This year I turned thirty years old and I still study. To find out what goes on in the minds of people that are thirty, I read the book Het dertigersdilemma by Nienke Wijnants, freely translated to The Complications of Being Thirty. The book doesn't seem to talk about this generation of thirty-year-olds. I see few similarities between me and the thirty-year-olds described in the book (the economic crisis isn't mentioned for example, and it seems that there are plenty of jobs to choose from) and I wonder what it's like for other thirty-year-olds. The book also deals with a very selective group of people and not a single artist.
To prepare myself, still an art student, for a more realistic point of view, I will interview a couple of artists that are about the age of thirty and simply ask them what their life looks like. What does an artist do? What kind of rhythm, if at all, does a work week have? Is an artist satisfied?
The first artist I interviewed in this series Omtrent dertig (About Thirty) was Thijs Linssen. The second artist that I interview is Suat Ögüt, which you might know from his work Collection of Missing Titles in which he painted the five destroyed Van Gogh paintings in black and white; Bumpy Road, a video with a general on a tuktuk, about the marginalization of the power of the Turkish army; or his unique artist statement, a big slab of granite with copper letters that gradually disappear which makes the statement unreadable.
Robert van Munster (RvM): 'What does your working week look like?'
Suat Ögüt (SO): ‘I spend most of my time in the studio, but the space is not only for producing art, it's also for doing research and running Corridor Project Space (CPS, an initiative in Amsterdam with its own exhibition space situated both in project space and public space). During the exhibitions CPSneeds to be open three days a week. So this is a perfect deal for me to go and spend more time in there. Besides that, I believe that the studio functions as a meeting place for sharing and discussing ideas. My work mainly exists of investigation. As you can see in the studio, it looks more like a showroom. It's not a messy space. I come up with the ideas first and develop that using books and computers. There is little physical work involved. Only after the research and when I feel ready for it, I will start producing.'
RvM: 'Do you feel like there is enough time and space to make what you want?'
SO: 'Definitely, but I take on different roles in my practice. I'm not only an artist producing artworks; I'm also part of the collective of CPS. So I work on the exhibitions that we organize, meet with participants to develop the projects and I take care of the space. In the meantime, I create time for myself to develop projects. It's not very easy, but it is an exciting process and I feel comfortable doing both.
Of course, there can be financial issues. We need to pay rent and to produce art you need money. Exhibitions I took part in were bringing in a bit of fee and the production costs were covered by them. I'm also, for the first time, working on individual applications to get funding for my future plans and I'm at that time of year that I need to make a schedule for the next season anyway.'
RvM: 'This might be very naive of me, but to me it seems interesting, and unexpected, that you plan your art in advance.'
SO: 'I think most artists have this approach. For instance, when you apply to AFK (Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunsten), you have to write a year in advance about what you are going to do and what the end result will be. Not the exact image, but the destination. Residencies and upcoming exhibitions have a similar process.
The story in Turkey is different, especially the funding system. I don't want to be too dramatic, but I'm being realistic when I say that it is a survival process for most of the young artists, because there is no cultural support by the government like The Netherlands has and there are hardly any project spaces to present your work. If you want to be an independent artist you need to come up with alternatives to start your practice and make that visible. Artists in Turkey work on their projects without any financial expectations, although there are private funds such as SAHA which offers its support to artistic projects since 2011. In recent years I have had several occasions to be supported by them, but after I graduated with my bachelors degree in Istanbul in 2007, I started working part-time jobs and spend the rest of my time on producing art.
You had to motivate yourself to produce artworks and get your projects involved with the collective experiences and exhibitions to become a stronger voice. It is a challenging process to work together, but I appreciate that.'
RvM: 'Do you have doubts about being an artist?'
SO: ‘'If I would, I probably wouldn't be here in Amsterdam. I didn't come to Amsterdam because I just wanted to live here. First of all, me moving out of Turkey is related to my wife Suzan Kalle, she is from Amsterdam, so she was a good reason to move. I also was a guest resident at HISK (Hoger Instituut voor Schone Kunsten) in Belgium 2012-13 and in that time for us to live in Amsterdam was more influential. And, to conclude, I graduated in 2007 and since then ten years have past and I have participated in international exhibitions and I have done quite something that I still feel happy with as an artist.'
RvM: 'In Het dertigersdilmma, freely translated to The Complications of Being Thirty, it says that people in their thirties experience a lot of stress because of the amount of choices that they need to make. Because there are so many choices, people in their thirties would be afraid to make the wrong choice. Do you recognize this?'
SO: 'I've never regretted a direction I took in my life that I chose so far. I think that the right thing to do is very personal. You make your choice and you have to convince yourself to take that direction. What I see in my life, I think, is that I always was on the right track, but that doesn't mean I never took a risk. I actually always took a risk, but it somehow found it's way and being part of that process is good.
I already made a serious decision before I was thirty. I was 24 when I choose to either stay in Turkey or to move out. That's a big thing. Living in Turkey as an artist is not easy. I also got married when I was 27. And I feel really happy about those decisions.
When I consider the age of forty, by that time I want to have a settled life, structured, and not worry about financial issues, but I don't give that my full attention right now.'
RvM: 'What is your view on artists of your generation?'
SO: 'I think that my generation of artists should know that being part of a collective works, it's about solidarity. I believe that we should all take the initiative and share our own roles to become alternative voices. We should take a risk and learn from those experiences. The whole cycle of studying and graduating is a good educational setup for life and to help develop your artistic practice. We have to create our own self-educational structure and share that with others.'
RvM: 'What artwork, do you think, fits this generation?'
SO: 'I wasn't able to go to Venice, to see the Biennale, but I was following the works through Instagram and Facebook and I saw Just about Virtues and Vices in General by Erwin Wurm who is interested in the everyday life in his playful works. Everyone can become a one-minute sculpture in that work, where he uses photography and video as a sculptural element, sharing the role of artist with his audience this time. I think that it is a significant representation of our generation, because we are all part of the speedy consumarism, witness the development of technology and struggle against time.'
RvM: 'What does the future look like for you?'
SO: 'I am dreaming about living in some warm country for half of the year, instead of living only in The Netherlands. Somewhere in the west of Turkey, South America, Spain, or a Greek island.
I would be happy to take further steps with Corridor Project Space. I have found the engagement and exchange of ideas with the international participants in our program extremely fruitful. We have invited artists from Turkey to The Netherlands, but we would also like to do it the other way around. Have a space in Turkey where we would like to invite artists from The Netherlands, because I think it is important to mix these two totally different types of practices. I would feel happy about taking on that work as a project coordinator.
Concerning my work as an artist, as of now I am interested in how recent history can be use in order to understand where we are and think about the present and the future. I (re)construct my own historical narrative and give room to other to (re)construct theirs.
I feel lucky that I still have time for myself to produce artwork and I hope that will be the same in the nearby future. Producing artwork gives me energy.'