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
Let's start by talking about your artistic journey. You say that your father was a technician in the radiology department, and when you accompanied him to the hospital as a child, the X-rays in his darkroom were your earliest memories of photography. What inspired you to become an artist and how did you get into making art?
Yes, I grew up in a hospital because of my parents' profession. Some days, after school, I would go to my dad's and develop the X-rays together. Although it is not directly related to photography, I think the smell of the chemicals there and the mystery of the process of creating images out of nothing planted a seed in me. Later, in my adolescence, this seed began to germinate with another analog camera. After developing the photos I took with my analog camera that I took with me on my journey across Nordic countries, I realized that these were not just travel photos; there was a depth and serenity in them and that I needed to address this. At this point, our paths crossed with Cemre (Yeşil). It helped me a lot in turning visuals into words to express myself.
How does your local culture and surroundings influence your artistic work? Do the materials and techniques you use in your art find an echo in this network of interaction?
I have been living in Belgium for the last two years. I don't think I know the culture here in a way that supports my production. Although there have been recent changes in terms of surroundings, I cannot say that I feel support yet. As a non-European person, my main concern is to make a living and survive. It's really not easy to try to make art on top of it. But there is a silver lining: from time to time when I feel lost, I ask myself why I am here, and I feel more motivated to find answers.
The spaces I like to produce are colorful, expansive, serene. Where I live is the opposite. To cope with this, I tried to change my style a little bit last year, working on black and white snap shots. I think it adds a different depth, but I haven't decided yet if I can apply it to my series.
Bartu Kaan, Buffones from the series “never having both feet off the ground at once” Fine Art Print, 90×60 cm, 5+1 Edition
You saw a documentary called Heima that aroused a great curiosity about the northern countries. You say that the photos you took on your travels to northern countries such as Iceland, Faroe Islands, Norway and Denmark are not only visuals but also expressions of yourself. What are these statements? Can you tell us about the effects of Sigur Rós’ unique documentary Heima on you, and what you are trying to say to the world, what attracted you to the Nordic countries?
I saw Heima in 2013 or 2014, and I was immediately fascinated by both Sigur Rós and Iceland. At that time, we were not exposed to the barrage of information and images as we are today. The meditative atmosphere created when a world-renowned band gave a concert to local people sitting on a circle of stones or in village pubs of Iceland was a perfect match for my feelings. I thought, if this thing exists, I need to go see it, and I started working in cafes and bars and saving money. When I returned to Istanbul and saw the photographs, I realized that this was my form of meditation, my ritual of returning to myself.
The meditative atmosphere created when a world-renowned band gave a concert to local people sitting on a circle of stones or in village pubs of Iceland was a perfect match for my feelings. I thought, if this thing exists, I need to go see it, and I started working in cafes and bars and saving money. When I returned to Istanbul and saw the photographs, I realized that this was my form of meditation, my ritual of returning to myself.
The photos we see at Mamut Limited are from the series never having both feet off the ground at once. I would like to talk about this series in which you walk the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrimage route of Christians, and document what they have experienced or encountered for 900 kilometers.
Do you have until next morning? (Laughs.) Because I have so much to tell... In 2015, a friend of mine at the café where I worked in Istanbul told me about a film they saw. As far as I remember, the film was about two friends were walking a road with the motivation to quit smoking. They don’t smoke the whole way, only to light up when they see the ocean at the end. That's when I first heard of the Camino. The question "What does quitting smoking have to do with walking a road?" kept turning in my head. Finding a motivation, dedicating one thing to something, overcoming one challenge with another... Life became more complicated in the intervening years. In the last four years, I have changed countries twice and studied art at two different schools. I realized that both the bureaucratic processes and the photography education I received distanced me from myself and the production I wanted to do. As I mentioned before, in the summer of 2022, I decided to put an end to all this frustration and do what I enjoy doing the most in life. I arrived in Irún, on the Spanish-French border, with two cameras and a bag full of film. My goal was to walk all the way up the Camino del Norte, cross the north of Spain to reach Santiago, and from there to Fisterra and light a cigarette. (Laughs.) For two weeks, I walked an average of 30 kilometers a day. I met great people, asked a ton of questions, and answered a ton of them. Just as I was halfway through, I got a call from work and had to return to Belgium. It was a great disappointment at first; I had always planned to finish it in one go. But when I went back to complete the road last summer, the first thing I said to myself was that I'm glad I didn't finish it in one go. Instead of thinking that it is over while working on a series or trying to finish it in one go, I realized how important it is to leave an open door and return from time to time. When I went back, I had changed and I had a different perception of Camino. The fundamental question in my mind as I set out was, "What is Pilgrimage? Why are we doing this?" Had I finished it in one go, I wouldn't have had time to digest this question. It's cliché but true, the path teaches something one way or another.
Is the feeling of silence in your work something that is difficult for you to capture?
No, because it's not something I'm looking for, it's a spontaneous result. It's my way of seeing the world.
Bartu Kaan, Beloved from the series “never having both feet off the ground at once” Fine Art Print, 90×60 cm, 5+1 Edition
For you, is producing a successful work about personal fulfillment or appreciation from the art world? Why?
Both, to be perfectly boring. (Laughs.) One of my favorite things about analog photography is that I can't see it at that moment. Some time passes before I get to develop and scan it, so when I see it I say "wow" and I feel successful. But besides that, I am inclined towards being in dialog with my production. That's why the feedback I get from the outside world also makes me feel successful. Additionally, I am exploring obtaining "Artist Status" abroad. Although the work produced provides personal satisfaction, in such cases you need the endorsement of the art world. Selling work, publishing editions, being represented by a gallery... I think it depends on what we mean by success.
In the summer of 2022, I decided to put an end to all this frustration and do what I enjoy doing the most in life. I arrived in Irún, on the Spanish-French border, with two cameras and a bag full of film. My goal was to walk all the way up the Camino del Norte, cross the north of Spain to reach Santiago, and from there to Fisterra. For two weeks, I walked an average of 30 kilometers a day. I met great people, asked a ton of questions, and answered a ton of them.
How do you balance the artistic and technical aspects of photography to achieve the results you want?
To be honest, I don't get too hung up on the technical aspects. Of course, a basic knowledge of photography is important, but for me, your relationship with the camera is more important. In other words, it’s about knowing what you want to say and using the right apparatus for it. You can do great work with disposable cameras where you can't make any adjustments, or you can produce with a large-format camera based on a purely technical understanding of photography.