are introducing the artists of this year's Mamut Limited, which will present special selections throughout the year on its online platform mamutlimited.com. Our eighth guest is a duo: Cihan Bacak and İsmet Köroğlu
Cihan Bacak ve İsmet Köroğlu
We can start by talking about your artistic journey. Cihan is a graduate of Ankara University, Italian Philology; İsmet is a graduate of Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University, Istanbul State Conservatory, Department of Contemporary Dance. How and when did you start making art? How and when did you come together?
İsmet Köroğlu: I was always interested in art, but I didn't know exactly what I should focus on until I met contemporary dance. In this process, I experimented in various fields such as acting. In 2012, I enrolled in Mimar Sinan University, State Conservatory of Contemporary Dance. Before that, I took part in some initiatives as a dancer and actor. In parallel with the school, I started to produce individually and to be present in the contemporary dance world. I started to produce movement-based projects both as a dancer and as a choreographer.
Cihan Bacak: Since we met in 2014, I started to shoot rehearsals and backstage scenes of İsmet and some of his dancer friends with my own amateur camera. In 2017, I decided that I wanted to take what I shot to a professional level, so I studied fashion photography at Istanbul Fashion Academy and in this process, we started to realize fashion shoots with contemporary dance elements by including İsmet and our dancer friends, taking care to keep freedom and experimentation at the center. Over time, our projects were featured in international publications such as Kaltblut! (Germany), FGUK (UK), CAP 74024 (Italy), Fucking Young! (Spain). When we came to the formation process of Mamut Limited, there was a wide and thematic selection spread over a 5 to 6 years production process to be exhibited and sold.
Cihan Bacak ve İsmet Köroğlu, Mardin, Diptych, Fine Art Print, each 70×50 cm, Edition of 5+ 1
Expressing a queer perspective forms the basis of your practice. In this context, how does your local culture and environment affect your artistic work? Do the materials and techniques you use in your art find an echo in this interaction network?
İK: To be honest, the queer perspective does not form the basis of our practice. For example, as a dancer and choreographer, in short, as a performer, I primarily take care of my physical conditions, such as continuity, discipline, reading, watching, hearing and being able to tell... Of course, my queer identity comes into play at some points, but it is neither the basis nor the whole. I was a Kurdish child who thought I was making political art until I was 18. As I grew up and experienced, I realized that constantly changing conditions and situations shake your foundation so much... I mean, at no point in my artistic life can I say, "this is my foundation", "this thing determines my point of view"; there are many things. I'm not sure yet if it's because I'm a peasant that has been urbanized later, I have a class awareness, the movement my body experiences every day (producing dance, performance, choreography), my floundering, rejection, praise... I'm not sure yet.
CB: The label queer can be limiting in a sense. Until a while ago, this was a concept that I avoided using when describing my work. I avoided underlining it because I was already a representative and advocate of it automatically due to existence, and now I use it to describe what I do, but I don't see it in the center. It feels like being put in a single box and I find it boring for myself. Whatever we do is multidisciplinary (using fashion, elements from contemporary dance, direct inspiration from cinema/music) and it is true that it is one of the things that connects them, but I can't say it is in the center.
İK: The material I use in my art is directly my body, the rest of the materials and techniques are things that we can't understand from the outside, but you can realize when you take the process into consideration. To elaborate a bit more, as a dancer, you have to be ready and up to date both physically and mentally in a constant discipline. I'm not sure how it is in other professions, but if you are a physical dancer, you can realize that every moment you live is arm in arm with your work. The repercussions on the outside can obviously be variable; for example, for some it can be aesthetic, for others erotic, for some it can be labor body. The repercussions are more every day and based on what you see at that moment. What I want to say is that there is much more behind the subject-body without didacticizing my profession.
Apart from fashion design and contemporary dance elements, cinema, literature, pop music, architecture are some of the mediums we use. Inspired by the directors we are influenced by, but keeping our own originality, we have captured cinematographic moments on each set, we have created series and photographs that have a story and feel like photo novels. The series were named after some pop songs that we listened to over and over again.
What else do you use other than photography as a medium in your work that combines elements of fashion design and contemporary dance? What makes photography different from others?
CB & İK: Apart from fashion design and contemporary dance elements, cinema, literature, pop music, architecture are some of the mediums we use. Inspired by the directors we are influenced by, but keeping our own originality, we have captured cinematographic moments on each set, we have created series and photographs that have a story and feel like photo novels. The series were named after some pop songs that we listened to over and over again.
In our photography projects, we find a new attitude where we bring these elements together and then create a new language with the art of photography, melt them all in a pot, offer a new perspective and commit them to memory.
You never intervene in the spaces you use in your works. What does this attitude represent in your art, what does it identify with?
CB & İK: As we mentioned before, architecture is one of our sources of inspiration. We do not prefer to intervene in the existing. We start a production with the inspiration already given by architecture. The point it identifies with is that it is "authentic". Therefore, based on this concept, we do not intervene much in photography.
Our work has been perceived as “too contemporary art” by some fashion publications and “too fashionable” by some contemporary dance institutions. This is a new territory we have created that cannot be explained by some simple categorizations. The spontaneity in the use of space stems from the room we give to the experimental. Even though we determine things like the choice of clothes, the mood, the location beforehand, what we create that day afterwards stays true to the moment, to the conditions, is open to surprises, is real, and there is never any manipulation in the photographs. We don't want our playground to be perfect and sterile, but to showcase its natural beauty.
Cihan Bacak ve İsmet Köroğlu, The Gate, Fine Art Print, 50×70 cm, Edition of 5+1
The photographs we saw at Mamut Limited are like snippets of performances. As if a moment is captured but much more is hidden inside...
İK: In every photography project, I make an improvisational choreography based on the story, what I wear, the space I adapt to, the music I sometimes listen to, sometimes the music I prefer not to listen to. During this performance, sometimes I feel that there is a third eye, and sometimes I blend my performance in moments disconnected from everything. We always talk about a story, but I don't necessarily seek to create a subject in these stories. Sometimes I am there as an object that adapts to the structure or as a genderless, ahistorical body.
CB: We create a world out of all these elements we are talking about and this world comes to life with İsmet's choreography and I capture moments from this performance and choose the frames that I believe are reflected in my lens, mostly because of their mystery and indefiniteness.
The spontaneity in the use of space stems from the room we give to the experimental. Even though we determine things like the choice of clothes, the mood, the location beforehand, what we create that day afterwards stays true to the moment, to the conditions, is open to surprises, is real, and there is never any manipulation in the photographs.
For you, is producing a successful work about personal satisfaction or recognition from the art world? Why is that?
CB & İK: In the beginning it was about pure personal satisfaction, but over time, as we realized that there was a demand for our works, they started to be exhibited after we realized that they attracted interest, they were featured in publications, and the appreciation they received from the art world and those who follow us became an important factor. We still occasionally have works that we create for your personal satisfaction without feeling the pressure of a certain authority. Or we have works that serve a single purpose in group exhibitions where we consider the content of the exhibition. As we continue to produce and the effect-response system starts to form, appreciation and satisfaction completely blend together.